Sometimes life can become an endless stream of things we think we should do, better do and must do. This sense of duty to our obligations is usually a good thing and keeps us from sliding into the ditches of life.
But what if all of the “should’s” end up crowding out the things we really want to do, those things we are most passionate about?
“Following your passion” is a concept I use for everything in my life, but I think it applies especially to all of our lives as musicians, guitarists and artists. For our purposes as guitarists, the word “passion” can be simply defined as those aspects of music and guitar playing that we find most exciting.
To bring the point closer to home and personalize it consider these questions: What is it that gets your blood boiling with excitement and drives you to pick up your guitar? Forget about any sense of duty to practice or of self discipline to get your practice session done for the day. What makes the hair on your neck stand up and makes you want to play?
Is it a certain style of music and guitar playing that gets you fired up? Maybe it’s 80’s metal, or neoclassical shred, or blues rock or jazz. Or maybe it’s a certain technique that you’ve always wanted to master like sweep picking, legato or alternate picking. Maybe your hearts desire is to become great at improvising and expressing yourself. Or it could be that you are most excited about learning songs and playing in front of people. Maybe you are a songwriter that wants to learn how to record and produce your own music. Perhaps you want to learn every Randy Rhoads solo on Diary of a Madman or every riff on Van Halen’s debut?
Whatever it is that you are most excited about right now, focus 80% of your practice time on that topic and let the other 20% of your time be on things like warm up exercises, going over songs, and those items that need upkeep.
By doing this you will set yourself up for more success because you’ll be fanning the flames of your own passion. This is what should drive you to play guitar and practice. As an example, let’s say that right now you are chomping at the bit to learn or improve your sweep picking. You want to sweep like Malmsteen and all the greats! The first step would be to gather some materials—exercises, licks, solos and sequences—that specifically involve sweep picking. These could be books, videos, digital courses or anything really. The key is to make sure you like the materials. If not, find some sources that you do like and use those.
Then put 80% of your practice time into developing your sweep picking for 3-4 weeks, or until you are ready to move into another area of playing. You can make the decision about how to divide the material up, or find a teacher or a course that can organize things for you. Keep doing this over and over and watch how your desire to play grows, your skills improve, and you become an unstoppable force of passionate guitar playing and music making. The world needs more of that!
“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”
— Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
Until next time,