Ooh the big C word – commitment! Mwah hah hah! Yes, this word can strike fear into the very heart of the otherwise bravest soul. Ok maybe that’s overdoing it a little….. So what does commitment have to do with playing the guitar, I hear you ask. Well, thanks for asking, I shall tell you.
The concept of “commitment” (which means to make a decision and to stick by it, it means to be fully dedicated, to fully apply ones self) features largely through various aspects in the journey of learning the guitar, mastering the instrument and performing with it.
We decide we want to learn the instrument. We decide to play a certain piece. Practicing. Deciding how we want a piece to sound. These all require commitment at one level or another.
Yes, very good. But why is commitment going to help me and my playing?
Ok, here we go.
The students that I teach, who from the very outset have made the decision that “yes, I absolutely want to learn how to play the guitar to the very best of my abilities” are the ones that tend to progress, learn and develop most quickly.
They’ve made that decision for themselves and stuck with it. They’re committed. Their actions indicate their commitment – they make time in their busy schedules for lessons to become a normal part of their life, they lock it in. They turn up for lessons week in-week out, they’re on time or early for their lesson, they’re not making excuses for no or little practice – they’ve done the practice (they also recognise that life happens sometimes and practice becomes challenging to squeeze in from time to time, but that’s ok in the bigger picture), they put themselves into uncomfortable or new performing situations in spite of feeling nervous.
And as a natural result of these committed actions they begin to see results. I’m not talking necessarily about setting the world alight and going from one grade to another in the space of a couple of months. I am talking about making noticeable and marked improvements week to week. And this as a teacher makes my heart sing! Knowing that you’re actually listening to what I’m saying and taking it on board is great!
And that’s a commitment too. Committing to take on board the advice from one’s teacher, committing to take on feedback and direction to help improve your playing, even if its not quite what you think or want to hear. You could choose to filter it out and say “nah”, or you could say “you know what? I’ll listen to what the teacher is saying, really listen, change what I can change and work very hard at it”. Might just work…….
We also make a commitment when we’re learning and playing a piece, and this particular gem I have to thank my own guide, mentor and super-teacher, Ben Dix, for. Decide exactly how you want a piece, phrase, bar or note to sound. Commit to it. Decide on exactly the dynamics you want and commit to it. The audience will feel a bajillion times more comfortable and settled with your playing (as will you) if you’ve already made the decision and said “yes, this is how I’m playing this”. The audience know where you’re going, and will go with you.
So commitment. Yup, can be scary sometimes, but what’s the alternative? As a rather famous sportswear brand say, just do it.