5 Things I wish I knew when I first started playing Guitar/Music by Cam Bird
This is a bit of a tricky article to write because it means getting stuck into some frustrations or regrets in my 20+ year playing journey and looking at some of the mistakes or set backs that have happened along the way. The goal is to try and set you guys up with some knowledge so that you can reach your musical goals FAST and quicker than I could. So lets get stuck into it
1 - Don’t suppress your dreams, goals, desires
This was a big one for me. I was always kind of scared of music in a weird way. I had a natural talent and ability with it during high school and the music teachers and staff at the school could see that, but me being young couldn’t.
I did well in school in general and thought that I could suppress my love and desire for music and choose a safer and more traditional path. This led me to a few careers I came to hate and burn out in and this constant battle to keep music alive in my life.
Now you don’t have to be like me, dedicating your life to music and doing it professionally. But if you genuinely love music, you genuinely want to play guitar and have goals that are creative or musical, you have to listen to it and see them through. Its the only way you will know if its for you or not. Don’t suppress this stuff, the more you suppress, delay, put off, procrastinate, the more it builds up and yearns inside of you to come out, and often it just comes back stronger at some point and can cause damage in doing so because it has to fight you and that internal suppression to be heard.
I see this a lot with people wanting to learn the guitar. They go through a battle early on where they try and learn and teach themselves, they hit a big brick wall, emotions kick in and they hit what I call “the dip” in the playing journey where things become challenging and not so easy for a bit.
If you get through the dip, you’ll play for life, if not, you’ll keep bouncing back and forth. throwing the guitar down and back in its case for weeks, months, years in frustration and anger, then come to regret it only to pick it up again realising it was a mistake and then having to work harder (particularly emotionally) to get back to where you were and then try and break through the same barrier that got you last time.
Don’t suppress! It creates twice the work!!!
2 - Don’t ever be afraid to invest in your playing
This was a big one for me at certain points of my journey. I strongly believe in continually investing in myself. Its what I call a “professional” behaviour and if I ever see a “pro” not doing it, it makes me want to steer clear of them because a true master knows that the more he knows, the less he knows.
Continually investing in yourself, continually challenging yourself keeps you grounded and humble. It keeps you hungry. It keeps the spark, joy, inspiration and innovation in you.
There are many different ways to invest in yourself and your playing. Here are a few examples:
-Environment. Where you play guitar is important. Are you practicing in a messy bedroom with heaps of stuff lying around, or are you investing in the space in which you perform and actually feel comfortable and enjoy spending time in? I know that when I didn’t have a home studio set up properly, I wouldn’t play guitar. This was a problem when I was share housing more. I didn’t actually feel comfortable to practice and be vulnerable and make mistakes. You’re practice environment is extremely important and it needs to be a space in which you can focus.
-Gear. The better you sound, the better you will feel when playing which is important. I often find gear and tone will inspire new ideas and ways of playing in me.
-Education. You always have to be investing in your knowledge and we’ve never had a better time to do that than right now. When I grew up and learned as a beginner I was forced to find just a local teacher, and try and learn through tab books. YouTube didn’t really exist just yet and the access to the information and resources and support we have wasn’t what we have now. We are truly spoiled right now and live in an amazing time.
-Technique. This is the hardest and where a teacher is important and why I still have teachers I work with. Invest in your technique. It will make you more comfortable on the guitar, it will open up your abilities for new styles, genres, licks, speeds or ways of playing and keep the guitar journey fresh and fun for you.
-Support. Find people who bring out the best in you. I’ve had horrible relationships where I had people very close to me tell me that music was stupid, that my goals with it were a waste of time. Get rid of these people ASAP, they are toxic.
3 - Its a marathon not a sprint.
This is very important for beginners and even intermediate players because when you first start the perceived progress is HUGE and very fast. It feels like things go at the speed of light. Your first riff feels amazing and comes quick, then your first song, your first solo. Then it feels like things slow down, mind you they don’t really, but the gratification that was there at the start does.
You’re still learning riffs, you’re still learning new things but the same buzz isn’t there. The gratification actually continues to slow down the longer you play, so its very important to understand this and know that it is a marathon and not a sprint.
4 - Find balance in your playing and practice.
I know some incredibly technical players with no feel and horrible song writing skills. I know some incredibly knowledgeable musicians who can tell you everything about theory but can’t create anything to save themselves. I know some amazing players who don’t understand how to record themselves or promote themselves and then go without an audience.
Balance to your playing and musicianship is everything. I try and find all of these areas and understand that they are part of being a modern musician and always strive to improve them and learn more in them
To be a modern musician you can no longer just sit in your room or get out and play shows and expect things to come to you. You have to be more entrepreneurial and multi-disciplined/skilled. Enjoy the learning behind all of these areas ;)
5 - Its ok to be different
Own who you are. Own that you’re different. You might be the odd one out in your circle of friends who likes rock music, who dresses different, why? because music changed you as it does all of us who feel called to it. Own it. There is only one version of you, and you only get one shot at this to enjoy it so enjoy it and enjoy the journey. Don’t beat yourself up for not being someone else, or not where you think you should be, this will kill your progress. Own where you are and work at it and enjoy it!
Cam Bird is a Recording Artist, Producer, Composer and Guitar Instructor from Melbourne Australia.
Merch Store: https://teespring.com/nl/stores/cam-bird
Natasha is the owner of Melbourne Performing Arts Academy. Inspired by Orff and Kodaly metholodlogies and music professionals around the globe, she strives to bridge communities through music educcation