Many guitarists have limiting beliefs, but some, particularly those who are older or lack confidence have some that don’t just hold back their playing but actually sabotage it on a large-scale – often to the point it ruins their playing.
In this post, I want to share with you some stupid myths and weird beliefs that guitarists have and help you to see why they are nonsense and why they hold back your playing.
The good news is, most of these beliefs are based on false ideas so with a little bit of effort in getting rid of these beliefs and replacing them with better, more rational and more positive thoughts you can start to really see yourself as the guitarist you want to be, and then start enjoying your playing more and see much better progress.
Here they are, and please excuse my bluntness…
1) I’m Too Old To Learn Guitar
This is a big one and it is complete nonsense.
I have taught so many people who are well over the age of 40, many over 50, 60 and even 70. The ones who stick with it are the ones who succeed. Yes, physical issues can get in the way. Things such as arthritis can be an issue and I’ll address these in a future post, but as long as you practice properly, you will get good.
For example, if you practice properly and start at age 10, by 15 you will be good, and (as long as you practice properly), if you start at 60, by 65 you will be good.
I have seen this countless times. Just ensure you keep going and believe you can do it because you really can. So much of learning anything is about confidence more than anything. Older people really believe their age will hold them back whereas children don’t care about their age – they just play.
In many ways, it is better to learn guitar as an adult as I have discussed in this post.
One specific issue with older people is that they tend to learn lots of bits and pieces of songs without ever really mastering any, whereas as a child will often really practice hard on one or two pieces.
In my experience, adults do this because they have built up a lifetime, often 30-40 years, of songs they really want to learn and can’t help but try to learn them all. A child, however, might only have a handful of songs they like – especially if they are just getting into music.
Adults also have more distractions and more things going on in their lives and generally, it is a challenge for an adult to switch off from life to enjoy the moment like a child does and therefore be truly present when practising.
Talk to other older guitarists and see how wrong you are
Head down to an open mic night and talk to the guys playing there. You will find many learnt earlier on in life but many learnt when they were much older – some probably older than you are now.
Ask about their experiences and take on board what they say, and find inspiration in their stories of how they broke any false beliefs about their age getting in the way.
It is not really age that is the problem, but beliefs and habits. Simply believe you can do it, practice with a bit more focus, master one song before moving on, and you will quickly realise that your age is no real issue.
2) I’m Tone Deaf
Are you really?
Statistically speaking (insert dorky voice) only about 5% of the population are actually tone deaf. Most are in fact what I call ‘Tone Shy’.
This is when you are either not really listening to the music and therefore not really paying attention to the pitch or when you can hear that the pitch is off but lack the skills to correct yourself.
If you ever cringe when someone sings a bad note on ‘X – Factor’ then you are almost certainly ‘tone shy’ and not tone deaf.
Many guitarists are actually pretty bad for being tone shy as they don’t use their ears to guide them with the music they play. They often use tab, YouTube or their teachers to help them learn songs. It is much better to use your ‘ear’ to guide you with your music.
Work on your aural skills daily
The easiest way to do this is to sing a lot. Anytime you hear a song, sing along with it. This goes for if you are playing the guitar or not. If you have a guitar to hand, sing or hum along any melodies you know. This will help tune your ‘ear’ and with regular practice, you will get better much faster.
Working your favourite songs and melodies out for yourself is a great way to improve too.
You can also test your aural skills which is a fun and challenging way of measuring your progress.
The bottom line is, you are probably not tone deaf, you can get tested if you think you are, and as long as you are not, you can do little things everyday to improve your aural skills.
3) I’ve Got No Rhythm
Well, good news, you were not born with rhythm – no one was. Rhythm is something that can be worked on frequently throughout the day and many of those people we think of who have great rhythm worked hard to get it.
Whether that is a great drummer, guitarist or dancer, it doesn’t matter, the important thing is, they put the time into it to get good rhythm skills.
Even those groovy kids down at the disco (do people still go to discos?) worked hard whether they know it or not to get those rhythm skills (along with the crazy hairstyles) by practising their dancing for many hours.
Some of the things I ask every new student I take on include if they have played an instrument before, if they ever do any dancing or if they are one of those people who annoy others by frequently tapping the beats to songs on the radio.
If they answer “yes” to any of those, I know they will have a better sense of rhythm than most and will make quicker progress.
Practice your rhythm skills every day
I have created a lot of resources on improving rhythm over the years so have a look about on this site and put 10 minutes aside a day, at least, to focus on this area of your playing. There are a lot of powerful things on here that will help.
You can also check out my popular in-depth course ‘Strumming with Soul’ to improve your rhythm. It is all about strumming but what is strumming – it is rhythm applied to the guitar, and learning to strum well is definitely one of the best ways to improve your rhythm.
Rhythm is a skill – always be working on it.
4) My Fingers Are Too Fat and Stubby
This is a common one I hear.
Even my student, Mick, (who may be reading but won’t mind me saying, has these enormous sausage fingers that represent German Frankfurters), uttered this one many times when he started out.
The thing to do if you feel your fingers are too big is to get a guitar that suits them. Seriously, neck widths are different for a reason – to cater for different hand and finger types.
My Yamaha Pacifica has a tiny width neck that is a little tight for me unless I am on the money with my playing. My Cort acoustic has a much wider neck that allows me to easily place my fingers where they need to be.
If your fingers are too fat, (or even too thin, short or long), don’t blame life and curse to the gods and cry to Michael Bolton records, instead trade your guitar in. You will be happier that way.
Get a guitar that suits your fingers
Do NOT play another note on your guitar until you get yourself in a guitar shop and try out at least 10 guitars. If you have a guitar that just doesn’t suit your fingers this one tip can save you years and years of frustration.
Way too many guitarists hold themselves back by playing unsuitable guitars. Go to the shop ASAP, and play as many as you can.
You can take your own guitar with you as a reference to compare the neck of it to the guitars in the shop.If you are unable to get to a shop, try out a friend’s, borrow some, just do what it takes to try out lots of guitars.
Many guitarists play for years but only try out a small handful of guitars in that time. Honestly, if that is the case for you, it is pretty much potluck on whether the guitar suits you or not.
5) I Don’t Have The Time To Dedicate To Practising
We all wish we had more time.
Who has ever said:
“I have too much time, I wish I had less”.
The only time I have said that was when I was a naive kid with not a lot else to do.
Now, I truly wish an extra hour in the day would magically appear. Instead of me throwing money down the wishing well, hoping for something that won’t happen, I realised that I just need to use my time better.
The way you practice is much more important than for how long. Many of you are either in careers that you have done well in which require a lot of your time or you are retired and have much more time.
In either case, it is super important to be vigilant with the time you have.
If you have lots of time, (i.e. retired), aim to practice a lot but have really focused practice sessions. When someone has plenty of time they often fill it with tasks away from the guitar that don’t really achieve anything, or when they do practice they aren’t very ‘in the moment’.
For the super busy person, it is important to switch off from work and life stresses before playing so you can really be immersed in your practice. Taking some deep slow breaths before playing will certainly help you relax and get in the mood for playing.
Practice in short bursts, be focused and be totally present when practising
I also strongly advise you to stop wasting time learning bits and pieces of songs you are not that keen on.
If this is you, (let’s face it, we have all been there!), you may need to be more selective about the songs you want to learn – that alone will save you years of wasted time. I used to spend a lot of hours every week learning stuff that I can no longer remember – what a waste of time that was.
Now, I am much more selective about what I learn and how I use my time. Maybe having a baby in the past two years has helped me focus my time due to having much less of it. (I don’t advise having a child just to get more focus with your playing though, they like to detune your guitars after all which is only moderately annoying!)
If you have ever had any of the above false self-limiting beliefs now you know how wrong they are. I have never come across a student who didn’t, with a bit of work and encouragement from myself and others, get over these false beliefs.
Yes, it takes work to change your attitudes to yourself, but it is important to do so if you think the above is true. You now know they are not. My Elite Guitarist Inner Circle is a good place to go for advice and encouragement as along with my very best lessons, the coaching, Facebook group and support are all there to help you.
Follow the solutions for each false belief above and you will start to see how you are just like every other successful guitarist who has had problems on the way.
There are no excuses. You can be the guitarist you want to be – just stop listening to that annoying little voice that tells you otherwise.