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Guitar is difficult to learn, competitive, oversaturated in the music market and buying one can be expensive. Is it even worth it to play the guitar?
Even if you never play guitar in a band, there are many benefits to playing the guitar including better musical abilities, that capacity to compose music, a rewarding hobby, social clout and perhaps even a more flexible brain.
Social clout? Capacity to compose music? What am I talking about here? Read on to find the answer of why guitar may be worth your time.
Is Guitar Really Worth Your Time?
Let’s get these out of the way. there are some reasons why you may not want to pursue the guitar–and they are completely fair reasons.
Everyone Knows How To Play The Guitar Already
If you’ve ever hung around college dorms you know that the guitar is a really popular instrument to play and a popular instrument to try and impress friends. Sometimes it seems like everyone who has any musical ability has played the guitar or knows how to play the guitar.
Because of that it may feel like you’re kind of joining the herd and that you’re already playing something that there’s too much of already.
It’s a fair point–there are a lot of people who know how to play guitar. Most people actually who say they know how to play the guitar really only can play some chords, though, so bear that in mind.
There Is Always Someone Better At the Guitar
You might practice for 10 hours a day, and that practice might even be high quality practice and it’s still likely that you will never be as good as someone else at the guitar.
Sometimes it’s more fun to be the big fish in the small pond, but with guitar this is almost impossible because of how popular and competitive the instrument is. Even if you work diligently at practicing there is always someone who is going to practice more or practice better or who at the very last point may have some better born-with talent than you do.
You may be practicing a lot, and feel like you’re really good, and then you may stumble on a 12-year kid who lives in China who is 10x better than you at the guitar.
And I totally agree–that’s kind of discouraging to know that no matter how hard you try, you really can’t be the best. You can definitely aspire to being among the best, but not the best. When you start playing guitar, you have to realize that you always will be looking up to someone else and that the effort required to be a master or an expert is so much work in practice that it’s almost not even possible for someone’s regular life.
This doesn’t mean that an ordinary person can’t get really really good at the guitar because you definitely can if you put in the proper amount of practice. If you want to know how much practice you need to be a really good guitar player, check out my article here.
Guitar is hard
One thing that might keep you back from playing the guitar is knowing that guitar is a difficult instrument to learn.
Guitar is hard for many reasons, one being that it is physically challenging to play; you won’t be able to play the guitar for more than 30 minutes for your first two weeks because you will have to build up calluses in order to play, especially acoustic guitar. Electric strings are definitely a bit gentler so there’s that.
Another reason why guitar is hard is the layout is tricky and difficult to understand (at least vs. piano). Learning the fretboard is not a trivial task.
Furthermore, there are many techniques to learn, many of which that are physically challenging to master. In general, the guitar has an unusual amount of physical coordination needed to play.
I wrote in even more detail of reasons why the guitar is considered such a difficult instrument to learn. Check it out here.
Because the guitar is difficult to learn, it may take several months before guitar is actually fun to learn. If you practice daily for an hour a day it may take you around 3 months of solid practice before the guitar actually starts being enjoyable to play.
So, the question becomes is it even worth it to spend so much time on something when there are other instruments that are potentially easier to pick up and to play?
Reasons Why Playing Guitar Is Totally Worth Your Time
So from all that I just said, it kind of sounds like I don’t think that guitar is worth your time. This is not the case. However, I just wanted to show that the reasons why you might think the guitar is not worthwhile to pick up are totally valid and they are legitimate concerns. If you don’t want to pick up something that you can’t be the best at, then there are many other niche instruments to choose from.
However there are some incredible reasons why playing the guitar is still worth your time even after all of that.
Guitar Is Soul-Transporting Fun
Once you work past the first weeks of finger pain, and the first couple months of hand cramps, and the first couple months of not having command of the instrument–the guitar is one of the most fulfilling and fun instruments you can play. The reason why is that the guitar has some of the most open possibilities of any other instrument.
Being able to play along with any song you like or being able to play a solo in whatever direction you want with no restrictions–just feeling the music–that is an incredible feeling and is so much fun if you get to that point.
Not convinced yet? I wrote a ton more about why the guitar is fun and how long you have to practice to get to that point. Make sure and check that out here.
Being the Life Of the Party
Being able to be in a social gathering and having a guitar and being at the point where you’re not a pain to listen to is really awesome.
Playing songs that people recognize and people occasionally saying “oh I love this song!” and adding that little bit of extra joy to a social gathering is just plain fun. You definitely can be overbearing if you’re too loud or if you’re always on the guitar no matter in every circumstance but in general good, tasteful guitar music is the perfect background to a social gathering.
There really isn’t much that’s more satisfying than when you’re able to play a song that people recognize and love to the point where others want to sit down and just enjoy the music, or even singing along!
So maybe there are thousands and thousands of guitar players that are better than you and maybe you’re not going to be the best there is but you can still feel the joy of the instrument with your friends.
To me the joy becomes 10x when others have instruments and you’re able to have a jam session–where everybody is just making up stuff as they go. It’s exhilarating when you land on that riff where everyone is locked in and creative expression ensues.
Being Able To Make Your Own Songs
One of the most amazing benefits of being able to play the guitar is now you are a band. You have everything you need! Rhythm and melody all together which is enough to make real songs.
How many songs that you enjoy are simply a singer-songwriter playing the guitar?
Even if you want to add other instruments you can compose a song much even more easily if you just know how to play the guitar because you can play chords. You can construct melodies with your voice or by picking strings on the guitar. That’s all you need to create amazing music.
So even if you aren’t going to be an expert guitar player much less a famous guitar player… if you enjoy the thought of being able to write songs then learning the guitar is totally worth your time. Guitar and piano together make an unstoppable combination for an aspiring composer.
Are Guitar Players Smarter?
One thing I’ve always wondered about is whether playing the guitar actually makes you smarter.
This YouTube video shares some of the results from several studies.
So… smarter is definitely a harder thing to truly measure because there are so many factors–however, our brains seem to be exercised to an incredible level when playing music, which we presume to be a sign that our brain is getting good exercise that translates to other parts of life.
I did some of my own research and found that indeed musicians performed better at memory tasks and this performance was even measured by electrical impulses (source)
So, smarter? I don’t know, personally, but I think it’s safe to say that a musician’s brain is more often activated.