The 7 secrets of guitar mastery you wish you knew before you started

Guitar Student

Secret #1: it’s a long-term investment

Learning to play the guitar is a journey.

It’s an investment of your time and effort

It also an absolute joy – and it should be full of fun!

However, becoming a highly proficient guitarist, will require a lot of disciplinarian-type work.

You will need to approach this as a long-term investment.

You will need to look for a return in years to come.

Yes, you will definitely see improvements in the interim, but your major goals will take a few years to achieve.

The good news is anything that your mind can conceive can be achieved.

You can go for your highest goals and make all your dreams come true!

You need to surround yourself with the right people and spent time in the right circles!

An investor lays out capital representing a lot of time and effort today for a better return in the future.

It is exactly the same with learning how to play the guitar.

You are giving up your time in order to study the guitar so that you can enjoy the fruits of great guitar playing in the future.

If you can understand this important principle, then you are well on your way to guitar mastery!

Secret #2: it’s about pig-headed discipline and determination

young man who is determined

Achieving your goals and your dreams is more about committing relentlessly without stopping than about anything else.

The man or woman who executes a plan without fail and without stopping is the one who will achieve his or her goal.

The biggest issue however is that we are often not willing to put in the work.

If you struggle to put in the work required, you need to inspire yourself by getting excellent quality education.

Having a NEVER-GIVE-UP attitude as a way of life is a requirement for guitar mastery.

When you work on scale passage and play sixteenth notes comfortably at 120 bpm, but struggle to reach 160 bpm and it “drives you up the wall”, guess what – you are on the right road.

As long as you apply the right techniques, and methodologies along with pig-headed discipline and determination you will reach your goal.

You see playing the guitar is not so much about doing a thousand things once as it is about doing a few important things ten-thousand times!

Constant repetition using the correct technique is the key to your breakthrough.

You’ve got to practice the same passage again and again and again and again.

At times it will seem futile.

It will feel like you’re wasting your time.

You may even think that you are the only one.

But you are NEVER the only one – we have all been there.

The secret to breaking through is continual knocking and persistence until you reach your goal.

If you can take one thing away from this article, it is to continue and continue until you reach all your goals.

If you can do that then you are on your way to guitar mastery.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge

Secret #3: It’s about the music, therefore you need flawless technique

Guitarist with great technique

Developing monster guitar technique is all about being able to play what you want to play.

Great technique is a gift.

It is a gift, because it allows you to play the music that you feel inside of you. (Depending upon your level you may not yet “feel” or hear the music inside of you, but do not worry that will come as well!)

Great technique allows you to step outside of the boundaries of mediocre guitar playing and express greatness.

Therefore, you need to develop great technique.

Building great technique is similar to building vast amount of capital.

Nobody (starting from scratch) accumulates millions of dollars in a single day.

An accumulator of capital will often start with $1000 and work his or her way up to $10,000 and then $100,000 and then eventually $1 million and beyond.

It is exactly the same with your guitar technique.

Just as the accumulator of finance will have certain strategies to develop his capital, in the same way, you need strategies to develop your guitar technique.

Technique does not come for free.

You will need to work daily with a regime and can only hope for great technique over a number of years.

You need to work with a guitar journal and understand the methodology behind building guitar speed.

Of course technique is not only speed, but also repertoire, understanding of the neck, the ability to play with others, the ability to choose excellent notes when you solo and much more.

It is however vital that you keep on working until you develop great technique.

A mentor can help you to get there much quicker.

Technique is such an issue, that doing it without expert advice is not the wisest route.

Especially if you want to learn how to play the guitar using virtuoso technique.

If you’re willing to put in the work, the hours required then you can achieve your greatest dreams.

Should you want to study with me in my private studio, please do contact me. Note I only work with very serious students who want to make exceptional progress.

Back to the importance of developing great technique.

I once listened to an interview by John McLaughlin on improvisation.

John McLaughlin said something beautiful,  he said something to this effect: “you need to know your guitar neck inside out and know exactly what to play over any/all chord progressions – you cannot have a problem as the audience do not want to know that you have a problem.”

John McLaughlin then went to explain that is imperative that you have outstanding technique and understanding of the instrument and improvisation in order to provide the audience with a valuable proposition. (Always remember your audience will spend time and their hard-earned money to listen to you. They deserve the BEST that you can give them – make it count!)

He explained that music should flow and not be hindered by bad technique.

That is why it important for you to develop outstanding guitar technique!

Once you’ve done that, you will be rewarded for life!

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Secret #4: It’s not about being a balanced person!

Main volume

When I was younger, I would often hear people tell me that I need to be more balanced.

Fortunately, I do not hear that so much any more, as I keep surrounding myself with like-minded people.

I can tell you one secret – a balanced individual is (generally) a mediocre individual.

Please do not take this too far.

I’m not saying that you should not have other endeavours in your life.

What I am saying however is that greatness is not achieved by being balanced.

If we think about Thomas Edison – he worked hours upon hours upon hours at a time to develop the electric lightbulb

If we think about Elon Musk – he worked hours upon hours upon hours of the time to develop the electric car that is now flourishing!

Both of these men achieve greatness.

I can bet you that they were accused of not being balanced.

Fortunately for the rest of us we can be glad that they were not balanced!

It is the same in your guitar journey.

If you truly want to excel and become great, you cannot be too balanced.

You need to practice and practice and practice. Hours at a time.

Of course, you need to take breaks and always take care of your body and the physical side.

Never overdo it or you can actually end up hurting yourself. (ALWAYS take an immediate break if you feel strained)

On the condition that you do take breaks often, you need to continue and continue and continue and always remember that being balanced is (generally) being mediocre.

The world’s best in all endeavours whether it is finance, arts, sport, media, cinema, law, tennis, chess, golf, investing, hospitality are NOT balanced individuals.

If you want guitar mastery… you will need to be focused and OBSESSIVE about become a better musician!

Secret #5: The more fire you have, the better you’ll play

Guitarist on fire

A young Franz Liszt went to listen to Paganini perform on the 20th of April 1832.

He developed a fire inside of himself that was burning day and night.

He became intensely dedicated to his technical practice and studied for hours and hours and hours per day.

We all have to thank Franz Liszt for making virtuoso music performance known to the masses!

If you want guitar mastery and superb technique, you will need fire and insight.

The more passion you have, the more you will be willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

The most successful individuals in all walks of life are those who can persist and do whatever it takes.

WHATEVER IT TAKES!

Doing whatever it takes requires extraordinary dedication, time and effort.

In the case of your guitar playing, you will need to be willing to practice for hours and hours at a time.

You will need to practice your speed, picking, legato, slurs, and synchronisation, bends, vibratos, scales, arpeggios, licks, phrasing and so much more.

You will need to spend time meditating on music.

Most people are simply not willing to do that.

If you’ve got an intense fire inside of yourself – then you are on the road to guitar mastery.

If you can go the extra mile and beyond… Successful will be yours!

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Secret #6: Mastery comes with continual training for years and years and years

Student studying the guitar

My best students are often not (only) the most talented students but also the students who stick around for years.

I am always extremely surprised at the amazing progress of my students make when the studying with me for 3 to 4+ years.

You see, you simply cannot become a master guitarist within a year.

It takes years of study, countless hours of dedication and a lot of thinking as well as mind stretching.

I have found that the best musicians in all fields are those who stick.

Nothing, nothing, nothing earth beats a persistent student who executes a plan faithfully week in week out.

You simply cannot beat a great system.

Guitarists, pianists, violinists, singers who win international competitions are the ones who have outstanding instruction with the best of the best as well as a dedicated no-compromise SYSTEM OF PRACTICE!

So if you want to master the guitar, then you need to get continual training for years and years and years.

The right habits will ensure your success.

The wrong habits will just make you frustrated!

There is unfortunately a price to pay – you need to be willing to put in the time and effort and willing to study under a master in order to become the best!

If we look at the world of martial arts, we see a similar pattern.

The best of the best studies under a master for years and years and years with explosive passion and dedication!

Secret #7: It’s about developing faith, vision and the ability to overcome obstacles along the way!

Man jumping over rocks

Just as you can develop your muscles in a gym, so can you develop your faith.

Often times you just need to stretch yourself and stretching is not always fun.

Stretching can be painful at times and even difficult to cope with.

I mean this from a mental (or psychological) point of view.

When you are learning how to play the guitar and one of major goals is to play the guitar at lightning speed across the neck in the likes of Django Reinhardt, Steve Vai or John McLaughlin, you WILL need a lot of persistence and patience.

You will most certainly encounter obstacles along the way.

There will be days when you feel like you will never achieve it!

There will be days where you will think you cannot do it…

You see the biggest issue will be in your mind.

Your mind and method of thinking about things creates a lot of problems.

You need to learn to let go, to free your mind in order to develop your technique the highest level!

Let’s talk about another subject in music.

Let’s say you decide to put a band together and you want that band to become a famous rock band playing in front of 100,000 people at a time.

At first you will think it is impossible.

But you see the secret is really to break it down into ACHIEVABLE steps… one at a time!

The right question to start with would be: “What do I need to do in order to play my music live in front of 100 people?”

You can then proceed to play with your band in front of 100 people. (As long as you’ve done the work to support your endeavour)

You obviously then need to make the best of the situation and build your fan base at EACH AND EVERY GIG… be super pro-active!

The next step will be to play in front of 1000 fans at each one of your concerts!

Guess what? The next thing you know, you’ll be playing front of 10,000 screaming fans!

I am simplifying the matter here – it could take 15 years. (And a tremendous amount of time, effort and dedication from your side)

As the music industry is extremely competitive it may not always be a walk-in-the-park.

However, if you are faithful and you persist, persist AND persist, you will reach your dreams!

The secret once again is breaking your vision into smaller steps.

Any goal that you want to achieve can be achieved, but you must break it into smaller steps.

Reached the first step and move towards the next and the next and the next etc…

One of my favourite speakers of all time is Brian Tracy.

Brian Tracy always recommends starting with goal setting and time management.

We all have 24 hours a day.

When you really get busy you will realise how precious each one of those hours are.

Therefore it is important it is to get the maximum juice out of EACH HOUR in a 24 hour a day.

The only way to do this is to have proper planning, goal setting and time management.

Brian Tracy is the world’s leading authority on time management and he recommends the same techniques!

You have to break things down into smaller and smaller steps and achieve the small steps first BEFORE you move unto the bigger steps.

After you’ve done this for a while your obstacles WILL BECOME opportunities!

You can reach all your goals and go to the ends of the earth, but you must apply the CORRECT strategies and be willing to do whatever it takes to get there!

If that means you must rehearse with your band five hours a day, then you must do so.

You cannot enjoy reward without taking a calculated risk.

(In the case of the band example, your risk is wasting five hours daily… which is experience anyway – hence you cannot lose!)

You need to be willing to take the risk to get the reward.

There are far too many people who are interested in the reward without taking risk or making effort.

I love the slogan of the British SAS: “He who dares wins!”

It is so true – the one who takes the risks gets the reward.

Of course you need to know how to take risk as well.

That is another subject all together… but worth pondering upon.

Here is a practical step for you to get started:

I wanted to take a piece of paper and a pen

It could just be a blank sheet of paper or a journal.

Write your PRIMARY GOAL down for the next five years.

Look at that goal and ask yourself: “is it bold enough?”.

If it is not bold enough make it bolder.

After done that break it into logical steps of what you need to do to achieve that goal.

After that, take a look at year one and scrutinise it to see what you need to do on a daily basis in order to achieve your primary goal by the end of year 1.

You can also break the year down into quarters – Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4.

Very handy!

In business, plans are made like this on a daily basis.

Business experts understand the importance of commerce, time and the fact that nothing can happen unless it is time-bound.

Money is time-bound.

That is exactly why investment is measured on a per annum basis.

You need to do the same with your guitar playing.

You need to have specific goals that are time-bound.

The moment you do that you will set yourself free!

You will have a specific (time-bound) plan to achieve your goals, overcome obstacles and that will stretch your faith and ability.

You will then be well on your way to the road of guitar mastery!

“Before the reward, there must be labour. You plant before you harvest. You sow in tears before you reap in joy!” – Ralph Ransom

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