Fake It Till You Make It – How Acting Like a Better Guitarist Can Make You One

If you think about it, all of the techniques you’ve read about in this eBook are based on acting ‘as if’ you were already the guitarist you want to become.

  • You use affirmations to tell yourself you’re already that player
  • You ‘visualize’ the proof in your mind
  • You create physical images of your success with treasure maps and written words.

All of these will activate your mind to seek out the actions, beliefs and feelings that will enable and attract the success you’re looking for with your goals. They kind of program you or lock you on to your target just like a guided missile.

This final method is more about your overall approach to life with your goals as a guitarist in mind. There’s no need to try to adopt all of these suggestions. Look through the list below and add any which appeal to you into your daily schedule.

The Superstar in the Mirror

In the book Rouse the Crowd: How to interact with audiences for gigs they can’t forget, I recounted the story of a college lecturer and one-time pro musician from the 1960’s who remembers waiting offstage to see another band go on ahead of his. The singer and guitarist in this ‘other’ band, aged around 17 at the time, was warming up in front of a full-length mirror. Instead of running through his scales or loosening up his fingers he was looking at himself in the mirror and telling himself out loud how he “owned this stage” how he was “the F****** man….the greatest player and performer any of this crowd has ever seen” and how they would “Love” him. He was acting as if he were already a huge success because that was his goal. In truth he was far from a success at that point in time. He was a college boy in a new and very raw band. However, he and his band went on to sell well over 100 million albums with numerous top 40 singles. The guy in the mirror is still considered to be at the top of his game even now – decades on.

The point is, this guy was acting ‘as if’ he had achieved his long-term goal well before he’d come anywhere near it. Of course, he would have probably been practicing long and hard too and didn’t necessarily go around with an obnoxious ‘I’m a big star’ attitude 24/7. However, he could dial-up the mentality when he needed it.

How can you take something from this and adapt it to your own goals as a guitarist?

The key is to behave in the direction of your goals. So, for example, if you’ve only just started learning guitar you should start to ‘act as if’ you are a guitarist. What could that involve?

Staying In Touch With Your Guitar.

Most ‘active’ guitarists don’t keep their guitars locked away in a case and only get them out when they practice. Instead, they’ll always have them easily accessible. Put simply, the more often you play, touch or even see your guitar – the greater the sense of being a guitarist you’ll feel. If you have to walk past your guitar during the normal course of a day or evening, you’ll be more inclined to pick it up and strum out a few bars in between more formal practicing. I keep one of mine leaning against a wall in the bedroom where I pass it several times over the course of 24 hours. You’ll find that if you have to unpack it every time you want to play, it can become a chore you don’t often get round to.

A Little and Often

Although this book is focused on mental attitude and techniques, you can’t get away from physical practice. To accomplished or experienced players, picking up their axe is as natural as eating or breathing. Ask anyone you regard as a great guitarist and the likelihood is they’ll play most days at some point unless they’re away from where they keep their guitars.

You don’t need to spend hours at a time strumming away – even if you have plenty of time to spare. It’s the routine of playing it every day that will help develop the mindset you’re looking for. Even 30 minutes a day will help you develop this – and of course your technical ability will increase as well.

Personally, I try to get 30-60 minutes in a day although some days it’s a struggle and all I’ll do will be pick it up and strum a couple of basic guitar chords or play a couple of easy guitar songs. Whatever you can manage will help you create that feeling of being more of a guitarist, remember: ‘Fake it till you make it!’

Get Together With Other Musicians

The majority of people who can play guitar well generally want to play in front of others at some point. Even if you’ve no interest in playing to crowds, getting together with other musicians can be great motivation and can also develop into an enjoyable additional social aspect.

So, rather than sitting at home strumming or picking for fun, consider joining up with a like-minded singer, other guitarist or musicians. You don’t need to be a brilliant guitarist to do this. Often you can learn together, like ‘training buddies’. You can even write songs together if that’s your thing. A quick look at the most popular band mate finding websites will show you there are always people looking for every level of guitarist. You’ll find that your motivation and excitement about playing will get a huge boost just from having regular get-togethers with other players. Hanging out with other guitarists and musicians is a positive statement to yourself that you are actually a guitarist and not just someone with an interest in guitar, wishing he could play.

Here are links to a couple of the most popular websites to find other musicians.

http://www.find-a-musician.com/

http://www.bandmix.com/

http://www.band-me-up.com/FIND/musicians/band_members_home.asp

http://www.joinmyband.co.uk (UK only)

You can also check out or even advertise yourself on classified sites such as Craigslist and, if you’re based in the U.K, Gumtree.

Stretch and Challenge Yourself – Or Get Together With Better Musicians

Most of us are happy to stay within our own comfort zones. To improve and learn you need to push or stretch yourself to make sure you get better. Even if you’re already in some form of band or act, you can become a better guitarist through your relationships with other musicians. You can do this by ‘acting’ like a better guitarist in 3 different ways:

1.  Up your game – Choose or write material that is more challenging

Move away from the level of material you can easily play and try something which at first looks beyond your ability. The very act of committing to more difficult material which initially scares you will do wonders for both your level of confidence and motivate you to rehearse more than you would otherwise do. Most importantly though, as you push yourself out of your comfort zone (and it need only be by a small degree at a time), you’ll grow, develop and get better as a guitarist. Work to a deadline for being able to play these. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

2. Get together with more challenging musicians.

Be honest with yourself and decide whether the people you’ve been playing with challenge your ability enough and help you develop as a guitarist or are they holding you back? Are they happy to plod along at the same old comfortable level forever? The better the level of musician that’s around you, the better you yourself will need to be. If you’re serious about improving you might want to give this consideration.

3. Play in public – or play more demanding gigs

You wouldn’t even consider playing your guitar in public unless you believed you were a competent guitarist. So, if you don’t feel that way yet, use what you’ve learnt in this book and ‘act is if’ in the meantime. Consider learning or writing enough material to put on a ‘show’. It only need be small, for friends and family. But the very act of showing what you can do and putting yourself up for viewing and listening to by others is an act of someone who considers themselves worth hearing – someone who’s able to play.

If you’re already gigging but are not at the level of guitarist you aspire to be, then you should think about playing more demanding gigs. I remember when my band was first booked to play the Hard Rock Café for a trial gig and I’d only been playing my instrument for a matter of months. We’d done a handful of other gigs but I knew this was in a different league to the friend’s parties, weddings and bars. The amount of rehearsing I put in, the mental techniques I used and the intensity of my desire to improve in the lead up to that first gig seriously took my playing to another level.

Playing the same old level of gigs (or as we saw earlier, with the same old ‘comfortable’ level of musicians) will do nothing to make you stretch and develop your prowess as a guitarist.

Let me be clear on this though, obviously you don’t have to get in a band or play in public. The fact is, however, that most guitarists I’ve worked with say that they do feel more like ‘real musicians’ when they’re in a band or act. They also find that they practice more often. It’s hard to describe this if you haven’t experienced it. Personally, when I think about my time in between bands or acts I practiced very rarely and of course I wasn’t improving at those times either. I had no goals as a guitarist. Being in a band or playing in front of other people gives your guitar-playing more of a purpose in my experience. It’s your choice of course but if you do eventually decide to go down the route of gigging or if pushing yourself with better gigs is something you want to try, then one of other books Gig-Getter: How to get more gigs than you can play could be of interest.

Hang Out in Guitarist Communities

If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of getting together in person with other musicians, then there are other ways to achieve some of the same benefits. You can take in the feel of being a guitarist by visiting musical instrument shops, trying other guitars out or talking about the equipment with shop staff – just being around other guitarists and guitar-lovers.

Another good idea is to spend a little time in online guitar player forums. Sites such as these below will allow you to look at and discuss particular guitar playing areas or issues which interest or trouble you. You can learn from them and you’ll feel increasingly like someone who calls themselves a guitar player. You may even be able to help others learn or develop.

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/

http://www.guitarforums.com/

http://forums.guitarnoise.com/

http://www.guitarforbeginners.com/forum/

http://www.guitars101.com/forums/

http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/index.php

http://www.musicradar.com/guitars

There are also guitarist magazines you can buy or browse in your local news/magazine store to take inspiration from but you won’t get the interaction aspect obviously.

Just Walk The Walk (in the right gear of course!)

One of the wonderful things about being a musician and guitarist in particular is that we come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and backgrounds and, for the semi-pro or amateurs amongst us, we come from many different professions or jobs. If you’re struggling with leaving behind your 9-5 life enough to immerse yourself in the guitarist mindset, then a mental shift can be achieved by merely changing into clothes that you would more readily associate with a guitarist persona.

For example, if you wanted to become a wealthy businessperson, you’d dress smart (at least some of the time) in good quality clothes and hang-out in places frequented by people who had made it. You wouldn’t wear a hoodie and hang in the local park, would you?

Ideally, your aim should be to have a vision of what you, as a successful guitarist, might look like. It could be long hair, tight trousers and leather or simply T-shirt and jeans. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, maybe even only slightly different to how you usually dress. The key to using this element is to help you ‘feel’ like a different version of you when you’re in guitarist mode.

Acting ‘as if’ is just a mental shift to create new behaviors that you can adopt right away while all your other mental techniques go to work…

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