"Don't buy any more gear today, friends…": Tom Bukovac's tip on how to improve as a guitarist is something all of us can do

Tom Bukovac
(Image credit: Elanor Jane)

How do you get better on the guitar? Well isn't that a can of worms. What do you want to improve at? We know, practice can feel like homework (we've got some advice on that too) but there is one guaranteed way you can grow as a guitarist, and Tom Bukovac (aka Uncle Larry) has learned it.

"Don't buy any more gear today, friends – learn some songs," abvises Tom in the latest installment of his Homeskoolin YouTube series that has proved such a goldmine of wisdom and laughs since the lockdown. But he's not advising that we learn any old songs; we need to test ourselves.

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"Learn a cool song with hard chords that you've always wanted to know," adds Tom. "It'll inspire you. I tell you, that's where all the inspiration comes from – it's learning new songs. I'm not suggesting we be copycats and try to steal everything but learning a song that's totally different from anything you'd ever write is a great way to grow as a musician."

It's simple but strikes at the fundamental key to improving in any field; expanding knowledge and skills. And seeing how new chords and musical concepts work in the context of a song you know takes away the 'homework' feeling of learning. 

To illustrate the habit many players can fall into to distract themselves from this kind of growth, Tom uses the example of a young, unnamed friend he sometimes sets guitars up for (indeed Tom's restringing his own '62 Gibson SG on camera while saying this). 

Just play, don't worry about gear – let the gear come to you

"He's got the same disease I had when I was young and that age – all I thought about was get the guitars… get the cool old guitars," Tom recalls. "I would like to help anyone from getting too far into that rabbithole and focus more on music. You've got great guitars – you've got plenty of guitars to handle any musical torrent that could come out of your body. So just play, don't worry about gear – let the gear come to you. 

"Nothing ever works when you try to hunt down guitars," he advises. The coolest guitars I've ever gotten in my whole life were ones that just came into my life without me hunting them down. Anytime I've tried to force the issue, it never ends up being the one I really want and it's always a road to heartbreak, I'm telling you friends. Learn from Larry's expensive mistakes – practice until a cool guitar comes into your life."

Sage, hard-earned advice as ever. Head over to Tom Bukovac's YouTube channel to subscribe for more. And in other related news, Tom and fellow Nashville session ace Guthrie Trapp will be releasing their joint instrumental album, In Stereo, on 1 May 2024.  We'd put money on it being a masterclass of musicality – and the clip above suggests we're right. 

Follow Guthrie Trapp and Tom Bukovac for the latest on when preorders open for the album when they're announced. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.