Posted March 26, 2016 by James in Blog

Just play the guitar!

guitarist playing
guitarist playing

efore you stop reading and close this post, hear me out.  I don’t want you to cancel your subscription or stop visiting Guitar Verdict.  I want to talk about something that many guitarists, including me, can suffer from.

  1. Reading too much about guitar
  2. Watching too much about guitar

When I say “reading”, I’m talking about blogs, manuals, lessons and tab.  When I say “watching”, I’m talking about YouTube and DVDs.  Now I’m not for one second suggesting that these sources don’t offer amazing benefit and value, they do.  The amount of freely available material now is phenomenal.  But the thing about guitar is that your ability to play will come largely from 2 things:

  1. Tacit knowledge
  2. Muscle memory

Tacit knowledge is something that is hard to convey in written form using words and diagrams.  The opposite of tacit knowledge is explicit knowledge, which can be easily represented and comprehended.  An example of explicit knowledge would be “Guitars are made of wood”.  An example of Tacit knowledge would be the major scale.  “But wait” I hear you say…you can easily convey music or instructions for guitar using notation/tab.  Well, you’re right in one sense.  It is easy to represent almost everything about a piece of guitar music using notation.  However, that’s only part of the equation for learning.  The other part is in understanding how that information translates to playing.

Muscle memory is when your muscles (in this case in your fingers) are able to execute a skill or melody without you really focusing on it.  Think back to when you learned your first chords.  You really had to concentrate hard to get it right (if you’re learning chords now, stick with it!).  It was the same with chord changes, licks and even strumming.  But as you practice, your muscles “remember” those chord positions and scales and eventually you don’t really need to think about it, it just happens.

Your ability as a guitarist will come not just from reading and watching, it will come from trying those things yourself and only through practice and repetition will you finally come to understand it.  We’ve all had those moments when you’re trying to learn something, either in school, at work or in regular life.  That moment when the penny drops…”ooooohhhh, I get it”.  Guitar is exactly the same.  You need to read or watch something, then put it into practice.  You may think that you get it at first, but at some point, that tacit knowledge will become understood and you’ll have that same epiphany.

So don’t stop reading or watching.  But instead of continually reading and watching…make sure you don’t forget the most important step.  Pick you guitar up and play it.  You’ll be amazed at what your body is learning even without you being aware.  Your fingers and ears are working and learning together and subconsciously, you’re becoming a better guitarist.