I played guitar for a while as a child and teenager. From 8 to 18 I had classical then contemporary lessons. I was alright at it. Teachers wanted me to practice more. I just wanted to be good enough to play Joe Satriani songs.
I didn’t take a guitar to university. When I went back to my parents I’d noodle around but my skill was fading. In the years after I sold my guitars.
January 2023, after what I reckon is an 11 year gap, I picked up the guitar again. I hesitated to post about it because I was afraid it would be a yet another short term interest. Like my January 2022 purchase of a bass guitar. Well we’re six months in now and I think it’s here to stay as a hobby.
Here are some reflections on my return. Things I wish I could tell my teenage self.
Practice is the outcome. I really liked the idea of being a shredder. I never enjoyed the practice. I never became a shredder. A hobby is practising the hobby. Wishing you were good at something doesn’t happen by reading about it, thinking about it, or by wishing it to be so. Do the thing. Enjoy the thing. Before you know it you will be better.
Keep the guitar within arms reach. I work within arms reach of my guitar (and bass guitar, oops). It’s true of much of my free time (yikes). If I have a momentary inkling to play, I play. I recognise in myself that when my hobbies have the slightest friction in setup I’ll find any reason not to do them. Minimise the friction. Play more.
Scales and arpeggios. Scales. And. Arpeggios. Learning them for classical exams isn’t enough. Make them more than muscle memory. Make your bones remember them. They are the building blocks of everything you want to play.
Ditch the Fender. I had a gold 50th anniversary Strat. I loved it because it was gold. It had 21 frets which always interfered with the solos I was trying to learn. Get something with humbuckers because the hum annoyed the crap out of you. Get an Ibanez RG for god’s sake.
Get a noise gate for the same reason as above.
Get a bloody Line 6 POD. Stop theorising a bunch of pedal chains you’ll never realise. Amp models will get you 99% of the way there.
Practice more. Practice every day. John Petrucci practiced 6 hours a day. Aim to be one sixth as good as him.
Beyond what I wish I’d done, the are some things I’ve been blown away by in the guitar landscape in 2023.
The level of free and cheap teaching available is unbelievable. In my time away, educators have flourished on YouTube and Patreon. I particularly enjoy a lad called BERNTH who has some excellent workouts. I’ve really been leaning into the neoclassical stuff.
Amp modelling/emulation through software is just amazing. To my low pass filter ear it sounds just as good as the real thing. Audio interfaces come with their software. Logic Pro has it’s own amp sims. Then there are the Neural DSP plugins. It’s all incredible and real time. I just wish my AirPods had equally low latency so I could use them for silent practice.
Locking tuners are rad aren’t they? I know they were invented before I was born but I hadn’t even heard of them until 2023.
Guitars are the best. Peace and love. ✌️