TOP 10 GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #7 | I’m Too Old To Learn Guitar | FALSE!
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” • Henry Ford
The idea that anyone is too old to play guitar. well, it is simply not true. American media is obsessed with youth in a way that no other country is: only in America are you told that your best days are behind you at age 30! The rest of the world by and large views age as irrelevant. I work with all ages from eight years old to people who are enjoying retirement. And while it’s true that I have mentored child prodigies who had a natural gift for music and were guided to it by parents at a very early age, some of the most successful guitar students I have ever worked with are baby boomers in their 40s. It’s a bit like the varsity quarterback and homecoming queen in high school and then 10 years later at the reunion, they’re both overweight and working a dead end job. Complacency and contentment are the great enemies of success! One of the reasons I think “older” (read: more mature) do so well in guitar lessons is that you’re very often dealing with people who have experienced a lot of success elsewhere in life. And so they went out, built the great career in business, corporate or entrepreneurial, built a family, did all these things and there the guitar sits in the corner.
And one day, they will go over and see it there and say “I really don’t want to give that up” and then the Bob Seger song starts playing in their mind: “Come back baby rock-and-roll never forgets.” And they go “You know I’m not giving this up, I can do this! When you have someone that’s focused like that – at any age – well, hard work and focus is the name of the game. You really can’t stop someone like that from being successful. So what I really try to stress to everyone as a guitar teacher is to just disconnect from the social conditioning we’re bombarded with: this idea that once you get the age of 30 you have nothing to say musically anymore because the music industry sees you as “old.” Well, that’s a funny thing coming from them because they sound old and crotchety now: That music industry in all its “youthful” “brilliance” is what took a successful iconic business and drove it right over the cliff with its refusal to embrace the digital age via Napster etc. etc. Time and again, it’s been proven these people simply most of the time do not know what they’re doing and countless artists that became mega successful: Van Halen, Ozzy, Poison, Meatloaf, ad infinitum were turned down 20 times by every record label.
Being a “rock star” is about freeing your mind to do what you want, on your own terms, to do it your way, and to get there in a reasonable amount of time, with your own hard work and determination. And not to let anyone tell you it cannot be done! I taught a child prodigy who was eight, many who were 10 and 11, lots of ambitious teenagers, touring people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and baby boomers in the business world. The “oldest” person I taught was a semi retired cardio thoracic surgeon in the military. He had way more energy and drive than most people in their 20s: he still gave physicals a couple times a week at the VA hospital he took up the guitar – his wife was a singer and I taught him for a couple years. He started touring in the church playing acoustic folk guitar accompanying his wife. He was 82 years old. Les Paul played until he was 91. BB King played until 86. Jeff Beck is at the top of his game playing better than ever and you can name countless examples of others doing the same, never letting “age” or rather society’s perception of it – get in the way. And you shouldn’t either! You might not be able to go out there and play pro football anymore and get your head bashed in, but chances are you are actually way smarter and wiser now and that is one of the greatest assets of all when it comes to long-term success. Your age and wisdom are weapons in your success arsenal for guitar lessons in atlanta. Use them!
TOP 10 GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #6 | I will get better at timing by using a metronome: FALSE!
Hearing the sound of that clicking metromy thing is like Chinese water torture! I really just want to take a sledge hammer and smash it. There are few things more soul killing for your music than trying to play to one of those things. I just I can’t discourage the use of them enough! And this is true even and especially for music where you would think your timing needs to be really precise such is EDM electronica or Latin music! It’s easy for people to go accept this with the blues as their timing is “sloppy” whatever you want to call it. This video features Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter and it ain’t clocked to a metronome…
You can actually walk students through that but it’s the playing over tighter genres that really throws them. If you play right on the beat or the click to Latin music or EDM the whole purpose of your live guitar instrument is negated. It has to dance around that beat to sound “organic” and bring something to the ensemble. Otherwise it’s “welcome to Midi World” and sounds like a Casio playing in a department store! It’s rather amusing when you listen to one of my mixes of my original songs: you “solo” or and listen just to the tracks of my guitar solo in a vacuum without the rest of the track playing. And you go “wow that sounds totally out of time; we need to redo this!” turn the track back on and it ebbs and flows in a way that really surprises you: this supposed to be super tight electronica. But it’s not. Even players like Yngwvie Malmsteen have incredible feel. Certainly when you get into classic rock and the blues the last thing you want to do is try to learn timing as a beginner by playing to a click.
I thought I was alone as a guitar teacher in this but one of my guitar students sent me a video where Keith Richards talked about this very thing and it’s great and included here so definitely listen to it:
I recommend students play over jam tracks for several reasons. The first is that you’re getting very high-quality rhythm sections. A lot of jam tracks are like the professional ones and that’s going to ebb and flow in a way that has good timing but also has feel. It’s the closest thing to play with world-class players such as Keith Richards discusses his interview! And not only that but as a soloist you need a moving harmonic background: changing chords so that you can hear how your blues vocabulary for example is going to sound as those chords change. Without a moving harmonic background just playing in a vacuum with a metronome is never going to give you this experience. The only thing I use a metronome for in guitar lessons is a beginning chromatic exercise so the people contractor speed when their first learning an alternate picking and just 16th notes. Right after that, I move them away from it as fast as possible: it is the worst thing you can do to develop the kind of feel you want in a lot of pop music! The only exception to this is from prog metal or extreme death metal where the timing is super precise and it’s actually ProTools corrected and a lot of metal records now are made just like electronic dance records, complete with blended drum samples and everything is just like totally mechanized and corrected. Fear Factory is a band that openly admits and embraces Pro Tools corrected precise timing.
John Petrucci of dream theater is a big metronome advocate. He’s a fantastic player and far more technically capable than I am. And I am not disputing his approach per se. What I would say to students as always: model the people who have found the success you would like! If you want to sound like Jimi Hendrix you’re not going to get that sound learning time with the metronome. If you want to sound like John Petrucci, well he practices with one. If that’s the sound you’re going for then that’s what you should do. Always look at the players that you want to emulate and then learn how they got good at playing guitar and what they did and that is the direction you should go every single time!
TOP 10 GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #5 – More Practice Equals Better Results | FALSE!
As I talk about in this video, renowned fitness trainer Bill Phillips talks about how absurd this sounds … that once you’re in shape well now, you can do more physical exercise why don’t you just go ahead and do so and then when you can do that why don’t you exercise even more because of course that’s what you need to do and so on until you’re exercising all day long! Well wait a minute: didn’t we engage in fitness to enrich other parts of our lives such as attracting a mate and feeling better and so on so that we can actually go do other things?!?! No way! Most fitness books tell us we did that so we can exercise more. What Bill says is that the highly skilled professional learns to do the same thing in less time whether it’s blowing out that perfect studio guitar solo in a few takes or getting better at writing hit singles in less time so you can write more of those, tour, and become more well known, and make money!
So the last thing you want to do if you’re trying to touch as many people as possible is sit in a room and practice scales all day. Because with the notable exception of a few Malcolm Gladwell style outliers, usually what happens with is that you get very good at playing scales all day but you’re not living life! You’re not writing, you’re not arranging, you’re not doing lyrics and melody, you’re not experimenting with different instruments and in many cases, you’re not even playing live. All you’re doing is becoming a practice-a-holic and the term in the industry is called a “bedroom shredder.” You can do amazing things in your bedroom but it never gets past there: You don’t want to be that guy or gal, you want to get out there and touch people with your music whether that’s doing the Rock star thing, touring, playing your friend’s parties, Bar Mitzvahs, the local clubs, serious hobbyist, etc. Learn to write interesting things by experiencing an interesting life! Practice is only one component of that. There’s really nothing more boring to me than playing an album of those shred guitarists with so-and-so’s “amazing technique” and then I put it on and it’s one long meandering guitar solo for 45 minutes. And when it’s done, not a single thing grabs me and I don’t remember a single thing from listening to that person other than that they can play fast!
So the whole thing comes off as very one dimensional and a great artist and great guitar players are actually just the opposite: they’re very multifaceted and that is what keep you engaged. Yes as John Petrucci and Marty Friedman once said, every artist will go through a certain period where they’re just completely immersed in guitar lessons to go from intermediate to expert or expert to professional to great. Yes the virtuosos that made a huge impact spent many many hours alone honing their craft. But also look at the downside to that, because all of those artists — Beethoven, Van Halen, Malmsteen, Mozart and I could go on and on — very often were not properly socialized and so when it comes to getting along with other people and collaborating with other people, those social skills are very lacking. The flaws in their personality ensured that their careers are very drama filled and they have incredible highs incredible lows. Now that may sound preposterous to say that Eddie Van Halen didn’t reach his true potential, consider that half of his career has been spent either arguing with band mates and/or producing no music at all (1998-2011) due to various reasons including substance abuse! So that’s something to think about: when it comes to learning guitar, more is not always more, less is more as the saying goes. And a diverse life where the approach to excellence is in a number of different areas is the difference between if not success or failure, certainly the level of enjoyment one is going to have in any music and for that matter other endeavors in life as well.