A very common complaint that guitarists have with their playing is this…
Their playing isn't effortless yet.
They might not describe it as this. But they might describe it in terms of problems such as…
- An inability to play in a more relaxed way.
- An inability to play with the degree of accuracy that they would like.
- They feel that their playing is cumbersome.
- They can't play in a fluid manner.
- They've reached a limit to how fast they play.
You get the idea. Guitar playing just doesn't feel natural yet. And do you know what? Based on what my
students tell me when they initially start lessons…a lot of guitarists have this challenge. And I've found that
the cause of this are usually crippling technical problems.
What Is A Crippling Technical Problem?
I define it as this…
Something about your technique that will stop you from playing how you really want, no matter how much
The three key elements of this definition are these…
The problem is related to how you use your body when you play guitar. It is a physical problem (or group of
problems!) caused by things such as…
- How you use your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and other parts of your body while playing.
- Your posture and how you hold your guitar.
- How tense you are when you play.
In my opinion, something is only a crippling problem if it stops you from playing like you would ideally
like to play. For example: If you are a blues guitarist, then anything about your technique that stops you from
being able to bend strings and do vibrato in a smooth and relaxed way would definitely be a crippling technical
Often guitarists have technical problems that can't be solved by more practice. For example: If you have a
goal of playing really fast but you move your fretting-hand fingers excessively, then that is a crippling
technical problem. You could practice for eight hours every single day. But if you don't reduce the size of
your finger movements, then you will never be able play at a very fast speed.
Can Anyone Retrain Their Crippling Technical Problems?
Before I answer this, I invite you to read the following two articles by Jamie Andreas. They address the
topic of changing bad habits. And I think they are very relevant and are definitely worth reading…
All done? Cool.
So let me (finally!) answer the question…
I have a strong belief that ANYONE can retrain his or her
crippling technical problems.
Do I think that everyone will?
Absolutely freakin' not…
Four Common Reasons Why Guitarists Fail To Retrain Their Crippling
They Lack Desire:
If you don't have a burning desire to retrain your technique (and play how you would really like to play),
then it's just not going to happen. You're not going to have the drive to do what it takes to retrain your
technique. Retraining your technique usually requires daily practice. If you don't have enough desire, you
won't do the practice needed.
It can sometimes be humbling to go back to basics to retrain your technique. (Heck…I completely changed the
way I hold the guitar after 15 years of playing!). If someone isn't willing to let go of their ego to get
better, then there's no way they will retrain their technique. It will be too damaging to their oversized ego!
They Have A Victim Mindset:
A victim mindset in the context of guitar technique is when you believe you have no power to retrain your
technique. You believe that your technical problems are permanent and can't be changed. Over the years, I've
had people blame the following things as to why they can't retrain their technique…
- Their age.
- How long they've played guitar for.
- The type of guitar they play.
- Their partner.
- Their flatmates.
- Their job.
- Their star sign. (I'm not freakin' kidding here!).
They Are Unwilling To Seek Help:
Chances are you will need one-on-one help from a guitar tutor experienced in retraining technical problems.
Trying to do it yourself is usually not a good idea. You need to develop an awareness of what you need to do to
fix your problem. And a good teacher can help you do this infinitely more quickly than by trial-and-error.
Return To: Guitar Technique