3 Lies That (Some) Professional Musicians Routinely Tell, And How They Impact You

Tommaso Zillio

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If your favorite musician would offer you some advice, how likely you are to listen and follow it? Do you think that your key to success is to follow in the footsteps of your idols, the way they present it to you? (fair warning: don't read the rest of the article if you are thin-skinned)

I remember when I was a teenager, learning to play on my first (crappy) guitar and reading every interview, article, or column written by my favorite player. It was the dawn of the Internet (I am showing my age, aren't I?), and the little information available was coming from magazines and "well-informed" friends.

(Who really were NOT well-informed, in case you are wondering)

Turns out most of the information I absorbed in my first few years of playing was wrong, and yes, it held me back in my progress. After all, if your favorite player will tell you that something is impossible then you don't even try.

Why does this happen? Well, most professional musicians are more interested (and rightly so) in promoting their new album and tour rather than giving you accurate information you can use to become their competitors. I'm not saying that all of them lie deliberately to you (though some do), but that whenever asked for career advice they will give you the shortest answer that sounds good and go back to promoting themselves - because that's their job after all.

What I just wrote is not even remotely controversial: it's obvious. Rock Stars (of all levels) are in the business of IMPRESSING their audience - because that's what will keep their status as a Rock Star. They don't owe you the truth, just a good show.

"You Have It Or You Don't"

If that was true, there would be no musicians in the whole world. Nobody just "has it", ever. There's only one way to "get it" and that's it to study it and practice it. So why will Rock Stars just tell you that? Easily explained:

Rock Stars know that nearly everybody can do what they did if they only worked enough. It's truly just a matter of work ethics. And at the same time, they know that most people simply will not work that much. So in a sense, they are doing you a favour:

  • If you listen to them and believe you don't have it, they just saved you a lot of time and effort. If something like this was enough to stop you, you would not have made it anyway.

  • On the other hand, if you DIDN'T listen to them and kept working, then congratulations, you passed the first exam.

This idea that you have it or you don't is something I call the Harry Potter theory of musical talent and I wrote on it at length.

"I Never Studied Music Theory"

Without thinking too much, answer this question: Who creates the most interesting art, an artist who had to learn from a teacher, or someone who creates art 'naturally'?

Of course the answer is that how an artist became good is irrelevant to the quality of his art. But most people would instinctively "feel" that the "natural artist" will have "something special". Due to this bias, most artists today want to project an image of being "naturals", whether that is true or not.

Michelangelo (allegedly) said "If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all." As such, most Rock Stars will tell you that they never studied theory or practice their skills, so that their mastery would look wonderful to their audience.

I do not blame them. Personally I think that skills you work for are as wonderful, if not more, than "natural" skills. But it's a fact that most Rock Stars will downplay how much they studied or practiced to get where they are. Again, the Rock Star job is to impress you... and what better ways to impress you than feeding your own assumptions?

"I Was Just At The Right Place At The Right Moment, I Have Been Lucky"

There is no such thing. Even if you were at the right place in the right moment, what makes you successful is being the right person in that situation. Yet Rock Stars will downplay that. Why?

For a simple reason: they don't want to waste their interview time by talking about how hard they worked and all the setbacks. If they did, half the public would think that they are "arrogant" because they were just "lucky". You don't believe me? Think about the most annoyingly smug celebrity you know.

Done? Are you thinking "this person is nothing special, they think they are so good and intelligent and talented, but they are not"? I thought so. You'd rather think they got there by chance... and they are actually telling you (a little part of) the truth.

Reality: You Can Get As Good As You Want As A Musician

And here's the way to do it:

  1. Get a good music teacher that knows what they’re doing.
  2. Once you've chosen your teacher, do WHATEVER they say. Don't waste your time or their time.
  3. Stop listening to celebrities, guitar heroes, magazines... FOCUS. One teacher is enough.

"But Tommaso, you are saying this because you want us to become your students". Ok, I can see why you are thinking this way. So let me state it here: it does not matter if I am your teacher or someone else is. Find a good one - that's all I'm saying - and follow them. If you have even just a sliver of doubt that I am saying this as an advertisement, then do not come to my website, do not watch my videos, do not buy my products.

But, for your own sake, do not listen to every Rock Star that gives advice to people that are not their students. That's a sure-fire way to fail.

And if you want to learn what the pros do to learn their guitar inside out, check out the most complete course ever published on scales and modes on guitar by clicking on the button below:

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