This is a guest post by Kevin DePew from the awesome site Relax and Learn Guitar. Kevin has been playing guitar for over 30 years, and RLG includes a variety of video lessons, personalized instruction, and a dedicated online community of people who want to learn guitar.
Every guitarist, whether you have been playing for years or you just started last month, occasionally gets into a rut or a slump. It doesn’t matter if you have been playing 30 years, there is going to come a time that you are going to get stuck
It has happened to me. I feel like I am playing the same old licks or songs or scales all the time and I need to break through to the next level. Find that new style, learn a new lick or song.
Learning guitar takes a lifetime. There is always something new to learn. That is part of the beauty of it. It also means that you will likely run into this problem several times during your guitar journey.
This article will help you understand the most common reasons for getting stuck and not making progress. And hopefully help you move through those tough times.
1. You are playing too fast
This is one we are all guilty of. Trying to play too fast before you have mastered that strumming pattern, or that phrase or that chord change. Trying to play too fast just makes you learn mistakes faster. Your fingers have to keep up with your brain. Let your brain really understand what you need to do and then work up your finger speed. Speed comes with time.
2. You practice without a purpose
There is a big difference between playing and practicing. If you develop a strong practice habit, you are more likely to learn and grow. What makes a strong practice habit?
- Writing down what you have done and what you want to do.
- Identify a skill or chord or phrase you want to master.
- Practice that a little bit EVERY day.
- Be focused. There is a ton of information out there. You have to decide exactly what you want to achieve.
- Keep track of your progress. Recording yourself is a great way to do this.
3. You are worrying about how long it is going to take you to become a great guitar player
When you first start out, you want to be able to play your favorite song. Or maybe you want to play your own song. You soon learn that it is going to take some time to get better. No matter what the gurus say, learning guitar is not something that happens overnight. You gotta work at it. Relax a little and enjoy the journey. Don’t worry about how long it is taking you. Don’t compare, just enjoy.
4. You are not being patient
This follows the last point. When learning any new skill, you have to be patient and follow the program. Your brain may go into overload. But once you figure out how to slow down and how to practice correctly, it will be easier to be patient and see your progress.
5. You are not inspired
The best way to get through this slump is to listen to something new. I rarely listen to jazz. But recently, just by exposing myself to something that I am not totally familiar with, it has inspired me to play more guitar. Listen to something new, go see a live act, ask a friend about what new music they are into. You will be surprised what you might find. In turn, you may just get inspired to learn something new. Then you will need to slow down, add it to your practice routine, be patient and see your progress.
6. You don’t have the theory down
I am not saying that you need to have a doctorate in music theory. I am not even saying you have to take a course. But it will be helpful to your progress if you at least know the basics. Knowing what is behind notes, scales, intervals and chords will go a long way in helping you navigate the fretboard with more confidence and understanding. This will lead to a lower probability of getting stuck.
7. You are not connecting the skills you are learning
This one has to do with our tendency to learn a new skill, for example note bending, but then not applying it to anything you are playing or learning. You should take that skill and apply it to a song or a phrase or an exercise to fit that skill into something that you will be using over and over.
8. You are not practicing regularly
Learning the guitar and seeing progress will depend a lot upon not only how you practice but HOW MUCH and HOW OFTEN you practice. It is best to practice a little bit every day. You will do much better if you take this approach rather than playing for hours every couple of weeks. And it doesn’t take much. Fifteen minutes to half an hour a day will go a long way. Try to make it a habit. Maybe play the same time each day as part of your daily routine.
9. Your guitar is not setup correctly
Often times people get frustrated and stop making progress or even quit because their guitar is hard to play. There are many things that you can do to your guitar to make it easier to play. Lowering the string height for example will make it much easier to play. A truss rod adjustment can help keep your guitar neck in good shape. Even the best acoustic guitars need adjustments, and investing in a professional setup and a new set of strings may be just what you need to get back in the game.
10. You are not getting any feedback
Sometimes we get stuck in our own bubble. When you are not playing for other musicians, or you are not playing for a teacher or any kind of audience, you can get stuck in a rut because you are not getting any feedback. I am not talking about criticism. I am talking about the feedback you get from the reactions of other people and the satisfaction you get when playing and impacting others.
I hope you have found these reasons helpful and that you can apply some of it to get yourself over that hump and get back on track with your guitar playing, practice and learning.