Avoiding Frustration During Your Practice Session

How to avoid stress and actually enjoy practicing so that you get bigger results every time you play.

Ultimate Guitar
A lot of my guitar students get frustrated while practicing during their lessons, so I ask them, "Do you frequently get frustrated practicing at home?" The answer is almost always, "Yes." This prevents progress during practice sessions for a few reasons:
  1. Your mind is focused on the wrong things
  2. It means you are practicing incorrectly
Furthermore, it means you are not enjoying your time with the guitar, which completely defeats the purpose of why you started in the first place. So, if you are to become a successful guitarist, you MUST enjoy the process. No one can sustain unenjoyable practice sessions over an extended period of time.

When you are frustrated, it means you are probably playing something wrong over and over again - and that is frustrating. When we find ourselves getting frustrated, we must take a step back and look to the root of the issue. The root is that we are expecting ourselves to do something we cannot yet do.

We become impatient and want to be amazing TODAY. RIGHT NOW. The solution? Stop demanding that you master your instrument today and think about your long-term goals. Where do you want to be in 5 years as a guitar player? Next year? Then let's work to make a small amount of progress each day that will snowball into huge results over time.

For instance, let's say you want to increase your speed on an exercise to 140bpm as 16th notes but can only currently play it at half that speed. Why would you expect that you will double your speed today? Let's set a short-term goal to help us reach the long-term goal. Maybe you only increase your speed by 1bpm/day. It will take you 70 days to reach your long-term goal. Not bad.

Now that you have some perspective, you'll be able to actually enjoy playing this lick at the speed you are at, knowing that you only have to increase that speed by 1bpm today! You're now focusing on the right things - positive results for today, positive gains for the future, and you're enjoying the process. (Side note: this is a hypothetical example and results vary based on your current skill level, the way you practice, what you practice, and the length of your practice sessions).

Now that we are focused on the right things, we can begin to practice correctly. There are many ways to practice something correctly, but there is a simple general rule to keep in mind - great musicians only make the same mistake once. And, since you're no longer trying to double your speed today, you'll be much more content to play an idea repeatedly at a slower speed, which increases your likelihood of playing to perfection. If you make a mistake, that's ok - figure out why you made that mistake and correct it the very next time you play it. More than likely, you'll need to slow down. Then, when you think you're going slow enough, go slower (to paraphrase the great pianist/composer Franz Liszt).

Playing slower will also help you to stay relaxed, furthering your likelihood of success.

No one makes progress at anything during periods of frustration (it may spur you to action to change your level of frustration, but you won't actually progress during that time), and good decisions are rarely made under stress, so follow these simple steps to get yourself focused on the right things, which will help you relax, which will increase your effectiveness and enjoyment of your guitar while practicing.

About the Author:
Eric Bourassa consistently de-stresses and refocuses his guitar students at his Fort Worth guitar studio. You can find him at www.fortworthrockguitarlessons.com

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    most of my guitar instructors, and my family's friends, were worshipers of David Gilmore and Jimmy Page, lauding about how they could play anything anywhere on the guitar. frustration comes when you aim for that but have all the skill of fred durst
    Everyone starts with the guitar skills of Fred Durst, including the Gilmore's and Page's of the world. The frustration comes when you aim for that and expect to do it right away. The frustration disappears when you follow the plan I've outlined for you in the article
    I don't think there's enough stock put into lessons like this. As guitarists (especially of the self-taught variety) we are very inward looking and tend to focus very much on our failings against those who are streets ahead of us, but without consistent perseverance we won't achieve the things we want to. Thinking in this way, however, is very healthy and conducive to productivity which is exactly what self-motivated and driven people need. Thanks!
    tinalong870 · Dec 19, 2015 11:07 AM