Guitar Practice Tip, It Ain’t Like That…

This guitar practice tip may be one of the most important to keep in mind when learning the instrument(or anything new). Unfortunately, for some it might be one of the hardest pieces of advice to truly grasp and put in your tool box.

Recently, I’ve been reading about how adults learn vs. how children learn, not just guitar, but, in other areas like language, as well. As is often suggested, do kids really have a larger capacity to learn than adults? Looking back upon my most successful students over the years they all have had one thing….

As previously mentioned, it is often said that kids learn things so much easier. Brain science and genetics aside this may not be a true statement. In my experience teaching both adults and kids it has a lot to do with learning style.

Adults have learned how to learn already. We learn how to study, play sports and drive for success. There are as many strategies for tackling new things as there are people trying new things.

Kids are more pliable in their learning styles. More willing to take to heart what teachers suggest. Without as much life experience, they are more open to just purely DOING something new and seeing what happens.

By the time we are adults we have developed certain preconceived notions how to learn  things. An athlete may learn by taking new experiences head on with brute force and strength. An engineer may face things analytically, breaking down problems, systematically and logically solving the unknown.

How we were brought up determines how we learn, as well…good ol’ nature vs. nurture.

Athletes pound it out, music ain’t like that…

Salesmen don’t take no for an answer, music ain’t like that…

Students work extremely hard studying to do well on tests, music ain’t like that…

Where am I going with all this? Teaching thousands of students from 4 year olds to elderly and all ages in between over the past 20 years one thing stands out.

To go Yoda on you, …”Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Yeah it is kind of ‘use the force’ when learning music.

-You may need to check your learning and drive for success styles at the door when trying an instrument. (Although they may help some they may ultimately hinder you, as well)

-You need to be open to exposing yourself a bit by dropping your pre-conceived notions for success in other fields.

…So what is the one thing my most successful students possessed?

They had an adaptable approach…They knew when to push hard and when to let off the gas. When to listen and when to attack. On and on…

In essence they had a flexible approach rather than a rigid pre-learned approach to learning and achieving musical success.

Bottom line approach the guitar with an open mind!

Be willing to learn in a different way than you’ve previously had success in other areas of life, when needed.

Above all, at all levels of your journey enjoy playing!!


  1. There’s a video out there of Eric Johnson taking about enjoying the process of creating and practicing music. When I watched it in the 80’s it changed everything about the way I went about being a player. If I didn’t enjoy it instead of giving up I changed it, made it enjoyable. I played through my strengths and instead of tediously trying to improve my weaknesses (Practicing Yngwie sweeps to death for years on end which made me unfulfilled as an artist). Through this process I found that my strengths are Smooth Jazz like bee bop and blues, same things I was playing in my High School Jazz band on trumpet. I’ll never be Yngwie or Paul Gilbert, I don’t enjoy that process as much as I truly love classical, Romantic and balls to the wall Shred. Playing Robben Ford licks, that’s really enjoyable to me in the moment. I’m very grateful for Mr. Johnson and his words of wisdom or I might have been one of those “guys” who put his Guitar down to grow up and enjoy the bland world of adulthood by other peoples standards who don’t know anything about anything.

    1. Well said! It is awesome when you catch a quote or something to hold onto like the Eric Johnson thing you mentioned. There are different one liners I remembered from lots of local musicians that stick with me 30 years or so later. They just kind of change your life. Any idea where to find that EJ video? Be cool to check it out!

      1. I remember it was a VHS tape I purchased sometime in the 80’s but I’ve heard him say this more then once. I remember him speaking of his “popping” technique when he alternate picks on that video, it left me wondering if he was an alien 0.o I came across on YouTube in the last few years where he paraphrased it pretty close but I can’t seem to find it tonight.

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