A few weeks ago, I passed the one-year mark of playing my guitar every day. As I mentioned in the launch of this Guitar Journey Series, when I first made my commitment to practice on a regular basis it was to practice three or four times a week for a full year. Before I knew it, a few months passed and I had not missed a day; so, I revised my goal to go a full year of practicing every day.
There were many days it was a challenge to take the time to play, whether it was laziness, a busy schedule, travel, or not feeling well, there were times I would have been happy to not have made this crazy commitment to practice every day. Every single day. What was I thinking?
I’m glad I made that commitment.
One might imagine after a year of daily practice one would become a decent guitar player. Well, that may be true for some, but it’s not so in my case. I’m ok with that. Though I wish I had progressed more in this past year, I’m happy with the progress that has taken place. Considering I’ve been trying to learn the guitar every few decades, for short stints, over the past 45 years or so, it’s great to see where I am today.
In my original blog post I describe measuring my guitar playing ability on a scale of 1 to 100, with the guitar icons like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix being 100, a working musician being 60 to 70. I hope to become at least a 50. When I started this journey a year ago, I rated myself a 3. Just short of six months into it I said I was a 7. Today I’d say I’m just getting into the double digits, maybe an 11-12. Yes, it’s a long way from my goal of becoming at least a 50, but I’m quite happy being an 11-12, rather than having remained a 3 if I had not practiced this past year.
In the past few months, it didn’t seem like I was moving much beyond my 7 rating, then things started to fall into place a little bit. My guitar playing starting feeling more natural. I started being able to improvise and create more. I’ve even come up with a few good riffs. I’ve felt more comfortable and connected to my guitars. I could write a separate blog about buying three new guitars this past year. Sorry, I digress.
One might ask, what the point is of writing about such a slow journey? I know there are some out there who would already be a 50, or perhaps even higher after a year on this journey. I’m not one of those. I suspect there are many others out there who might progress at a slower pace, such as I do. I write this series for those people. For those struggling to become better guitar players, or better anything. If I’ve learned anything on this journey, so far, it’s that commitment pays off.
Even if my journey continues at a slow pace, I’ll reach my goal of being a 50 within five years, maybe less, maybe more. It doesn’t matter. I’m good with that. Maybe, I’ll revise my goal in a few years to become a 60 or a 70. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get a few gigs.
One can dream.
Author and educational consultant Kendra Cherry writes in her piece, “How hard is it to become an expert?”,
One popular belief is that the key to becoming an expert is to devote at least 10,000 hours to the study and practice of a subject. This idea is based on a 1993 study in which researchers found that the most accomplished violinists at a music academy had spent an average of 10,000 hours practicing their instrument by the age of 20. This idea gained prominence when pop psychology Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase “the ten-thousand-hour rule” in his 2008 book Outliers. Gladwell pointed to the results of the music study as well as observations of other experts in their fields.”
If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, let’s say a 90, on my guitarist rating scale, then I feel pretty good about having moved from a 3 to a 12 in one year. In my first year I practiced about 300 hours. That’s a long way from 10,000 hours.
I know at this point in my life, I don’t have the capacity or time to practice three, four, or five hours a day. So, again, becoming a 12 after 300 hours is good.
I encourage anyone out there who is wants to become better at something they dream of to make a commitment for a decent period of time, it doesn’t have to be a full year, and see what happens.
You might be surprised.