Everyone’s guitar journey starts in many ways and looks different, but they still manage to include many of the same elements. It’s easy to look at the amazing guitarists out there like Eric Clapton or Prince and think they were just born into the world as great guitar players.
But it’s simply not true.
Every single person in the world, no matter who or where they’re from, all started in the exact same way:
They picked up the guitar.
Today, let’s talk about your guitar journey and what they may look like. As you read, maybe it’ll seem like I’m preaching to the choir or maybe you haven’t had some of these experiences yet. When you do, you’ll think back to this article and say, Oh ho! That’s what you were talking about.
Stage 1: The Beginning
In the beginning, you listen to music and pick out that guitar line. You’re drawn to the solos and the lead work. Your fingers unconsciously begin to move as if you’re playing.
Maybe you watch great players on your television or screen. You feel enamored, in love with the idea of playing guitar.
And it’s not that you love the idea of being famous (although this is a side dream for many). No. It’s how the guitarist made you feel when they played. You want to do that for other people.
At some point, you begin to fantasize about picking up the guitar and shredding on stage. Or maybe you dream about playing for your loved ones in your home.
For me, the guitarist was James Taylor. I adored the way he filled in simple chords in such complicated ways and how his simple yet pleasing voice lifted the complicated guitar patterns to new heights.
Then, you see a guitar in person…and you pick it up.
Stage 2: Frustration
You pick up the guitar and then try to play.
And it sounds terrible.
You don’t know where the fingers go, you’re not pressing hard enough, your elbow is too high so your arm gets tired, the guitar isn’t in tune, you hunch over so your back starts to hurt, etc.
It’s not pretty.
And it never is!
The first time I picked up guitar. I stuck with it for 10 whole days. Then, I quit. I made excuses:
- My fingers aren’t strong enough.
- I’m not talented at guitar.
- I don’t have time to learn this.
- My guitar is no good.
Does this speak to any of you?
We try, but when we hit that wall stopping us from playing like our role models do, we give up far too easily.
Stage 3: Regret
Days, weeks, months, or maybe even years go by without picking it up again. But you never forget about it. You never forget how amazing the guitar makes you feel and how frustrated you felt when you picked it up.
After I quit the first time, I didn’t play for two years. I regret that now. How much better would I be now, if I kept at it that extra two years? Live and learn, my friends. Live and learn.
Eventually, you muster up the courage to try it again. But this time, you do something different.
Stage 4: Getting Help
This time around, you get help. I ended up taking a class in college on “Classroom Instruments” where I took lessons on guitar, harpsichord, ukulele, and recorder. Yes…the little one parents hate from elementary school.
But my teacher was a skilled guitarist, and he helped me navigate through the tough times when you build up your calluses and learn to play a few chords. Here’s the thing, my friends:
Once you get past the beginning, it gets so much easier.
Not everyone takes a whole class like I did, and you don’t have to.
You could try to follow YouTube “experts” who teach you guitar. Maybe try private lessons or group lessons in person or online. Buy a method book and follow it. Or try one of the online guitar courses. Jam Play is the best one for beginners and excellent for all levels of guitar players. Click the link to check it out.
You need to be part of a community, and you need to hear from other guitarists on how they improve.
Stage 5: The Improvement-Frustration Cycle
The rest of your guitar journey will alternate between making great strides in improvement and getting frustrated that you aren’t improving fast enough. Even the great Jimi Hendrix said:
Sometimes you’ll want to give up the guitar. You’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.
You’re not alone in this journey, no matter what level you’re at. You will improve! Stick with it.