Darryl Dominguez | It Sounds bad until it Sounds Good: the first guitar lesson and my definition of improvement.
guitarist, composer, teacher (505)-400-6217

guitarist, composer, teacher (505)-400-6217

It Sounds bad until it Sounds Good: the first guitar lesson and my definition of improvement.

IMG_0983It’s hard until it’s easy…

It sounds bad until it sounds good…

  …Your nervous and awkward. Your fingers hurt. You sound terrible. And your sitting with a an audience of one, your guitar teacher, who knows how bad you sound…

From your very first guitar lesson the truth reveals itself: This is going to take some time. And effort.

Oh, and there’s some discomfort involved…

Is this what I signed up for?

In a word: yes. It’s often the hardest thing to convey to a student, the idea that in choosing to play the guitar you’ve decided on a great way to improve yourself. And just like a new exercise routine, meditation, or a new career, learning music requires patience, commitment, and delayed gratification. As with anything in this arena, the results you desire will come so long as you meet these requirements. Talent helps, but it doesn’t guarantee anything (it really is overrated). I’ve known many talented, mediocre musicians. I often tell my students “the more I practice the more talented I seem to become.”

It’s hard until it’s easy…It sounds bad until it sounds good…

I’d love to tell you that when I first picked up a guitar the clouds parted, a shining bright light enveloped me and a commanding voice spoke: “You will be a great musician. You were born to play the guitar. And yes, music will be effortless for you”

Actually I grew up imagining this scenario to be true for all my guitar heroes. They were born to play the guitar. It’s easy for them. They didn’t need guitar lessons. And it may well have been true for many players but it most certainly wasn’t true for me! My humble beginnings on the guitar included sore fingers, rhythm varying from terrible to nonexistent, and zero sense of pitch (I’m laughing nervously at the sheer amount of truth in this sentence! ). And for me it was massive amounts of effort. My saving grace was putting in so many hours of guitar practice everyday because I loved the sound of it so much, regardless of my dreadful lack of ability. I obviously improved but it took quite a while because I refused to take guitar lessons until I studied music in college (big, big mistake; my students learn what I taught myself in a fraction of the time it took me).

Improvement is uncomfortable. It’s a process of leaving our safe, comfortable routine and applying our efforts to doing something, repeatedly, that we can’t yet do. And so we fail, we try again, we fail, we try again. Not the greatest recipe for feeding our ego, but this is how we get better at the guitar. I’ve never seen anyone not improve who simply accepted the discomfort and stayed with it!

Of course the discomfort I’m referring to is mostly directed toward the ego. Your fingers hurt only briefly when first learning to play the guitar.  With the guidance of a good teacher you are likely improving with each practice session (although you may not always feel this way in the moment). The only  real “pain” is the fact that you are not as good as you’d like to be right now. No threat, no risk. Just a little ego bruising.

So as you practice and hit that chord wrong yet again, remember that you probably will sound bad until you sound good. This is improvement. Most importantly, don’t make a huge deal of it and try to enjoy yourself because that is whole point!


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