The concerts, the bright lights, the all-night jams… ahhhh, that’s the good stuff.
Rocking out to your favorite tune and seeing the crowd run wild. It’s what us grown-up guitarists live for. It’s what we dream of and where we draw our energy. The fuel for our fire, so to speak. Just like athletes suiting up for game day, we step in front of that crowd and time stands still; and everything we’ve been working for comes to fruition. It’s the ultimate payoff.
But to get there takes work…
A lot of work.
If you’re following this journey with me, you’ll know I’m not afraid of putting in the effort and finding time to practice a little each day… but I’ve got to be totally straight with you: It’s hard fucking work. It takes discipline, it takes tenacity, and it takes patience. No matter how good you are, or how good you think you are, whenever you get out there and try something for the first time you’re gonna suck at it.
Right now I suck at all the new stuff I’m trying to play. Every time my guitar teacher sends me home with new stuff it takes days, if not weeks, to get good at it… this is completely obvious, of course, but the point is nothing comes easy. It all takes work.
So why does every new guitarist do it? For the payoff. For the chance to perform for a crowd, to create beautiful art, to just crank it up to 11 and feel like the bad-ass rocker that you are.
So how do you get to the payoff? By doing the hard stuff. By practicing your scales. By playing songs s-l-o-w-l-y, even though it gets boring. By using good hand technique and fretting clean notes and steady picking. By, basically, working hard to get better each and every day.
Let’s consider a real world example…
I used to play football in high school. During the season, we’d be on the field six days a week. But only one day of the week was awesome: Game Day. It’s what we lived for. It’s what we’d talk about each week. It’s what we’d prepare for each week. It’s all we could think about each week. So why were we out there busting our ass the other five days a week? Because that is what it took to be successful on game day. And that is the commitment everyone on the team was willing to make. Because that is what was required.
To break this down to hours, note that high school games are 12-min. a quarter, so 48 minutes of total game time. In order to prepare for this 48 minutes of game — the game that we’d long for all week long — we’d typically practice from 2:30-5:30p, M-F, and then 9a-1p on Sundays… so roughly 19 hours.
19 hours of preparation for 48 minutes of performance. Yup, that sounds about right.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration the five weeks of practice before we even held our first game. Basically we prepared as much as we could for that short window of glory. And it was worth it.
So, let’s bring it back to guitar now… Obviously the work ethic needed to become an exceptional guitarist is very high. Not only does it take time, but it requires all the discipline, tenacity, and patience we’ve been talking about. And it also requires our faith that we must put in the work to reach the payday we desire.
So are you willing to put in 19 hours or more of preparation each and every week for the hopes of a one-hour payoff? (Hopefully you said a resounding “yes!” to this… If so, you may continue reading… 🙂
It’s best to go in with a plan…
The crossroads of successful preparation, however, is not simply boiled down to the number of hours you commit, but also in how you spend that time. As a grown-up guitarist, with many grown-up responsibilities, I have limited time that I can dedicate to this pursuit. So I must make every minute count. Yes, it is my dream to be a professional guitarist, but I also have to balance life as well. I’d imagine so do you.
So how do you prepare for success?
It’s all in the balance.
Play new stuff as well as old. Play fun songs as well as study from a good book. Play with your friends as well as work with an instructor. Spend an hour working on your technique, and then another hour just jamming out. Variety is the spice of life and it’s no different when you’re putting in the work necessary towards achieving greatness. This keeps it fun, this keeps it exciting, this keeps it interesting. This keeps the passion burning because you’ll make noticeable progress and feel better for it. And the payday will arrive.
At this stage of the game I’ve got a long way to go before I’m ready for game time. But I persist. Experience has taught me that it is the will to prepare that gets us to where we want to be in life. The hard work and time spent now will pay dividends in the future. I believe this to be true and I’m out to prove it to you, to myself, and to all the doubters out there.
Now, excuse me, I gotta get to work…
What are your thoughts on working hard to improve your playing? Got a good story that relates to work ethic and necessities of practice? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.