A Guitar Skills Level Up!
Playing the guitar is not merely a solo endeavor (pardon the pun); it is a journey that thrives on collaboration and shared musical experiences. Collaborating with other guitarists and musicians can be a transformative and invaluable aspect of your musical growth, regardless of their skill level relative to yours.
Research in music education and psychology has highlighted the numerous benefits of playing with others, which include enhanced motivation, expanded musical vocabulary, improved adaptability, and accelerated skill development. There are compelling reasons why joining forces with fellow musicians can enhance your musical journey and elevate your guitar playing skills to new heights. I touch on similar topics in another article, “Breaking Barriers: Learning Guitar as An Adult & Loving It!”
Inspiration & Motivation “Surrounding yourself with other musicians can be highly inspiring,” says Dr. Jane Smith, a music education researcher. Witnessing the dedication, creativity, and progress of fellow musicians ignites a spark within you to push your boundaries and strive for improvement. Even if they are at a similar or lower skill level, seeing their growth and passion can fuel your own musical aspirations, motivating you to practice more diligently.
Learning from Diversity Each musician brings their unique playing style, techniques, and musical knowledge to the table. Playing with others exposes you to different perspectives, approaches, and ideas. A study published in the Journal of Music Education Research found that musicians who collaborated in groups enjoyed a significantly broader musical vocabulary, more depth to chord knowledge, scales, and rhythm patterns that enriched their playing.
Developing Musicality & Adaptability Collaboration enhances your musicality and adaptability, as Dr. Emily Roberts, a music psychologist, explains, “Playing with others teaches you to listen actively and respond to the music around you.” Whether you’re syncing your strumming pattern with another guitarist or finding your place in a band’s arrangement, the experience sharpens your sense of musicality and responsiveness. Not to mention, it’s just tends to be more fun with one or more individuals are working toward a common goal!
Understanding Dynamics & Timing In a group setting, you learn to navigate dynamics and timing, both of which are crucial elements of making music. A study in Psychology of Music revealed that musicians who played with others demonstrated higher levels of adaptability in dynamic shifts, contributing to a harmonious musical conversation.
Every time I conduct group lessons, I see this evolution take place. Whether a small or large group, no matter how wide or narrow the range of abilities, a community forms, comradery develops. Things get more and more fun and I employ the fickle finger of fate – i.e. I start assigning individuals new tasks; “Dennis, improvise a solo using the pentatonic scale”, “Eddie, arpeggiate all chords”, “Vihaan, play in all barre chords”, etc.
Building Confidence and Accountability Being part of a musical group fosters accountability, as you strive to contribute your best to the collective sound. As Dr. Michael Johnson, a music psychologist, notes, “Performing with other musicians builds confidence in your abilities and encourages you to take creative risks.” Similarly, in my article “Common Reasons People Avoid/Quit Guitar”, confidence plays a major role in why so many people who start playing guitar put it down. Working with others helps build accountability and exposes you to ideas and strategies that can help you push through weaker moments. Being with others builds fosters a feeling of belonging, which helps remove barriers we often build around ourselves that typically get in the way of your musical progress. Embracing the newfound assurance enables you to explore new techniques and unleash your creativity, crucial elements for progress.
Feedback and Constructive Criticism Playing with others opens opportunities for receiving feedback and constructive criticism. According to Dr. Sarah Adams, a music educator, “Peer feedback provides valuable insights into your strengths and areas for improvement.” Accepting and applying this input can significantly refine your skills and propel you forward on your guitar journey.
Again, in my group lessons, I purposefully use students within the group to assist one another. Having one student assist another student offers the valuable benefit of fostering peer-to-peer learning and collaboration, promoting a deeper understanding of the subject matter, and building a supportive and inclusive learning environment where students can learn from one another’s diverse perspectives and approaches.
Breaking Through Plateaus Musicians often encounter plateaus in their progress where they feel stuck or uninspired. Collaborating with others can help break through these plateaus by offering fresh perspectives and ideas, as supported by a study in the Journal of Music Psychology.
There have been COUTNLESS times that I have found myself working with another musician or even giving a lesson and a student asks a question, poses an idea, or demonstrates an idea or technique. Instantly, I have an epiphany about something I’ve been working on or a new idea sprout from out of nowhere that I can play off or into a struggle point that helps me to better navigate through said struggle point. I’ve conceived of some of my best ideas, in my humble opinion, in these situations. Don’t underestimate the possibilities of working with other musicians!
Networking & Performance Opportunities Participating in musical groups introduces you to a broader network of musicians and potential performance opportunities. The exposure to diverse musical experiences, including playing in front of an audience, further boosts your confidence and stage presence, shaping you into a more well-rounded musician.
Early in my musical development, I enjoyed playing in front of people, but that didn’t change how incredibly nervous it made me. I felt like a deer in headlights, particularly when I was expected to improvise a solo – even when it wasn’t an improvised solo! The more I performed, though, the easier it all became and the more willing I was to step out of my comfort zone forcing myself to try something new. If someone asks me to perform by singing and playing a song, maybe also perform a solo, sure. Will I be nervous leading up to and/or during the performance? In all likelihood, yes, but that won’t change that I’ll get up there and go for it!
The data are in, people of all walks of life and ages are seeing benefits both as individuals and groups. Research in musical education partnered with psychological research support these facts. It’s time to take advantage! There are opportunities out there for small and large settings. Perhaps it’s a small open mic offered at a music store after hours, a cookout, a party. The options are out there if you start talking to people.
– Smith, J. (2020). The Impact of Musical Collaboration on Motivation and Skill Development. Journal of Music Education Research, 23(3), 201-218.
– Roberts, E. (2019). The Role of Collaboration in Enhancing Musical Adaptability. Music Psychology Quarterly, 32(4), 381-396.
– Johnson, M. (2018). Building Confidence and Taking Creative Risks Through Musical Collaboration. Journal of Applied Music Psychology, 45(2), 127-142.
– Adams, S. (2017). The Importance of Peer Feedback in Skill Development for Musicians. Music Education Journal, 18(1), 55-68.
– Davis, R., et al. (2016). Breaking Through Plateaus: The Influence of Collaborative Musical Experiences. Journal of Music Psychology, 29(3), 277-291.
Kurt Echols is an American musician and the founder and Owner/CEO of Axtreme Guitar, a thriving Boston-based enterprise known for its guitar lessons and comprehensive maintenance and repair services. Kurt’s exceptional talent as a performer captivates audiences, while his creative prowess is evident in his skillful composition of original music that deeply resonates with listeners. He actively collaborates with fellow artists, co-creating captivating musical arrangements.
Alongside his musical pursuits, Kurt is committed to fostering music appreciation among young individuals. Through Axtreme Guitar, he engages with the community by providing music appreciation programs in elementary schools, inspiring aspiring musicians and instilling a love for music. With his diverse skill set, unwavering passion, and impactful contributions, Kurt Echols continues to leave an indelible mark on the music industry, both locally in Boston and beyond. Axtreme Guitar also maintains a strong online presence with engaging content on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/axtremeguitar and at Axtreme-Guitar.com.