Do You Have What It Takes?
By Vishaal Kapoor
“Am I musically inclined?” Many people have asked themselves this question. Or they tell me, “I don’t think I’m musically inclined”. They have a sense of self-doubt as to whether they can learn a musical instrument or whether they reach their desired playing level. Sadly, there are guitarists who even end up ‘giving up’ altogether, thinking that only those who are “Musically Inclined” or possess some special ability can pursue their dreams.
There are two main groups of guitar players who fall in this trap.
The first group is guitar players who are just getting started – either they are completely new to the guitar, or they have just started (whether they are taking lessons or not). With these groups of guitar players, I can understand why they may think this way, but still disagree with the thought process. More on this later.
The second group is the more experienced guitar players – some have even been playing the guitar for many years. Even after all those years, they feel that they are not up to the level they would like to play at, and simply accept the fact that they just “don’t have it in them”, or are not “musically inclined” enough to reach the next level.
If we take a look at the first group of people, it is very easy to fall in the trap of believing this myth of natural talent. After all, they are just starting out, and may not realize what it takes to become a great guitarist. If you haven’t, check out this article on Natural Talent for more on this. Most people tend to give up just as they are about to make a huge leap forward and then claim they have “tried” and “failed”, and then “confirm” for themselves the old-school notion that one must be “musically inclined” in order to play the guitar.
Now, lets look at the second group of guitar players – those who have been at it for a long time. These kinds of players, in general, tend to know a lot of bits and pieces, but have no idea how to piece them together. In fact, they may desire to become a better guitarist, but have no idea why they aren’t getting better. After all, Practice Makes Perfect, right? WRONG! If you know HOW to practice, and WHAT to practice, and the STRATEGIES that will help you reach a new level of playing, then yes, Practice Makes Perfect. If your practice time and practice strategies are leading you closer to your musical goals, then yes, Practice Makes Perfect. If your practice routines are clearly advancing your guitar and musical skills AND your ability to USE them, then yes, Practice Makes Perfect.
Most guitarists end up aimlessly playing their guitar over and over; trying desperately to get better, play faster etc. without having a real strategy for improving. After this happens for months (and even years), they too come to the conclusion that they are not “musically inclined”, and therefore can’t pursue guitar playing beyond their current level. Or worse, they make excuses for themselves that they “don’t have the time” and countless other things.
The first key to success here is to realize that learning to play the guitar (and most other instruments) requires dedication, consistency, perseverance and a burning desire to succeed. Notice how NONE of those requirements has ANYTHING to do with music. Of course, having these characteristics alone will not make anyone become a great guitarist or musician, because it needs to be coupled with strategies that enable them to reach their goals. But without these characteristics, they are likely to fail.
Lets take a look at a classic example:
Guitar virtuoso, Grammy Award winning, Composer, etc etc etc, Steve Vai. Many guitarists look up to him in awe of his talent. When we see him burning up and down on the guitar we all get impressed. It is very easy to fall in the trap of thinking that he has some special ability. Because what we see is the final product of all the years of training he has gone through. What we are actually seeing and hearing in a 5-minute song is a result of ALL those hours over the years he has put in. Anyone who does a simple internet search will quickly find out that Steve Vai used to have a “30-hour workout” for guitar. 30 hours!! That was his guitar practice schedule – to practice for 10 hours a day for 3 days in a row at a stretch!
Think about it – if he DID possess a special ability, why did he need to work so hard at it? The real “talent” here was having the dedication and desire to keep moving forward and growing as a musician. Of course, you don’t need to practice for 30 hours in a stretch in order to reach your desired musical ability! The Good News is that You can drastically improve your skills and shorten the time it takes if you know how to be effective with your practice routines.
I had the rare opportunity to meet the guitar master, Steve Vai, in person, and asked him how he developed his phrasing and all those techniques he uses to express himself. He told me that it is something that he works very hard at, every single day, to this very day!
What about you? What are you doing on a daily basis to improve your skills?
Sometimes we limit ourselves by thinking that a great musician is “musically inclined” to make ourselves feel better about the fact that our practice is not getting results.
So next time you ask yourself, “Am I Musically Inclined?”, you should change that question to be, “Am I dedicated and consistent?” “Do I possess perseverance, the passion and a burning desire to become a great guitarist?” “Am I doing something daily to improve my existing musical and guitar skills and knowledge?