Practice Makes Perfect…
And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

By Ryan Duke

We’ve all heard the term, ‘practice makes perfect’ or better yet, “perfect practice makes perfect’. Though I think that the people who say this mean well, there is a big problem with these phrases. A problem that will keep you from achieving any of the goals you have for your guitar playing. The problem rests in one little word…the word “perfect”.

The Problem:

When you set your expectations in the beginning to be “I want to be perfect at _____” you are literally giving yourself an easy reason to fall short of your goals. If your goal is perfection, you’ll always find a reason to tell yourself it’s not perfect. No amount of progress you ever make with your guitar playing will EVER be good enough. And you are giving yourself an “out”, a way to let yourself off the hook and to not give it your all.

Often times we are afraid to stretch ourselves and explore the boundaries of our current skills to see what we may be capable of. When you aren’t willing to take risks, you probably won’t be getting any better any time soon. Perfectionism also makes us hesitate or avoid difficult things altogether. We spend too much time doing what we already know how to do well so that we feel good about ourselves and not enough time on what we are weak at. Why is this? In a word: FEAR.

You’re afraid of disappointing other people. Afraid of others’ criticism. So you’re thinking is “if I do it perfectly, than there is no room for anyone to find fault in what I did. If I do it perfect, no one will have reason to attack or judge me.”

The Solution:

Guess what? Disappointing others is unavoidable! But letting other people down or having them criticize you should never stop you from doing something that aligns with your values. Don't rob your future and your happiness by focusing on other people. Be authentic. Think about what YOU want to sound like, how YOU want to play. Not like how anyone else does it.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing and use that as the standard for ourselves. For example, we all know how easy it is to scroll through Instagram and see all these crazy good guitarists ripping and shredding all over the place like it’s the easiest thing in the world and get completely discouraged about our own skills.

Action Steps:

  • Let’s drop the word perfect from part of our vocabulary.
  • Be intentional with your practice time. Think about what you want to accomplish for yourself during the time you have (it doesn’t have to be something huge) and come to your practice with that focus.
  • Keep in mind how YOU want to play and not how anyones else does.
  • Experiment. Work on things you struggle with. Don’t be afraid of sounding bad, it is a part of the process.
  • Don’t get stuck on playing the things you already know how to do well. (Pro tip: play these things when you need a break and an ego boost after working on the things that challenge you!)

Here is the truth: the world doesn’t need another guitarist who sounds exactly like every other guitarists. The world doesn’t need someone who is perfect, they need you, your insight, your creativity and the music that you have to give. Perfect is boring anyways.

About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional musician, guitar teacher, and teaches guitar lessons in Franklin, TN, WA.