Many musicians are in the hot pursuit of greatness. If you are one of us, you might be giving your craft much of your time and energy to try to perfect it. And many times, you might not be even slightly satisfied with your skills.
If you’ve ever felt bad about your guitar playing, you’re not the only one. If you want to be the best guitar player you can be, this feeling might drive you to push yourself and practice more.
Which is GOOD!
Imagine, if you would just be perfectly happy as you are, this might hurt your proactivity to keep practicing and get better. As a result, you wouldn’t really make an effort to keep up with the good habit of practicing, and practice irregularly, or even stop temporarily.
This would actually HURT your guitar playing, because everything you worked for so far, might slowly start to fade away, due to the lack of practice.
Like in nature, there is no »status quo«. Things either grow or decline, there is no in between. Now you have to choose, to either keep growing as a musician, or let your skills go backwards (which hurts like hell, as I can tell you from my own experience).
Therefore, if you are completely satisfied with your playing, you might just be doing something wrong.
The »Good job, and«
If you’ve watched the movie Whiplash, you may remember the words of Terence Fletcher: »There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’. «
As a guitar teacher myself, I don’t completely agree with this statement, but I can clearly see where it’s coming from. It’s a fact: if you want to be great, you must keep pushing on and never be complacent or discouraged.
But, it’s always healthy to get a positive compliment sometimes (especially if its from yourself). Some positive notes, might just help you realize that you are on the right path, and will help you keep on keeping on with your guitar playing.
I would use the words »good job«, but I would also update them to »good job, AND …«
Be honest with yourself and know when a good job was actually a good job. But, also look for further improvement in your skills. The »Good job, and …«, simply means you are realizing the progress you have done so far, AND are still looking for improvement.
For example: »The solo I improvised over our third song last night, was pretty good, AND it would be so much better, if I squeezed out every drop of emotion of that last note. I have to work on improving that«.
Give it everything you’ve got
»Everything you’ve got« is probably different for each person. If you are a hobby guitar player, you might only be able to give it 20 minutes, per day. But if it’s all you can give it, make the best of it! If you are a more serious player, you might want to give more than just 20 minutes per day.
But either way, do the best you can. Practice in the best way possible, be present and focus on what you are doing. Don’t be complacent during your practice sessions, keep pushing and give it everything you’ve got.
By doing so, you are relieving yourself of the feeling that you »could’ve done better«, because it is actually impossible for you at this time to do better.
Doing a halfhearted job, however, will make you regret it the moment you make any mistake in your guitar playing, because then you know for a fact you could’ve done better.
Let go, enjoy the moment and enjoy the process
Once you are out of your practice room, it’s time to let it go, and just enjoy what you’ve done so far. Don’t worry if you make any mistakes during the performance. Worrying will only make it worse. You don’t chase the train that you’ve missed, you let it go and wait for the next one.
Once you are done performing, don’t beat yourself up right away. First, leave all mistakes right where they belong: in the past. Sleep it off, and then evaluate yourself. To do this, it’s good if you have a recording of your performance. Recognize all the »good jobs« you have done, and look for areas, where you still have room for improvement.
You can then plan ahead and set new goals for your future practice sessions.
Doing this will help you improve much faster, and will also make you enjoy the process – which is eventually what we are all after.
The end goal is usually never as triumphant as we anticipate, because there is always more to learn and more to be. That’s why enjoying the process is the gold of life.
If you are never satisfied with your playing, that might just mean you enjoy the process of improvement more, than its actual result. Does that mean, never being satisfied with your guitar playing is actually more FUN? Well, I’ll leave that answer up to you. 🙂
©Janez Janežič, 2023
About the author
Janez Janežič is a guitar player, songwriter and guitar teacher from Novo mesto, Slovenia. He keeps looking for ways to make the most effective and fun guitar lessons in Dolenjska region. If you are interested in taking guitar lessons from him locally, check out his website.