GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #9 | I Must Learn Everything about Guitar | FALSE!

“On guitar, there will always be someone who is better, faster and more versatile than you. Get over it and write great songs.” — Dickey Betts.

“Become the best at being you.” — Doug Doppler

In guitar lessons, I often mention that David Gilmour, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Angus young, B.B. King  and so many others never worried about their limitations: they focused on what they were great at and developed that exclusively. This idea that you’re going to learn everything there is to know about guitar and be able to play anything and be the best guitar player is as much of a fool’s chase as say, being the greatest doctor.  What does that mean exactly? There are heart surgeons and brain surgeons and cancer specialists and so on.  You have to pick the area that you want to focus on and it should be the areas that you enjoy.  Also, what one guitar student may view as a liability or limitation, another player uses as an opportunity to develop a unique sound.  Tony Iommi chopped off his fingertips in a sheet-metal accident so used metal thimbles and this became part of his sound in Black Sabbath.

Django Reinhardt also had an accident and only had two fingers on his fret hand but used them to great effect. The notion of becoming great at everything and learning everything reminds me of the scene in the movie “Collateral” with Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise. In the film, Tom Cruise is a hit man and Jamie Foxx is a cab driver who aspires to own his own limo service. When Tom Cruise asks him how long he’s been preparing to have this perfect riding experience where everything has to be just right before he can launch his business, Jamie Foxx replies “12 years” and in that time, all he has is a picture of a limo above his dashboard in his visor that he stares at.   Trying to focus on everything in guitar instruction all but ensures that nothing or no single thing will be done well.  To get where you want to go in fact just do the opposite: the best guitar teachers learn your strengths and spend your time there as opposed to trying to compensate for weaknesses and areas that are mediocre at best, uninteresting to you and require 10 fold the work.

Japanese philosophy extols the benefits of doing one thing incredibly well, using that as life’s wheel “axle” and letting the spokes extend out from there.  Here is a parallel example from the technology industry by expert time manager Timothy Ferriss:

“Mike Maples is one of the angel investors I most respect in Silicon Valley. He says the startup that perfects their one feature and is the best at that is usually the startup that wins. It’s not the startup that’s an 8 out of 10 on 10 features. It is the startup that is 10 out of 10 on one feature” that just kills it. And you see it over and over again. They might have other features, but they absolutely kill it on one feature.

Play it your way.

The Cypher way.

Rock on.

Jimmy Cypher out!