Always feel like a beginner

“I am tired of being a beginner.”

I hear that comment from my students all of the time. I get it. They want to be able to play songs, master barre chords and play face-melting solos. They want to feel like they’ve arrived at a skill level beyond what they define as “beginner.” They’ve labeled their current skill level as “beginner,” as if it is a dirty word, and practice hard to get out of that phase of their guitar playing. I understand what they’re feeling. We all want to get better.

But they’re missing one key point: great guitar players always feel like beginners.

Yes. Great guitar players feel like beginners everyday of their lives. That’s because as soon as they’ve mastered a new song or technique, they immediately set the bar a little higher. They set their sights on a new goal and begin working towards it with study and practice.

During that period of study and practice, that great guitar player is a “beginner” again. But it’s not such a dirty word. In fact, being a beginner is a great place to be, thanks to nature’s favorite motivational treat: dopamine. Let me explain.

I love anything sweet. Cookies, candy, ice cream – you name it. If it is sweet, I like it. Not just because sweets taste good, but also because my brain releases a bit of dopamine  that subconsciously makes me feel better. See, dopamine is like a stamp of approval that my brain gives to things that have been pleasurable to me in the past. It’s my brain’s way of encouraging me to do things that make me happy. So every time I see that candy bar at the check-out line, I remember that good feeling and I’m inclined to break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.

Our brains respond the same way to laughter, music, romance, winning, and, you guessed it, learning something new. When we learn something new, we get a kick of dopamine and feel better.

Great guitar players are career learners. They are addicted to the feeling of making progress, of learning. Its a double-bonus: they feel good in the moment and they are better players in the long run.

So, the next time you long for a time when you are no longer a “beginner,” remember that the day you become content with your skill level is the day the fun stops. No more cookies for you.

For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit

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