I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’ve been a lazy guitar student . I’ve been playing for 40 years on and off but only this week has it really dawned on me that there’s no short cuts if you want to really progress. If you’re reading this and you’ve only just started then hopefully I will save you years of noodling, all you have to know is how to practice and you will get better and better. How quickly that happens I guess depends on how well you can concentrate and how much time and effort you can put in.

So what have I been doing wrong? Well I’ve gone for an 80% solution. If I wanted to play a song I would learn it up to a point that it sounded pretty good to me. Once I got to a certain point I would jam the bits that I couldn’t do properly and just groove away and sort of create my own version. Nothing wrong in doing that of course except if one doesn’t make the effort to really learn the song one falls into a trap. Armed with a certain level of skill you’ll go off and learn lots of songs, only they will all be your version. I accepted this 80% solution and developed a style of playing and satisfied myself with the idea that somehow I was being creative when in fact I was being lazy. I have often scoffed at guitarists that were obsessed with playing tracks note for note and I have met many that can do precisely that but don’t seem to be able to jam. Until now I’ve felt being able to jam as being more important than being able to play properly.

80% solutions work well in most walks of life but I reckon in guitar playing its limiting. My playing is full of issues and the 20% part that i havent bothered to sort out are all the bits of my playing that sound crap. Keeping to the beat, phrasing, and memorising are my particular bug bears and that’s because they were difficult and time consuming to work out I skipped the problem and it’s meant that I don’t have the fluidity and flexibility to play in the infinite different phrasing and styles that I could be by now. My fingers are programmed to play a certain way – I’ve developed a comfort zone that makes certain licks so hard to do. There’s nothing difficult about any particular lick that doesn’t stretch you physically , the only reason you find it hard is because I’ve never phrased those notes in that particular way before

This is different from something being hard because your fingers don’t stretch that far or it’s simply too fast for you. If that’s the case then you have to leave it alone or create a workaround. No what I’m talking about is the lick that someone else can do easily but I find I keep messing up. The reason I mess up is because my fingers are programmed by years of playing in my comfort zone. So this why I’m determined now to do what I should have done right from the start and that is to learn great solos note for note and beat for beat. And it’s taking hours and hours sometimes just the simplest lick I have to repeat hundreds of times but when I crack it it’s very satisfying, and because I’ve learnt other stuff about playing over the years like playing with feeling I have to say it starting to sound pretty good.

I have to thank my guitar tutor Gizz Butt for this. I’ve never had any lessons until a few years ago and I reckon all players would really benefit. I guess many of you know that but I didn’t and this is my confession. Hope someone learns from it.

I think many if not most guitarists think they are better than they actually are. We’re a pretty cocky bunch. Something I’ve learnt is that once you really start to try playing properly your repertoire goes right down. I used know loads of songs only I didn’t really I could just play lots of songs badly and mostly incompletely.

I should explain that most of my playing time has been noodling on my own and this is the worst sort of practice I think you can do. You’ll never learn anything because you are never wrong you just make a mistake ignore it and carry on. There’s no band or audience to collaborate with. If you are not in a band you must practice to backing tracks or at least a metronome. Being in a band makes you realise how much you need to learn. Now instead of knowing hundreds of songs I know 15-20. Even then these need a lot of work and I spend hours just on these songs.

I guess some guitarists learn really quickly and that’s what makes them a natural. But for me it’s about lots of practice and practicing properly. I may have been playing for years but I still discover everyday just how much of a beginner I really am. But I’m now making progress…..