I recently watched a YouTube video titled “My Guitar Teacher TOMO FUJITA Gives Words of Wisdom”. In this video (below), YouTuber Mary Spender interviews Tomo Fujita, a guitar instructor who taught at Berkelee school of music for over 20 years; he takes his years of accumulated knowledge and shares some words of wisdom. From this interview, I took away three lessons: practice music that you are drawn to , identify 5 inspirational guitarists, and record and analyze yourself playing guitar.
Practice music that you are drawn to
Here’s the gist: stop trying to be someone you are not.
Many of us aspiring guitarists incorrectly believe that in order to be a “good” guitarist, we need to be able to play either classical, blues, or jazz — even if that’s the type of music we don’t listen to.
Tomo shared an example of one of his students who declared “I want to get good at Jazz” and his student proceeded to enumerate all the ways in which he would become a Jazz player, declaring that he’ll begin with learning all the Jazz music theory. Tomo Fujita responded, “What sort of Jazz do you listen to?”.
The student admitted they don’t listen to any Jazz and Tomo shared his philosophy: that unless you practice the music that you love, you’ll never get good at it. At best, you’ll nail the mechanics. But ultimately, the playing with feel empty. He’s right.
So stop practicing music you don’t enjoy — right now — and just be your authentic self. Enjoy pop music? Play and write pop songs! You like getting down to reggae ? Drill Bob Marley songs! Also, don’t feel like you need to restrict yourself to one genre either. But once you’ve identified the types of music you want to pursue playing, then you should identify 5 guitarists who inspire you.
Identify top 5 guitarists who inspire you
Another useful exercise he mentioned was name 5 guitarists that inspired you. Not six. Not 10.
Then, once you identified the top 5 artists, research them. Learn their history and how they became the artist they are today. Identify their inspirations, recursively tracing inspirations to the root. This exercise helps inform and influence your own style.
Record yourself for feedback
If you never record yourself — using audio, video, or both — then it’s difficult to improve as a guitarist. You miss out on feedback, miss out on opportunities to discover your own habits and area sof improvement.
I recently started recording myself and publishing the videos to YouTube. I upload videos not to generate millions of views, but for multiple reasons. First, I’m documenting my progress, something I wished I did when I first picked up the guitar a couple years ago. Second, through recording and more importantly, watching and hearing myself allows me to analyze my playing, allowing to identify skills that need to be brushed up on. Finally, recording is a forcing function, pushing me to generate a large volume of work, the only real way, I think, to improve music craftsmanship.