4 Things Guitar Players Are Afraid Of
by Tom Hess
Take a guess: what is one of the top things that keeps most people from becoming better guitar players? Is it a lack of talent? No. Not spending enough time practicing? No. The answer is FEAR (in its various forms). Countless guitarists go for years without making any real progress in their playing because their (irrational) fears create very real mental barriers for them that they don’t know how to overcome. To speed up the process of becoming a better guitar player, you must break down these barriers by identifying and overcoming the fears of which they are made.
Here are the most common types of fear that guitar players experience and how you can overcome them to become a better guitarist:
Fear Of Failure
Many guitarists set themselves up for failure by falsely assuming that they don’t have what it takes to reach ambitious goals in music. If you fear failing in your desire to learn guitar the way you want, the following things will happen:
- You start to SABOTAGE yourself by setting goals that you think are ‘realistic’ for you to achieve instead of the goals that you truly ‘want’ to achieve.
- You begin to waste your guitar practice time playing things that are within your current comfort zone and avoid playing/practicing things that you really SHOULD practice (that would push your skills to improve).
- Because you set limiting goals for yourself, you will (at best) only fall ‘far short’ of your true musical potential. However, most likely you will end up giving up as soon as you hit any obstacle in your progress, believing that you simply are not good enough to learn guitar well.
Ironically, by being ‘afraid’ of failure in your guitar playing, you only move yourself TOWARDS inevitable failure.
To overcome the fear of failure and make more progress as a guitarist, do the following:
- Focus only on the end result you want to achieve in your musical skills at all times.
- Understand that challenges are inevitable in the process of reaching any ambitious goal. At the same time, know that every challenge CAN absolutely be overcome. If you keep struggling with something in your guitar playing for a long time, the correct conclusion isn’t that you ‘lack talent/potential’ to overcome the obstacle, it’s simply that the way you’ve approached the problem up until now has been wrong and ineffective. Change the approach and get a different outcome.
- Determine exactly what goals you want to achieve, make a specific plan to reach those goals and don’t stop until you’ve transformed yourself into the guitar player you want to be. Use the strategy in this article about reaching guitar playing goals to get started.
You will have a much easier time overcoming fear of failure and reaching your musical goals if you take lessons with a proven guitar teacher who will help you determine the exact steps you must take to reach your goals. Many of the students I’ve taught told me about their ambitious goals, but I could also sense in a lot of them the fear that they may not have what it takes to reach them. To help those students fully, I invested a lot of extra time into mentoring them to develop self-confidence, overcome their fear of failure and finally start to believe in themselves. This change in mindset had an INSTANT and dramatic impact on the amount of progress they were making in lessons with me. Many of these students have since become truly awesome guitar players who I'm very proud of.
Fear Of Being ‘Too Old’ To Become A Great Guitarist
Every year, I get TONS of e-mails from guitarists who are afraid that it is ‘too late’ for them to become great because they can’t play as well as their favorite guitarist who is younger than they are OR because they didn’t start playing guitar at a very young age. These students falsely believe that they have no chance to reach the skill level of their favorite players, causing them to not even ‘try’ to do the things that would get them there.
Here is what I say to them (and to YOU right now):
Guitar players do not fail to become great because of their age. Age is just a number. You only fail when you do not ‘commit’ yourself to doing the work that is required to achieve greatness. Instead of creating an arbitrary barrier for yourself called ‘age’, focus on the skills you need to develop to reach your highest guitar playing goals, learn how to effectively practice them and make a choice to make practicing guitar an important priority in your life. By consistently (and correctly) practicing what is needed to achieve your goals, you WILL learn to play anything you want on guitar, regardless of your age. Read this article about choosing the right guitar playing exercises to learn more about this process.
I’ve taught dozens of students who believed they are ‘too old’ to play guitar, and without exception, those who believed in the truth of what I wrote above all made MUCH faster progress in their playing (and reached their goals in far less time) than those who did not.
Fear Of Being Criticized
Many guitar players are afraid of having their guitar skills criticized and will go to any length to avoid being put in a situation where they might ‘feel bad’ about their playing… even IF by doing so, they severely sabotage their own progress or miss the opportunity to get honest feedback on their guitar playing that would help them! Yes, you read this correctly: people will literally sabotage their own guitar playing progress in attempt to ‘shield’ themselves from this fear!
Here is a perfect illustration of the crippling effects of this fear. Every year I run special guitar/musical training events where guitarists travel from all over the world to train with me for 8 hours per day for several days in a row to MASSIVELY improve their guitar technique, soloing, phrasing and musical creativity. Every time such an event takes place, I see overwhelming positive transformation from literally every single person who attended. At the same time, MANY people talk themselves out of attending these events, even IF they have the time, money and a strong desire to attend and they KNOW the event will massively benefit them. I get lots of emails from such people, who make excuses for not attending, and I can clearly see that every one of their excuses is deeply rooted in fear. These same people email me again later (after the events take place), telling me how much they wish they had attended. It was their fear that held them back from taking advantage of the opportunity to greatly improve their playing that was right in front of them…and that is why they continue to struggle with their musical progress and regret their decision to hide behind their fear.
The fear of criticism even plagues very advanced guitar players who are fearful of releasing their music due to fear of being judged. This is truly sad because in most cases such guitarists are very good musicians already. By becoming trapped chasing the mirage of ‘perfection’ and never releasing their music, they never grow from those experiences and never get the chance to improve their musical skills with each recording they release.
To overcome this fear, do the following:
- Realize that the only way to grow as a musician is to put yourself in situations where you are uncomfortable with your skills and are challenged to improve. Every guitar player who is now great has gone (and continues to go through) this process on a regular basis.
- Realize that perfection in your guitar playing, songwriting or recorded music is something to strive for, but it’s not something you (or anyone else) can ever fully attain. Making mistakes/constantly improving is part of the growth process and you will only become a better guitarist when you accept this. Instead of avoiding mistakes, embrace them as an opportunity to understand how you can become a better guitarist and grow as a musician.
- Become clear about your guitar playing weaknesses and take consistent action to improve in these areas (you can only really do this if you implement point 1 above). Get started identifying your strengths and weaknesses using this guitar playing assessment.
Fear Of Playing In Front Of Others
One of the most crippling fears you can have as a guitar player is the fear of playing in front of other people. You might be able to play something ‘perfectly’ while you are alone in your room, but when others are watching, you might not even be able to play it correctly ‘at all’ due to things like uncontrollably shaky/sweaty hands or sudden forgetfulness. Worst of all, when you are afraid of playing in front of other people, you will generally avoid doing so – causing you to miss out on valuable experiences for your musical growth such as jamming with other musicians, playing in a band or performing on stage.
To overcome this fear, you need to let go of the irrational belief that people are going to ‘make fun of you’ or judge you negatively if you make a mistake. In reality, people who watch you play are generally NOT thinking about you, they are thinking about themselves. They are thinking about how they wish they had the talent to play guitar like you or the ‘guts’ to play in front of others. Most will not even notice if you make mistakes unless you explicitly point it out to them.
Instead of worrying about the negative thoughts others ‘might’ think about you while you are playing, think of every time you play in front of others as an opportunity to practice your performing skills rather than a one-time ‘all or nothing’ chance to play something perfectly. For example, if your hands shake because you get nervous, make it an exercise to try to reduce this each time (and track your results). By approaching playing in front of others as an exercise, you stop focusing on others and start focusing on self-improvement. The more you practice this, the more comfortable you will feel.
Learn more ways to become more comfortable playing in front of others by reading this article on how to overcome stage fright.
Now that you understand how to overcome the fears that keep you from becoming a better guitarist, there is nothing that stands in the way of you and your musical goals. Next, you need to determine the most effective strategy that will bring you to your goals in the least amount of time. Get started right now by taking this free 7-day mini course on how to reach your musical goals.
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