View Poll Results: How well do you want to play (not just for those getting started)

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  • I just want to have fun and play jazzy stuff

    25 22.32%
  • I want to play as well as I can with X amount of practicing

    44 39.29%
  • I want to be able to hang with the best players in town

    35 31.25%
  • I want to be a world class musician

    19 16.96%
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  1. #1

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    It's a question I've never seen posted here, but I see a lot of questions about how to learn this or how to learn that. I think it depends on how you answer this question. There is no wrong answer, but we all would do well to consider whether our habits match our aspirations.

    What do you think?

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  3. #2

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    I've given this topic some thought. From time to time I have buckled down and go through a practice regime with the aspiration of becoming a 'great' player. But after years and years of practice I think it's fools gold to me. At 60 I have arrived and by that I mean I accept that I am what I am and I'm just going to enjoy my hobby of playing guitar. No goals, no aspitations, no practice, I pretty much just play songs.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  4. #3
    Great question. Definitely need to sleep on this.

    What strikes me as funny right now is thinking about my aspirations a few years ago and how things ended up being very different from what I would have thought. This music can be very generous and can give numerous "gifts" you're not even looking for. Didn't aspire to nearly enough honestly, but I don't know how I could have even known what to aspire TO without the journey itself. Wouldn't want to spoil any of that aspect, but don't want to undershoot either.

    Compelling question...

  5. #4

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    Hmmm, been there, done that....actually, a harsh reality check for me involved working very hard years ago to get my chops up to a very high level, in hopes of hanging with the big boys in my area, only to find out that there was nothing serious going on in my area....my stupid mistake for not doing the research. At least I'm not the kid who got the college performance degree and found out the same thing.

    My only option would have been to relocate, or do some ridiculous traveling, which wasn't going to happen as a husband and father. Chops - use them, or lose them.

    Now I play whatever is available...big band, blues, country, western swing, but live music just is in a bad place no matter what style you play. Rarely do I get the chance to play jazz in a small combo situation, even for fun, so be careful about devoting time to something that might not exist.

  6. #5

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    Deep question and a lot of different ways to think about it.

    At one level, my goal has been to be a good enough player that people I admire would call me for gigs.

    But, at the level of playing technique, using that term broadly. I would like to be good enough:

    1. That I can read big band charts and nail them the first time through the way horn players, pianists and bassists (like, everybody else) can do.

    2. Good enough that people tap their feet unconsciously to the beat in every situation I play in. That's not just a guitar issue, but I want to be in groups that do that.

    3. I wish, and despair, of ever being able to sound like a classic jazz guitarist, like Joe Pass in his combo work.

    4. More realistically, to be able to play my style through complex changes.

    5. To be able to play fast (like bop) tunes and have something to say.

    6. To be able to hear chord changes by ear, to the point where I don't need to read at all on a standards gig.

  7. #6

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    I want to be the best me that I can. If I'm happy with what I've played I'm sure someone else will be too, I'm my own worst critic so pleasing me is damn hard, especially for me.
    Last edited by docbop; 01-03-2018 at 12:18 PM.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  8. #7

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    I want to be a good musician.That's all.

  9. #8

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    After years of in-house criticism it would be nice to be able to play something that my wife appreciated without that condescending tone in her voice; but I doubt if I will ever manage a "pop tune"!

    Realistically I need to be good enough to record something for myself today and come back to it in the future not only appreciating it for what it is but also finding new inspiration from some part of it.

  10. #9

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    I don't want anything.

  11. #10

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    I want, desperately want, to be good enough to have a regular gig and to be able to sit in at at call.
    “When you’re creating your own ...., man, even the sky ain’t the limit.”
    Miles Davis

  12. #11

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    I want to be the best musician I can be.
    Check out my new book, Essential Skills for the Guitarist on Amazon.

  13. #12

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    Well, I'm lucky enough to have a band that plays regularly and I play in another band that has some of the greatest musician in the style (swing and trad) around here.
    But I really want to be good enough to play at high level, to have confidence in playing whatever the situation.
    I only play swing and traditional nowadays, in the future I want to play something more "modern" (bebop, hardbop and cool. xD)

  14. #13

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    At 26, I enrolled at GIT. I wanted to be a session player. Not realizing those gigs dried up years before I came to Hollywood.

    At 60, I feel like fep. I just want to enjoy music. Get a little closer to the heart of it all. Understand and feel harmony more deeply. Make a few noises that make me feel happy. That's enough of a goal for me for my final few years.

  15. #14

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    I am an investigator by nature, and I love jazz a lot, so I will give it my all to be the best I can be. If that means I will be at the level of a world class player, great! I'm not looking for any awards though. I'm too humble for that. I just want to keep the music alive and have fun while doing it. Therefore, the time I spend in the woodshed will be time well-spent.
    "If I don't practice for a day, I know it... for two days, the critics know it... three days, the public knows it." -- Louis Armstrong

  16. #15

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    My playing is probably good enough now to sit in and jam on the usual standards, i.e. comp and play a reasonable solo, provided the tempo isn't crazy. Which is probably enough for me, although I can't see me doing much until I retire (hopefully not long now!)

    I have jammed informally with pro guitarist Shane Hill and we kept going for a couple of hours and he didn't chuck me out of the house, so I took that as a good sign!

  17. #16

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    Just to keep getting better. The journey is the destination.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  18. #17
    after years of endocrinological research and investigations,it's my pleasure to have now the Time do the same with jazz,I hope
    HB

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Rarely do I get the chance to play jazz in a small combo situation, even for fun, so be careful about devoting time to something that might not exist.
    Great post, Cosmic. This is part of the reason that I increasingly focus on solo guitar material. I don't need a band!

    It's good to play with others, though. That teaches lots of nuances (time, feel, interaction, responsiveness, communication) that it would be hard to learn any other way. And it's fun. But I long ago realized that if I'm going to keep playing guitar, I need to learn things I can play by myself. (I may be one of those loner a**holes you hear about from time to time...) It's one reason I'm getting into Travis picking----and it's kicking my butt but day by day, it's sounding a little better.

    I'm not looking to be world class. Sure, if I could push a button and be world class, I'd push the button. But that's not an option. What I can do is keep up what chops I have, learn some new tunes and make the working repertoire suit my current state (-not interested in singing about a teenage wasteland these days), and give myself some challenges so I feel like I'm improving, that's plenty for me. (Sometimes "improving" amounts to going back and getting some basic thing down, really down, for the first time.)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  20. #19
    I only want to have fun and also that each time my solo would be good and meaningful. But that'd be a "world-class" ambition. Ok, world class then

    I'm so doomed...

  21. #20

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    To develop a repertoire of hundreds of songs that will readily available at any given moment automatically without charts
    Navdeep Singh.

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Hmmm, been there, done that....actually, a harsh reality check for me involved working very hard years ago to get my chops up to a very high level, in hopes of hanging with the big boys in my area, only to find out that there was nothing serious going on in my area....my stupid mistake for not doing the research. At least I'm not the kid who got the college performance degree and found out the same thing.

    My only option would have been to relocate, or do some ridiculous traveling, which wasn't going to happen as a husband and father. Chops - use them, or lose them.

    Now I play whatever is available...big band, blues, country, western swing, but live music just is in a bad place no matter what style you play. Rarely do I get the chance to play jazz in a small combo situation, even for fun, so be careful about devoting time to something that might not exist.
    If I were at a different point in my life, I think it would be easy to read that post as being too pessimistic, but there's so much solid philosophical possibility in this kind of post. It certainly resonates with me personally. It gets at a lot of the questions that I've asked over the last few years in pursuing jazz as a hobby.

    For me, it's been things like: If this is a hobby, what's in it for ME, even if I rarely play it for anyone else? Am I focusing on aspects of practicing which bring me the most joy beyond true jazz gigs? Am I practicing "jazz things" which have the greatest benefit in the other styles I might actually play more often, jam more often, or gig with?

    I've had a very pissy, on again/off again relationship with jazz as a whole, but I think I've almost enjoyed that aspect more than any. My spats with jazz, and the often seemingly pointlessness of it in my real life, have led me to pursuing aspects of it which I might not have otherwise gotten into, if I had lived in a more geographically advantageous jazz area or whatever.

    Played chord melody almost exclusively for a year or two out of countless fake books etc., because I was irritated at all the other aspects . Didn't seem to make any sense without someone to play with. In that process I learned a lot of fretboard, a lot about cords and where notes are, a tremendous amount about subdividing the beat, phrasing, and how to feel the same II in a lot of different ways. Honestly, this had huge unintended residual benefits to other styles of playing, to my feel overall as a player , to the way I was able to articulate things on instruments, to the way I heard playing far beyond my abilities even to play, and to my ability to phrase things better as a singer and communicate with other instrument wants to play with.

    Sorry, too many words, but that whole bit of learning more about myself and about the music came about from a simple philosophical question: "what's the point?".

    The next jazz "irritation" came from getting tired of same old standard harmony in cm and led me towards a lot of dealing with altered ccords and such in chord melody. Irritation with "random" approaches had me digging into more of the holistic approaches like reg talks about to such things. Of course, then, I had to deal with the fact that melodic minor kind of kicked my ass. Basic fundamental issues with the fretboard. Ignored the inner voices which it always told me that what reg talked about with fretboard and learning the three minors and all of their iterations was "too hard ", for pros or whatever, and dug in.

    Anyway, unintended consequence of that was that I recognized that I was actually better than I thought it was , once I dealt with some really simple fundamental problems in technique and understanding. Not really linear gradual improvement as much as many incremental breakthroughs in understanding and ability. Honestly, at that point, I was a CM guy , and didn't really improvise at all. Now, I'm at least pursuing jazz improvisation, and feel comfortable in being able to do it pretty well in the future. At the very least , I enjoy it for its own sake.

    So basically, I'm about 100% with Mr. Beaumont and Cosmic at the same time. I think both are different sides of the same coin. If the process is not for ME PERSONALLY, I'm not doing it . If I can't enjoy the process as much as the results, I'm not doing it. If you find a way to enjoy the process, the results will probably be better in the end anyway, and you kind of get those for free.

  23. #22
    Sorry, to answer the original question :

    I want to be able to read anything down melodically, real time, and not be super distracted by the process. I need to set a schedule for this. I'm just really busy.

    I want to be better at "default improv playing" over standard changes within key centers and chord patterns, so that I can then learn to APPLY them in different ways. The kind of thing Christian and reg are always talking about. (Once you can play dominant really well, you can play it in other contexts besides from the V7 etc.) Reg, takes this to additional extremes beyond labels like "dominant", But I want to get there eventually. Long-term, I want to be able to apply modal approaches to standard changes, be able to utilize outside sounds from different pitch collections like harmonic major etc.

    I want to be able to comp solidly for anyone in any situation. Ears, voicings, all that. Sick of simple/safe voicings which don't imply anything. Those are cool in context, and Freddie Green is a boss, but I'd like to get a little more harmony together than that. I'd like to be able to "solo" more with comping, or at least interacting at a more dynamic level then I'm able to at the moment.

    Ears. I want to be able to play, harmonically, melodically, just about anything I could imagine over a tune, chord melody style or otherwise. ReHarmonization, real-time, in the moment application of different harmonic approaches etc.

    Anyway, much of this sounds pie-in-the-sky to me, but thinking back a few years ago, I would've thought the same thing about some of the things I'm actually pursuing now. I feel like I owe it to myself to at least consider these as possibilities in the future.

  24. #23

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    What I want to be and who I really am turns out to be two different things. I have always dreamed of hanging out on the porch with the local big dogs. But I found out over the years, that in reality, I don't enjoy performing for others. Part of it is I am very self-critical and since I judge myself so harshly I envision others at my performance doing the same. I perform best at venues where only a half a dozen people show up and they are barely paying attention to the players. If there is a crowd, then I envision several harsh critics in the audience passing judgement on my abilities. This thought pattern ruins performing for me. It is a demon I have confronted many times over the years as I would get up the guts to go to a local jam session only to return home feeling like I had crashed and burned. The few times where I felt I did well and felt like I held my own, made me feel so high. But the worst is recording yourself at a jam to gauge one's progress and then obsessing over every aspect of your performance and putting it under a bright light. Definitely an ego killer. Yet, from time to time I return for more and do the same thing again, like the pope who flogged himself. I wish I could just accept that I don't have the confidence to be on the porch with the big dogs.
    Guitar Addicts Anonymous
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  25. #24

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    I guess my goal is to continue to enjoy making music and wanting to make music. I enjoy playing new material, learning new concepts and methods, and working out my own concepts/methods. Each of these new paths is an immense journey that will take me years to fully develop. Do I want to be "the best" or "world class"? I dunno; my goal isn't measured by any comparison to other musicians. I want to do my thing. The challenges that I create for myself feed back into my appetite to play and learn more.

  26. #25

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    OK, instant response, not reading the other comments.

    I don't think in these terms. I see it more as a process on all fronts. I think a goal is a great thing for someone to have to avoid aimlessness, but goals are best made concrete, for example:

    - I want to learn this arp in all positions
    - I want to send 30 emails a week aiming to get gigs for my band
    - I want to learn this tune of chart for the gig next Tuesday
    - I want to write material for an album
    - I want to get better at clapping half note triplets while I count the beat

    etc etc

    Also, a good goal is something you have control or at least an influence over. You might not be able to book 10 dates for your band, but you can aim to send say 30 emails in a week. And of course, if it's something you hate doing (most musos hate hustling) you can reward yourself with something you do enjoy (not cake. Well sometimes cake, maybe.)

    To aim to be 'a world class musician' is vague and would probably cause more stress than anything. IMO the motivation for becoming a really good player has to come from somewhere other than that goal.

    What works best for me - by which I mean what keeps me motivated to learn new stuff, pick up my guitar, and so on - is to be pragmatic. And to try to think as little about 'how good would I like to be' as possible.

  27. #26

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    If the game is to be a little better tomorrow than I was yesterday, then I'm still in the game. I haven't been benched yet. And that's good enough for me. It's a good game.

  28. #27

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    I want to be able to hang with the best players in town. But it should be noted that I live in a town of 10,000 people, and approximately 3 of those people play jazz.

    It seems that the more I learn, and better I get, the more fun I'm able to have playing. Having more options, having the ability to think less and play more...these kinds of things make playing music more enjoyable.

    At 41, my chances of "making it" at anything are slim. So I guess I just want to keep getting better so it keeps being more fun.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Kaye View Post
    If the game is to be a little better tomorrow than I was yesterday, then I'm still in the game. I haven't been benched yet. And that's good enough for me. It's a good game.
    What happens when you play a bad gig though? Happens to me sometimes...

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    What happens when you play a bad gig though? Happens to me sometimes...
    You call a new play and you try and not get sacked again.

  31. #30

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    How do you know it’s a bad gig? That’s the interesting thing actually....

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    How do you know it’s a bad gig? That’s the interesting thing actually....
    Your bar bill is more than you made.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  33. #32

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    Those are the ones when I play best though ha ha

  34. #33

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    Although the self assessment might be faulty depending on the shortfall

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Easy2grasp View Post
    I perform best at venues where only a half a dozen people show up and they are barely paying attention to the players.
    You mean a jazz club?

  36. #35

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    When I go to the jazz jams in my city I consistently realize I am performing for my own ego. I wish I could stop that. I want to get my head in a place where I am sharing the pleasure of pure ambient creation - making a contribution to the universe through giving people music to distract them from the weight of the world and maybe providing some inspiration to a younger struggling player.
    Guitar Addicts Anonymous
    A 12 fret program

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    How do you know it’s a bad gig? That’s the interesting thing actually....
    When the thought crosses your mind?

    It is interesting....when YOU know it's a bad gig it's pretty bad. When OTHERS know it's a bad gig, it's REALLY bad.

  38. #37

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    If I could just be a little better than I am now... I've been thinking that for 30 years!

  39. #38

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    Oh I dunno, I think in general I have no idea whether I’ve played well or not.

    Try recording every time you play, give the recordings random names so you don’t know which are which and see if you spot which ones are the bad gigs 6 months later, from the perspective of your playing.

    You may we’ll find as I did, that you are a hilariously poor judge of your own performance in the moment.

    All things being equal, what makes a bad gig for me is purely subjective. I might make mistakes that seem huge to me one night and barely important another night.

    It’s difficult (for me) but necessary to never inflict ones subjective analysis of the gig on other players. They don’t want to know. Never apologise your playing, for instance. All it does is annoy other musicians.

    Lack of preparation is an issue, and will make me play worse. So if I don’t look at the tunes, I will have a bad, or at least very stressful gig. It’s not always possible to prepare, but in general this is under my control.

    External factors (bad sound, underrehearsal of the whole band, poor drummers etc) can make for a bad gig but you have no control over them.

  40. #39

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    I'd like to play like I'm ringing a bell !

    Go go !

  41. #40

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    I want to be as good as I'm capable of being, and I have somewhat high expectations about that.

    I've played with some of the local pros, and I know that I have a long way to go, but I also know that I don't (usually) embarrass myself, so I think my expectations are realistic.

    I'm not in any hurry, though. I think in the past I've tried to cover so much material that I end up learning ABOUT a lot of stuff but not really LEARNING all that much. So my plan (maybe call it a "resolution") is to slow down. Learn one new thing at a time, and take the time to really integrate it into my playing.
    "I'm opposed to picketing, but I don't know to show it." --Mitch Hedberg

  42. #41

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    Lots of good responses here. Thanks for all the healthy input. As I said at the top, I don’t think there are any wrong answers. There are lots of ways to be a musician.

    A lot of people seem to just want to enjoy playing. I think we all want that. For some it means making the most of what you’ve got; for others it’s about constant improvement.


    Fep says, “I accept that I am what I am and I'm just going to enjoy my hobby of playing guitar.” Sounds healthy to me. Flat agreed: “I just want to enjoy music. Get a little closer to the heart of it all.”

    Whether it’s about gaining chops or just being real, you can’t argue with wanting to get closer to the heart.

    Docbop says, “I want to be the best me that I can.” Kris says, “I want to be a good musician. That's all.” Dana says, “I want to be the best musician I can be.” Mr. Beaumont says, “The journey is the destination.”

    Smokinguit says, “I just want to keep the music alive and have fun while doing it. Therefore, the time I spend in the woodshed will be time well-spent.” Emanresu said, “I only want to have fun and also that each time my solo would be good and meaningful.”

    Healthy attitudes all. You guys need some angst in your lives. But it’s hard to argue with wanting your playing to be “good and meaningful.” Way better than fast and flashy.

    Others seem to be after continuous improvement. Michael Kaye say, “If the game is to be a little better tomorrow than I was yesterday, then I'm still in the game.”

    Morroben says, “I just want to keep getting better so it keeps being more fun.”

    Rlrhett says, “If I could just be a little better than I am now... I've been thinking that for 30 years!”

    Yeah, I’ve been thinking that for even longer.

    Cosmic gumbo said, “A harsh reality check for me involved working very hard… in hopes of hanging with the big boys in my area, only to find out that there was nothing serious going on in my area.”

    Yeah, some people spend $120,000 on a degree before finding that out. Some people talk about “creating a scene” with a community of musicians. I used to think that was naive, but some very good musicians in my area have done just that and the music scene is picking up here. Easier said than done, but I’ve seen it happen.


    Then there are the people who are shooting for a specific level of improvement.

    Gggomez says, “I want, desperately want, to be good enough to have a regular gig and to be able to sit in at at call.”

    Rpjazzguitar says, “my goal has been to be a good enough player that people I admire would call me for gigs.”

    That’s one that I share. I’m not sure if it’s ego or creative ambition, but I think it can be channeled in a positive and creative way. Hope so, anyway.

    Clebergf says, “I really want to be good enough to play at high level, to have confidence in playing whatever the situation.”

    Yeah, I think we could all do with a little more healthy confidence (as opposed to ego-driven playing).

    I like what MarkRhodes said
    : “What I can do is keep up what chops I have, learn some new tunes… and give myself some challenges so I feel like I'm improving, that's plenty for me. (Sometimes "improving" amounts to going back and getting some basic thing down, really down, for the first time.)”

    Yeah, if I can keep my chops as good as they’ve ever been (they’re often not) and keep moving forward with new tunes and new challenges, I feel like I’m doing it right.

    NSJ wants to, “develop a repertoire of hundreds of songs that will readily available at any given moment automatically without charts.”

    Man, I’m with you on that. A long, ongoing process, but so worthwhile.

    Easy2grasp says, “I am very self-critical and since I judge myself so harshly I envision others at my performance doing the same.”

    I’ve struggled with being self-critical too. In some sense you have to look at your playing critically, but you also have to let go of the habit of constantly judging your playing while you’re doing it. I’m working on that. Playing without ego. Easier said than done. But I think it’s a big necessary thing to overcome in order to be your best.

    Boston Joe said, “I want to be as good as I'm capable of being… I'm not in any hurry, though. I think in the past I've tried to cover so much material that I end up learning ABOUT a lot of stuff but not really LEARNING all that much. So my plan (maybe call it a "resolution") is to slow down. Learn one new thing at a time, and take the time to really integrate it into my playing.

    This is something that Corey Christiansen (a great instructor) emphasizes. I think it’s a hugely important point. The trick is finding the balance between being thorough without getting bogged down, but it’s something to shoot for. I wish I was better with this.

    Finally, Pingu would like to, “play like I'm ringing a bell !”

    Like Johnny B. Goode. A fine aspiration.

  43. #42

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    I think there are wrong answers actually. Ones that may lead to poor emotional and mental health.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think there are wrong answers actually. Ones that may lead to poor emotional and mental health.
    All great art involves risk.

  45. #44

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    Not anything I’ve seen here I hasten to add

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan0996 View Post
    All great art involves risk.
    I know this is a jokey response, but I would rather encourage positive mental habits in myself and those who are unlucky enough to be influenced by me.

    I think you can be massively productive and motivated and be so for healthy reasons.

    We know many who have fallen by the wayside. I feel it’s not really a joking matter.

    On top of that, the human species has a regrettable tendency to ascribe success to hard-work and failure to misfortune. More often than we like the opposite is true.

    Deal with what you can control, don’t seek to govern that which you cannot, and maintain wisdom to tell the difference.

    That’s my goal.

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I know this is a jokey response, but I would rather encourage positive mental habits in myself and those who are unlucky enough to be influenced by me.

    I think you can be massively productive and motivated and be so for healthy reasons.

    We know many who have fallen by the wayside. I feel it’s not really a joking matter.
    True dat

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    On top of that, the human species has a regrettable tendency to ascribe success to hard-work and failure to misfortune. More often than we like the opposite is true.
    Yes ... In folklore it is greatly underestimated how random life really can be

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Deal with what you can control, don’t seek to govern that which you cannot, and maintain wisdom to tell the difference.
    Indeed!

  48. #47
    My goals are to keep improving, learning new things, and to always be in love with guitar and music. Hopefully give something to others through playing and teaching too. I think it s important to be at peace with yourself, your life, your passions, your choices and your priorities, and never lose touch with the simple pleasure of playing the guitar. Music can give you a lot of pleasure and a lot of disappointment as well, i just leave the bad behind and keep playing

  49. #48

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    Bloody hell I was grumpy last night.

  50. #49

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    My playing goal long term is probably to ride this train and see where it goes.

    I want to continue to improve as a player and I feel that I am making progress. There are lots of really clear, measurable things I can do in support of that basic goal - improvement.

  51. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Bloody hell I was grumpy last night.