Do You Need To Be Talented To Play Guitar?
Do you have enough talent to play guitar? Are you absolutely sure that all the effort, study, practice you put into your instrument will actually make you better? Or you are afraid that eventually you will hit a glass ceiling and not being able to improve anymore?
I'm sure you do have similar thoughts. How do I know? Simple: when I started playing guitar I could hardly think of anything else. Am I wasting my time and energy? Am I talented enough? Today I see the same questions in my students, either offline or online. I would be surprised if you never thought about that before (in fact, if you never had any doubt about your talent, why are you reading this? Go back to practice!)
This is a bigger deal than it might seem at first sight. Self-doubt may gnaw at you day and night, and this does not make for a nice experience. How can you enjoy playing if your only thought is that you might not be talented enough? How can you practice unless you are sure that this time and effort will make you better? I have seen too many good and even great players giving up on the instrument out of self-doubt and self-frustration to think that this is not an important issue.
So here's my message to you. You may believe it or not... but it's backed up not only by my experience, both as a player and a teacher, but also by a number of studies made on other arts, sports, and disciplines. And here it is:
Except for physical limitation, natural talent does not exist.
That is to say, if you are 5 feet tall you will not play in the NBA (that's a physical limitation). And if your knees are bad you will not become a champion runner. But as long as you have 10 fingers and a functional brain you can literally become as good as you want to be on the guitar (and in fact I have taught students with missing fingers...)
So, if talent is not a factor, what makes a good player? According to all the sources above, at the end of the day you need only 3 things:
You Need To Like Playing Guitar
Specifically, you need to want to become better, and you need to have fun when you have your instrument in your hands. Let's face it, if you do not like playing, then why are you playing? And if you like playing, you most likely want to be better at that.
As obvious as this may seem, this has an important consequence: you need to not beat yourself up. If every time you do not play up to your expectations you beat yourself up, how are you going to enjoy playing? You need to accept that some days will be good, and some will not.
Also you need to keep your enthusiasm about playing pristine, like the day you got your first guitar. This does not happen by itself, you have to work on it.
You Need To Clock In The Hours
You won't get good by wishing it. You need to practice, and you need to practice lots. It takes time for your hands to understand the movements, and for your brain to think in a musical way, whether through theory or ear training.
Practice means getting things wrong, and correcting the mistakes. And then playing the right thing until it become natural. It means you will feel bad about what you can do, but every time you feel bad you also have the opportunity to correct what you do and feel better later.
At the same time, once you see that practice works, it becomes fun to recognize your present limitation, and eliminating them one after another. Getting better is one of the best feeling in life (at least with your clothes on). Putting these hours in is a privilege, not a chore.
You Need To Find A Good Teacher
Yes, I know some of you will go and say "but player X is great and he says he didn't had a teacher". Let me guess, he also says that he does not practice much, that he has never studied music theory, and that some of the things he plays come naturally to him.
Can't you see he is just repeating the same old "natural talent" myth? Can you guess why? Because the public likes better a "genuine" player whose music comes "naturally from the heart" rather than someone who studied and got better through practice and time.
Guess what? All great players are actually of the second kind. Some of them just want you to believe that they are of the first kind for promotional purposes.
The reality is actually very simple: there are no champions without coaches. It's not just that a good teacher saves you time: it also makes possible things that would be impossible by yourself. It does not matter if the teacher is in-person, or online, or if you are following a course... a good COMPETENT teacher who knows not only music but also how to TEACH music should be your priority. A martial artist once told me: "two years spent finding a good teacher are two years well spent". I didn't believe him at the time, now I think that this phrase is not only obviously true, but probably understated. A good teacher can save you more than two years.
If you want to be a good player, then talent is not a factor. It does not even register on the radar. You just need to 1. stay hungry 2. put in the work 3. find a guide. Common sense? I would hope so, and yet I still see many players that stop playing because they "have no talent", or convinced that they can make it without a teacher, or that are simply wrecked by self-doubt.
Sometimes we all need a good dose of common sense. So if this article sounds obvious to you, more power to you! If on the other hand some of this sounded surprising to you, then I'm glad I could help you :-)
If you want some help in becoming a great guitar player, check out the Master of the Modes guitar course to become the ultimate master of all scales and modes on your guitar.