It Takes as Long as It Takes

Years ago I worked for a magazine publishing company in St. Paul. After meeting with the graphic designer to discuss a new brochure or other advertising material, I would always ask how long it would take to see a design. His frequent response was: “It takes two minutes to cook a two-minute egg.”

I’m often reminded of that principle when I notice my impatience to achieve a certain result or goal. Learning music is often a test of patience. It can be frustrating to try to learn a new scale, riff, or set of chords if you feel like you “should” be able to master it–or at least get the hang of it–sooner.

Blues Lick in B

Blues Lick in B

It takes more than knowing on an intellectual level where your fingers are supposed to go. It’s like learning a new dance step. You “know” what your feet are supposed to do, but it takes a certain period of stumbling before the steps turn into the graceful and swinging movement of a dance.

Learning to play guitar (or any other musical instrument) takes a lot of repetition and a lot of practice. If you imagine you should have learned that song after practicing it twenty times, you’ll make yourself miserable, if it takes you 50 or 100 or 300 times.

It can be a challenge, but, as much as possible, I try to focus on playing it this time and then again and then again–and enjoy the process. Each time I play a chord, riff or song I get a little better at it. Practice always leads to improvement. We just have to accept that it takes as long as it takes to reach a level approaching “mastery.”




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