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April 25, 2008

How to play guitar like a pro in no time

Would you like to know the secret all good guitar players share? The secret that makes them sound better than the average Joe?

I am sure you have seen these types of ads online. There are many sketchy people out there trying to sell you some magical learning DVD's; DVDs that promise you will sound like a pro in just a few days.

Well, I'm here to give you the "secret". I have learned this secret. I have spent nearly 30 years of playing guitar, and I do believe I've learned a few things along the way.

This secret I am about to tell you is free. You don't have to pay me for it. This secret makes a lot of sense, once you know it. Once you are aware of what this secret entails, it is up to you to decide if you want to continue along the path this secret will take you, if you are willing to follow.

Enough suspension? Ok, here it goes.

The secret is...

Well, sorry to disappoint, but there isn't really a secret at all. I will tell you the truth though - there are no shortcuts. People who are trying to sell you some product that will make you a great guitarist in no time are nothing but scammers. Learning how to play guitar like a "pro" (whatever that means) will take time, effort and patience. That's the real truth.

However, please don't get discouraged. I think just about anyone can learn how to play guitar really well. In short, all you need is determination and motivation. You need to think long-term; you are learning a skill for life, so do think of this process as a journey, not a destination. It can of course be very exciting and rewarding to learn how to master the guitar. You can play for/with friends or perhaps eventually get gigs. However, it can also be very personal thing, where you use guitar playing as a way of relaxing or just for fun.

Let's stop and think for a minute about the "quick-fix" syndrome. There are numerous books that promise way more than they deliver; there are pills and products that say they will make you fitter and/or lose weight; there are university degrees you can buy; there seem to be an almost unlimited amount of "get rich quick"-schemes, and so on goes the list. Do you see what is wrong here?

I feel that we currently live in a time where people are used to being able to buy whatever they need. Money is often a "solution" to many problems, and we are used to this way of living. The problem here is, that a skill can't always be bought. A skill like playing guitar takes time and effort to develop, and the same goes for many other skills, like for example playing basketball, learning how to read, becoming a pilot, etc. Do you remember when you learned how to ride a bike? It probably was a long ago, but it probably took you quite a few attempts before you got it. Once you learn it though, it stays with you for life. Same goes for guitar playing.

So what's a guy or girl to do?

My advice is to first of all realize this may take some time. If you are willing to set a side some hours per week to practice and grow as a player, you will be well on your way. In more practical terms, I suggest going to see an experienced guitar teacher. You may need to try a few different teachers until you find one that is right for you, but having a good teacher is invaluable. As you get better and better at playing guitar, you will likely find the need of a teacher decreasing.

A good guitar teacher should be able to give you instruction, tips and feedback. Such a teacher should also be able to provide suggestions for books, CD's and DVDs. All these tools are only helpers though, that's important to realize. Even seeing a guitar teacher every week does not mean you are automatically going to become a good guitar player, unless you are willing to put in the work.

I do think there are many tools available these days for the budding guitarist; tools that can be handy to have around as you progress as a player. One theory book I recommend is Edly's Music Theory for Practical People. This is a good book about music theory. It's easy to read and quite funny too. Having a book like this around will be very valuable for long time.

There are also many good DVDs for different purposes, so do your research before you buy. The difficulty is getting the "helper tools" that are right for you. Here is where a teacher can give you good suggestions, because your teacher will know where you are in the learning process, and can therefore narrow down the search for a good book or DVD that has information at the right difficulty level for you. My own DVDs are a mixture of different styles. For a beginner, I can honestly say there are better DVDs available out there. The Hal Leonard material, for example, is good. Here is a beginners guitar DVD that many like.

Another book I highly recommend is Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard. This book is appropriate for someone wanting to become a master at something, whether that means being a pilot or playing blues guitar. The book is about understanding the different "keys", as the author calls them. I think most people can learn a lot from this book. There are, however, many books that teach similar things - how to stick to what you are doing and enjoying, while also realizing this isn't a quick fix. It's a road with no fixed destination - the journey in itself is what it's all about.

I hope I didn't bore you with all this. To summarize - there is no silver bullet, no "secret" that will make you a great player in a week or two. That's just a complete lie. If you are a beginner and you really want to become a good guitar player, seek out a good teacher and plan on sticking to the guitar for a long time to come. Most of all - have fun. This whole idea about playing guitar is about having fun. I know I love playing guitar; if I didn't, I would a have quit a long time ago.

By Robert Renman - www.dolphinstreet.com

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Posted by Robert Renman on April 25, 2008

Comments on this blog entry

mitchell said...

Even i who would like a quick way to learn guitar agree. i have been playing for only 2 years now and didn't think i made much progress but when a mate of mine tried playing and couldn't do anything not even play smoke on the water properly i realized that although i am not great at playing guitar and it has taken a while to get to where i am now I would have to say to anyone just learning or finding it hard to just keep at it because it is a good feeling to play along to your favorite songs and if u need any help i will offer advice as best i can to help u get through a few things holding you back just email me mitchellwennink@hotmail.com thanks guys 1 more thing if good there is a sight that tells you the truth and doesn't just try and sell false promises.

Comment added on July 12, 2010
jimbob said...

very true. there isn't a secret. there is just determination, effort, hard work, and the fun which you'll get of it in the end. your darn right buddy. I'm trying to teach myself and i try and get loads f fun out of it. it always feels good when you know a piece of music and it makes you want to keep going

Comment added on June 30, 2009
Lau said...

I like playing guitar A LOT. I'm glad that I'm a patient person that I can hold the guitar in my hands for a few hours continuously playing boring stuff like scales, learning techniques like hammer on, pull off, etc. I really agree that one should get a teacher but unfortunately I don't sigh.. A good teacher will teach you the RIGHT technique right from the beginning instead of you exploring them yourself. for example, I just realized that my way of holding plectrum (does this sound ridiculous?) after nearly 4 years of playing guitar was WRONG and I had to relearn the technique a few months ago. How I wished I had a teacher to guide me.
anyway, good article.

Comment added on July 11, 2008
Brent said...

I have recently started to learn to play guitar after many years of wishing to learn. I got a cheap Estiban DVD set at Costo for $15 and it helped a lot with the basics (how to hold the guitar, things to practice etc). I didn't really know most of the songs though so it was a bit tough. When my motivation fell off a bit I went online to learn on youtube, found a couple of songs I like and learned the main "riffs" from those and they became a bit more of an incentive to practice. I usually try to practice about two hours a day but it varies. Still not good, but I can make some music I like...just slowly.

Comment added on May 12, 2008
Kay Stanford Jr Kastum said...

Well, technology are making things to easy especially playing the guitar. Gibson came out with the 'robot' guitar. Self tuning and stuff?? Soon you just need to hold on one chord and the microprocessor will change the chords for you as you strum.... he he :)

Comment added on April 28, 2008
Csaba said...

Hi Robert,

Agree completely. People think they can have anything immediately if they pay enough. Though I can be very impatient too unfortunately.

Comment added on April 28, 2008

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