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.