I am sure that we have all suffered at one time or another from this disease. Fortunately, there is a cure for it. But if left untreated, it can persist for a long time and seriously impair a person’s ability to play the guitar.
So what is it, and more importantly, how to avoid it?
First, let’s see what Guitar Envy is. Well, it is an infection that attacks the ego and the emotional nervous system. It causes a loss of direction and discipline, and causes us to begin to question our own abilities and doubt those around us that we turn to for guidance and learning, namely our music teacher.
Now please don’t confuse Guitar Envy with inspiration and drive. These two are completely different and exist at separate ends of the learning spectrum.
So where do we catch this infection? Well the most common place is at your local music store or now even over the internet on YouTube.
What we need to avoid is the guitarist hooked up to the biggest rig with lots of pedals and playing the most expensive guitar in the store. Him, and I say him because women (no offense, there are a lot of great guitar players out there) don’t tend to infect people in the same way, they have other ways of seducing us. No, this is sadly a guy thing.
The next thing you hear are rapid neoclassical or Joe Satriani licks followed by strong eye contact from the player as if he’s issuing a challenge reminiscent of the final scenes of the movie Crossroads. You break into a sweat and the walls of the store close in around you. You look at the new Stratocaster on the wall that you were about to try out, and suddenly you think what if I stink when I plug it in and play. You’re worried that people in the store will start laughing and smiling and maybe even ask you to stop playing because you’re putting them off buying a set of guitar picks they came to buy.
It is in this terrifying moment that you are at your most vulnerable point, what you feel like doing is going home, closing your bedroom door, taking your book on 25 cool licks by Yngwie Malmsteen and keep playing until you can play one. as fast as you can. can. You ignore your classmates, your wife or your girlfriend and you stop receiving calls from your guitar teacher worried about having missed your classes. You’re upset with him because he didn’t teach you how to play a fast, cool lick early on. This, I’m afraid, is the main diagnosis of Guitar Envy.
You can even go back to the store to listen or even chat with the guy and even ask him who his teacher is. The usual answer is that he doesn’t need one, but if you do, he’ll show you some cool tricks and some he’s learned. The other usual comments will be that he doesn’t play in a band because he can’t find a band that likes the stuff he likes or they just want to play the usual songs that everyone else plays.
So you go back to your room and continue working on your lick. After weeks of practice, you’re finally ready. Of course, you’ll need the big gear and a wide variety of pedals as outlined in the gear guide video. Finally, you choose the strategy you first looked at a few weeks ago and now you are ready to go. You explode in your lick trying to play even faster than in your room. As the dust settles and the noise fades into the distance, you look around the store. Surprisingly, no one seems remotely interested in what you touched. If anything they look happy now that you stopped. You think, what could have gone wrong, why doesn’t anyone want to cheer and say great lick mate. Or, better yet, ask you to join the band that’s opening for Guns ‘n’ Roses tonight.
You leave the store feeling despondent and depressed, return to the room and practice the riff even more, determined to play even faster. You’re totally hell-bent on showing those people in the store that you can play guitar because you can play that lick just as well, if not better, than the other geezer.
It is at this point, hopefully, that you will find help, be it from a friend or family member. Who will tell you that the lick is boring them to death and that you sounded better before you started playing that annoying lick, and why don’t you play your old songs again and take lessons again.
Feeling downright unhappy, you open your shop and your guitarist friend is back. When you walk through the door, you know it’s him, since he’s playing the same lick he played when he first saw it all these weeks before. Desperate, you ask him what else he can play. The usual response is that he only plays these licks, he doesn’t like to play anything else as they suck.
At this point you finally wake up or become best friends with that guy.
If it’s later, then you’re on your own. However, if you finally start to wake up, you will realize the disease and begin the road to recovery.
Let’s look at the symptoms and the cure.
First of all, playing guitar isn’t about how fast you are or how great the lick sounds in the store.
As a music teacher, I have worked in many music stores over the years and would always walk into the sales area during my break time. I saw familiar faces during the week rush hours. They would play their guitar and then watch the response from the clientele. At first, being super impressed, I used to go up and compliment them on the skills. But then after being caught up in casual conversation with them enough times, asking a few questions like “cool scale run, isn’t that a harmonic minor run or Phrygian dominant lick?” I found out through the responses I received that they didn’t. get an idea of what he was talking about. I could mention that the lick sounds better if you key shift down to E, but you’d only get a vague look and even a slight sneer.
What is very clear is that they learned their lick from a video or an online source, they could play it perfectly in certain cases, but if they had to get out of that box, they would be lost.
My point is this. Don’t get sucked into Guitar Envy. Eventually the time will come to play the cool licks, but as a musician it’s more important to know and understand what you’re playing and how you can use it musically. A good music teacher won’t show you some quick licks just to impress people. They will show you technique, precision, and information that you can build from, so you can grow as a guitarist. In a sense, focus on the long game, take your time, and set goals that are realistic and achievable.
So the next time you venture into your store, grab that “starter,” plug it in, and play what you know and are comfortable with. If it’s the opening bars of “Smoke on the water” or “Stairway to Heaven” well, congratulations and pat him on the back. Keep practicing, keep learning, and stay focused on your game.
You might eventually get the gig for the band that’s opening for Guns ‘n’ Roses.