By: Tom Hess
Let me tell you a little story. Playing guitar never came easy to me when I was younger. I didn't possess anything that resembled, what some would call, 'Natural Talent', or at least I didn't think so. When I attended college to study music, I had been out of high school for four years. I was an average student in high school and was very afraid that I might not do well in college since college work is supposed to be much harder than high school.
On the first day of classes at college, I sat in my music theory class and noticed that the room was completely full of other students who were pursuing degrees in music. I felt intimidated to know there were 50 other people who had played the piano, flute, violin or clarinet longer than I had played guitar. Virtually all of those students could read music well and understood more about music theory than I did then. Later that week, I went to talk to my music theory professor about my concerns regarding my fear that I wasn't sure if I would be able to do well in the class. He said to me, "Most people who go to college to earn music degrees never make it far enough to get the degree. Some fail the music classes. Some drop out and change their major as they come to realize music is one of the hardest degrees to get, so they decide to change their major to something easier (like business, accounting, etc.). Less than 25% of the students in this class will finish their second year of college as a music major." I must have seemed very nervous standing there listening to all of this. He continued, "The ones who make it and become real musicians are not always the best players, not always the most intelligent people and not always the most creative ones either. No. The students who make it are always the ones who have significant desire in beyond what the others have. They have the persistent, relentless drive to become a musician and the solid work ethic to back it up. These are the ones that virtually always make it."
It took several days for all of what he said to really sink into my mind. I was not one of the people with the best grades while in high school. There were other students that were better on their instruments at the time, compared to where I was on guitar back then. When I entered college I could barely even read music!) But I was absolutely convinced that I DID have the intense desire to become a real musician (more than just a decent guitar player) and had the persistence and work ethic on my side. I began to feel very confident that I could do make this happen, and earn the music degrees, and then go beyond that to teach guitar, write my own music, release my own CDs, start my own record company, and tour the world. I didn't know how I would get there yet, but I took it step by step until all of that actually did happen for me. At the beginning of the first semester there were about 50 music majors in my class. At the start of the second semester, there were less than 25. When third semester began the number shrank to 11. At the end of four semesters, only 6 of these people actually graduated, Mike Walsh (the other guitarist in the HESS band) and myself were among the 6 who made it. We all went on to transfer to various universities to ear the next music degree. All of us who graduated had intense motivation and drive to become excellent musicians. There were other students that did not make it whom I thought were highly intelligent and creative and were really good players of their instruments, but they lacked the main things that really matter in the end: The passion, the drive, the sheer determination to get through it all.
It been years now since I finished college. I've reached the musical goals I set for myself back then. YOU can do the same. You DO have potential far beyond what you have achieved so far. The vast majority of you probably don't have any idea what your true potential really is. Over the years, I've had many excellent students. But the ones who went the farthest in music (and those who are happiest about their playing) are the people I was able to convince that WE ALL possess massive amounts of potential. All we need to do is obtain the right tools (this is where a good teacher comes in), learn how to apply them (this is where a great teacher comes in) and have the desire and work ethic to make it happen (this is where YOU come in!).
Rule number 1: Don't try to learn on your own. Don't try to learn solely by looking for free tab or lessons on the internet! If that was all one needed to succeed, there would be thousands of new rock stars in the world today. Sure there are some really good web sites out there that do have real quality on them. Think of these things as aides, but understand that they can never be a true substitute for a great teacher.
Rule number 2: Becoming a great player is a long term process that requires thousands of hours of your practice time and years of learning. It will take far too long to reach your goals without a teacher. A good teacher can/should save you years of aimless practicing, by teaching you HOW to reach your goals faster and better. Please read my previous articles Choosing a Teacher and Do You Really Need a Teacher.
Rule number 3: Besides working with a teacher. Know what steps you need take on your own to become the player you want (and can) be. I won't repeat all of those things here. Please read my article: Why Aren't You a Better Guitarist? It explains all the main things I believe every player should do to reach his/her full potential so if you have not read this one, do it now.
Rule number 4: Do not lie to yourself. Don't tell yourself that you are really going to put in the time, effort and money to do this if you know really deep down that you won't. If/when you decide to invest in yourself and commit to reaching your goals, do it! See it all the way through until the goals are reached. Stay focused, motivated, disciplined and hungry!
Rule number 5: Second only to 'Fear', procrastination is the worst enemy to your moving forward to get the real results you want.
Most people that consider themselves to be truly happy, are the ones that moved forward towards their goals. They are the ones who did significant things to get the results they wanted out of life. Most who fail are the ones that gave up too early and didn't give it 100% of their effort. Where will you be in one year? In three years? In Five years? In eight years? In fifteen years? Hopefully, you will be able to say you are 'Happy'.