Are you talented enough to learn how to play the guitar? How do you know that all this practice and hard work will actually help you to improve? Do you fear that there is a limit to your growth as a musician?
When I was first learning guitar I had very similar questions. I would constantly question my abilities and wonder "Do I have enough talent to do this?" These days I hear the very same questions from my students, whether it is voiced out loud or portrayed in their lack of confidence. Honestly, it is rare for a musician not to have these concerns in the beginning. Actually, if you have never felt this way before than you should be busy practicing, not reading this article!
It is very unfortunate, but many people have given up on playing their instrument due to self-doubt. If you let these doubts and frustrations go unchecked, your practicing time is going to feel pretty unpleasant. You won't be able to enjoy yourself, or enjoy what you play, if you let that voice in your head continue to tell you that you aren't good enough. How can you have fun, or give yourself room to grow, if you only think about if you are talented or not?
So with that, I am going to let you in on a little secret: No one is born with natural talent. This might be hard to believe, but it has been proven to be true through not only my personal experience as a teacher and a player, but also by studies done on other creative and athletic fields.
With that being said, if you have bad joints you probably wouldn't make a great weight lifter(due to the physical restrictions).And if you are 4 feet tall you probably don't have a great chance of playing in the NBA. But as long as you have a brain and a few working fingers, there is no limit to how good of a guitar playing you can become.
Now, since we have debunked the importance of talent when playing guitar, what is important? Years of research tells us you must follow these 3 things to become a good player:
Playing The Guitar Must Be Fun To You
It seems obvious, but you need to actually enjoy playing the guitar if you want to get better at it. If you don't like playing your instrument, then why are you playing at all? If you have fun with the guitar, practicing and playing every day won't seem like such a chore.
While enjoying yourself is important, don't be too hard on yourself when you run into a bad day. Even the greatest players have days where they don't feel good enough. The key is to not let that stop you and remember that another good day is right around the corner.
Next time that self-doubt starts creeping in, just remind yourself why you started playing music in the first place; for fun. Much like learning guitar, this also will take practice.
You Must Put In The Time
Despite what you may have convinced yourself to believe, no one is good at guitar the first time they pick it up. It takes a LOT of practice to train your fingers to do what they need to do and to train your brain to think musically. You won't get better at guitar by luck or chance.
To get better at the guitar you have to accept that sometimes (especially at the beginning) you are going to sound bad. Its about embracing mistakes and seeing them as a learning opportunity. At times it might feel impossible, but with enough practice even the toughest licks can begin to feel natural.
Once you begin to notice your improvements (which can easily go overlooked) you might actually start to enjoy challenging yourself. It feels good to accomplish goals and to see yourself get better at something. And because we already agreed that playing music should be fun for you ( as mentioned in the previous point) practice time should be gratifying, not dreadful.
Finding A Quality Teacher Is Essential
I can already hear a few you you furiously typing to tell me about that one incredible guitar player who never had a lesson in their life. I am sure you also want to tell me about the amount of practicing they never did, as well as the amount of theory books they never had to study.
Well heres the thing. When someone is getting praised for their remarkable musicianship, generally the first they want to talk about won't be all the stressful nights it took to get them there. They want their playing to seem effortless (especially in a world that puts such high importance on natural ability).
Just think of the amount of time you could save if you had someone to teach you the proper techniques the first time? Teachers help you to skip the guess work when it comes to practicing. They keep you on your toes and keep you feeling compelled to practice each week. They also help you to accomplish things you never even knew we're possible.
Keep in mind you don't want to hire just anyone to be in charge of your musical education. You want someone that is not only knowledgable about music, but also about how to teach. It is worth it to take the time to find someone who is going to efficiently and effectively work with you to accomplish your musical goals.
So do you need talent to become a good musician? The answer is no, of course not. What you do need is persistence, passion, and the right mentor. While this might seem obvious now, it is sad the amount of people who stop playing due to thinking they aren't good enough or that they can do this all on their own. Self-doubt is a wretched thing, but it can be overcome!
We need someone to state the obvious once in a while to kick our butt into gear. Hopefully this article has worked to quiet that little discouraging voice in your head and remind you that with enough hard work and persistence that truly anything is possible.
About the Author
Tommaso Zillio is a prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar