A question musicians often ask themselves is “How good do I need to be?” Think about that phrase for a minute. It’s one of those scary, bottomless questions to which there really isn’t a definitive answer.
In our lifetime as musicians, many of us never grow complacent with our progress or simply consider ourselves good enough. Our goals may change from one year or even one day to the next. Do you want to be as good as Jimi Hendrix was in 1969? As good as your mate Jeff? Do you want to specialise in just one style? Would you like to be more of an allrounder? Do you strive to master classical or jazz alongside your blues or rock playing? How about mastering slide guitar, or learning to play a second instrument, such as piano or harmonica?
As a musical instrument, the electric guitar is still relatively young. I started playing in 1988 and by then, I thought the bar had already been set in terms of what could be done with the guitar. Fast forward 30 years and there are now so many great, inspiring players to listen to and draw from that it can sometimes feel intimidating. The important thing to remember is that music is not a competition. Our goal as guitarists is to find our own voice on the instrument.
Who wouldn’t want to lock themselves in a room and emerge 3 hours later a better guitarist?
Mastering every style of guitar playing would take the average human several lifetimes. It’s a near impossible task, but the fact that we never really stop learning and improving is what makes the journey so exciting. It’s a journey without a destination. How cool is that? Unlike athletes, who are forced to retire after their prime, we musicians have a lifetime in which to express ourselves on our instrument. You may never reach full six string enlightenment, but who wouldn’t want to lock themselves in a room with a guitar and emerge 3 hours later a better player?
Like levelling up in a video game, personal progress can become an addiction and some of us never stop striving to improve. I know musicians who seem to improve daily, due to the work they put into their craft. One of my biggest personal peeves is fellow musicians who judge another player’s ability based on the last time they heard them play, which may have been a decade ago, ignoring the possibility that the person they are judging may have made huge advances in that time, rather than simply stagnating. Keep working on your playing and your playing will work for you.
On a personal level, I continue to work on my craft daily and I feel that I’m a better guitar player than I was 10 months ago, let alone 10 years ago. Maybe one day I’ll stop putting in the work, but for now, 30 years into my life as a guitarist, I still feel that there is a great deal progress to be made and it’s that motivation that gets me out of bed every morning…or afternoon!
Until next time, happy playing!