80/20 Rule Of Learning To Play The Guitar
By J.P. Kallio
When I was young and budding guitar player, I wanted to learn to play the guitar like Jimmy Hendrix, like Jimmy Page, like so many of those hairy hard rock guitar heroes of the late eighties and early nineties. I wanted my fingers to fly up and down the neck of my guitar. I wanted people to turn around in amazement and be amazed by my technical abilities.
Now, I understand the guitar better than I ever have, yet still I feel I have more to learn than ever before. I am proud of the path I took and how far I’ve got. My relationship with the guitar has changed. Don’t get me wrong I love it more than ever before, but at the end of the day, it is just a tool, just a vessel to deliver my songs with.
But there is one thing I have learned and if I had a chance to give my young self one piece of advice, this would be it: The solos are no more than 20% of your playing, so why do you spend 80% of the time practicing them? I call this the 80/20 rule of learning to play guitar.
Learning to back Irish music was a hard, but great school for me, where I learned rhythm, chords, chord substitution and dynamics of acoustic guitar. You know that famous 10000 hours theory? I’ve done it and more. If I would have stayed on the path of just practising solos, sure I’d probably play some quite impressive stuff, but would it be any good to me as a working guitarist? No!
Learn your chords, drill the rhythm into you with a metronome and train your ears to listen. Build those muscles in your arms, hands and fingers to be able to withstand the hours of playing you sometimes need to do. Yeah, those solos can be impressive, but don’t let them get in the way of the piece of music or the song itself. Don’t do it for your ego, do it for the music. Happy practicing.