A guitarist is by nature an emotional sort of person.
I mean, it's
such an emotional instrument, I think it attracts
people of a
highly sensitive nature, who need to learn to play so
express that emotion, so it doesn't drive them crazy,
Because of this, I think we can fall prey to a few
conditions that make our progress as guitarists and
much more difficult than it needs to be. One of these
is the chronic mood of doubt, which manifests itself
spoken or unspoken question of "Do I have any Natural
this?" "Am I kidding myself here, thinking I can learn
to play like
these obviously talented players I hear, who make me
feel so inadequate?" Boy, I spent a lot of time feeling
like that. I
remember listening to a Segovia recording of the Bach
Em, which I was working on at the time. He played it
so fast, and
I was so struggling to play it at even half that
speed, that it put
me in a serious state of self doubt.
Well, I have learned a few things about this subject
of "natural talent", and I think they would
be good and useful things to
share with the aspiring players out there.
My first insight into this "question" was when I
observed how I
reacted to my first experience in taking lessons. I
myself guitar for three months before I began formal
was practicing for 3 hours a day by myself, working
out of a book
called something like "Teach Yourself Guitar the Easy
was a pretty decent book, and I learned first position
some chords and some songs. When I started lessons, I
with Mel Bay #2, and had a lot of mis-conceptions
and started learning a world of things I had no clue
the aid of a very good Jazz style teacher.
When I started lessons, I began to practice even more,
5 or 6
hours a day. As a result of this, and because I did
degree of "natural talent" (which I will define
later), I got pretty
good pretty fast. My teacher was amazed, and used to
off to everybody, as I had become his "star pupil". He
always say, "Tell them how much you practice."
Now the funny thing is, I would always lie about it,
and tell them,
"Oh, 2 hours a day". I didn't want them to know I
much. I thought, "I don't want them to know how much I
it, I'd rather let them think I'm some kind of
genius". I used to
get really afraid someone would realize how much I
worked at it,
then I 'd just be like everybody else.
Now, I do forgive myself for this character flaw,
understand why I felt this way. I grew up in a big
there was only so much attention to go around (and
someone who would spend a lot of time on stage in
later life, I
needed a whole lot, by nature). This was the first
time in my life
I ever stood out at anything, and had people pay so
attention to me, and make me feel special. It was a
and I didn't want to blow it by having them find out
I'm just a
common slob like everybody else. No, I'm special. I
this thing up, and got divinely inspired.
Besides, my fondest desire as a child was to be a
super hero, like
Superman, or Spiderman. I'd even settle for Batman!
This was the
closest I had come to fulfilling that career choice!
As I began teaching, I got the opportunity to see
of people attempting to learn to play, and I started
investigate this idea of natural talent. Was there
such a thing,
and what were the reasons some people got really good,
others did not. I saw many people grapple with the
learning to play, and I realized that yes, I do have
talent, because many of these people were having such
time than I did. But I also noticed another
interesting thing. A
very good percentage of the people I was teaching
have at least as much talent as I did. Some maybe
very few had the burning desire I had. Very few were
the number of hours I did, even from the beginning.
seemed to have the almost desperate need in their life
thing we call playing the guitar.
So I saw that there is literally a whole lot of
around. But there isn't a whole lot of love,
dedication, and "hard
I started to see how immature, and downright incorrect
way of thinking was, when I was trying to be a
began to realize how beautiful a thing it was that
love and need something as beautiful as playing the
they would give so much of themselves to it. I
it was beautiful whenever I saw my students do it, and
I still do.
I was beginning to see that love, dedication, and hard
the really "special" things. (Of course, it has never
felt like "work"
to me. It is called "playing" the guitar, isn't it?)
It took me a while to understand why all people who
wanted to play the guitar didn't spend most of their
day doing it.
I remember being in high school, and filling out the
getting extra credit for taking music lessons. Mine
said you had
to practice at least 5 hours a week to qualify. I
raised my hand
and said, "excuse me, I think there's a mistake on
mine. It says
you only have to practice 5 hours a week, shouldn't
that be 5
hours a day." I couldn't understand the concept of
5 hours a week! Boy, did I learn different when I
started teaching full time!
Now as the years have gone by, I have become much more
tolerant. I can accept the fact that there are people
in this world
who want to play the guitar, and yet only want to
practice maybe an hour a day, or whatever. I also realized that
these are the
people who are probably not planning on becoming
and that's okay. There is a place in the world for
people like this,
although the world would probably be a better place if
people spent most of their day playing the guitar. But
professionals do need some people who just like to
admire how special we "full-timers" are.
In all seriousness though, I am always moved when I
many people, school teachers, landscapers, office
mothers and fathers, make such a commitment to keep up
efforts to learn to play this instrument, in the midst
very full and demanding lives. Maybe they only get to
minutes a day, but it is very important to them, and
sacrifices to keep it in their lives and have it grow.
reason I have made a specialty of showing these people
get the most out of the time they put in.
Natural Talent is a pre-disposition in the mind and
the body, to
do the right thing. When a person who has natural
singing hears someone sing, their body and mind "know"
that person is doing to get that sound. And their
knows how to do it too, or how to begin moving in that
(They don't have to know this consciously, that is
they know, and how they know it, they just "know").
come in for lessons, and they "tend" to do everything
sitting comfortably with the instrument, to
positioning and using
the fingers. Some people do everything wrong, and must
shown, painstakingly and minutely, exactly what to do.
people are the ones I have learned most from, about
and about playing.
Understand that everyone falls somewhere in between
extremes of total cluelessness, and being a genius.
Yes, I have
some talent, as do many people. If I didn't work
really hard, it
would have got me nowhere. I needed a whole lot of
go with that talent. So did Beethoven, who studied
and so did Bach, who spent his life copying out the
composers he admired, in order to study their work. So
Clapton, who spent years copying every blues record he
I have, as I said, some natural talent for guitar, but
I sure don't
have it for singing. When it comes to singing, my head
backwards. Whatever the right thing to do is, I'll do
I don't need "Singing For Dummies", I need "Singing
But guess what? I get paid every week now for singing,
people compliment me all the time on my voice. That is
I tried my hardest with many teachers over the years,
began to "get it". Not as fast as someone with natural
I discovered how to express myself with my voice, make
that was pleasing and not ugly or strained, and
fulfill my desire
and need to sing. I also found that I could move
people with my
singing, and transfer my emotion to them, which is
what music is
And that is the good news. With the right approach,
any one can
learn anything. I have proven this as far as playing
goes, for myself and for my students, many of whom
their "heads on backwards." In fact, the more you
really try, the
more "Natural Talent" you will discover in yourself.
It is like
having a little voice in your head guiding you in the
if you will listen. I have found the more I listen,
the louder that
voice gets, and I hear it more often.
Having "talent" is not the primary factor in whether
or not you
will become a good or great player. Your burning
desperate need to play, coupled with the correct
and approach, are the most important things you must
There are lots of people with talent, but not a lot
who allow their
desire to grow, and become powerful. If you can allow
feel this need and desire, and use the power of that
all the obstacles you might encounter along the way,
you will find
all the talent you need to be the player you are meant