Tom Hess

Perseverance - It will make you or break you!

One of the biggest obstacles for most guitar players comes from their own belief that, in order to be a great player, one must possess natural ability. I've taught many private guitar students over the years and I often hear things like, "I'll never be as good as (-student names some great or famous guitarist)". Or, "Players like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai must have been born with incredible natural musical talent". I usually respond by telling the student that he (or she) will never be a great player as long as one believes those things. Great players like Yngwie and Vai didnt just pick up the guitar one day, practice for a little while and then become virtuosos. Both of them had worked extremely hard developing their awesome skills. Yngwie has been quoted (many times) as saying that he practiced 8 hours a day between the ages of 13 and 18! If he (and others) were born with all of this talent then why did they all have to work so hard to get where they are today?

A great non-musical example of perseverance would be the great basketball star, Michael Jordan. Jordan wasn't even good enough to make it on his local high school basketball team! Most people would have given up after such a disappointment and most would have believed that there would be no point in trying again next year, since they obviously would assume that they don't possess the talent. We all know that this was not how Jordan thought about his situation. He worked extremely hard everyday, practicing and asking the coach to teach him, even though he was not a member of the team. The next year, Michael made the team and went on to eventually become one of the worlds greatest athletes of all-time.

There will always be some players that will believe in natural talent no matter what. It is always the same kinds of people who believe in this concept (players who are not great!) I've never heard a great player / virtuoso claim that he (or she) didn't have to work really hard at their playing. The next time you have an opportunity to talk to a truly great player, ask him if it just all came easy to him. I bet you'll hear about how many thousands (if not tens of thousands) of hours that he worked at his playing! The other types of players will often blame their own lack of progress on the belief that they lack the genes to play great.

Despite all that I've just written, I have known some players and students that did seem to be naturally better at some musical aspect more than other players, but this usually happens in only one area. The fact is that to be a good musician one needs a lot of different types of skills. A musician needs: a solid physical technique, a good ear, a good sense of rhythm, a creative mind, an intelligent mind to understand and apply music theory, good improvisational skills, a good ability to compose music, etc. So even if one possesses some good natural talent in one area, no one is born with it all, so we all have to work hard on all the elements that go into becoming a musician.

I've known a few students to believe that they did have natural musical ability. Unfortunately, I have watched them waste their time waiting for their "natural ability" to turn them into great musicians. They showed some initial progress when they practiced, but depended too much on their talent to do the rest of the work for them. Usually at this point, they begin to become lazy and practice less, thinking that they will be great anyway. It is always hard for a teacher to see students fail because they didnt persevere when the potential was there.

What does all of this mean for you? It means that you CAN achieve great things if you have the passion in your heart for music and if you have the perseverance to learn and practice each day. It will take a long time, but it is well worth it. Each of you has basically the same potential as everyone else to accomplish great things. Don't wait for some natural abilities to take you where you want to be though. You must believe that you can do it only if you work hard and long. If you believe in this concept and believe in yourself...dreams can come true.

Thanks for listening,

Tom Hess

the following bio material provided by Tom Hess

Tom Hess is an electric guitar virtuoso whose debut CD, Hess ~ Opus 1, has received numerous rave reviews and has sold in more than 25 countries from around the world. Tom has been teaching guitar since 1991. He currently teaches 55-65 private students a week, a weekly improvisation class and teaches correspondence lessons to students from all over the United States and abroad. Tom welcomes your questions and comments and is also accepting new students (no matter where in the world you live), to contact Tom directly send e-mail to: The official Hess web site is: