Two Tenets To Live By
Written by David Hodge   

As guitarists, as musicians, we’re always looking for ways to better ourselves. And yet we often miss two simple, yet astonishingly effective (not to mention fun), opportunities to learn.

So if you have a sort of cosmic list of “rules to live by,” I would make certain these two items were close to, if not at, the top:

Never Turn Down The Opportunity to Hear Live Music

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people would rather sit at home and practice or sit at their computers instead of going out to see a local band.
Not only does this get you out of the house (always a good thing), but seeing people who have managed to put together an act, whether as a solo singer/songwriter or as a band, can you inspire you to play.

You also get the chance to talk with other musicians and to network so that when you are ready to go out and perform yourself, you’ll hopefully have made some contacts already. And if you make some good friends, then they will come and support you since you’ve taken the step to support them.

Never Turn Down The Opportunity To Play With Others

Something I hear all the time from students and beginning musicians is “I’d like to play with others but I’m not good enough yet.” I can appreciate where someone who says this is coming from, but the fact is that you may never feel you’re good enough. Playing music is only a competition to those who don’t really care about music. There is always going to be someone who can play better than you can. There are always going to be people who are struggling to get to the level where you are. So do yourself a favor and get past this mindset as soon as you can.

Playing with others is probably the best way to gauge what skills you need to work on next. Timing? Strumming? Lead playing? Following the dynamics of a song? In an informal group setting, you also get the chance to pick the minds of fellow players, to learn new techniques, to see how to use the techniques you’ve learned in a “real world” setting.

Plus, you’ve still got the whole networking thing going!

Ultimately, both of these “rules to live by” come down to honing your listening and communication techniques. When you hear the guitar solo at a live show, can you discern if the musician is putting together a catchy melodic phrase or running scales at a quick pace? How are the rhythm guitarist, bassist and drummer working together?

When you’re at an open mike, is the performer simply strumming or does his or her guitar sound more like a full band, providing bass, lead lines and chords?

The object is to listen and to see what works and doesn’t work. It’s not about how good the players are (although that’s a plus it’s also a bonus), but rather how good the ideas and execution come off. You never know when you might run into a musical idea that inspires you.

It may seem a little late for New Year’s Resolutions, but do yourself a favor and add these two items to your list. Going to performances, whether great or small, and taking part in musical get-togethers will always be something that will help you improve and grow as a musician. You may also find yourself helping others to grow, too.

Plus, and I can’t mention this enough, it’s a lot of fun!


David Hodge is the Lead Editor and senior columnist for Guitar Noise, a free guitar lesson website and musician community.  He also teaches guitar and writes lessons for Acoustic Guitar Magazine.  His first book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing Bass Guitar, came out in September 2006.  To see what he's up to these days, check out his personal website here.





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