We Don’t Need Any More Shiny Objects
I’ve written before about how hopelessly bad the state of guitar teaching is.
One of the biggest problems that I’m seeing is an almost maniacal focus on licks, tips, tricks, songs, riffs and other tidbits that we’ll just refer to as Shiny Objects.
We all love Shiny Objects, and with good reason. But their importance is microscopic compared to a handful of other, less-exciting, less-visible aspects of your guitar playing.
When playing private events, I get to see a fair number of ultra-luxury homes. Beautiful details are everywhere you look in one of these houses.
The countertops are hewn from granite and polished to a mirror sheen. The cabinets & floors are milled from exotic woods. The huge, graceful windows look out over manicured lawns and tasteful landscaping. The doors & the doorknobs have a massive heft that screams quality.
But none of this would mean a damned thing without a host of invisible underpinnings.
Long before the perfect shades of paint and stain were applied to the home’s surfaces, an architect sat at her desk, making plans and drawings. She crunched numbers in complex engineering formulas to ensure the house would be as sturdy as it is beautiful.
Then a heavy equipment operator came with an excavator and a front loader. He and his team dug a giant hole and shaped the topography of the lot.
They were followed by a team that built forms in the ground and strategically assembled rebar inside of the forms. This was followed in turn by two cement trucks that poured the foundation.
Framers arrived and roughed out the house. Plumbers and electricians filled in the house’s lifelines. Sheathing, siding, insulation and roofing were added. Drywall was hung, the seams mudded and sanded.
Dick jokes and flatulence filled the almost-house.
All of this happened before those beautiful details that catch your eye ever made their way into the house.
It’s funny, no?
You’d never complement a couple on their home’s solid foundation and water-tight roof. But you also wouldn’t knowingly stay in a night in their house if it didn’t have these things.
And Now I Make You Feel Crummy About Your Guitar Playing
Yes, the unique, tasteful details of [insert name of guitarist you like here]’s playing are what draw us in. But this only assuming the essential underpinnings are in place.
And when it comes to YOUR playing, that is an assumption you CANNOT afford to make.
I’ll say it again: YOU cannot afford to assume that you have the fundamentals of your playing together.
Don’t Be Like Me
I worked only on Shiny Objects for probably 15 of the 20 years I’ve been playing guitar. That means that I’m nowhere near as good as I should be.
And what’s worse than all that wasted time is the extra work I now have to do to undo the bad habits I’ve learned.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t be like me.
- Take the time now to work with a teacher on your technique. It’ll save you years of frustration.
- Learn to play with a click. Once you push past the initial difficulty, it gets easier.
- Develop your inner clock. A solid sense of time is the only non-optional skill.
- Learn the names of the notes on your fretboard. You’ll get to play with a higher caliber of musicians.
- Learn to read & write rhythmic notation. It makes communicating with other musicians go so much smoother.
- Learn to read some music. Lead sheets are as far as most of need to go.
- Learn enough practical music theory to understand the types of music you actually play. Almost no one needs to know about modes and plagal cadences. Almost everyone needs to know enough to transpose progressions on the fly.