Episode 6 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at whether you should work on your strengths or your weaknesses to improve at guitar.
Working on your guitar weaknesses or strengths can take your playing in very different directions, so it’s important to understand how to make the right choice for you.
As you’ll learn in this episode, weaknesses are something you can never completely eliminate from your playing (but that’s okay!). Learning how to properly deal with them will help you enjoy playing guitar more.
Listen to the podcast using the below player or search for Bite-Size Guitar Podcast in any podcast app.
Ask a Question
If you have a question about this episode or any other question about learning or playing guitar, ask it here and I’ll answer it in a future episode.
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- Introduce yourself at the start (eg: Hi, I’m Aaron from Australia …)
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If you want to send me a question in text instead of voice, you can send it here.
Here are some helpful guides to help you improve the quality of your practice sessions:
- How to Plan an Effective Practice Routine: understanding the points covered in this guide will help you get more out of your practice efforts
- How Long to Practice Guitar: find out why longer practice sessions can be worse and how long to practice for best results
- Can You Practice Guitar Too Much?: find out what happens when you practice guitar too much
- How to Practice Guitar Quietly: if you want to practice guitar without annoying other people, read this guide
- How to Practice Guitar Scales: practice scales more effectively by following this guide
- How to Practice Guitar Chords: see how to effectively practice guitar chords
- Setting Up an Ideal Guitar Practice Space: the space you practice in makes a big difference
- 5 Things to Do Every Time You Practice: follow these simple tips to get more out of each practice session
Remember that the goal of this episode is to help you figure out whether you should work on your strengths or your weaknesses, so take your time thinking about what you’re currently good and or not good at. Then decide what you should focus your attention on.
Podcast Episode 6 Transcript
Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 6 of the Bite-Size Guitar podcast.
In this episode, let’s have a look at something every guitarist who wants to get better should regularly think about.
Let’s have a look at whether you should work on your strengths or your weaknesses as a guitarist to improve.
You’ll learn three important things in this episode:
- Why you can never eliminate weaknesses in your playing
- How working on either strengths or weaknesses takes you in different directions
- How to decide what you should focus on
This is a topic that everybody from beginners to advanced guitarists should regularly think about.
Everybody Has Strengths and Weaknesses
Before we look at how to work on your strengths or weaknesses, let’s start with what I mean when I say guitar strengths and weaknesses and why you can never completely eliminate weaknesses in your playing.
In some ways, what I mean by strengths and weaknesses is pretty obvious. Your strengths are things you’re good at on guitar and your weaknesses are things you’re not good at.
As an example, if you’re a beginner and you haven’t learned how to perform bends yet, bends will be a weakness in your playing. You might feel perfectly fine playing through a song right up until you need to play a bend. So in that case, bends are weaknesses.
At the same time, you might feel really confident strumming chords. You can confidently dive into any chord-based song and follow complex strumming patterns with ease. In that case, strumming is one of your strengths. Even if you’re not as good at strumming as other guitarists, it’s still a strength for you.
This all seems obvious, but the problem is every guitarist has their own strengths and weaknesses, not just beginners.
Now as soon as I say that, I know some people will immediately think of well-known guitarists who seem to be great at everything.
Surely virtuoso level guitarists don’t have any weaknesses, right?It’s important to understand that even top-level guitarists who can seemingly play everything have weak areas. They may not seem weak to you or me, but to those people, they will definitely have weak areas of their playing.
If you ask an elite level guitarist if they have any weak areas in their playing, unless they have a massive ego, they will tell you that they do have weak areas in their playing. They might say that they struggle with certain techniques or they aren’t very confident with certain styles of music.
To you or me their weaknesses may still be really impressive, but it’s all relative. What is a strength for one person may be a weakness for somebody else.
This is hard to understand at first, which is why I’m doing an episode on it.
To somebody who has never played guitar or doesn’t really understand guitar, they might feel that you have no weak areas in your playing. They may feel as if everything you play is perfect and amazing.
But I’m guessing you probably don’t feel the same way. There are probably some aspects of your playing that you’re unhappy with or you know you should work on. Somebody may praise you after a performance, but you can probably think of mistakes you made or parts where you could play better.
That’s what I mean when I say every guitarist has weaknesses. As a guitarist, you will never completely eliminate weaknesses in your playing.
There will always be some aspects of your playing that you’re unhappy with or you feel you’re weak at.
The goal of this episode isn’t to completely eliminate weaknesses. The goal is to help you figure out whether you should focus your attention on improving those weak aspects of your playing, or if you should instead work on your strengths.
You Can’t Work on Everything
Now that you understand that everybody has strong and weak aspects of their playing, let’s look at what you should work on.
Think to yourself for a second, in your playing right now, should you work on improving your strengths or your weaknesses?
This isn’t an easy question to answer and the right answer will be different for each person.
The first thing to understand is that you can’t work on everything. You can work on some strengths and some weaknesses, but you can’t work on improving all of your strengths and all of your weaknesses.
If you tried to work on all of your strengths and all of your weaknesses, you’ll quickly figure out that you can’t get very far that way.
To really improve a weakness or a strength, you need to spend time on it. Trying to spread your time over all of your strengths and weaknesses just doesn’t work well.
Working on Strengths vs Weaknesses
So as a simple thought exercise, imagine that from now on you can only work on either weaknesses or strengths, but not both. Which would you choose right now?
A good way of thinking about this is to look at the journey a complete beginner takes.
When a beginner first learns guitar, everything is a weakness. Somebody who has never picked up a guitar before has no strong aspects of their playing.
So a beginner learns to play guitar by working completely on weaknesses. As beginners gradually learn to fret notes, strum chords, play simple riffs and licks, and learn basic techniques, they’re moving from fixing one weak area to another.
Eventually, a beginner guitarist starts to feel comfortable with most techniques and skills. They’ll still feel some aspects of their playing is weak, but they may choose to start focusing on certain styles of music or specific skills.
In other words, at some point, every guitarist starts to turn their attention away from weaknesses and towards working on their strengths.
Now let’s look at two extreme examples to give you a better idea of how what you focus on changes what type of guitarist you become.
Let’s look at an example of what happens if you only work on strengths.
In this example, a guitarist may really enjoy playing blues, so he starts focusing on improving techniques such as bends, vibrato, and learning a bunch of blues licks. By focusing on these areas, they quickly become strengths.
He could spend time working on weak areas such as learning classical pieces, country finger-picking, or heavy metal riffing, but he sees more value in focusing on blues and his strengths.
This should make sense to most guitarists. You’re probably not interested in mastering all styles of music, so it makes sense to focus on the things you’re most interested in.
If he keeps focusing completely on improving his strengths, he’ll gradually become an accomplished blues guitarist. He’ll be weak in other styles of music or other playing styles, but for him, that’s not important. By focusing on further improving his strengths, he can become very good at a few specific things.
Now let’s look at a guitarist who only works on weak areas.
If you were to take this approach, you would identify a skill or technique that you either don’t know how to do or you don’t do well, then work on it until you can do it well. Then once that weak area no longer feels weak, you move on to another weak area.
So with this approach, you keep jumping around patching up weak areas in your playing. You’ll learn the basic techniques and playing styles of different music styles and cover all bases.
A guitarist who takes this approach eventually becomes a well-rounded musician. By working on weaknesses, you eventually become a jack of all trades, master of none type of guitarist. These guitarists are able to play pretty much everything to an extent but aren’t incredible at any one specific area.
By looking at these two extremes, you can probably get a sense of which direction you would prefer to go. Would you prefer to be really good at a few specific things or one style of music? Then focusing on your strengths is the best approach.
Would you prefer to be able to pretty much play anything or enjoy a broad range of playing styles? Then focusing on your weaknesses is generally the better path to take.
The key point is that neither approach is wrong. Working on strengths or weaknesses is a personal choice and your choice will take you in different directions.
How to Choose What to Work On
Here’s a simple way I suggest thinking about working on strengths or weaknesses.
If you want to have more fun on guitar, focus on improving your strengths. Focusing your attention on improving the areas you’re already good at will generally increase how much fun you have playing guitar. When you get better at something you’re already good at, it’s a lot more fun to do that thing.
On the other hand, if you want to be less frustrated with guitar, focus on improving your weaknesses. If there’s a technique or skill that you find frustrating because you don’t feel like you’re very good at performing it, fixing that weakness will reduce how much frustration you feel.
If you can completely eliminate a source of frustration, you’ll enjoy guitar more.
So right now, what’s more important to you, having more fun on guitar, or feeling less frustrated?
This simple question will help you figure out whether you should focus your attention on improving your strengths or weaknesses.
Having more fun or being less frustrated sounds like the same thing, but they’re two very different mindsets and approaches. Thinking about which is more important to you will help you figure out what to focus on.
Your answer may change over time, so that’s why it’s important to regularly think about this question.
This week, whenever you play guitar, take notice of the things you enjoy playing and the things that frustrate you. Maybe a certain technique bothers you and you keep tripping up on it.
Or maybe you notice that you really enjoy playing certain songs or riffs. Take notice of these things and think about what you should focus on.
Should you focus on further building on your strengths to enjoy playing them more, or should you try and work on your weaknesses to feel less frustrated?
If you do this the next few times you practice, you’ll find that it can have a big impact on your progress. You’ll be able to set clear goals on what you want to work on and you’ll probably notice you get more out of your practice.