What do you think is the biggest thing that prevents most guitar players from becoming great? Not having natural ability? No. Having too little practice time? Wrong again. It’s their FEAR (in multiple forms). Endless amounts of guitar players fail to reach their musical goals for years at a time due to the fear in their minds that blocks the path to success. Before you can quickly become a much better player, you must break down your fears to understand why they exist and why you shouldn’t let them control your musical life.
The following are the most frequent fears possessed by most guitarists and what you must do to overcome them and reach your musical goals:
Fear Of Failing
Tons of guitarists believe from the very beginning that they aren’t good enough to set and achieve ambitious musical goals. When you fear that you can’t learn to play guitar exactly as you want, here’s what will happen:
- You stop pursuing musical goals that you really want and set lower, more ‘achievable’ goals that you think are more realistic.
- You start practicing things that you are already more comfortable with for the majority of your time, instead of working on materials that will force you to become a great player.
- Because you only set ‘realistic’ (small) musical goals, you will never become the great guitar player you COULD become. You’ll form a habit of giving up whenever something becomes difficult because you think you just ‘don’t have what it takes’.
The worst part is, you’ll end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy because you spend so much time focusing on ‘failure’ rather than the things you actually want to achieve. To make sure you do not become overwhelmed with a fear of failure, do the following:
- Only focus your mind on the things you desire the most in your guitar playing (and look ahead to the day when your goal is finally achieved). No matter what, you will always face challenges when you try to achieve great things…but all obstacles can be overcome. If you’ve been working hard to learn something for a long time and you are having no success, it’s not because you lack talent – you just have to use an alternate approach. Change your approach to get different results.
- Determine your exact guitar playing/musical goals, and put together a plan to reach them in as little time as possible. Once you’ve done this, don’t give up until you’ve reached the very end and achieved every last goal. Get started by using the strategy in this article on how to achieve guitar playing goals.
It is much easier to overcome your fear of failure when you take lessons with a top tier guitar teacher who understands what it takes to accomplish any musical goal you may have. Over the past 25 years I’ve helped thousands of students achieve very big musical goals (who were afraid of failure at first). I invested ample time into mentoring them in order to raise their self-confidence and get them to truly believe in their own potential. This changed their mindsets and helped them quickly progress to become killer guitar players.
Fear Of Not Being ‘Young Enough’ To Become A Great Guitarist
Many guitar players come to me each year with concerns that they are too old to become good guitar players. In many cases, these students falsely think that they can’t become great because their favorite guitarists become awesome players at a young age. This causes the student to not even attempt to do the things that would make him/her into a much better player.
This is what I tell them (and YOU):
Guitar players do not fail to achieve greatness because they are ‘too old’. The concept of age is just a mental construct. You only fail to become a great player if you do not dedicate yourself to doing whatever it takes to get there. Rather than allowing ‘age’ to be your excuse for failure, focus on developing the skills you need to reach your goals, find out the best methods for practicing them and make ‘practicing guitar’ a high priority in your life. When you continually practice what is needed to reach your musical goals (in a correct manner), you WILL achieve them – no matter how old you are. Discover more about this process by reading the article about selecting the best guitar playing exercises.
I’ve worked with many guitar students who thought they were too old to make real progress on guitar, and every time, those who believed what I wrote above achieved their goals in a fraction of the time compared to those who did not trust in what I said above.
Fear Of Criticism
A lot of guitar players fear having their guitar playing criticized and will do anything they can to avoid situations where others could judge their skills (causing them to ‘feel bad’ about their playing). They will do this even if it means sabotaging their own progress or missing opportunities to get useful feedback! That’s right: people will sabotage their own potential to become better guitarists because they are afraid of what other people might say!
Here is an example of the harmful effects of this fear: I run various training events for guitarists each year who travel overseas to train with me for the entire day (for several days in a row) to totally transform their guitar technique, soloing ability, phrasing and musical expression. Whenever one of these events takes place, I observe a total transformation in literally every person who attended. At the same time, there are a lot of people who talk themselves out of coming to these events, although they have the time, money and a strong desire to attend and KNOW the event will completely change their playing for the better. I get an overflow of emails from these types of people, who give me excuses for not showing up, and I know their excuses are deeply rooted in fear. Later, most of these people contact me again to reveal that they deeply regret not coming to the event. Since they gave in to their fear about what others would think of their playing, they blocked themselves from a massive opportunity to improve their musical skills. That is why they will continue to struggle to achieve their musical goals and regret their decision to hide behind fear.
Even for guitarists who are very advanced players, this type of fear can hold them back from achieving their musical goals. For example, great players will often delay writing and recording an album (for many years) by chasing ‘perfection’. This is caused by the fear that someone might criticize their music/playing. As a result, they never experience the significant growth one receives from this type of musical activity.
To overcome this fear, do the following:
- Know that the greatest way to become a better musician is putting yourself into situations where you are challenged to grow and improve. This is what the best players do on a consistent basis.
- Understand that perfection is something worth reaching for, but not something you can ever actually ‘reach’. It’s important to make mistakes in order to grow as a musician. Instead of avoiding mistakes, embrace them and utilize them as opportunities for learning how to get better.
- Get a clear understanding of what areas in your playing you need to work on in order to improve. Learn your greatest strengths and weaknesses by using this free guitar playing skills assessment.
Fear Of Playing Guitar In Front Of Others
It is very hard for many guitarists to move beyond their fear of playing in front of others. One moment you could be able to play something easily alone your room and the next you are struggling to play the exact same thing just because other people are watching. Some of the common symptoms of this fear include uncontrollable shakiness, excess sweating or temporary loss of memory. The worst part is, when you fear playing in front of other people, you avoid it at all costs. As a result, you are unable to gain the benefits and musical growth you get from doing things like playing with other musicians, performing in a band or being part of a show in front of a live audience.
To overcome this fear, you must stop believing in the idea that other people (watching you play) are waiting for you to fail so they can ‘make fun of you’ or criticize you. Fact is, the people watching you play are generally NOT thinking about you at all – they are only thinking about themselves. They are jealous of your musical skills and wish they had the ‘guts’ to play in front of others, like you. No one will really notice your mistakes unless you point them out yourself.
The key is to forget about what others might think and use every time you play for others as an opportunity to improve your performance skills (NOT as a once in a lifetime chance to play something 100% perfect). For instance, if your hands become extremely shaky because you feel nervous, make it your main focus to reduce this problem every time you play for others. Each time you perform, track your results on a piece of paper and measure your improvement. By doing this, you eliminate the concern of what other people are thinking and replace it with a concern for self-improvement. Then, over time you will become more relaxed.
Learn more ways you can get better at performing in live situations by reading this article about overcoming musician’s stage fright.
You’ve now learned how to overcome the fears that prevent many guitarists from taking the next step to become better players. Take advantage of this, by applying what you’ve learned here to move closer to your ultimate musical goals. To get more help with improving your musical skills, take this 7 day mini course about achieving musical goals and speed up the process of becoming a better guitarist.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional touring musician, composer and successful rock/metal guitar teacher. He helps guitarists around the world learn to play guitar online. On his website tomhess.net, you can find guitar playing tips, free guitar resources and more guitar articles.