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What would make you feel you’re now a “Good” player?

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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3460
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Hi all,

As I've squeaked and plucked my way slowly along the path to improving my music skills I sometimes used to wonder how long it would take to be good and what that meant anyway. “Good” is a relative term and there are many possible ways of measuring it. It seems that the answer would vary greatly among the many people I know who play. Can you explain what it means to you?

There's a few suggestions in the poll - and you can tick as many as you like - but if you have other criteria for deciding whether you're getting good, please post your ideas.

For instance, I have one classically trained friend whose view of “good” is very bound up with technique and relative difficulty. He'll practice a particular piece by Bach, not for hours or even weeks but over years, slowly improving aspects and nuances. He was delighted one day to tell me that he'd discovered a small flaw in his technique and that he was now working on it. Sadly, because his skills are not now in high demand, he does a ‘regular' job and plays mostly to himself. But if he plays something well, by his owns standards, then HE knows. That may well be enough.

By contrast, I know some other players whose toolkit doesn't contain much more than a few power chords and some distortion. Their idea of “good” is quite different. It's often seems to be more about attitude, feeling good, and about howling at the world with every decibel at their disposal. The interesting thing is that I don't automatically dislike their music just because I happen to like the classical guys too. Most kids thrashing away at their version of metal music sound pretty dire to me - but sometimes I have to say that it really was good in some way, and achieved exactly what it set out to do. Similarly, despite liking classical music in general, I can find many performances (and many pieces) catatonically dull and not that ‘good' at all, even though they might be technically impressive.

Not being either a screamo metal exponent or a budding Segovia, my own version of good is different again. I want to at least have some basic technical skills, but my general goal is to enjoy making my own music. I want to be able to convey some sense of musicality and have accurate enough timing to be able to get bearable music from whatever modest range of chords and notes I may know at any given time. To be honest I'm not too fussy about how I get the results, and I firmly believe that you can still make very enjoyable and worthwhile music with a very small kit of tools. I think that it's a shame how much the ‘recording star' system has distorted much public perception of music, and overshadowed the value of basic local or family music making.

My own main interests lie in playing in an improvisational way and in learning to write songs. Being able to play informally with others when the chances arise is an aim too. So from my point of view “good” mostly means:

  • a) Having something to say.
    b) Having enough basic tools to be able to say it.
  • Apart from floundering blindly around for the first few weeks, I can honestly say that as soon as I realised what my real priorities were I've enjoyed the whole ride ever since. When I began, my goals were modest. To master a half dozen or so chords and be able to play very basic versions of a few traditional tunes in a crude campfire strummer style. By those standard I scraped my way to ‘good enough' a while back. So I just keep moving the goalposts, but only a little at a time. My current guitar goal is to enjoy it every time I pick it up, and to be just ever so slightly better when I put it down again. :)

    What about you?

    Cheers,

    Chris


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     Cat
    (@cat)
    Noble Member
    Joined: 13 years ago
    Posts: 1225
     

    A long time ago (late 70's) I was playing an electric set...really unique rocky stuff...along with electric carbon fibre violin and cello. It wasn't loud and there were maybe 50 people in this dinnerclub in Memphis. They liked it...the place was all full of industry people...enough so that one a-hole that was talking over everything got punched out by the guy that was sitting at the next table...and HE got some applause.

    I learned in Hippy 101 that this wasn't cool...but I knew then and there that I was getting better!

    Cat

    "Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


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    (@s1120)
    Prominent Member
    Joined: 13 years ago
    Posts: 849
     

    Apart from floundering blindly around for the first few weeks, I can honestly say that as soon as I realised what my real priorities were I've enjoyed the whole ride ever since. When I began, my goals were modest. To master a half dozen or so chords and be able to play very basic versions of a few traditional tunes in a crude campfire strummer style. By those standard I scraped my way to ‘good enough' a while back. So I just keep moving the goalposts, but only a little at a time. My current guitar goal is to enjoy it every time I pick it up, and to be just ever so slightly better when I put it down again. :)

    What about you?

    Cheers,

    Chris

    You know you say a lot right there! I am at the lower part of my climb to becoming a good player. Being there my goals and wants have changed a lot from "just playing something that sounds like something.." to... hey... I might be able to get this down one day. Every day the goal post moves with each little thing that clicks inside me. If myself from a year ago looked at myself now... he would say... "hey... hes not half bad.." but myself today says.. "Ive got a long way to go.... but im progressing.." That being said, I guess the major thing that would make me feel Im good would be being able to pick up the guitar, and feel that im skilled enough to jump right in, and be it play a new song, or do a open mic, or jam with a few guys.... Just feeling sure enough that I wount be imbarassed by my playing.

    Paul B


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    (@rparker)
    Illustrious Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 5492
     

    Impossible for me. Being good lasts as long as an ice cream cone. That's OK, though, because I know how to enjoy the times in-between cones and even know how to have fun during my quest for the next one.

    Perhaps an another analogy, or one close to it. If I learn a skill, I'm pumped. "Gosh, look what I can do!" and "I Rock!" All of that. A few minutes pass on by and all of a sudden I see something and divert my attention to try to get better at the new thing. Until I can do it, I am just below good again and I've reduced previous accomplishments to mere parlor tricks.

    Where I'm lucky is that I allow myself to enjoy parlor tricks.

    Roy
    "I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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     cnev
    (@cnev)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 4478
     

    I made a mistake I wanted to pick the first choice.

    "It's all about stickin it to the man!"
    It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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    (@chris-c)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 16 years ago
    Posts: 3460
    Topic starter  

    I made a mistake I wanted to pick the first choice.

    Just for you, I went back and ticked the box that supposedly allows you to change your vote(s). Actually I meant to tick it from the start, but I forgot...


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    (@chris-c)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 16 years ago
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    Topic starter  

    Where I'm lucky is that I allow myself to enjoy parlor tricks.

    Good one Roy. :D

    Thanks for all the answers so far.

    I think that it's easy to get into the habit of being hard on ourselves and getting stuck on seeing "good" as always a bit out of range of wherever we are now. As Paul (s1120) pointed out, where we are now would have been thought very good to us when we began. Compared to the days when I had to use my right hand to help push the fingers of my left hand into place, and every note was buzzed or partly muted, I'm not just good now I'm bloody fantastic! :D Yet, by some pro standards, I'm still barely getting started.

    If I was trying to teach a young kid, or any beginner, I'd have no hesitation in using the word “good” in the first lesson. If they got a note to sound at all I'd say “Good!” - not “That's barely mediocre, but I suppose it will have to do for now...” Yet, with my own playing I used to be incredibly mean with any sort of self assessment. So it's interesting see how stingy or otherwise we tend to be with giving ourselves any credit, and what our goals are for getting good.

    It took me a fair while before I'd even admit to playing guitar at all. I'd say things like “Not yet, but I'm going to give it a try...” or “I'm just a beginner”... But now I say “Yes, I do”. I'm not quite sure when the change occurred, but it was probably around the time I realised that I was actually enjoying the process and that some of the sounds I made were occasionally quite pleasing. It then seemed that the main difference between me and recognisably ‘good' or even ‘very good' players was mostly the many hours I still needed to put in.

    Another little milestone was listening to a friend and teacher who by any reasonable standards is very good. He's had 40 successful years in the business, played in some excellent ‘signed up' bands, has his own little studio behind the house, etc. I've had the opportunity to watch him work on something new, and - waddya know - he's not perfect either. More fluffs and stumbles than I would have guessed. The difference between him and me is that a few moments later he's nailing it, whereas I'd take months or more and still not quite have his sound. But he has a 35 year start on me....

    Chris


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    (@noteboat)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 4933
     

    I looked over the list... done this, done that. I'm ten for ten (or nine for ten if I leave 'other' blank). But not one of them makes me feel I'm good.

    If I can play what I hear in my head at any given time, or play what's on the page in front of me, or do whatever job I need to do that's guitar related, I feel competent.

    On those handful of times in my life when a solo has just come out of my fingers in a flow that left me out of breath and felt like music was coming through me instead of from me, I've felt exhilarated.

    But if you as me if I'm a good player, I have to ask: compared to who?

    If I start seeing myself as a good player, I might not keep trying to become one. If that happens, just shoot me :)

    Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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    (@trguitar)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 15 years ago
    Posts: 3711
     

    Well, I feel I'm a good player. I may not be but I feel I am. As far as "compared to who" that NoteBoat poses I would have to say that would be refered to by me as if I'm a "better" player. But, I do get the point. There is a wide range of what can be considered good and if you stop trying to get better it is over.

    Things that make me feel like I'm a good player?

    I can play just about any thing I want to if I put my mind to it

    I always have fun

    I can crank up my guitar and make the hair stand up on the back of my neck (probably just static electricity)

    Recent thing that made me feel real good about my playing?

    My buddy at work took a new job in the education department along with another nurse that is a drummer. He said to me that this drummer guy said, "So I hear Terry is a pretty good guitar player?" My buddy said, "No, Terry is a VERY good guitar player".

    That made me feel very special indeed.

    "Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
    grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
    -- The Webb Wilder Credo --


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    (@deeaa)
    Trusted Member
    Joined: 10 years ago
    Posts: 63
     

    I'd like to be able to learn at least SOME theory and notation etc. Haven't managed any in 25 or so years yet.

    Also, it'd be nice if someone in the family, or otherwise near me except a band member, would like my music, want to hear at least some sometimes, instead of the polar opposite that I have to only do anything related to music while I'm alone.

    (Strangers do quite often like my music fine)

    --
    Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

    A couple of my own bands:
    http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
    http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
    http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock


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    (@chris-c)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 16 years ago
    Posts: 3460
    Topic starter  

    But if you as me if I'm a good player, I have to ask: compared to who?

    Compared to me if you like. That's not a very high bar to jump. :)
    If I start seeing myself as a good player, I might not keep trying to become one. If that happens, just shoot me :)

    You're too hard on yourself Tom. You've been a good player for years. It's "great" that you're shooting for now surely? I certainly have no intention of resting on my extremely meagre laurels, but I still allow myself the occasional pat on the back for my modest achievements. I may be an overly generous examiner but I'd award myself a "good" for just hanging in there for 5 years, and because my wife occasional spontaneously says "that was pretty"... bless her.

    Cheers,

    Chris


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    (@chris-c)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 16 years ago
    Posts: 3460
    Topic starter  

    Things that make me feel like I'm a good player?

    I can play just about any thing I want to if I put my mind to it

    I always have fun

    I can crank up my guitar and make the hair stand up on the back of my neck (probably just static electricity)

    Great answer Terry. :D I aspire to something like that too. I can claim the second two, and am getting close to the first (I just have to want reasonably simple things. ). I guess I'd say that I can make enough noises now to be very cheerful about it, but still have enough challenges ahead to keep the journey fresh and interesting. I could die happy now, knowing that I got this far, but I still aim to die a whole lot happier yet!

    Recent thing that made me feel real good about my playing?

    My buddy at work took a new job in the education department along with another nurse that is a drummer. He said to me that this drummer guy said, "So I hear Terry is a pretty good guitar player?" My buddy said, "No, Terry is a VERY good guitar player".

    That made me feel very special indeed.

    Excellent story. I'd be feeling pretty please about that too.

    Cheers,

    Chris


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     Cat
    (@cat)
    Noble Member
    Joined: 13 years ago
    Posts: 1225
     

    This is a tough one, really. I could say it's when you get a job offer from the other side of the planet to head up their commercial music department...or if you get a visit from someone asking you to sit in on their album and they'll pay you...or people telling you they like what they hear. But, nope...my call is when you are all by your lonesome and you HAVE to look at your fingers and chuckle that it's YOU doing that! Yep...it's pleasing yourself.

    There's a little, little place wayyyyyy in the back of your mind where there are no pretensions, no BS. That's the guy that has to like it...

    Cat

    "Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


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    (@chris-c)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 16 years ago
    Posts: 3460
    Topic starter  

    TBut, nope...my call is when you are all by your lonesome and you HAVE to look at your fingers and chuckle that it's YOU doing that! Yep...it's pleasing yourself.

    There's a little, little place wayyyyyy in the back of your mind where there are no pretensions, no BS. That's the guy that has to like it...

    Cat

    Nailed!

    Give the man the coconut, and engrave his name on the trophy.

    I can still remember struggling through the first months, or however long it was, trying to get my reluctant old fingers to go where I told them to, and wondering if I was wasting my time trying to learn guitar. One day I was plugging away, and as I looked out of the window my mind strayed off to who knows where. My gaze wandered around the landscape for a little while, enjoying the natural bushland around the house and day-dreaming about something or other. When my attention returned to the room again I was astonished to find that my fingers were still playing.

    I knew then and there that I would get where I wanted to. It was a moment of great joy, despite being musically modest. It sounded good to me, it pleased "the guy who has to like it'' and it gave me the confidence to trust the judgement of my ears and my subconscious. It was related to a core element of "good" that I'd been hoping for but not really expecting that I'd find. But I now know that the "good" that matters most to me is already there - in my heart, soul, brain or whatever you'd like to call it. There's music in there and I don't need to copy other songs or players, just to work on the tools to get it out. Sounds corny but it's true. All the work since has been about improving skills in the fingers, and adding even more information to the database.

    Thanks very much for pointing that out. I now have a clearer picture of why I often allow myself to think I'm good even though I still have very modest skills. "The guy who has to like it", and who doesn't lie to himself, does like it, mistakes and all. But I still think your story of the guy getting punched for interrupting the music is a hard one to top. Somebody sure thought your music was good alright!

    Cheers,

    Chris


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     cnev
    (@cnev)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 18 years ago
    Posts: 4478
     

    Well everyone's idea of good is different but like Cat said you have to please yourself and personally I have not totally pleased myself yet but I'm getting there.

    If I ever get to the play anything, anytime, anywhere state then I'll consider myself good.

    "It's all about stickin it to the man!"
    It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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