How Players Lose Interest

So many people fall into the trap of losing interest. Before you know it, a prospective guitarist tells you he's playing bass and then quitting all together. Why does this happen?

Ultimate Guitar

I remember from my school days how many 'guitar players' filled my classes all telling everyone that would listen that they play guitar. Most of them were only on the level of knowing basic chords and progressions. Not long and you hear 50% say they've sold the guitar and taken up bass guitar. I can honestly say in my last year of school about half of the "musicians" were playing or learning bass. And finally only about 3 or 4 survived and became decent guitarists. 

So how does this happen? Why do so many players lose interest? And for those who are learning now, how can you avoid this pitfall and go on to become a versatile well rounded player?

Let's address the root of the problem. Why do people lose interest?

Well, from being there myself at a time, it seems to stem from a number of things.

Firstly, some players expect that they can practice for 10 minutes a day, playing random notes/progressions or picking along to songs and when they fail to see progress they lose interest and motivation. Playing for 10 minutes a day will not see you keeping up with players like Slash, Page, Santana etc.

Secondly, it's the mind frame and lack of creative thinking. When we start playing, a multitude of information is handed to us that go the "Guitar for dummies" books route. Pages upon pages of musical theory and diagrams fill these beginner books, and if you're anything like I was when I started you just shut down because of this information overload. There are ways around musical theory but in the end, having that knowledge is like driving on a brand new piece of road knowing where you're going, as opposed to a gravel road chasing the sun.

But apart from learning this musical theory, many also can't think creatively outside that theoretical box and can't find creative equilibrium immediately when starting.

Thirdly, and something that we are not all in control of is time constraints. I've read that Slash used to practice up to 12 hours a day! I know that personally I don't have that much time on my hands. But unfortunately if we want to progress, we need to put time into our instruments.

Fourth, boredom. Yes, we all want to play blistering solos or beautiful melodies. But getting there means going through practice and exercises that are in their essence actually quite boring. Learning scales can be tedious and the exercise of playing them until you know them by heart is actually boring.

Lastly, a lack of setting goals for ourselves and motivation to achieve those goals. You need to know where you're going, otherwise you will not be determined to get there.

So how do we avoid falling into these traps? I mean there is no set of rules on becoming a good guitar player. But there are things I feel that you must possess from the start to become truly good.

Here is what I feel every prospective guitar-master needs before he even owns a guitar:

1. A true passion for music - No one would want to be a good musician unless they truly love music and appreciate what it gives to you emotionally and spiritually. Apart from the appreciation, you want to be the one making those sounds that give you that feeling. Passion is a must for all musicians.

2. Determination - When you don't become a shredding machine in 2 days, don't sell your guitar and dismiss learning as too difficult. It takes time and a lot of hard work to become a fluent player. Especially for those who don't have massive amounts of time on their hands. But keeping at it, even when you don't progress as fast as you hoped you would, is very important. Don't give up on yourself. 

3. The ability to manage time - You need to make time to practice. And you need to do so every day. On a personal note, I keep a guitar close to the bathroom to make nature's calling more productive. Sit and practice while you watch TV. Once your girlfriend/boyfriend tells you, you don't make enough time for her/him, practice some more until they complain about getting no time at all, that means you are practicing to your full potential.

4. Prioritizing - If you'd rather play "GTA V" than practice, don't complain about not becoming as good as you've hoped. Sacrifices will need to be made to become a great player. Sacrifice your non-productive time for practice time. 

5. An idol - Yes, if you want to become a great player, you must idolize another great player. Whether it's Jimmy Page, Buckethead or your friend that's better than you, you must have someone to look up to. A guitar-father figure if you will.

6. A goal - Know where you are heading. You can't learn blindly and not know where you want to be. However, even when you reach your goal, remember that music is a lifelong learning curve. You will never know everything there is to know. You can always become better. 

7. Rhythm - This was actually supposed to come up earlier in my list, the most basic thing ANY musician needs is rhythm. I know that some will say that if you don't have rhythm it can be learned, well I've never seen anyone successfully "learn" rhythm. If you can't keep a simple beat, you will struggle.

Becoming a well rounded guitar player is a long journey. You will always learn something new along the way. There are countless skills you will need to master, scales, modes, progressions and even setting up your equipment.

But the most important part is never to give up on yourself. Everything takes time and effort. If you can't play scale exercises at 200 bpm after practicing for a day, don't give up. Very few people can progress that quickly. 

Thank you.

70 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This really applies to all instruments. Pick someone you strive to be like (for me that's Duff McKagan. Not because he's a technical god, but he's great at what he does) and learn the theory. It's boring as hell, but it helps
    I disagree about learning rhythm. It can be done, just like every other skill. I've never met anyone who can't keep some kind of simple rhythm - like kids clapping in school songs. And improving my rhythm's what I've been working on in my own playing and THAT is what's motivating me at the moment. All the other points in the article were valid, but this one spoiled the whole thing for me.
    I think this happens when people get too caught up sometimes. Perhaps they practice too strictly or what not, they take the fun out if it. People need to just have fun with it
    Jacques Nel
    Yeah man that's really true, that's why you have to take time off practicing to just play. No matter what it is, play guitar.
    Great text. I think the most important 'barrier' is the number 7. Got some friends that dont keep a single beat, and they just dont feel it. Now im studying and i dont have that much time for guitar, but if i do, then im sitting for hours and feeling a lot of satisfaction.
    dude same here, I finally graduated, and it made me realize that the best decision of my life was that I decided to learn guitar.
    you know what? same here i tried many hobbies, like skateboarding, skating, painting, but i didnt feel it. guitar is that what i love and what i probably would do one way or another in the future if i didnt choose that.
    "If you'd rather play "GTA V" than practice" - I wish I could do both at the same time.
    This article rings true in many ways. Especially setting a goal for yourself. I'm a bit of a latecomer, I started playing when I was 16-17 and I just turned 22. Since starting, I haven't had a single moment of regret. But I really think that's because I set goals for myself that were very realizable. You might say: 'you'll need to aim for the stars otherwise you'll never get anywhere', which is completely true. But I think that every successful guitar player up to now has realized that the true goal, the true aim here should be overcoming the ladder that lead up to these stars. While climbing, you'll need to keep your head pointed upwards as to not lose sight of your goal, but you must still be very conscious of the fact that there are a great many more steps to be taken to get there. One must realize that every step on the ladder is a necessary one in order to reach your goal. True joy, then, from playing guitar as far as I'm concerned doesn't truly lie in 'reaching' those stars, but rather being able to look down and say: look how far I've come!
    0ld H1pp1e
    Most would-be musicians seriously under estimate the amount of time it takes to even get basic proficiency. If you don't have the fire in the belly where you just have to play, it's tough for most people to put in the time. It does literally take thousands of hours to get good. Too many people think it's the teacher or the course material OR the equipment you play. There is nothing that is going to take the place of putting in the time - even if you have a "natural gift" for the instrument. Just be prepared. If you aren't willing to put in the time, you weren't serious to begin with.
    Jacques Nel
    Yeah man, and coming back to that point you made about people blaming the teach or the material, we actually have it easy with the internet and all the DVD's, videos and books that are freely available. If you think back you realize that many of the legends of yesteryear were self taught, with little resources available to them. So there's no excuse really.
    Remember.....The *****s in GTA V are not real. If you get good at playing guitar you will get some real *****s
    For the seventh point - Robert Fripp didn't have any rhythm when he started playing guitar. Also, Buckethead <3
    Jacques Nel
    I think this is definitely a debatable point, I'm of the opinion that they must have had rhythm and not really known in a way, but they just needed practice. I've worked with many people who just don't have a shred of rhythm, and it just never seems that they progress. But as I said, it's definitely a 'sensitive' subject
    Von II
    I used to have 0 rhythm when I first started guitar. Tapping the rhythm to Smoke On The Water even required full concentration and a lot of effort not to mess it up. But a few years of guitar and bass later, my rhythm is fine. Well, I still wouldn't make for the best drummer ever, but it's not a weak point anymore.
    ''I can honestly say in my last year of school about half of the "musicians" were playing or learning bass.'' - Having some respect for other instruments wouldn't hurt you, you know.
    He's not saying Bass is lesser than guitar, but just that some people start with playing guitar and than switch to bass because they're under the impression that bass is easier because it has only four strings(on a standard bass that is) And the bass is one of those instruments which are easy to learn but hard to master(IMO, I'm a guitar player and can play some fun tunes on bass, but nowhere near as good as other bass players who took their time with practicing playing bass)
    I remember during highschool that all my bassists were mediocre guitarists who wanted to play in a band. That is why I if you meet a great bassist you do whatever you can to get him in your band.
    true that. I only know of one local bassist of my age and Ive been desparately keeping him in my projects for the last two years. We dont really click that well musically, but god when his bass lines start to mesh with my guitar work, I feel all warm and cuddly inside.
    My Last Words
    Hit the nail right on the head. Not to forget the often overlooked but IMO most imporant aspect of playing the bass: Keeping time.
    How is stating facts not having respect for other instruments? He never claimed bass players are worse musicians or anything like that,what he did say is that these "musicians" probably thought playing bass would mean less practicing and that it would be much easier.
    "what he did say is that these "musicians" probably thought playing bass would mean less practicing and that it would be much easier" Which, for the most part, is true. That's why I play bass and listen to Rush, Less than Jake and Alien Ant Farm - the bass is more interesting and complicated.
    It's the way it's stated. Could have said "other instruments", but no, chose to name bass directly. It is widely known that guitar players mock bassists ad hominem.
    Jacques Nel
    Lol, man I can see I've stepped on some toes, but honestly I didn't intend for it to sound like bass is inferior to guitar. It was an actual fact that I mentioned to kind of show that people have this mistaken stereotypical belief that learning bass will now be easier than playing guitar. That's just something I experienced first hand that I am telling. I didn't mean to offend any bassists. So chill guys. For what it's worth in my hometown it's for some reason impossible to find a bass player anymore that's free at least.
    Jacques Nel
    Hey man, I promise you I have the greatest respect for any instrument. Me saying that half the guys that started on guitar later turned to bass guitar is just part of the recollection of events. And in those days, the typical stereotype at my school was that bass was much easier to learn, so guys would try doing that and even quit bass eventually.
    Jacques Nel
    ..Oh and one more thing, I actually play a little bass as well. I wouldn't touch anything I don't have respect for. Music is like my second wife, and I appreciate and absolutely love every aspect of it. Keep good.
    "I've never seen anyone successfully "learn" rhythm" Nooooo it can't be true.....!!! I have been working really hard on "learning rhythm" Now I wonder, have I been wasting my time? My sense of rhythm is getting better, but I have to break every lick down and slow down the metronome to get it... It's hard work (that's fine I don't mind hard work), but if it's a waste of time... That's another thing.
    I'm more of an acoustic guy, and when i do play electric I prefer that smooth, legato Santana/Satriani feel. This article is really motivating me to get down for a 12 hour practice sesh. I'm starting to realize that even back at woodstock, Santana was no amateur...even in those jam sessions that he and his band recorded in the early 60s, he was definately no amateur.
    I agree except for the last point. I practice my butt off to get a better sense of rhythm and it worked. I'm not saying I'm doing 8 time sig changes in a song but I definitely improved my ability to feel the pulse of a song from originally not even being able to hold a steady 4/4 beat without getting lost. I think that the main reason is that people truly underestimate just how many hours have to be put in not just consecutively for a couple of weeks but for a couple of years in order to truly reach a good level of mastery. Another thing is that we don't stop to realize that even though there are millions of bands out there who have reached some level of fame and exposure, there's probably 10 guitarists who couldn't make it for every 1 that does make it. Its kind of like basketball, for every tall player you see in the NBA there are like 100 equally tall players who just couldn't make it. We compare ourselves to a very small population of musicians who found success.
    I remember when I first touched a guitar several years ago I went through 2 different teachers and I quickly gave up on guitar. It killed me with boredom having to learn scales and how to read sheet music and never really learn how to play music. Now that I started to play again last year, I regret not keeping at it. I've gotten good since I started, but if I had kept with my guitar playing from all those years ago, who knows what my guitar playing would be like. But the difference is that now, I love to play guitar where as before it felt like a chore. It's like this article says, you actually have to play because YOU want to and not because you HAVE to. Otherwise you won't really progress as a guitar player.
    I agree with this article. However I think in music theory you shouldn't try to be like a certain guitar player. Reason is you will adopt their style and sound, I've seen this actually happen. this doesn't mean you shouldn't have a guitar player you idolize since mine are the pioneers of Rock'n Roll like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and more not to mention the Blues Musicians who got Rock'n Roll going. I believe you have to have a strong passion for music whether it's playing someone else's tune or creating your own. Learning all aspects of a guitar will help incredibly. Appreciating all genres of music is another. I can't stand when people say I don't like this type or that type. Learn to play multiple genres is also a great learning tool, it has been for me. My biggest role model in music has been my dad (deceased) who in my eyes was a great performer and guitarist. he learned by ear at a young age and played for money. I hope someday I'm as good as he was cause he could draw a crowd when he did play. I'm an advance player with a natural talent for rhythm and my timing is near flawless, but my dad told me I should take lessons to compliment my talent. I have plans to do so. I want to become a great guitar player not just a guitar player. Vincent Lee Boyd
    Timing is near flawless, watch out with your all changes when you have to sight read in a jazz band with changes that make you shit your pants..timing and sight reading are things that need to be done on a daily basis, timing and sight reading is something that needs to be done daily or it starts to weaken.
    Good point - I've been guilty of saying such things because i do have quite good timing, but there is plenty out there to trip me up. #7 is mostly true - some folks just have an inherent sense of rhythm, while others struggle. I learned this trying to teach friends to play as a teenager - some were truly hopeless. My father is the same way, can't clap to happy birthday with a gun at his head. If you are learning to have better rhythm good for you.
    Jacques Nel
    I actually think if you have any type of ability to keep time you can better your rhythm. In the article I refer to those who really don't have a sense/understanding of musical timing. I've met some who really truly can't keep time with anything no matter how hard they try. Not even to songs they listen to. It's just my opinion that in cases where someone can't get any kind of timing together whatsoever, they will probably not go on to making music. But there is always an exception. And actually, I know this may be a debatable point but I did not say it's impossible, I said someone who doesn't have rhythm will most likely struggle.
    You can learn rhythm with a lot of hard work, studying players, working with metronomes, and learning songs...I started playing with a poor sense of rhythm and have actually ended up taking the path of rhythm guitar more than my original aspirations of doing leads (I still do both but I find more love in rhythm)
    Great article. It would be easy for me to give up, due to the miniscule amounts of practice time I get, but I keep plugging away. I think you were bang on the money when you said non-musicians underestimate the amount of time needed even to change chords efficiently. Thanks,
    Practice, practice, practice. But don't get too hooked up on theory; you have also got to develop an ear for what sounds right. Otherwise the world will be filled with technically perfect players who you might not want to spend 2 hours a night listening to.
    Disagree with the idolisation, but the rest is quite spot on.
    Jacques Nel
    It helps a lot actually. Learning other musicians' songs actually improves your own ability by so much. I spent an hour or 2 last night learning "Stone" by Alice in Chains (yes on Rocksmith, I can't help myself), and I can say that there are elements that I take from each song I spend time learning and I don't mean actual phrases or that I copy riffs, I mean learning where to find what sounds good for instance with a particular key, or even just building your speed to keep up with a solo. It helps.
    Id have to agree with the Idolization point out of personal experience. For me, learning songs, solos, techniques, and phrasing from Marty Friedman has been vital to me playing for these last 4 years every single day to improve myself. If you dont have a favorite guitarist you would want to play like, you wont really know to what standards you would set your long term goals. and these goals are, in my opinion, the most vital part of not giving up on guitar.
    When I'm beginning to learn to play "electric guitar" - there's this guy named- John Petrucci ... i was dissapointed at first (for obvious reasons)... but after like 10 years ,, you know being patient and perseverance -i can play most of Dream Theater songs - you must try to have this virtues..
    I really think it's whether you actually like playing guitar or not.When I started I couldn't stop for anything , it felt amazing when I can finally play a catchy riff that's always stuck in my head. I think when you truly enjoy playing the guitar nothing can keep you from playing it, maybe those kids in your school were learning it for the wrong reasons. And then moving on to seems like they felt that they needed to learn an instrument, and moving on to a bass guitar just for the sake that it's "easier" yeah...
    I really love this article. However i find myself idolizing to many people. Steve vai,Joe Satriani,Ritchie Blackmore,Jimmy page, I love way to many rock artists. Oh and of course Eric clapton. But indeed! Awhile back i finally stated to myself that I need a practice regiment and once I tell myself something it sticks.
    Great Article, I usually complain about not having enough time but then I get to the end of the uni semester and I spend my time playing LoL! I hate myself
    Jacques Nel
    I apologize in advance, seems a typo slipped through under point number 2, "veri important"
    "Here is what I feel every prospective guitar-master needs before he even owns a guitar:"I disagree with this. You don't have to start out determined (in a rational way), you can grow into it. My first two years was basically without practice. I played sometimes, and i gradually got better, bit by bit (slow). After i reached a certain point, and i found an interest in music as a whole (woulnd't have happened iwthout me owning the guitar in the first place), i started practicing and it got me where i am today.
    Jacques Nel
    Well yes, I understand where you are coming from, but when I say determination, I'm kind of coming from the other side as well, it's not just "practice 10 hours a day", it's also the thing about not giving up if you haven't played in a long time, like you did. I've seen a few people say "I haven't played my guitar in a year, I'll just sell it". I think to an extent you must be determined if you continue to play eventually. After my initial introduction I actually stopped playing for around a year and a half, but got back into it as well.
    School has been taking a lot of time from me and I've barely touched my guitar in weeks. It's kinda been demotivating from making music in general. I hope to get back to it next break or something.
    its like i tell all my friends who "think" or "want" to play guitar. i say you will only b good if you truly love it, you can't force yourself to play guitar. you have to want to play. they all ask me how i got so good. i just tell them its because i love guitar, practice and play more than you, guaranteed. They then respond with "but i do play alot" then i tell them at any given time of the day if im not at work, im playing my guitar. i will then text them every time i'm playing guitar, stop playing, and picking it up again, just to show them they cant keep up with me and thats why they will never b any good
    While I agree its good to have sort of a guitar role model I think idolizing too early could have a negative effect. I can see a beginner looking up to Satch or Paul Gilbert and getting frustrated very quickly. Sometimes I think guitar takes will power, the will to keep on going and get better even when you're struggling through some tough times playing.
    I agree with this point. All the music I liked at 13 was very simple to play. Two years later I started to listen to bands with great guitarists and I was ready for the challenge. I remember one guy who loved Van Halen and Metallica and gave up guitar in a year cuz he couldn't learn there songs. I once said he should learn a Green Day song or two and he became offended.
    How much would people give genetics for their musical ability? There are a lot of people who just can't do music. I've known a few good musicians who can pick up most instruments. They may not be great at them but they understand the music behind it. For example, I can easily play piano. My music knowledge has outpaced my physical ability so I know what I want to do but my fingers are not that great yet. Also, my friends busted me saying that I am good because I have freakish hands. And looking at them the fingers are long and narrow and very flexible. I wonder if that has something to do with it.
    It's that it takes a ton of time and effort and even people who emphasize this under-exaggerate. It's not like a casual hobby/sport where you go to practice twice a week and become alright at it in a couple of years. It's that moment where you think you've practiced a ton and progressed, you give it a shot at that Megadeth song you always wanted to learn and realize you can't play shit.
    Good article,I play when I feel like it and always enjoy it, I'm in it for fun
    Got me up, adding to my practice time . Good article ... I learned to have something to teach and share with my children. . I play a few hours a day to because my guitars say what I feel better then I can say it
    I remember when I first touched a guitar several years ago I went through 2 different teachers and I quickly gave up on guitar. It killed me with boredom having to learn scales and how to read sheet music and never really learn how to play music. Now that I started to play again last year, I regret not keeping at it. I've gotten good since I started, but if I had kept with my guitar playing from all those years ago, who knows what my guitar playing would be like. But the difference is that now, I love to play guitar where as before it felt like a chore. It's like this article says, you actually have to play because YOU want to and not because you HAVE to. Otherwise you won't really progress as a guitar player.