How to become a virtuoso

Becoming a virtuoso is actually kind of easy: Practice slowly.

The hard part is patience. The patience to actually go as slow as it takes. And the patience to trust the process and stick with it until you’re there. (We’re talking a really long time of really long hours of practicing. Steve Vai, one of the guitar virtuosos of our time, is said to have practiced 12-15 hours each and every day.)

The fascinating part is that if you do show up with that patience it can feel as if there are no boundaries to what you can achieve.

For example, Steve Vai had this to say about his time with Frank Zappa’s band (whose live recordings wer aptly named “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore”):

When the Zappa gig came along and he was like, “Can you play this?” I was like, “Of course I can play it.” ’Cause all you gotta do is work on it. Slowly, slowly, note by note. It was unfathomable to me that any guitar player couldn’t do it. And I realized why. They just didn’t have the chutzpah to sit there and work on it.

Do you have the patience to go slowly?

(Careful what you ask for, though, because Vai adds: “But that won’t make you a great musician.” Keep in mind that virtuoso and musician are rather different goals.)

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz


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