The best piece of musical advice I ever received was from my
guitar mentor, Jean-Marc Lapeyre, who said, “You’ve got to be
willing to suck.”
What Jean-Marc was trying to tell me was that the only way
to get great at anything is to start at the beginning, and suffer
through that stage when you’re really, really bad—painful as that
may be. When I first received this advice, I had been struggling
with my soloing. My leads were lackluster, boring, clunky, and
predictable. I knew how I wanted to sound (two words: Jimmy
Page), but I was incredibly frustrated by what I heard coming
out of my amp. In the past, I’d dealt with these feelings by quitting
the guitar, but that approach also made me miserable. This
time, I simply had to find a way to become great.
So it was a relief to hear my teacher say that my biggest
problem wasn’t some inherent lack of musical ability or personal
failing. I just needed an attitude adjustment. When I was
finally able to accept my “suck stage” as a temporary phase that
every great player goes through, I learned to believe in myself
enough to persevere and achieve my musical goals. Of course,
if you’re anything like me, you’ll continually come up with new
musical aspirations to pursue, and new opportunities to start
from scratch. Now, get out there and suck!
Ali Handal’s new book, Guitar For Girls, is being released by
Hal Leonard this winter.