Some people have too much confidence and others don’t have enough. Some aren’t great artists and think they are and others think they aren’t and are. But, you don’t need to worry about who is and isn’t. Because art to one person is different from art to another. You just need to focus on learning and growing as an artist. So, step one, call yourself an artist. Step two, get to a place to where you like your own art. Step three is to start sharing your art. But now you need an audience. And this is your true test of whether you’re art is catching on.
Learning Guitar: Practical Feedback Progression
The practical progression for getting critical feedback depends on the instrument you’re playing. My experience is from learning the guitar and in this instrument most people quit within the first 3 to 4 months of trying to learn. This is unfortunate considering the worst part of learning the guitar is getting started. And your challenges could have been from a lot of external factors and not from your actual ability. You can’t enjoy the guitar at all until you’re playing it. And learning to play the guitar is like learning to ride a bike. It’s more about persistence than it is skill. Once you’re riding, then you can decide if you have a tendency toward creating art with this instrument. So, what I’m saying is you cannot become an artist until you learn the skill. And EVERYONE can learn the basics of an instrument. I would go as far to say everyone SHOULD learn an instrument of some sort. Then, you can begin thinking about whether you’re progressing or not. But, until you are actually playing the guitar, don’t critique yourself.
Start Learning Guitar with Callouses and Encouragement
Every instrument is a little different in how I would recommend learning and is based on when a person most needs training or encouragement. If you’re starting at square one to learn the guitar, you need callouses in your hands and some encouragement. I’ve created a curriculum that is meant for the beginner guitarist. Start with common chords and basic songs as well as getting an understanding of the foundation of the instrument and correct technique. I’ve been teaching for many years and believe I’ve found the best amount of challenging training and encouragement for someone interested in learning guitar. My curriculum goes with a group class for beginners. So, this class gives the encouragement from other peers starting out in addition to a qualified teacher. This teacher is either myself or someone who has been trained by me to know the best steps for developing a beginner guitarist, how to encourage them, and to facilitate a class. If students make it through the first class they typically will complete my three eight-week courses from beginner, intermediate, to advanced.
A good foundation is critical to setting yourself up for success. If you learn some chords and a few songs and decide that you’re really enjoying it enough to keep improving I would suggest you take some private lessons and/or start finding others who are learning to play guitar. This will help challenge you. My classes start a beginner off and move them to introducing advanced concepts and a taste of common genres.
Calling All Artists to Understand their Craft
A good bit of self-professing guitarists have no framework to create their own music or collaborate in a band. They simply know chords and songs. This is extremely discouraging to me. It’s like the difference between professional photographers and amateurs. Everyone today is creating a photography ‘side’ business and yet having the equipment and using a photoshop action doesn’t mean you’ve arrived and should be considered a professional. There is a whole foundation to collaborating, manipulating photos and understanding printing that is closely connected to photo production. What does this mean for the world of photography? It means the average quality level goes down. The lines between the pro and the amateur become blurred. Those who hire a photographer but don’t know what they’re worth will get taken a few times and then get discouraged. The user only knows the end product. You as the artist, must understand how to start and get to the end product. It will only make you a better artist. It’s your responsibility not only to provide a product but encourage and challenge the listener. Know your craft. I try to give every person interested in guitar a good level of encouragement, challenge, and fun based on where they are in learning the skill of the guitar. So, when they are ready to become an artist there are no roadblocks to their opportunity to create.
At the end of my advanced overview, I direct guitarists to start seeing a private instructor and dive into their specific style preferences. Private teachers are typically really good but the ones you want charge a high rate for their services. If you are ready and able to learn in a more rigorous fashion then the cost benefit of a private instructor is now worth the investment. If you’re at this level you should be looking for other aspiring guitarist artists to start playing with and trying out what you’re learning. Even if you aren’t good yet, sitting down and playing with someone else is extremely rewarding. You learn from them and they learn from you. Be persistent if you haven’t found a willing participant. It may take a little time for someone to accept your invitation. And you never know, you might be surprised of a really good guitarist being willing to show you a few things.
Is it Time to Share your Art with an Audience?
Learn, jam with friends, get feedback. And repeat. You will do this for a while until you get to where you are ready to share your art! If you’ve taken the progression I’ve suggested, you are becoming not just someone who plays guitar chords and songs but an artist. At this point, you can start playing in front of a small crowd. My best suggestion is to play for a few friends. Someone who you know will give you good critical feedback. Remember the factors of internal and external resistance when you’re sharing your art. If you sense from your mini performance that you aren’t ready for a broader audience then go back to the learn, jam with friends, feedback, and repeat process.
About this Series:
See the first post in the series on Sharing Your Music.