I Made A Mistake Today… Did You?

So what mistake did I make? Well, I make plenty every time I play my guitar… do you?

Fact is, when you’re playing guitar, bass, or any other instrument…

For that matter, with nearly anything in life…

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not progressing.

Sound harsh?

Well, that’s my take on it, and I’m sticking to it.

Neils Bohr once famously said:

“An expert is someone who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”

Nobody pops into this world perfect, and anything you try to learn takes time and hard work, right?

So the faster you make mistakes trying new things, the faster you’re going to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Don’t expect yourself to be perfect the first time you try something… whether it be playing a new chord, or improvising a solo, or trying a completely hair brained idea.

Now, as you get better at what you do, ie playing guitar, the real secret to success here is to recover very quickly from your mistakes, or even better, make something new and unique from them.

Some musicians have perfect, or near perfect performances.

One place you see this type of performance is from orchestras: they practice the exact same thing over and over until it literally is perfect note for note.

With playing guitar, by and large we’re in a much more fluid environment… in fact, improvising is often the name of the game.

So that means you’re going to make mistakes; however some simple tricks can help you mask your mistakes so nobody else notices.

One trick I use if I hit a wrong note is to simply turn that note into a ‘passing’ note… ie keep going right on past through the mistake note until you get where you need to be.

Perhaps that destination note is the root note, or one of the perfect harmonies (a fourth or a fifth).

Practice makes that transition smoother, and mistakes less frequent. Remember, we’re aiming at perfection, not at mistakes, but the only way to get there is to embrace mistakes along the way.

Thankfully, some things help hugely in reducing the number of mistakes you need to make. Learning your scale, and the relevant chords in the key that you’re playing in is a great place to start.

Understanding the basic theory that is going on in the song is also valuable, as it provides a framework for you to work from when you’re improvising.

Knowing the scale and the various harmonic intervals tells you what notes will work in a solo, and gives you “safe” notes to resolve on.

In my Unlocking I IV V guitar lesson, I go through these concepts. If you’ve already got a copy of that lesson, you’ll know what I’m talking about – if you haven’t yet, you can grab a copy of my Unlocking I IV V lesson here.

Whatever you do, please DON’T sell yourself short by telling yourself you can’t play guitar well.

Henry Ford once famously said:

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”

Chew on that one for a few minutes…


Here’s a short success story about Unlocking I IV V:

“Hi Jonathan,

I have indeed watched your DVD’s and I found them very helpful. I’m almost 65 years old and have been strumming the guitar since I was about 14 years old.

I’m mostly self taught with a few instructions from family members who play, but never any formal training. Your lessons have helped me understand exactly what is going on with the fret board and  where to find my notes. Although my fingers don’t work as well as they did when I was young, I still enjoy trying to play my favorite tunes.

Keep up the good work.  Wish I would have had you around 50 years ago.  Thanks again.”

Jerry Matney

Click here to get the Unlocking I IV V Guitar Lesson

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