Sorry to break this to you, but you are not the guitarist you "could" be.
Here are 10 reasons why you're not as good as you think you are, along with suggestions on how to get better...
#1). YOU ARE TOO LAZY - GO PRACTICE!
If you want to be able to play guitar to any level beyond 'awful', there is one staggeringly simple solution: study, learn, practice, and study some more.
The world is full of people who have sunk thousands of hours into video games and social media. Do not be one of those people - be a guitar player instead. It's a lot cooler be be a guitarist.
When it comes to guitar study, there is no shortcut to putting the time in, and that means playing until your fingers bleed, just like Bryan Adams did in that song you pretend you don't know all the words to. Practice, or - and you can trust me on this - you will always suck. And you'll have nobody but yourself (and, possibly, your internet service provider) to blame.
#2). YOU PLAY THE SAME STUFF ALL THE TIME
Let's not pretend that most of us are anything other than a horribly broken jukebox, playing half a dozen songs on an endless loop. It's comfortable and easy, like eating cereal out of the box or like wearing those tattered old slippers.
But it's killing your playing. If you don't add to your repertoire, you'll be strumming the same three John Mayer covers for the rest of your life. Nobody wants that.
Seek out new artists and new songs, learn them, then do it all over again. You'll learn more from playing a ton of songs than through almost any other method, and you'll be an infinitely better musician at the end of it.
#3). MUSIC STYLE IS TOO NARROW
Are you an indie kid? Metalhead? A sandal-wearing worshipper at the altar of jazz? Whatever your particular niche is, do yourself a favor and break out of it. Find some other genre, (preferably one that is more complex than where you're at now), and learn its ways.
We love the greats because they blended different styles, brought in new influences and expanded the definition of what the guitar could be. That only comes from listening to anything and everything without prejudice.
Where would we be if the blues had never met rockabilly? If Dylan had never gone electric? If Eddie had never heard Bach? In a world of bland, uninspired nothingness, that's where. Explore the wider world of music, and reap the rewards.
#4). LACK OF RHYTHMIC FEEL
When was the last time you played along to anything other than the sound of yourself? If your answer is 'never', then your music is missing a vital ingredient.Rhythm!
We're talking rhythm, groove, and the beat people: foot tappin', hand clappin' rhythm. You need it. Your playing needs it. Keeping time is crucial to being able to play anything properly, and it can be surprisingly tricky to master if you've never actually tried studying it.
Do yourself a favor: buy a metronome - or even better, hunt down and trap a good drummer - and use them. Playing in time is the difference between a great player and a lonely player.
#5). GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!
We often wonder how many amazing talents have been lost to the world because they never left their basement or their bedroom. Playing guitar at home alone is safe, but it lacks in fun, (and you're unlikely to say, sustain a head injury from an angrily lobbed beer bottle, because that's fun too - well, the story of it later will be fun to tell).
But seriously, there is nothing quite like getting into a room and making a racket with other people. It's a blast (really, it's just about the most fun you can have legally), and you'll learn all sorts of stuff about rhythm, dynamics, structure, collaboration, even performance. Playing in a band is one of life's great joys - don't miss out on this.
#6). EXPERIENCE ON GUITAR TYPES IS TOO LIMITED
Do you only ever wield your trusty electric? Are you eternally hugging your acoustic? Either way, it will do your playing a whole world of good to mix it up every now and then. Acoustic and electric guitars are very different beasts, and your ears, musical brain and hands will adapt to the change. You'll play differently and find yourself exploring new musical avenues almost immediately.
And while you're at it, why not pick up other stringed instruments once in a while? Basses, banjos, ukuleles, balalaikas - they all represent fresh challenges, different styles of music and alternate tunings. Explore, have fun, improve your life.
#7). YOU NEED TO CARE MORE ABOUT YOUR EQUIPMENT
It never ceases to amaze just how badly some people treat their instruments. Lifeless old strings, fret-boards full of gunk, buzzing frets, rusty hardware, loose input jacks - these are all contributors to nasty-sounding guitars. And worse than that, they actively make playing the instrument a lot harder and a lot less rewarding.
If you've never had your guitar set up, get to a local guitar shop immediately. A well-maintained, properly set-up guitar is a revelation, and I promise you'll never let your guitars go to hell ever again. Love thy gear as thy love thy selves.
#8). SEX, DRUGS and ROCK 'N' ROLL - IS A MYTH
Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, yeah! Yeah? No. Grow up. It's nonsense and you know it. Learning the guitar solely to lure somebody into bed isn't clever. And drugs as a creative tool may work for a tiny fraction of the population, but only if they've put in thousands of hours of graft beforehand and are able to, you know, not die.
The only thing out of this devil's three-way worth giving a monkey's toss about is rock 'n' roll, and that is just one note in an entire symphony of music to explore. So stop banging on about Keith Richards. Learn some more styles and branch out. What you'll get from it will be incredible. And, just so you know, most famous players are pretty darn versatile. So, branch out, it will do you wonders.
#9). BAD HABITS (HOLD YOU DOWN)
It's easy to fall into bad habits, but they're a crutch we lean on when we're being lazy and can't be bothered to do things properly.
If you want to be the best you can be, you've got to consider the whole package. Look at your posture and correct it; get into the habit of tuning up between every song; look after your hands; tidy up your fretting; work on getting those bends in tune. Apply yourself.... The future of your guitar music is in your hands.
#10). TOO MUCH GEAR - NOT ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE /SKILL
Do you endlessly pore over pictures of boutique amps and custom shop guitars, wishing, waiting, hoping that one day they'll be yours? You're part of the problem, pal.
We're all guilty of fetishising gear, but dropping several grand on some flash-bang piece of kit isn't going to make you sound better. You already possess everything that can - hands, brain, determination, drive - and no amount of overpriced tat is going to change that.
Focus all your energy on your playing and the gear will come in time. Remember: a good guitarist can make even the cheapest guitar sing.
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