An Open Letter to Anyone Thinking About Learning the Guitar

author: no bs johnny date: 03/21/2014 category: features

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An Open Letter to Anyone Thinking About Learning the Guitar
Hey it's Johnny, let's clear some things up. 

As the face of No B.S. Guitar, I get letters from people all the time who are unprepared for the brutal realities of learning the guitar. Good and bad. 

I'm literally shocked at what people aren't aware of.

And I'm not talking just about practicing, but also about some of the OTHER surprising things most guitarists will eventually experience.

So before you touch another guitar string, I think it's only fair to warn you...

Here's the REAL truth about becoming a guitarist:

1. There's a 90% chance you will really suck at first

Almost everyone has seen that guy who picks up a guitar and is turning heads in his first week.

But chances are, 90% of the people reading this will NOT be that guy.

The odds are against you. Because most people will probably sound like absolute dog turd when they're getting started learning the guitar. Count me in that group by the way.

What's really amazing is... how many people DON'T realize this. They think if they aren't tearing it up like Jimi in their first month, that all is hopeless. 

"Guess I just don't have the talent for it..."


Talent has almost nothing to do with how you will EVENTUALLY sound if you stick with it... only WHETHER you'll stick with it or not... and how fast you'll get there. 

But it sure as hell has caused a lot of people to give up prematurely. I'll give it that.

2. You will have less free time

Want to have more time available to read books, tend your garden, and play with the kids?

Guitar is not for you.

If you're SERIOUS about improving, and not just messing around... you're going to need to spend time (almost daily) reviewing or upgrading your skills on the axe. 

Less than you'd think, but nonetheless, this gig requires time.

This is unavoidable.

And if you're not willing to face that fact now... I'd recommend you save yourself some serious disappointment and give your guitar to a kid who needs it more.

3. There's tons of (sh-tty) material out there on learning guitar

This is unprecedented.

Just a few years ago, if you wanted to learn the guitar, you either had to know someone who knew how to play... or you had to go to as many shows as you could... buy as many records as your wallet allowed... and personally sit down to figure it out for yourself. 

Trace the histories of some of the biggest names of the past and you'll find a lot of guys with enormous record collections.

It was a simpler time, and dare I say... a more productive one... as the limited options FORCED you to be more resourceful and value the lessons you were taught (or stole from another artist). 

Times have changed.

There's more information on guitar techniques, theory, exercises, and how to play guitar than you will EVER have time to study. Focus on just this website alone and you'd be set for life. It's overwhelming.

My point?

SOME of it is truly quality stuff.

MOST of it?

Absolute garbage. In some cases, you're actually better off the traditional way of manually figuring it out using records and traveling thousands of miles (ala the Beatles) just to learn one new technique. At least then, you'll use it till it STICKS (a common mistake nowadays).

4. You will have (a lot) less money

Yes, sadly... this hobby comes with a price. 

It can be cheaper than a lot of other interests (photography ka-ching!)... But us guitarists are a weird bunch.

We will somehow always manage to find new reasons to fork over ever more cash to guitar companies, even when we complain of having very little of this green substance on daily basis, ad nauseum.

Sure, guitar CAN be cheap hobby... but really... what are the chances of THAT happening? 

Shiny new guitars, effects pedals, recording equipment... you name it. 

Prepare your wallet for forced intrusion.

5. You will have to study

New research reveals: Learning new skills requires focus and study.

NO, I'm sad to announce, the guitar fairy doesn't actually fly in and bless you with magical guitar powers and infinite musical wisdom.

I know, I know... I was as shocked as anybody. But it's true.

Which honestly sucks, because I thought my study days were over the minute I took my graduation gown and chucked it into the ocean all those years ago.

Oh well.

But hey, cheer up... because the good news is: 

Unlike school, you can take your sweet a$$ little time.

Even better, most of the studying will be kinda fascinating, because learning the guitar, fortunately, is nothing like learning math.

A. It's interesting

B. You learn little by little, using music you already enjoy

C. You can APPLY whatever you learn (for songwriting, jamming, learning other songs, etc.)

(and here's a biggie...)

D. It's impossible to "cram."

And that's something you gotta keep in mind. Trying to "cram" learning the guitar is, in my book, the cardinal sin.


So do yourself a favor. Take the pressure off, buckle up, and relax.

Becoming a guitarist is the ride of a lifetime. And, as much as guitar companies would say otherwise...

Actual guitar "mastery" happens OVER A PERIOD OF TIME.

You can do a lot in a very short time... But the Clapton-esque fluency you desire won't arrive for another few years.

6. People will assume you're confident


Just by CARRYING around a guitar (and having demonstrated nothing)... people will somehow assume a mountain of conclusions about you as a person. 

They'll almost certainly assign you the "confident" label (if not the "bada-s" label). 

Now, this can be good OR bad, depending on how comfortable you are playing the role. You can do what you like with this information but...

My preferred choice?

PLAY IT UP 100%.

Why the hell not, eh? You only live once.

You see, the good news is: EVEN IF you start out less confident than you'd like (how I started)... Once you actually have some experience under your belt, and get used to the new role of being "bada-s"... 

Being more confident will somehow just BECOME who you are.

I'm serious. You'll automatically become a confident person on a day to day basis, the more you play guitar. And it will just feel natural.

A lot of celebrities have talked about this phenomena in depth, so that's all I'll say for now on this subject. I'll leave it up to you to prove this for yourself.

(BUT read the warning below)

7. People will gravitate toward you and give you more attention

It's true.

If you're any kind of half-decent, mediocre guitar player...

- You WILL get attention (often from chicks)...

- You WILL get fans (maybe stalkers)...

- You WILL get asked for advice (be generous)...


- You WILL PROBABLY even get a little cockier.

But listen: this is a guitar forum, so just between us guitarists... don't take yourself so seriously! 

It's all just a joke anyway.

I mean, as amazing as we might think we are... Anyone who really wanted to could become just as good, if not better.

So don't let it get to your head, ok?

Don't start believing your own B.S. that would be a BAD move. If you doubt me, all you need to do is watch the tabloids for a dose of the nightmare that'll follow if you do. 

Last thing we need is another arrogant guitar player running around the world ;-)

All the best guys.

Wishing you fun times with your guitar,


About the Author:
For more online mentoring and other must-have lessons on learning the guitar, visit, the best-kept secret of self-taught guitarists from over 117 different countries. Today, it has become one of the premier sources of accurate information, useful knowledge, and uplifting inspiration for scores of self-taught guitarists. Johnny's lessons have appeared on top guitar websites such as Ultimate-Guitar, GuitarNoise, and many others. He has just released a new book titled: "The No B.S. Guitar Advantage: Secret Strategies Most Guitarists Will Never Tell You About To Go From Beginner To Head-turning Guitar Player Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible."
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