Tips on Learning Guitar: Goals vs Systems

by Chris Heille October 31, 2014

I tripped into this piece today in such accidental fashion that I can’t tell you how it happened, but I’m glad it did. It’s entitled, “Learning Guitar as An Adult, the 5 Obstacles You’ll Face (And How to Beat Them)" by Josh Frets. The whole piece is pretty good, but the first point really resonated with me.

“Bad Goals.” Frets follows this up with an awesome quote from cartoonist Scott Adams: “Losers have goals. Winners have systems."

Okay. I love this statement. Why? If you think about it, “goals” are destinations. It’s a spot on a map without roads or topography. If you’ve never travelled the territory on that map, then all you’ve got is hope - and that’s not much of a strategy. You want to play guitar or you want to build on your current guitar skill set, but you have no clue on how to do it. Sure, there’s a ton of resources you can use, but sometimes all of the options make the process of moving off the ‘I want to learn to play guitar’ spot confusing. (Not to mention all of the “wonderful players” online who will offer you their unsolicited disapproval of anything that doesn’’t resemble “the way I learned it.” Yeah, they’re really helpful...)

Before you go and flame me for disparaging goal-setting your guitar aspirations, give me a minute to explain something. I think goals are fine mile markers on a journey, but I’m the kind of guy who needs to be about the business of accomplishing goals, not talking about them. (I hate committees. I hate small talk about the future. I hate big talkers. I have the unique curse of being a self-starter. I need a “Doesn’t Play Well with OIthers" T-shirt.) If you never start, you’ll continue to talk about your goal and never reach it. Thanks, Captain Obvious. But if you change your focus from the destination (I wanna play guitar like Jack White) to the journey (I’m going to find a way to learn the first 8 bars of “Salute Your Solution" by Wednesday then work on the chorus by the weekend) you’re on your way in less than a week.

If you couple this with what author Malcolm Gladwell has to say in “Outliers” regarding the "10,000 Hour Rule,” you’ll realize how much more important it is to get going than it is to set the goal.

Here’s what’s really cool: when the company I work for, Zivix, developed the jamstik, it was immediately clear that the jamstik could leapfrog the guitar instruction/frustration cycle on a number of levels. Because the jamstik “sees” your fingers in real time, the jamTutor app can eliminate the guesswork of ‘does my finger go in this fret on this string?’ It’s a simple process of following a cue on a virtual fretboard on the screen. One step at a time. Add to that 1) the musically accompanied exercises and challenges, 2) the game-esque Arcade Mode instruction, and 3) the transition to the TAB-based interface. With jamTutor, your guitar learning goals now have a system to work from. JamTutor was developed to get you from ‘I know nothing about guitar’ to getting you ‘over the hump’ where most hopeful guitar players often quit. We don’t promise you’ll become Jack White overnight, but you will learn 1) Open Chords/Cowboy Chords/Campfire Chords, 2) a couple of Barre Chord shapes, 3) some major and minor pentatonic scales, and 4) the ability to read TAB.

Tips on learning guitar

Are there other “interactive” instruction systems out there? Sure. Can they see if your fingers are in place before you pick the string (just like a guitar instructor would observe and correct)? No. Can those interactive systems go anywhere with you on your iPad? Are you able to learn and practice in the privacy of your headphones without disturbing others and also portable, too? Probably not. Before I go all infomercial on you, please understand I can appreciate that there are many ways to get to Happy Guitar Land. Using the jamstik with the jamTutor app isn’t the only way to do it, but it might be the most fun you’ll have for the journey. It also might be the best compliment to your existing learning and teaching methods.

Having the goal of learning to play the guitar is great. Having a method to attain that goal is what turns “great” into “awesome.”


Christopher Heille is the Music Product Specialist with Zivix LLC - the company behind the jamstik and PUC. Chris is a champion for musicians everywhere and encourages anyone with any type of musical ability to get connected and start making music. His earliest "bandmates" were Tascam PortaStudios and Ensoniq SQ80's, supplementing the missing bass and keyboard players for his original live shows as a teenager. As a guitar player who wasn't intimidated by keyboards or MIDI, he was an early adopter to recording on DAWs and has been involved in various capacities (musician, vocalist, programmer, songwriter, engineer, producer, studio owner) on more projects than he can remember. Chris believes the future of the music business is not in New York City, Los Angeles or Nashville, but in the network of shared ideas and creativity. This belief continues to drive his efforts at Minneapolis-based Zivix, LLC. Find him on Twitter @drewchowen.

Chris Heille
Chris Heille


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