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The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar: A Mindset For All Levels Of Players

Feb 01, 2024

The Mind Of A Beginner:

When I first started playing guitar, it was the summer of 1991. There was no way to learn guitar online. The early Internet was a gateway to Stevie Ray Vaughan newsgroups and message boards. But even this was a little ways off. There was no YouTube. If you wanted to learn guitar, either you taught yourself or found a teacher. 

After begging for the previous four years, my parents were finally convinced to get me a $100 import. The guitar came along with lessons. Despite not knowing how to play anything, the most natural thing happened. I went to the first lesson, learned 3-notes, came home, and immediately opened the guitar case. It didn't matter that I wasn't any good yet. It was enjoyable to hold and fun to make sounds on. The enjoyment of holding it and plucking the strings to make some sound -- any sound -- was a childhood joy.

I did not realize at the time, but from that moment forward, I was a self-directed student. My path was self-charted, even though I was learning about music in formal lessons. I began hanging out in guitar shops. I'd go to the public library after school and bring home recordings my parents never had. The discovery was self-directed even in the midst of lessons. But enough about me. 

How Long Does It Realistically Take To Learn Guitar? 

The answer is a question. John Hiatt said that. And it broke my heart to see Garth Brooks smashing a perfectly good guitar on TV in 1991. Who did this guy think he was? Jimi Hendrix??? Vanessa Kensington told Austin Powers the 1960s were over, and they were. Who smashes a perfectly good guitar? 

There ought to be a law with no bail

Smash a guitar, and you go to jail

With no chance for early parole

You don't get out till you get some soul

-John Hiatt

It takes as long to learn guitar as your love for the instrument extends. If you think you’re the greatest, ego has held you back. I recently heard a most distressing story about a rather famous YouTuber. Some [correct, I should add] constructive criticism elicited a knee-jerk reaction. "You light-weight" was the response. Fame warps reality. Fame and money REALLY warp reality. And for all I know, social media fame may be the most dangerous of all, since the liability to fuel narcissism seems greater there, but what do I know (I'm just a guitar player). 

Some of the greatest musicians (emphasis on musicians) navigate both (fame and fortune) quite well. 

The greatest never consider themselves the greatest. You can take pride in what you do and you should develop internal confidence and strength as you improve. This is necessary, but what’s the point of being a genius if no one can stand you?

A more effective question is "how long does it take to begin to enjoy playing the guitar?" My answer is, right away. Quit thinking about yourself as a guitar student. If you've played something -- anything --- then you are a guitar player. You don't have to take this from me. Take it from legends like Chet Atkins:

"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play. If you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time." - Chet Atkins

When you love to play, you’re in a lifetime search for the greatest sound ever. It's not going to stop. You're going to keep going when you love it. What’s a songwriter’s favorite song? The next one. 

“I’m only 49 years old. I’m still in the middle of this whole thing. I don’t feel like it’s finished at all. I’m still planning to write better songs.” - Paul McCartney 

Anyone with a little bit of patience, devotion, and a playable instrument can enjoy the guitar. It's not difficult to learn the basics, but what you want out of this becomes a much more important question. What kind of music do you want to play? Are you hoping to do this for a hobby or do you want to become a pro? Can you learn guitar just from YouTube, and if so, is it okay to self-teach yourself guitar? We'll spend the rest of this article demystifying the process. 

What To Do (And What Not to Do):

The issue with learning guitar from YouTube is a problem of self-referenced focus. To get good at guitar requires a different kind of focus. You need to focus on your hands, ears, and to some extent mindset. As for content-creators, many should learn to focus their cameras. Why do so many YouTube guitar influencers think the out of focus blurred background is a good idea? And what's up with the abrupt jump-cuts every 30 seconds?

There is no shortage of material on YouTube though. Some of it is highly questionable. But some of it is very good. In full transparency, I use YouTube too. But I don't rely on it and use it in a different way completely (more on this in a bit).

During the 2020 pandemic when everything shifted online, I found myself on Skype quite a lot. This was a learning experience for me as well. What it taught me was that dedicated players (not just students) are going to improve no matter what. Those are the Skype students I took on who improved. They were going to get better with or without me. They allowed me along for the ride but were self-directed just like I was all those years ago when I was starting out. Others who were less focused didn't progress that much. An online experience didn't work as well for them.

Unfocused players have a long road ahead. It's not the level, it's the focus.

In an era of information overload with 24/7 access to all things at all times, sometimes it's best to shut it all off. If your device for practicing is the same one that rings or where news pops up, your focus is already in jeopardy. It's a real issue to contend with. If you must use your phone to practice, consider turning the wi-fi and cellular data off. Load up that video and then once it's loaded, disconnect. Turn on that metronome app, but make your phone unreachable by the outside world for the next few minutes.

When I was getting started (now that I'm 100 years old), I had a stack of recordings in a basement with no computers. And most of the time when the landline rang, it wasn't for me anyways. Guitar Player Magazine in print didn't come with Internet browser popups. We waited all month for the next issue. Maybe there was a great column in the back of it. 

Of course focus has never been easy and it was no different then. Plenty lost theirs on drink, drug, shotgun weddings, or just security. To become a musician requires a certain detachment from outcomes. I didn't come from a musical family at all but my uncle (who hates jazz) wanted to be a guitar player. My Grandmother discouraged it though on account of pursuing a secure, stable living. I heard it over and over again myself from within and without. "What's your backup plan?"

Whether you want to become an improvising musician or not, there is a lot to learn from the art of improvisation. Notice that I said improvisation instead of "jazz." Was Hendrix not improvising? Is the blues not full of improvisation? Was Tom Petty not improvising when he claimed to have written Wildflowers as he sang it for the first time? Of course the same applies to Miles and Coltrane. 

Central to the art of improvisation is the idea that first thought is best thought. The adage of being present in the moment also applies. Genius is the unstudied flow of the subconscious mind. Once you stop to think, it's too late. The same applies to learning guitar. I do not mean to suggest that practicing is the same as improvising. Of course they are two very different things altogether.

Great improvisers get caught up in the flow of ideas and creativity. Great practicing involves attention to where you are and where you want to get. In that sense, practice involves the present and future. Improvisation only exists in the present. If you were thinking about the future you'd be planning your improvisation. At which point it would become a rehearsal, not an improvisation.

So think about practicing like rehearsing a set list for a show. You are working on some specific aspect that you are going to perform more or less the same way tomorrow. Practice is a run-through. Improvisation is pure spontaneity. Both take focus though and it's focus most of all that has been the greatest casualty of a 24/7 connected world.

I never thought about practicing. It was more of a compulsion driven by love for the subject. It's all I could think about.How would I be able to go to school at all the day after hearing Albert King for the first time!!!?? What was I doing when I spaced out in 9th grade physics class with Eric Johnson's wah wah solo replaying in my mind? I was focusing on what I cared about. Which was not whatever irrelevant information the physics teacher was talking about. Who had time for that? I was going to become a guitar player. Focus, always and forever.

The best practice is a state of focus, love, determination, and other big life lessons. Inefficient practice is a state of ego, comparison, negativity, and shallowness. 


Too Old, Too Young, and Other Common Excuses:

I first started asking to play when I was 5-years old but my parents wondered if my hands were too small. So I didn't get a guitar until I was 9. Over three decades later I found myself giving guitar lessons to a man in his '60s who had just begun. We can all make progress at any stage. Wes Montgomery didn't even start playing guitar until he was twenty. Don't take it from me, take it from the late great Ted Greene:

 "A simple truth is that talent often blooms very gradually, and even late for some. The guitar seems impossibly hard in the early stages for so many who attempt it. But the transformation always starts to happen as the practicing hours accumulate. Suddenly one day you realize you're doing something you couldn't do last month or last week, simply because of the nice effort you've shown." - Ted Greene

 The reason guitar lessons tend to be better in person than online has very little to do with the lessons. It's an issue of presence, proximity and focus. When you've paid for a period of time in-person, that is your time. They've reserved it for you and you have reserved it for them. There may also be a financial incentive to practice the material because you paid for it. But we can't deny history. Wes learned to play pretty late. Without a whole lot of music knowledge. Wes didn't read. 

Especially as they improve, guitar players have a strange tendency to create excuses. It can be as simple as "playing to a drum machine is more of a real-world rehearsal than a metronome," but that's bad advice. It's everyone's job to keep time.

 "I was probably 30 years into my playing when I realized I should use a metronome. What did it for me was working with drummers who were really good. Their timing was immaculate, but I wasn't syncing up with them properly. I still had all this childish enthusiasm, and I was playing all over everything. Around the same time, I listened to myself on a record, and I was kind of crushed. I had to admit that I was trying to show off too much, and I wasn't listening to the other players. After that, I got myself a date with a metronome, and we've been in a serious relationship ever since." - Tommy Emmanuel CGP

It's difficult to learn guitar completely online because the Internet is an echo-chamber. Credibility is often mistaken for marketing. The best use of the Internet when learning to play guitar is to use it for inspiration. Use it to seek out the music that inspires you and watch your heroes play.

Remember when I promised earlier that I would share with you how I use YouTube to grow as a player? Sometimes I turn off the sound completely and switch the speed to 25% just to watch my guitar heroes' hands. The YouTuber guitar influencers I watch are the guitar players who influenced me. That makes them influencers right? 

Over 30 years ago this kind of a reservoir for great resources was inconceivable. I can watch SRV in Tokyo in 1985 in the middle of the night! I can watch Robben Ford giving a masterclass on rhythm guitar. If I want to look at how Michael Bloomfield shook a string in mid-solo for that vicious vibrato, there's a video to see it! Have you ever heard how absolutely gorgeous Jimi's isolated guitar is on "Have You Ever Been To Electric Ladyland?" Despite the problems, the Internet did open up access to all kinds of things we didn't have access to before.

The problem is not learning guitar online. It's information overload that leads to lack of focus. We often take for granted what we do not work for. All these resources just showed up one day. And we didn't even have to work for them! The solution is finding a way to foster focus and make the resources online work for us.

Developing A Relationship With Your Instrument:

It helps to play a wide variety of guitars before purchasing one. Impersonal electronic items, accessories, and recording interfaces are one thing. Instruments are a world unto their own though. Ordering one online usually describes collectors or aspiring hopefuls, but rarely lifelong players. The relationship of the player to the instrument cannot be overstated.

 "You can tell whether a person plays or not by the way he carries the instrument. Whether it means something to him or not." - Miles Davis

It's not enough for an instrument to meet your expectations. You're looking for one to become an extension of your body. Mail-order guitars are tantamount to mail-order brides. Who finds love that way? 

It doesn't need to be vintage or a crazy-expensive custom instrument. It only needs to speak to you. What spoke to me early on? Stratocasters. With the lone exception of B.B., most of my formative influences were Strat players. Quite naturally, the Stratocaster became home for me. Sometimes you have to play ten to find one.

How does the neck fit your hand? How does the instrument feel when you play it? Is the body resonant? If the guitar doesn't sing before plugging it in, good luck. What is the resonant frequency of the neck? How tight is the truss rod? Is there slop at the neck body joint or is it a tight fit? How is the transfer of energy from the bridge to headstock and past the pickups? These are all things I learned more about with time and experience as I learned all an instrument can be. You don't need to worry about obsessing over any of those details at first, you only need to find one that speaks to you. It doesn't matter why it speaks to you, but that it speaks to you. My first Strat is still with me over three decades later. 

There is a valid case to argue that it's easier to learn on an electric guitar instead of an acoustic one. The strings are almost always much easier to play with thinner diameters. The distance from the string to the fingerboard is almost always lower. This is what string-action is -- the distance from the bottom of the string to the top of the fret. A lot of times an electric guitar will have lower action than an acoustic guitar. This makes it easier to play. Often times the neck itself is thinner, so it's easier to wrap your hands around. The unwound plain steel 3rd string is much easier if you're drawn to bending strings. And yet, the acoustic guitar is a more efficient learning tool. It goes back to focus.

Humanity Versus the Machine:

While it may be easier to learn on an electric guitar, there are no added distractions with an acoustic one. What you hear back is the true picture, uncolored by any other external factors. The touch you develop on an acoustic guitar often translates well to an electric. The opposite is not as true most of the time.

Despite YouTube shills and corporate advertising budgets, gear won't make you any better. Gear is a tool. Your capability of using those tools is a better benchmark of your progress than gear itself. Remember what I said earlier about the excuses players become so good at finding. A large generation of my own peers made excuses based on their record collection. This is coming from a fan of the first seven U2 albums: The Edge of U2 is the Keith Richards of my generation. 

No doubt I'll get trolled for saying so, U2 has sort of become The Rolling Stones of mine. What I mean by that is the band became a brand. The albums stopped being as adventurous and the cliches became tired. Greatness faded to geriatric renditions of classic hits on high grossing concert tours. Remember when Tom Petty taught us about The Last DJ. Or "When Money Became King":

"Johnny rocked that golden circleAnd all those VIP'sAnd that music that had freed usBecame a tired routine

And I saw his face in close-upTrying to give it all he hadAnd sometimes his eyes betrayed himYou could see that he was sad

And I tried to rock on with himBut I slowly became boredCould that man on stage with everythingSomehow need some more?

There was no use in pretendingNo magic left to hearAll the music gave meWas a craving for lite beer

As I walked out of the arenaMy ears began to ringAnd money became king"

- May Thomas Earl Petty rest in peace and always be remembered for everything good he ever did. 

On a guitar player for guitar player level I could simply list 20 better guitar players (including George) that Keith or The Edge off the top of my head but few better sonic architects. Exile On Main Street or Rattle & Hum. Does it matter? Hear me out. 

You don't need to be a perfect musician to become a successful one. Commercial success has far more to do with communication than playing. As attention spans decrease, the demands of the audience do too. Musicianship in the popular sphere has been on a steady decline for decades. We know this. The real question is not one of musicianship. Early rock and roll was a decline in musicianship from previous generations. I'm a realist and historian about these things much more than a snob. Irving Ashby was the guitar player with Nat King Cole. When rock and roll hit, he picked up a Telecaster and did sessions. Oscar Moore was another one with Nat King Cole. Oscar quit music and became a bricklayer.

Transcending judgment of "musicianship," the fundamental question is: do you like the music? I still liked a lot of popular music all the way up until the blues got kicked out of rock and roll and the computers took over. Of course Joe Pass was a much better guitar player than John Fogerty. I don't care. "Take me back down where cool water flows, y'all. Let me remember things I love." I like Credence music more than Joe Pass jazz guitar. The two Bob's of Office Space are Michael Bolton fans. Well, I'm a Creedence Clearwater Revival fan. I celebrate the entire catalog. But I'm sure it must be much more difficult for anyone named John to pick a favorite Credence song.

I had a 1958 Strat submerged under the Cumberland River for 5 days during in the 2010 Nashville floods, so yes. I have seen the rain! It's not who's a better or worse guitar player. All the music that moved me had humanity. Real, living breathing people making imperfect music.

I can't play the guitar like Eric Johnson in 1991. That level of virtuosity was reached by a highly focused human being with a mind unclouded by drink or drug, and while mine is unclouded too, it wasn't focused enough on technique to have attained EJ's level of virtuosity. No one else ever did better than Eric from at least 1989 - 1997....if you like that kind of guitar playing (and not everyone does). Cliffs Of Dover wasn't created in Pro Tools with 61 takes glued together. As Jay Graydon once said, "before Pro Tools, there were pros." You had to become as good the work called for. Standards did used to be higher but it's not about musical snobbery or who's better or worse to me. It's about humanity versus the machine. 

If you're here, I assume you're also interested in real living, breathing guitar players too. These days I haven't purchased a new record by any band in probably at least ten years now. But the ones I did were for a lifetime. I don't like the proliferation of computers in the music-making process. It's a miracle I built a website at all. Computers have improved certain things in modern life. Music is not one of them. 

Developing Your Touch, Strength, & Groove:

In the case of human beings playing real musical instruments, imperfection is endearing. It's what separates us from the robots. With all the talk about artificial intelligence now, here's my question. When did your computer ever sound like Buddy Guy during his Cobra Records period? Personally I took Mick Jagger at his word. I do have no interest in hearing him sing King Bee when I can listen to Slim Harpo instead. But this is not record review hour. We don't all have to connect with the same music. Listening and learning are good things for us all. Which again goes back to focus. 

Sound is an interesting thing. It gets used in so many different ways but as an instrument the guitar is actually rather basic. Let's take some wood and steel and put strings on it. Press your finger down and pluck the string.

As the man at the music store asked me when I was 9 years old picking out a guitar: "Do you like this sound?" (At this point he plucked a nylon string guitar).

"Or do you like this sound?" (At that point he switched to a steel-string starter guitar).

I chose the steel-string starter acoustic. It sounded better to me. Cream never rocked at the Royal Albert Hall with classical guitars.

With its basic character, the acoustic guitar fosters developing your touch. What you hear is what you get. No speaker, no cable, and for certain no effects pedals. This is coming from someone with an embarrassment of gear over a lifetime of doing this. But the gear showed up when it needed to. 

The guy with the large YouTube channel who plays for artists no one has ever heard of only has YouTube. He neither has written a hit song nor become a great guitar player. He has to hide behind gear and his latest pedalboard build because it's not in his hands. If it was in his hands, he'd be doing other stuff. But because it's not, he had to make it instead on YouTube.

This sounds pretty harsh but I'm not calling anyone out in particular by name. It could be anyone who has become Jackson Browne's iconic "Pretender." Anyone who bought into a very superficial living in the place of abandoned dreams. The thing about that song (other than genius) is its compassion. "The Pretender" was produced by Jon Landau. Others think about Jon as Bruce Springsteen's famous manager. I think of Jon Landau as a man who also produced some Livingston Taylor LPs. James' younger brother! I'm a Livingston Taylor fan because Livingston Taylor makes the world a happier place!

Livingston doesn't wanna be famous!!! I'm sorry, he just doesn't wanna do it!!! 


In that sense, the Internet was a terrible idea. Let's depersonalize the guitar buying experience, and then devalue recorded works of art. While we're at it, let's make very average guitar players YouTube famous, but without songs. The Beatles and Stones gave us the soundtrack of generations. Paul Simon made records that we still listen to. That whole YouTube guitar-influencer crowd gave us.....??????? I still haven't found what I'm looking for, and I've been looking a long time online. So let's talk about famous guitarists who use a lot of gear. 

The thing about The Edge and other sonic architects is their touch is actually really good. Before the signal goes through anything, it starts in the hands. Then you have to learn to play. The common thread is touch. Then approach and mindset. Then musical vocabulary and technique. Notice I placed technique last. 

Greatness is the human being striking the string and making a pleasing sound. That's it. Remember what I said earlier. Genius is the unstudied flow of the subconscious mind. First thought is best thought. Improvisation. All of that stuff matters far more than technique. But if you have enough to say with a guitar plugged into a tube amp and nothing else in-between, then realistically you are the better guitar player. If you don't have enough to say but your touch is still great, you can still be great. You're just going to have to be great with the guitar instead of at the guitar. It sounds like a contradiction but its completely consistent.

If your touch is good, the whole game changes. And you don't even need to be a virtuoso to do it. The old guard might even complain that you're not very good for it. "In my day...." 

On an acoustic guitar, there's less to hide behind than an electric even with no effects. And a Strat plugged straight into a 100-watt Marshall still makes you stand stark naked. But electricity itself changes things.

Beyond developing your touch, the acoustic guitar develops strength. To get things to ring true and for the articulation of every note, endurance is paramount. Your hands can't get tired after the first solo and most of all, stamina is groove. 

Every kind of music, in every style, must groove. If the rhythm and feel and groove are shaky, people lose interest. All you have to do to prove that is to walk out on the street and ask 100 people if they like jazz. When there are too many chords, or the melody is too varied, or the lyrics are complex, markets shrink. 

But as for groove....everyone relates to groove. It's universal. Why do electronic producers use technology to make the drums sound in time? Because all throughout history, rhythm and time have been central to all music. Time is not a magazine. I'm an old-timer. I have no interest in computers. If human beings are not playing real instruments I'm not interested. But even technology attempts to exist in time. 

That is not to say that time and groove are the same thing. A musician can have imperfect time but a great groove, or a perfect time and no groove. But the two do belong to the same family of endurance. Steve Gadd's arms and legs can't peter out after the intro. He's gotta groove on "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" the whole way through. Speaking of which, I've got a Golden Retriever named Gus. He recently went back to see his pregnant girlfriend Bella. She wasn't interested in him anymore and barked at him, so my friend Gus did indeed hop on the bus. Bella didn't want to discuss much. There must be 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.



What Is The Easiest Method To Learn Guitar?

I'm going to give you a much more concrete answer in a little bit. First, I want to talk about your mindset before any method is even considered at all. Guess what, the pros are pros because they never stop thinking like beginners. So I'm speaking to all levels of guitar players here. 

If there is a shortcut to improvement, it's healthy motivation. A lot of things could motivate you to pick up the guitar. It may be the artistic purity of what you can give music instead of what music can give you. It could be something else. Whatever it is, many great artists and musicians share one thing in common: discontent. 

This is not to suggest that you should adopt an unhealthy self-loathing approach to life or music. That is not what I intend to suggest at all. This walks much more hand in hand with humility and not at all with self-degradation. It's a Leonard Cohen line - "Now I am too thin and your love is too vast." 

None of us, and not even your heroes, are ever going to master music. In fact, the academic word for a "masters degree" might as well be a complete farce and sham when it comes to guitar. What did you master?

Mastery applies to technique, but never to art. When I make promises to help you master the guitar over on the Fretboard Playground, it's a resource. I can help you master the fingerboard. But none of us will never master music. Fill in the name of your favorite musician of all-time. They didn't either. If that's too hard to for you to admit of your own, I'll start to show you it's a harmless exercise. Watch me be break the ice by being so brutally frank about a few of my own:

The Beatles were not perfect musicians. Chet Atkins played the wrong chords when he sat in with B.B. King because Chet wasn't a blues guitar player. Eric Clapton plays a wrong note on an Aretha Franklin session in 1967. Stevie Ray played just a little bit out of tune during a few live shows. Jimi Hendrix is late to the downbeat and not locked in with Mitch and Noel for one moment during The Wind Cries Mary. Wes Montgomery plays a major 7th over a dominant 7th chord somewhere on the album Boss Guitar. Jeff Beck got bad tone once on a session with Tina Turner and left it on the record anyhow. None of your heroes want the pressure of you believing they're perfect. To become a great musician is to embrace the moment, mistakes and all.

A resource to give you greater possibilities while sharing with you what others gave to me. That's why we focus so much on concepts over there. You get to use them how you want to in your own music and to work towards your own dreams. But as for art....

Those of us who are lifers are fueled by discontent. I'm still not satisfied with stopping now. There's more I want to improve at and more things I want to do with the guitar. Why do recording artists keep making records? At a certain level of success it is no longer a financial necessity for many. You can separate artists from  industry plants and vapid celebrities this way. It's not even what they say so much as what they do. You either keep on doing this for the long haul or something else takes its place. If you're a writer, you'll keep on writing even if you say you're going to quit.

The easiest method of learning guitar is to cut out all the baggage holding you back and to just do it. Of course you can use some help along the way. But you have to enjoy that too. The contemporaries I had who dropped out and went through life changes were just too burned out. You can protect yourself against becoming burned out in a few simple ways. 

First of all, don't try to do this all by yourself. Find a group of others who are into the same things you're into. It's even better if you can find others at your same level or just a little bit above. You don't want to be held back by a drummer with worse time than you or not grow because you're not challenged. If you can embrace being the worst musician in the band, you will learn far more than if your ego is out of control. 

Second, as Ted Greene said when I was 12 years old in a guitar workshop, "question your teachers. You don't have to be nasty about it, but ask them. 'Why am I doing this?' 'What am I getting out of this?'" If they can't back it up or give you a concrete answer, then the teacher has failed. Which is why I refer to myself as a mentor instead of teacher. My greatest mentors about this stuff were other guitar players, both near and far. And some were no more than an influence. But it's all about finding out what you love and chasing that with all your heart, to paraphrase Ted again. 

Anything I show you in the video vault is for a very specific reason. If you don't want to become a jazz guitar player and the subject of guide tones scares you, don't be. I'm only showing them to you for you to visualize the fingerboard in a different way. One that connects harmony to melody and melody to harmony. If the metronomes gives you flashbacks to childhood piano lessons, relax, it's okay. I'll show you how to use a metronome to have more fun locking in with a drummer while playing the music you want to. I'm not showing it to you to force you into a life of involuntarily celibacy and poverty at jazz fusion gigs in 17/8. If the music feels better when you play, isn't it more fun to play? 

Third, concepts are easier than styles-based lessons. It doesn't matter whether you join us over on the membership side or seek something else out. I'd encourage others to find some kind of system that gives you foundations and concepts. The reason I say "easier" is that once you have a solid concept, you can do so much with it. Once I went to see Earl Klugh play at a private event here in Nashville. I recall him saying that when he was starting out, he couldn't remember other people's songs, so he came up with his own. A concept as simple as "this is an altered tuning called open-G" doesn't just prepare you for Keith Richards. It prepares you for folk-blues fingerpicking, or The Third Man Theme by Chet Atkins. Not to mention Ry Cooder playing slide guitar on Dark End Of The Street. That's from one concept as basic as "various ways of tuning the guitar." By and large, systems based on concepts free you to pursue whatever you want with the instrument. Styles-based lessons, even if you like the style you are studying, create a bubble. It can limit your potential and growth both in the short and long-term. 

This is not to suggest that song-based systems aren't effective. I have probably over a hundred videos on Six String Country. In all cases, they contain meticulous notes, TAB and string-by-string, finger-by-finger instruction. You should be learning songs (that you like) as soon as you're capable of playing them. Just make sure that whoever is showing you the song is giving you a little bit more than "here's the TAB." That's why the videos I have over there cover over there always contain some element of the concepts at hand. Returning to the subject of motivation....

The enjoyment of playing music will keep you motivated to continue playing music. In the vast majority of cases (and so I am generalizing) I've found that everyone wants a little more than they admit. If your goals are to improve a little bit more at your hobby, that's fantastic! Etymologically speaking an amateur does something for love. In that respect, an amateur is far more fortunate than a burned out pro going through the motions. 

Make sure you are being completely honest with yourself. If you want to play some songs as a hobby, is that all you want out of that hobby? Or do you want to try composing a little tune or improvising a solo but struggle with self-confidence? As Tomo Fujita says (and full credit where credit is due, I consider him to be one of the "good YouTubers"), don't compare. When you hear somebody else doing what you'd like to do, don't beat yourself up because you're not there yet. Allow yourself to feel inspired instead. If you'd enjoy improvising a solo, then don't sell yourself short. I said a moment ago that I've found everyone wants a little more than they admit. I've found they're also generally capable of more than they give themselves credit for. So if it is your life's work to become a guitar player, "Accept that fate. Bear its burden, and its grandeur, without asking for the reward." (To quote Rainer Maria Rilke). 

Next time we'll look at some tips and strategies to becoming a solid intermediate level player. In the meantime, take an inventory and an honest assessment of what your goals are with this. Let me leave you with a secret. The goals don't change very much even when your skill level does. My answer today is pretty much the same as it was over 30 years ago. What do I want? "To get good at guitar." I'm still planning to. One of these days.

If yours are the same and I can help you, the doors to the Fretboard Playground are open. Welcome aboard. 

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