As guitar players, we have an innate tendency to compare ourselves to each other. Whether it’s tone, technique, career status, or something else, we’re always trying to measure our musical situations against those around us. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it can prevent you from finding and embracing your sound on the instrument, so I’d like to suggest a way you can conquer this obstacle.
I came to a realization one day while watching a video of Nick Johnston playing an absolutely ridiculous lick in one of his videos on Facebook. The video was of Nick in the studio laying down a solo for a song on his upcoming album, Remarkably Human, and I couldn’t get over how effortlessly he was playing. I wished I could have written that music.
This is a feeling I think a lot of us understand, because we all have guitarists we look up to and try to emulate at times. As I was having these thoughts, I began to feel a little discouraged.
Suddenly, I found clarity in one simple fact: the music in Nick’s head and the music in my head is completely different. What’s more, Nick can’t hear the music in my head, which gives me just as much musical validity as he has, despite his more advanced technical prowess.
If I was somehow imbued with the majestic skills I had been pining over in Nick’s video, it would completely change the music inside me, effectively destroying the musician I am. I would no longer have original music that felt good (to me) to create; I’d simply become a conduit for someone else’s ideas, which is a direct contradiction of what it means to be an artist.
The difference between gleaning inspiration and yearning for the skills of another is an important distinction to make, and the last thing you want to do is try to be someone you’re not when it comes to creating. If Kurt Cobain was absolutely obsessed with Van Halen and had tried to become a shredder, the awesome music he made would have never seen the light of day. If Yngwie Malmsteen had become infatuated with the pop music of Bon Jovi in the 80s, we never would have gotten "Black Star," "Arpeggios From Hell" and a brand new style of guitar playing.
The point is, don’t concern yourself with talent or skills you don’t have, because there’s a reason you don’t have them, and that mindset clouds your ability to see the skills you do have. Nobody can create the music in your head except you, so it’s your responsibility to unleash it. Only then will you be truly satisfied!
Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.