Guitar practice shouldn’t seem like hard work but all to often it is. A lot of students experience of the frustration of not going anywhere with their playing despite ticking all the boxes of regular quality practice and focused and effective learning and development. It’s hard sometimes to think that progress is actually being made but this is the key; sometimes it just takes as long as it takes. What I hope to explore in the article today is how you can begin to change your mindset when working through times like this so that you can continue to persevere with your practice and to keep moving forward towards your goals as a guitar player and musician.
It’s very easy for me to say something cheesy like ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’, that all you have to to is to knuckle down and keep at it and if I wanted to give you the easy answer this would be it. However it’s not like that from the point of view of someone who is in that situation. It takes incredible resilience and in trepidation to overcome those feelings of self doubt that you might not actually be able to accomplish learning what you have set your sights on. However this is where the real value of perseverance lies. Time and time again I’ve seen students struggle with something for weeks on end, seemingly not making any progress. However I’ve also seen them practice, I’ve worked with them to refine their approach, to tailor their practice to their individual learning style and focus on the weaker areas of their playing and I’ve seen them ultimately succeed.
It’s not simply a case of keeping doing what you are doing. If you’re practicing or learning something in an ineffective way then chances are that you will not see much progress. What counts is making sure that you recognise where problems are and come up with effective and specific ways to tackle those problems. Then, if those things are working, great, if not refine your approach and try again.
Often I find that student’s problems usually fall into one of the following general areas.
They are trying to go about the task too quickly. This may be learning a song, practicing improvisation, learning a riff or something else. It could be that they are trying to play something up to speed without taking the time to make sure that all the elements are right at a slower speed first or that they are trying to play something in time that they don’t really know properly yet or haven’t committed to memory.
They are trying to do too much too soon. In this case they may have mastered some of the elements of what they are trying to achieve but there are one or more key pieces still not in place. An example of this might be a student learning a strumming based song; they may have learned the chords but not the strumming pattern and are getting frustrated because the song is not coming together.
They are practicing something that they don’t know how to do. With the exception of the next post this is one of the most damaging things to do. Not only is time spent working on something that they are learning/practicing in an ineffective way but chances are a lot of work will be needed to undo those bad playing/practice habits so that it can be relearned in the right way. I was a victim on this for many years until a teacher spent six months taking my lead guitar technique apart so that we could build it back together properly!
They are unfocused. They practice too many things, constantly drifting from one challenge to another and never really achieving anything. Again, I use to be in this category before I took proper guitar lessons with someone who taught me to organise my time and practice and to stay on track.
All of these problems can be solved by having patience and not giving in. However in all cases they are also solved by being honest with yourself about where your playing it at, not being overly critical but also not seeing your playing through rose tinted glasses. Recognising where your weaknesses are is very important as once you know where you are weakest you can focus on those areas in the most effective way and make the most improvement.
If this article has been helpful to you then please get in touch and let me know. Alternatively if you have anything to add or would like to see a blog post on something that you have observed when learning guitar or need help with, please get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you!