In this series of articles, I want to talk about some common misconceptions new students can have about learning how to play the guitar.
Many of your guitar students will have some incorrect assumptions when they come to study with you. These misconceptions can affect how fast they make progress on the instrument and whether or not they stick with you. If you can get in front of these potential “student killers”, you can dramatically increase the chances of success with your students, and it won’t hurt your retention rates, either.
Let’s start with the first misconception many beginners carry into their guitar lessons: the myth of “genetics”.
Common Misconception #1 – I Don’t Have Natural Talent
There are several “myths” floating around about playing the guitar…some people might even call them “lies”. The biggest lie is that you have to be “born” to play…in other words, you must have natural talent. Although it certainly helps, the truth is that it doesn’t require ANY natural talent AT ALL to be a good guitar player!
Everyone looks at people like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai and Eric Clapton and assumes that they were true “child prodigies” who picked up a guitar at age 3 and automatically knew how to play it. In fact, those guys (and every other guitarist in the world, too) had to WORK HARD to develop the level of skill they perform with. Even though they make it look easy, it literally took them YEARS of study and practice to get where they are today.
That’s good news for your students! It means they don’t have to be graced with infinite skill by the “guitar fairy” at birth to be a good musician. These are skills that can be LEARNED, STUDIED and PERFECTED by the average person, as long as that person is willing to work hard, stick with it and approach the instrument in a smart way.
Granted, a little bit of natural ability doesn’t hurt…but even players who seem to be able to easily master one aspect of the guitar have to work just as hard as the rest of us at all the other aspects. Just because someone can play fast scales, for example, without too much effort, doesn’t mean they won’t have to work just as hard (or harder) than you will to master music theory. My point is simply this: if one of your students really wants to be a good guitarist, they can absolutely reach that goal! They don’t have to be a child prodigy or have any natural musical talent at all.
Common Misconception #2 – My Hands Are Too Small (or “My Fingers Are Too Short”)
Here’s another common complaint I hear people use all the time: I could never play guitar because by hands are too small (or my fingers are too short…too FAT…TOO FEW!) This is based on the same misunderstanding that we just talked about…that somehow, you have to be born with something “special” in order to become a great guitar player.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how big or small your hands are. There are guitars you can buy that a small child can comfortably play. If a certain guitar neck feels too wide for your hands (or too narrow), there are plenty of others to choose from.
And actually, you can get used to just about anything if you stick with it for long enough. It might be a little easier at first if your hands are larger and your fingers are longer, but here’s the honest truth: it’s difficult for EVERYONE at the beginning! No matter who you are, the first time you pick up a guitar and try to play, it will feel strange…difficult…foreign to you. No matter how big or small their hands are, your students will have to follow the same learning curve everyone else does. People who want to give up because they think playing the guitar is too hard will often use their hands and fingers as an excuse.
Think about someone like Helen Keller…who was deaf and blind, but managed to become a great author and see tremendous success in spite of her handicaps. Believe me, if Helen Keller could rise from the ashes of of her disabilities to find true success, your students can DEFINITELY learn how to play the guitar with the fingers and hands they have!
It probably won’t be easy at first, but like anything in life that’s worth doing, anyone can be successful with the guitar if they don’t give up! Trust me on this…I’ve been playing for over 20 years and I had to deal with the exact same things when I first started out. If I overcame those difficulties, then ANYONE can…including your students.
So remember, it’s not WHAT you were born with that matters…it’s what you DO with what you’ve been born with. Help your students take their desire to play, the abilities they have and the hands and fingers they were born with and become the guitar player they’ve always wanted to be.
I’ll have some more common misconceptions for you in part 2 of this series.
OK…now it’s time to hear from you. What kinds of misconceptions have you come across in your own guitar playing or with your students? How did you handle them? Post a comment below and let me know about it.