7 Excuses That Stop You From Learning Jazz Guitar

I am sure you watch great Jazz guitarists and listen to all the great music, and of course, you also want to play like that, enjoy improvising over songs, and use those beautiful chords. But you need to practice to learn that, and Jazz guitar isn’t easy.

To help you enjoy the journey of learning Jazz, I want to show you 7 common excuses that can block your progress by destroying your motivation. I have certainly run into a few myself, but I’ll get to that, too.

#1 I’m Too Old to Learn

“I am too old to learn this.”  I come across this in two different variations, and both are not going to get you anywhere, but the second one is often the biggest problem. The first variation is just giving up. I will see comments saying: “I don’t want to practice, I am too old to learn new things.” Of course, it is true that it gets more difficult to learn as we get older, but the brain does keep learning our whole life, and the biggest factor is not being in the habit of learning. But you can build habits, and if you dream about playing Jazz, you can learn at any age.

Remember that you will learn faster as you spend time on it. I have seen this many times, both in my Roadmap course and on Patreon. What is much more important is that you find a way to learn that you enjoy. When it comes to music, it is about the journey, not the destination. I still practice, and I still have fun learning new things little by little each day. I am sure I would not practice if I did not enjoy it.

The other variation is the “I am too old to learn, so I don’t want to play solos and just want to play chords and chord melody.” The problem is that you skip things you need when playing chords and chord melodies. A huge part of learning Jazz is about training your ears for the right type of melodies and the right type of phrasing and rhythm, and that is 1000x easier to learn when you are playing one note at a time and not 4 or 5-note chords,

so refusing to learn soloing, scales, or melodies will slow you down. I have said it before, but Joe Pass did not start by learning what he is playing on his solo albums.

So find a balanced practice routine and enjoy learning Jazz, no matter your age. as I will talk about later, Talent is also not the biggest factor, which I think is a good thing.

#2 I Don’t Have Enough Time

The one thing that none of us have enough of is time. With work, studying, or family, it can be hard to find time to practice guitar, and often that means giving up or not starting at all, but maybe that is more about planning and expectations, plus that you often forget one of the most important practice activities!

  1. Practical Sessions
  2. Enjoy Practicing
  3. Realistic Goals

When planning your practice, try to pay attention to these 3 things: Practical Session Length. You will get frustrated if you start by trying to block several hours every day to practice simply because it is unrealistic, and even if you find the time, you don’t have the energy and focus to practice for that long. You are just setting yourself up to fail. Aiming for shorter practice sessions, like 15 or 20 minutes, is much more efficient. If it is short, it is easier to fit in, and if you practice longer, that feels like a victory, instead of always practicing less than you were hoping to and getting frustrated.

The other thing you want to make a priority is that you enjoy practicing, so mix things you like to work on with things you need to work on and make the practice time something that you look forward to doing. Realistic goals are also important with this, so watch out that you don’t expect to be the next Wes Montgomery after practicing daily for 3 weeks your goals should focus more on things you want to improve in your playing, not comparing yourself with someone who defined the genre and had decades of experience.

A bonus tip here: this underrated practice activity is easier to fit in and doesn’t require you to actually play the guitar: Listening to Jazz. Don’t underestimate how much you will learn by listening to Jazz while traveling to work, walking the dog, cooking, working out, or whatever you do. Listen to Jazz!

#3 I Don’t Have the Right Equipment

Jazz is often connected to certain guitars and amps, and I have been exposed to that myself in a few ways. When I did my audition at the conservatory in the Hague, I was told that I was accepted, that I was really playing Jazz, but I still had a lot to learn, and that they would help me get a loan to get a real Jazz guitar since I was playing a strat. That was nonsense, in fact, one of my teachers at that school, Eef Albers also played a strat. There is no “real Jazz guitar,” and you can easily play Jazz on any guitar you want. Listen to Ed Bickert using a Tele or Joe Pass on his Jaguar, Jazzmaster, or whatever guitar that was. If you want to play Jazz, then go for it! Think about the music, You can worry about gear later. If you want to see just how little it matters then I’ll link to a video in the description that compares my guitars, nobody can tell the difference…

The other way around is, of course, also possible: you start learning Jazz because you want a new guitar, but then that is not an excuse.

Let me know what you think and if I missed something that you hear used as an excuse.

#4 Jazz Guitar Is Too Complicated

 

“Jazz is too complicated!” It’s funny because Jazz is not as complicated as most people think, and the fact that it seems complicated is also a part of what makes it interesting for many guitarists. But I think a huge part of the problem is how Jazz is often taught with a lot of information upfront and then a long road to put that into music.

I often compare music to a language, and you don’t learn a language by first memorizing a dictionary. That is outdated teaching from the 1970s or even bad teaching.

You can learn Jazz without a million scales and start with real music. It is about learning to make it sound like Jazz. That is what I cover in my Jazz Guitar roadmap without using hypochondrian b6 scales or retrophonic arpeggio pairs, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

The basic concept that works best for most things in music is to start with an overview and add detail along the way, not the other way around.

And that is possible with most things in Jazz.

#5 I Can’t Afford Lessons

“I can’t afford lessons.” This is not as big of a problem as it used to be. Of course, If you can take real in-person lessons, then that is the most efficient way to learn. You have someone help you learn the right things in order and give you feedback on how you are doing. But if you can’t do that, then you are in luck. Compare this to when I started playing jazz over 25 years ago because now you have lots of options with free online material that you can use. It is not as efficient as lessons that are tailor-made for you, but you can still get a lot further and there are options like courses that are a lot cheaper than one-on-one lessons that you can upgrade to once you feel that is worth it.

Just get started and learn some songs!

#6 I’m Not Talented Enough

I think Talent is overrated. I am not saying it doesn’t exist or can’t be an advantage, but when you are learning Jazz, thinking about your own talent or lack of talent is just not very useful. When I worked at a young talent department what I saw was that the most important talent the students could have was the ability to work and study, almost to the point of talent working against some students. That is also what I remember from my time studying: The students who practiced and worked improved. Effort was worth more than talent.

When it comes to learning then if you think you have no talent and that you need to be talented that means that the only thing you can do is to give up, surely it’s a lot better to just focus on getting better and not wonder about some magic gift you may or may not have. You also want to remember that playing music has many sides, and nobody has a talent for all of them. Ironically, if you think you are talented, that can also work against you, for example, no matter how much of a legend you think you are. You will be told that even if you bring your amp to the jam session, we will only hear you play Cm pentatonic over the entire form of Blue Bossa once before you are asked to sit down again. Thinking you are talented can stop you from learning and realizing what you need to learn.

So don’t worry about that! Just have fun, keep playing, and keep learning.

I am curious what you think. Sometimes, I get angry comments when I point out that talent rarely helps you learn, so feel free. I am at least sure that my biggest talent is that I know how to work.

#7 I Don’t Know Where to Start

“I Don’t Know Where To Start?” I talked a bit about this earlier, and it is very important that you don’t drown yourself in technical exercise and theory but instead find some simple songs and focus on learning enough to play those even making it a bit simpler because you can add detail along the way.

But you do need to check out some scales and arpeggios—just don’t make it too complicated. There is a practical and efficient way to do this, and it also fits with how you want to use them in solos. I talk about that in this video, which is essential for understanding how arpeggios and scales fit together. It also gives you an approach to improvising and starting to play solos that sound like Jazz.

Check it out:

The Most Important Scale For Jazz

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