Man muss immer umkehren or, loosely translated, “invert, always invert.”
– Carl Jacobi.
I first learned about inversion from New York Times bestselling author, James Clear. In his blog post, Inversion: The Crucial Thinking Skill Nobody Ever Taught You, Clear tells the story of the German mathematician Carl Jacobi, who was well known for his ability to clarify his thinking by inverting a problem.
In other words, Jacobi would write down the opposite of the math problem he wanted to solve. He found this process helped him to arrive at the correct solution more quickly.
So in the spirit of Carl Jacobi, I reimagined playing guitar. What if your only goal as a guitarist was to play so badly that your neighbor’s teeth raddled and nearby milk curdled each and every time you played the guitar?
Well, look no further than this list of seven surefire ways to suck at the guitar.
1. Don’t practice
If you’re genuinely committed to succeeding at sucking on the guitar, then there is only one surefire way to becoming shockingly bad: Never. Ever. EVER. Practice.
Why? First of all, practicing the guitar is boring. Next, practicing the guitar is not your responsibility. Finally, every great guitarist you ever heard was born with the ability to play the guitar at the height of virtuosity. Eddie Van Halen came out of the womb shredding Eruption. Everyone knows that, right?
2. Don’t learn any scales
After four-years of Donal Trump as president, I can almost imagine his official position on this topic, “Scales are for suckers!” Seriously, why would you want to risk learning the fretboard, improving your finger dexterity, or increasing your melodic sensibilities?
Those will only get in the way of your ultimate goal: to suck at playing the guitar.
3. Don’t learn the note names on the fretboard
If you’re going to avoid your scales, then you might as well avoid learning the notes on the fretboard, especially on the E & A strings. After all, every power chord, barre chord, pentatonic scale, or anything else you might play on the guitar can be traced back to the note names on those two strings. For that reason, your best hope of sounding dead right dreadful while playing the guitar is a total lack of fretboard knowledge.
4. Avoid learning music theory at all costs
Why would you want to know how scales, chords, and rhythms fit together to make the music you know and love? That’s just stupid, and it will only help you grow as a musician, composer, and improviser.
Therefore, you should avoid all sorts of music theory unless you’re willing to risk improving your overall music skills.
5. Never learn a full song
The best part of every piece is the most memorable riff, right? Everybody says so. Therefore, you must never, under any circumstance, learn full songs. Doing so would only help you build your repertoire, improve your ability to support a singer, or teach you how to lock-in with a drummer. And you can’t risk that if you really want to suck at playing guitar!
6. Never practice guitar with a metronome
Nothing will improve your guitar skills faster than disciplined practice with a metronome. Therefore, you must—at all costs—avoid it. After all, why would you want to play in time or improve your sense of groove if you’re going to suck at playing guitar?
As an added bonus: don’t tap your foot either. It will only help you internalize a strong sense of groove!
7. Never work with a teacher
A great teacher will only inspire you, challenge you, and provide you with a musical direction. In other words, they will stand in the way between you and your ability to suck at playing guitar. As a result, I implore you to learn by yourself in a vacuum without any guidance or expert feedback.
Without a doubt, it takes a lifetime of commitment, sacrifice, and deliberate practice to master the guitar. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible not to improve over time if you regularly practice, set goals, and work with an instructor.
In other words, you gotta work really hard if you want to suck at the guitar! That’s why this list of seven surefire ways to suck at the guitar will help you reach your goals.
If—for some obscure reason—you actually want to improve your guitar playing, then you can:
- Establish a practice routine.
- Learn your scales.
- Master the note names on the fretboard, beginning with the E & A strings.
- Study music theory.
- Learn full songs.
- Practice with a metronome.
- Find a great teacher.
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