The George Costanza School of Jazz Guitar
As many of you know, I’m a big fan of the hit TV show Seinfeld.
Here’s one of my favorite moments from the show. It’s the famous “do the opposite” scene:
Remember this one? It always gives me a chuckle.
It’s where George Costanza has an epiphany.
His life hasn’t been working out the way he wanted. Unemployed, no girlfriend, living with his parents, and not sure what to do next. In his own words:
“My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I’ve ever had in my life…has been completely wrong”.
The way he’s been going about things isn’t getting results.
His wise buddy Jerry points out:
“If every instinct you have is wrong…then the opposite would have to right.”
Logically, George needs to “do the opposite” of what he’s been doing up until now.
He begins an experiment:
Instead of ordering tuna on toast, he buys a chicken salad.
Instead of having his regular cup of coffee, he opts for a cup of tea.
His life is instantly transformed – starting with a attractive woman who notices that George ordered the same breakfast as her!
Here’s the thing:
Although Seinfeld is just a TV show, there’s profound wisdom in George’s realization here.
To illustrate, let me share my story with my own jazz guitar playing.
For years I was dutifully practicing endless scales arpeggios up and down the fretboard for hours on end, in a desparate effort to improve my guitar technique. And getting nowhere.
I was still missing notes, had a speed bottleneck of around 120bpm, and, worst of all, was starting to get injuries from the buildup of tension in my hands.
At one point I stepped back and I thought (just like George), “This isn’t working. There has to be a better way.”
I reflected on Costanza’s “do the opposite” approach
It makes sense. If practicing with this “time spent = progress” mindset isn’t getting results, perhaps I needed to practice…less?
I know this sounds crazy…
But it worked.
Very quickly, my playing started to go through the roof and I overcame all those technical roadblocks.
Here’s the thing:
Getting better at guitar technique isn’t about the hours you spend. Rather, it’s about zeroing in on the most essential exercises, and organising your daily practice schedule to take full advantage of how the mind best learns and refines a skill.
Founder, Fret Dojo
World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education