5 Unusual Guitar Tips That Helped Solve 80% of My Problems

by Johnny Lee, Author, Teacher, and Former Guitarist at P.B.'s Cocktail Bar

(HONEST DISCLOSURE: At the end of this article there will be a link to one of my lessons. There's no need to buy it if you are not interested. Judging by the 17,000+ "likes" and 5,000+ "shares" this lesson has already gotten, you will probably have one or two major insights to improve your playing just by reading what's below. Enjoy!)

My first 3 years, I did things the typical way and got nowhere with guitar.

Even after studying all the books and videos and taking lessons from 4 different guitar teachers in New York City, including one who wrote for Guitar World magazine. But as soon as I corrected-course like I'm about to show you today, I immediately saw my playing begin to improve fast, despite my initial lack of talent.

Here's the secret to extraordinary progress:

Look at what the best guitar players actually DO... not what they TEACH.

Seems simple enough. But let me explain how powerful this little statement really is once you fully understand it and put it into practice.

First, consider the facts:

1. We now have books, DVDS, online videos, skype lessons, and even VIDEO GAMES that claim to teach you the guitar (completely ridiculous, by the way)... all instantly available for nearly any budget.

2. Yet there is still an unbelievably high 80% guitar failure rate. (source: John Sizemore, founder of GuitarZonline and 20 year veteran player)

How is this possible? Because at the end of the day, guitar companies (and teachers) all know they can continue milking the guitar-lesson cash-cow if they never do one thing:
Show you how to learn using the songs themselves.

The truth about why most people will never succeed in learning the guitar

Let's really think about it...

What do we usually see being sold as guitar lessons?
Answer: Techniques and theory. Chords... scales... picking techniques... finger exercises... fretboard theory... "hot licks"... etc... They can sell you this for YEARS by repackaging the same content under different labels such as "blues", then under "country", then under "rock", and so on.

What do we almost NEVER see being taught in any guitar lesson?
Answer: The PROCESS of learning from music itself (where the techniques come from).
Because this process can't be sold more than once... and is actually far more powerful than any technique you'll ever learn. And that's exactly why they don't bother to teach it.

But understand this: Techniques and theory divorced from music cannot possibly lead to learning the guitar.

If you were learning a new language, would you go try to memorize random words without using them in sentences? Of course not. And that's why no amount of "memorizing the dictionary" will get you there with guitar either. You need to learn the language of music. And that's impossible without a strategy for using real music as examples (NOT techniques and theory alone).

And if you continue to make this mistake, whether you realize it or not... you've basically doomed yourself to a lifetime of hard work and frustration.

On the other hand, even if you've been making this mistake your entire life... as soon as you stop and begin doing the right things... you won't believe how effortless it suddenly becomes to make fast continuous progress on the guitar. A great example of this is when I shared my approach below with a struggling guitarist named Joseph Czeiszperger. He later had this to say:

"[These lessons] give the missing information on learning to play the guitar. I've been playing since I was a teenager and believed I could never play well enough to be considered good. I've learned more from reading and applying the concepts in [these lessons] then I've learned since I started playing and I am 71 years old. Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks!" (note: we're all at different levels, so obviously this will not be true for everyone)

If Joseph could transform his playing at age 71 after more than 50 years of disappointing results... imagine what somone with even LESS experience (and fewer bad habits) could do by making these same simple adjustments to their playing.

You're about to find out...

How to master the guitar faster and far more easily by going against the common advice

“That's when I started... I used to listen to Ricky Nelson records and pinch the James Burton licks, learn them note for note perfect.”

—Jimmy Page
1977 Interview for Trouser Press

Now, let's talk about a completely different approach to what's being recommended by most guitar teachers.

Take a look at the greatest guitarists who ever lived: Masters like Stevie Ray Vaughan... Clapton... Hendrix... B.B. King... Jimmy Page... and almost anyone else you can think of...

What do they all have in common?

1. NONE of them had access to thousands of websites, books, DVDS, software, and videos... nor did they need to.

2. ALL of them had mastered how to quickly and effectively train their hands to perform new movements in the CONTEXT OF REAL MUSIC (allowing them to recognize and absorb MUSICAL PATTERNS at the same time, effortlessly).

Once they understood this, they continued to apply this ONE-SINGLE lesson, over and over, for many different songs and techniques. That's basically ALL they knew how to do (extremely) well, and they each became one of the most admired and respected guitar players in the world.

And that's worth repeating...

Your first job as a guitarist is to figure out how to properly "train your hands" to play the type of music you want to play

NOT memorizing theory...

NOT practicing scales...

NOT doing finger exercises...

NOT learning chord formulas...

NOT learning guitar tricks...

... and NOT doing any number of things you'll see recommended in all the common guitar approaches.

Don't get me wrong. Those things are all extremely important to any serious guitarist. But they must all come later, AFTER you lay a true foundation in music. Learn to properly control your body first, nail down the process, get a few tunes under your belt... THEN you can begin worrying about everything else.

See the difference in approach?

3 reasons why most of what you've learned is not only awful advice... but could even permanently damage your chances of playing the guitar if not corrected soon

Prove it for yourself. Most guitar advice you get will tell you (intentionally or not) to commit these 3 MAJOR guitar mistakes:

  • BLINDLY follow the "practice, practice, practice" mantra. Cram as much practice as you can possibly can into your busy schedule, with no regard to the effectiveness or appropriateness of that practice for your current level.
  • Disregard CONTEXT. The most valuable tool you have for learning not just guitar, but MUSIC, is the proper understanding of context, which applies to any instrument. But instead, you are usually told to blindly focus on techniques and theory in isolation from real music. Dumb.
  • Ignore STRATEGY. How you actually go about organizing your practice and creating your own routine ON THE FLY as your abilities improve. Most people have no real strategy. They end up knowing lots of intros to 100 different songs, but almost never the full song.

Along with a whole slew of other easy-to-make mistakes, especially for beginners.

Trust me when I say that, if you follow the wrong approach, even if it comes from a guitar teacher with good intentions, you'll almost certainly end up more confused, more frustrated, and more disappointed than ever. You'll blame your lack of talent and maybe even decide to give up. (I did briefly, and more than once)

There's a better way...

How I discovered the single biggest advantage in learning the guitar faster than most people realize is even possible

So what's the solution? How did I manage to finally separate the wheat from the chaff?


Briefly, here's what happened:

A few years ago, I was sitting down, exhausted at the Broadway Boxing Gym in South Los Angeles, California. I had been training for only 3 months with the legendary trainer, 70-year old, Dub Huntley. Most people know him as the real-life inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” and as the former-trainer of Muhammad Ali’s daughter, four-time undefeated world-champion, Laila Ali.

But amazingly, despite being completely new to the sport, I had made what some would call, pretty incredible progress. And in only 3 months. Even more amazingly, Dub was now encouraging me to compete professionally against other boxers, some who have been training for years. Scary, to say the least.

And yet, surprisingly, my rapid success had nothing at all to do with any innate talent I had for boxing (I was a skinny engineer)... and everything to do with the advanced physical learning techniques Dub had put to use in training me after refining his formula for over 50 years.

What did Dub know about training the human body that most ordinary guys don’t even have a clue about?

Going back to what I said earlier...

Beginner guitarists from around the world all struggle with one MAJOR initial problem: Training their "hands"... something every great guitarist without question understands how to do.

(Actually, the fingers, wrists, arms, and shoulders all contribute when playing the guitar).

And yet... over the years, the human body has been studied, analyzed, and literally dissected in every which way imaginable, so that we could learn it’s biggest secrets.

In fact, today, athletes, dancers, gymnasts, boxers and many other competitive performers… all understand how to train their bodies to perform extremely difficult, complex movements… completely at will.

Now, while these activities may appear unrelated to guitar on the surface, you'd be wrong to assume this.

Consider what cognitive psychologist Dr. Gary Marcus says in his book Guitar Zero: The New Musician and The Science of Learning (where he describes how, at age 39, he went from total beginner to performing on stage after only one year):

"Music shares with virtually all sports the need for carefully coordinated muscle control. Like chess and many team sports, music demands rapid pattern recognition (especially when improvising live with an ensemble), and it even requires insanely strong fingers... Guitarists may not need big muscles, but playing the guitar is truly an athletic endeavor with the same rigorous demands for efficient and accurate performance."

Furthermore, consider the fact that ALL movements, whether throwing a punch, doing a backflip, hitting a baseball or pushing down on a guitar string... ALL of these are controlled by the brain.

To "learn" something in the science of Motor Learning means to "remember" how to perform the same movement again later: muscle memory. And muscle memory is formed when the brain creates new neural connections. Neural connections are created when we trigger the brain by repeating the same movements again and again over time (when we practice). And this means that the fastest learning will occur when we practice in a specific way that triggers the largest number of neural connections to be created in the shortest amount of time.

To be sure, this is the exact learning process world-class teachers, trainers, and coaches have perfected through generations of trial and error, to create olympic level performers. A learning process science has only recently proven.

So the more you look at it, the more you start to ask yourself the obvious question: Why aren't guitarists everywhere using these exact same learning methods?

What would happen if we applied these advanced learning secrets to teaching our hands and fingers the guitar?

I needed to find out. So, to put this idea to the ultimate test… I took every useful idea I’d learned in my research and training, translated it over to the area of guitar and music... and applied them all on a certified “hard-case” guitar student: MYSELF

The result?

I improved more in the next 6 weeks than I did in the previous 6 months while... believe it or not... (keep in mind these may not be your exact results)...

Practicing LESS.

That's right, less.

And, not only that... for the first time ever... I was able to learn my favorite songs, COMPLETELY, from beginning to end. I was learning the intros, verses, solos, chords, strumming patterns, fancy tricks… all of it... for different songs... and burning them all into my hands. For the first time, I was playing my favorite songs effortlessly for my friends and family, who were totally shocked. They even started calling me “talented.” (HA, are you kidding me? ; )

And yes, amazing as it sounds, I was actually practicing LESS.

How did I do it?

Let me show you...

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