December 11, 2023

Perfectionism vs Pushing Through

The guitar students that I’ve taught throughout the last 20 years or so all fall into two categories when it comes to their particular style of practicing.

They either ‘push through’, meaning they just keep playing away regardless of the sound/noise they’re making. Or they are perfectionists who spend most of their time NOT playing but doing a lot of ‘stopping’.

Many of us are trained (usually by school) to stop when we make a mistake and try to correct it before continuing. So we spend our learning time looking for mistakes to correct, seeking out what’s ‘wrong’ when we are learning something new. This seems logical enough, yeah? Surely we can’t improve unless we eradicate the mistakes and imperfections?

I’ve observed the opposite to be true. Those who ‘push through’, almost unaware that a string buzzed or a finger landed on the wrong string, always and without exception improve dramatically quicker than those who stop to ‘get it perfect’.

That ‘judge’ we all have inside our mind is quick to say “STOP!… we made a mistake… Start again!” But this judge is hindering a most important process: ‘programming’. Basically, we can’t repeat something if we stop.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people who constantly STOP to perfect something, tend to STOP even when performing a song. Why? Because that’s what they’ve been doing the whole time they’ve been practicing. The brain goes “when I make a mistake, I stop!” Not a great scenario really.

The fact is, most people (including the teacher) don’t even really notice little buzzes or imperfect fingering technique… We are more concerned with the bigger picture. And if we’re stopping, we’re not playing.

Now perfectionism isn’t a bad thing, it’s just the ratio of perfectionism that can be off. It has its place. But that comes AFTER something has been learned. Then perfection can jump in and tweak the piece or riff or chord progression all it wants.

So if you want to get good fast! If you want to achieve guitar mastery! Push through first and perfect it last.

Happy perfecting guitar freaks!

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