What's the point? 🤔

Community pillar and Nordic axe-god @Kasper recently remarked
“It is my strong opinion and recommendation that people should strive to become better all the time. I mean, surely that must be the purpose for everybody around here?”

At first glance that seems self-evident.
I mean, we are on a website designed primarily to teach people with no previous experience how to play guitar. On top of that there are so many further lessons to help folk build upon whatever skills they have and progress in so many directions. Everyone’s here to learn. Case closed.
Except…
What about all those people who enjoy playing guitar but aren’t getting better? Or are even getting worse? The initial assumption implies that everyone in these categories will be classified as ‘failures’ or at least not achieving their aims.

It’s a simple fact of life that applies to every skill we learn:
You go from zero to improving (to whatever level, usually with multiple peaks and troughs) and then decline (at varying rates) back to zero (death).

I love to ski. I started when I was four or five in Beirut. When I lived in Switzerland, I had a lot more access and became quite good. My skills even continued to improve (with peaks and troughs) when I moved to Dublin, maybe into my forties. Now pushing 60 with an arthritic hip, I haven’t skied since before Covid and I am nowhere near my previous abilities. However, put me on a snowy slope and I know I would still be able to get as much enjoyment now as I ever did in the past.

The point is to engage with whatever activity you undertake to the best of your ability. Your satisfaction will come from what you put in, not what you get out.

Of course, ‘getting better’ at anything is a rush, but it’s a side-effect, not the point. As soon as it becomes the goal you set yourself up for disappointment/disillusionment somewhere further down the track.

Our beloved Community mentor @Richard_close2u has mentioned on numerous occasions how he used to practice hours on end, honing his skills and how he feels rusty in comparison. (I think I remember Justin expressing similar thoughts). Why do we admire them? Because they fully engage with what they are doing at that moment, whether it’s playing or teaching.

I’m terrible at setting goals in my guitar learning. I rarely look at lessons but I do enjoy playing, learning songs and engaging with a wide variety of folks in guitar-centered discussion/activity. I am still slowly improving in some areas and that gives me great pleasure. I hope to still be clogging up AVOYP when I get even worse! :wink:

Enjoy the process people- even when things might not seem to be going in the right direction :smiley:

(The length of my recent posts reflects the time it’s taking some of my ‘collaborators’ to get their contributions to me in my latest ‘project’. I’ll stop now. Promise. :rofl:)

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Well said Brian and…

you know what Justin says…“Perfect starts slow” :wink::blush::sweat_smile:

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As with anything, one gets out what is put in. :smiley:

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This is so spot on. If you only focus on that difficult song that you want to play then it’s likely to be a long, hard road ahead and you might quit before you get there. If you focus on enjoying the journey then it won’t matter whether you end up being able to play that song or not. Perhaps you’ll have taken one of the side-roads along the way and find a different style or genre that you enjoy more

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Hi Brian ,…
That thought also arose in my brain,.
But still,…In that thread,…
and in general for most people who come here as a beginner,… :thinking:…everybody ,…only that word triggers you I think…

And when I read it I also immediately thought of you :grin:,… I mean this well of course,…you often say it yourself that progress in playing is not the goal for you,…I would want to say a lot first(but my first I accidentally deleted that long story) and I’m done with typing for a while,…I’m going to practice now :innocent:)
Greetings

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Glad to have drifted your way Brian :slightly_smiling_face:

Loving the process is the point for me too, I’ll let the currents worry about where I end up…

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I do so love to read and then consider your musings, Brian, always thoughtful and though-provoking.

The idea that life is circular, from birth to death, a process of growth and decline, seems reasonable but not necessarily applicable to me when I think about my guitar adventure. Sure I knew next to nothing 6 years ago when discovering JustinGuitar, now I have improved and gained some level of ability, but in time should my attention shift or age impact on mental and physical capacity, then I may decline to near zero ability again.

As an aside my father-in-law was allegedly a good pianist in his youth. He made other choices. Late in his life, fingers limited by arthritis and years of woodworking, he was moved to sit down at the piano in my sister-in-law’s lounge. He played a few bars, boogie woogie piano. Wow, I thought, awesome. And almost as soon as he started, he stood up and declared that he could no longer play, and never touched the keys again. I’d surmise that he did not find enjoyment in playing at a greatly reduced proficiency, even though I thought it was great.

So for me satisfaction comes from playing and improving through the process of playing on a regular basis, even if my ability to play and sing remains at the end of 2022 largely what it was at the start. That is what I have got out, and for sure what I get out is a measure of what I put in. What I don’t do is couple my satisfaction to particular destinations (goals) to which I set dates by which I should reach (achieve) them. In that for me it is the journey (process) not the destination, and the rate at which I improve doesn’t trouble me (maybe that is just self-serving, knowing how little energy I put into structured daily practice vs playing, singing, and noodling).

So I tend to agree with Kasper but maybe would word it with fewer 'should’s and strong words like ‘strive’. We all come with different aspirations and nuanced intentions, all of which are fine.

And in the context in which the remark was made, I appreciate all feedback that may help me improve. It is helpful if such feedback is pitched at an appropriate level for me, where I am not where Kasper is. Encouragement is also invaluable, even if it is just a ‘pat on the back’ for showing up and playing, or to recognise some small improvement.

It may be fair to be critical of my lack of dedication, discipline etc, and for not following suggestions, doing more of what some may say I should be doing. But I am enjoying my journey, it serves me well, to continue to enjoy and improve at my own pace.

I suspect I may largely be saying what you said in my own words, Brian. In any respect, I continue to enjoy not only your musings but your music, and have enjoye your improvement since first showing up here with your nylon string and embarking on the journey. And look at you now with a guitar collection, amps, pedals, and collaborators.

I shall be on the look out for this latest production, when said collaborators get it together and provide what you ae waiting for.

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Hi ,a little more…
With how many people do you read “hi, I am… I think my level is good and I have no wanting to get better” ,…
When that time comes and you don’t improve at all anymore or you start playing worse ,…of course everyone will be welcome ,…but for everyone here is getting a little better in any music field is really a goal.some fast some very slow and some just hoping on a maybe…

And the few(if there are) that really don’t want that,(tell me where they are :face_with_raised_eyebrow: :grin:)…well they confirm the rule…

And in the whole context of that other topic, it is also about people who do ask for feedback, … post many videos and always stay on the same level, and say in advance that they are just getting there have started, it is not actually finished etc,…

More than enough said…when does the shooting start? :grimacing:

Greetings,…

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A sense of community evolves around a certain common denominator.

I don’t think it is “getting better” but more something like “enjoying playing guitar”.

Agreed, not everybody wants or needs to get better. “Getting better” is a motivator for many but not necessary for everybody to enjoy it.

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At this point I’m still very much interested in improving my guitar skills. But I doubt I’d be as interested if I weren’t having fun on the journey, enjoying the learning process. This quote brings it together for me. From James Norbury (Big Panda and Tiny Dragon), with a disclaimer that I don’t know the book(s), just the quote, found by googling journey vs destination. It’s a nice comment on this community -

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BAM! I could not agree more. Certain things, yes, you may want to / need to improve. But there are things/activities - and it is all personal - that improving is secondary. For me, people see my guitar and ask “oh, you play?” and i always say “actually, no, i practice a lot”. And i love every minute. Some nights, i just do scales to a beat a feel great. LOL

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@SILVIA
@Malz
@mattswain
@liaty
@Karende
thank you for your company my fellow travelers :smiley:

I believe you accused me of engaging in sexual intercourse with ants many moons ago.
Do you think a mierenneuker changes his spots?!? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

… and both of us have relatively short guitar guitar lines, my friend :laughing:
Indeed we have much in common, guitar-wise as well as many outlooks on life and you provide as equally thoughtful (and long) commentary as I do :rofl:
Cheers for the engagement and vote of confidence for improvement.
I wouldn’t hold your breath for the collaboration- I hear my piano player left for Marrakesh this morning :roll_eyes: :rofl:

I will not shoot you, Rogier.
I wouldn’t hurt an ant. (Well, unless it was consensual neuken) :wink:

This.
I did come here to learn and ‘get better’. I’m staying for the company that @Mari63’s cartoon so elegantly depicts :smiley:

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Some people are happy being average and if that’s what makes them happy that’s OK. But I’m happy that (insert your favorite musician, poet, artist, writer etc here) strive to be the best that they can be. The world and this forum would be very boring if everybody was happy being stuck in neutral.

Very few here will reach Kaspers level of playing, but to not try and be the best you can be seems pointless to me.
To quote Yoda
“Do or donot there is no try.”

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“Getting Better” at the guitar doesn’t have to mean better technique. We can “get better” by learning new songs (that we play just as badly as the ones we already know) or by buying a new guitar and learning to play that one as badly as the ones we already have. :slight_smile:

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A very interesting topic Brian and I do like your take and refreshing outlook on things. For me personally I did not start learning to play with any great notions of becoming a rock god or a shredder on guitar. I think starting to learn at the age I did (47) served me better than had I started at 18 and doing it with ideas of becoming a rock star or to impress someone.
I had played competitive sport, mostly rugby until age 40 and was looking for something to fill that void when I stopped. I had always loved music and just got up one day trotted down to guitar center in Chicago and walked out with a cheap guitar. Some drunks on the L (train) ride home asked me to play them something :joy:.
I am also one who doesn’t set goals for myself and have just been enjoying the journey rather than wondering where the destination will be. Perhaps I will know when I get there but right now that doesn’t matter.
On the subject of improving I think we are all improving, even if it just playing open chords, and after a period one realizes that you are still only able to play open chords but without looking at the fretboard, well then that’s improvement.
The most important thing for me is not wondering how good I will eventually be, but getting up each morning or coming home in the evening and looking forward to picking up my guitar and just having a little fun, as well as having a hobby for life. It’s also a lot safer than rugby :rugby_football: :joy:.

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The point is to find your own voice on the instrument. After that you can help others do the same which in turn allows you to get better at playing with others. That is truly something worth striving to get better at. Practicing to become a better note-by-note song regurgitator, no matter how accomplished, would be rather pointless IMHO. Either way, live your best life. It’s all good. :slight_smile:

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The point, for me is to make music, and along the journey to play music with others, and enjoy such company as may be. At the moment I am not making music with others apart from on here, and for that I am grateful. Joining this community has provided me with a connection to guitar/ music minded people and though still considering myself a newbie, the more time spent reading and watching/ listening to posts the more inclusion is felt. Music has helped me through some dark times and I am gratified to have found this community, with all its wonderful diversity and encouragement.

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What in interesting dilemma it is. Using @Kasper as an example, it’s pretty fascinating how diverse this community is in its musical taste, proficiency level, etc. I think Brian’s question is quite philosophical, like trying to find the meaning of life.

There’s just no one answer to why someone plays music or what “getting better” means. We should bear in mind that Justin’s website and this community are not a conservatory with clearly defined admission/graduation criteria and examinations.

JG is just not a school where you cannot afford to regress or divert from the curriculum at will. By and large, I think that’s a plus given that most of us are adults who have other things to do besides learning music and we know what we are interested in / what our major goals are. However, this entails that the criteria of the various grades and lessons are less strict and after grade 1 most people can sort of gravitate to the topic of their interest more freely than at a traditional school. As a result, we may have quite a different set of skills despite learning from the same teacher.

Like, I can’t do tapping or pinch harmonics because I’m just not interested in the sort of music that typically uses those techniques, so I wouldn’t have much use for them. Does that make me a worse musician? Objectively, probably yes since those 2 items on the list of my guitar skills have big red exclamation marks next to them. Does that worry me? Not very much. So in that sense I may not be getting better.

But we all may be getting better at expressing ourselves in the idioms we like and are interested in, even unconsciously. I think that one of the biggest advantages of JG is to teach not only how to play music but also how to learn music (or anything else) and to become more or less independent. That means we should be able to tell if we are getting better or not, and to know where we need to improve ourselves, whether in a technical or artistic sense.

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If a person is on the path to finding their own voice on the instrument what ever they do is extra-ordinary. No one would be doing the same things in the same way. People may like or dislike what you are doing, but the “rock radio ready” and other goal posts and yardsticks no longer apply. Stylized cover versions are the gateway drug to finding your own voice.

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And some people are happy playing open chords to sing along with their favorite artist. That’s what makes them happy and there is nothing wrong with that.

Others like to learn from their favorite artist complex solos to perfect their own voice. That’s what make them happy and there is nothing wrong with that,

Others like you play what ever makes them happy and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But say your way is the only way and criticizing others for how and what they are learning is just wrong.

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