B.C. Marks
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Focus On Progress - Not Perfection

There are times when guitar students think to themselves: "The stuff I'm learning in my guitar lessons is awesome but before I do the stuff that my teacher wants me to work on, I should just perfect some things first and then come back." If you have ever thought this way, you aren't the only one. There are a lot of guitar students (and students of other instruments) that have these same thoughts and have quit lessons in order to perfect one aspect of their guitar playing.

Lets look at a non musical example for perspective. Imagine that you are training to be a bodybuilder. You plan to reach your goals by working on each individual muscle group, in isolation, until you are satisfied with that muscle groups progress and then you will start over on a different muscle group. We can inspect this goal further by saying that you will only workout the muscle group on one side of your body- the left side for example. What would happen after a few months of working out that way? Would you actually be closer to your goal at that point or further away?

That example sounds pretty silly right? Yes, it does. It is equally as ridiculous to take this kind of approach with your guitar playing. Working on one skill in isolation is going to keep your guitar playing completely out of balance and cause you to be frustrated in the process. 

With guitar lessons, there are  guitar students who think or say they want to quit taking lessons because they need (or want) to spend time mastering the things that they have already learned in their guitar lessons. Their frustration comes from thinking that they need to perfect the things that that have been working on. They don't realize that progress is what they should have been looking for. 

Waiting to master one area before moving on to something else will cripple your guitar playing because you are only practicing one thing, in one setting. Doing this is going to make you a one dimensional guitar player. To use another analogy, what would happen if you wanted to make a cake but only put the eggs in the oven to bake, or even better, you separated each of the items used for making that cake and cooked them all separately in different ovens?

Some guitar players expect to perfect everything that they learn right away. This expectation, of playing something perfectly the first time through (which is EXTREMELY rare) and not doing so will lead to the false belief that they aren't good guitar players. This isn't true at all! You might see someone playing something perfectly but 99.9 percent of the time you are seeing the product of practicing and dedication, not someone who picked up and played something for the first time ever. 

Don't bog yourself down by focusing on being perfect. Instead focus on making progress, being a better guitar player this week than you were last week. If you improve your guitar playing from week to week you are on the right track.

You can master the guitar. Mastery only happens however if you have all of the pieces in place that will guarantee you to get the results you are looking for. 

About the author: Byron Marks is a teacher who teaches guitar lessons in Manchester, NH. Byron is 100% committed to getting the best results for his students and helping them reach their musical goals. 

Joseph Lopez
@josephlopez   3 years ago
Very interesting article, the body builder analogy for acquiring skills fits perfectly. You can't work skills in isolation. I think the best way to master a specific skill is to relate it to something you already know; for example, learning a new scale by changing a few notes of a scale you already mastered.
Byron Marks
@bc-marks   3 years ago
Thanks Joseph. You are correct. True mastery of a skill doesn't come in isolation but in combining it with your other skills so that you can seamlessly go from one to the other.