How to Avoid Sucking as a Self-Taught Guitarist

If you are disappointed with the results of your efforts to get better as a guitarist, this lesson will help you.

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I used to really suck getting better at guitar.

Actually, that's a pretty blatant understatement. I was a terrible self-teacher and progress was agonizingly slow.

Back in high school, I lived and breathed rock music, so naturally I wanted to become a great guitarist. Unfortunately, I had to stop taking formal guitar lessons at age 16 and it didn't take me long to develop some pretty terrible and unproductive habits when it came to practicing and teaching myself.

The worst part about it was that I didn't even realize I was doing anything wrong.

After playing guitar for a couple of years, I knew I could play... Just not particularly well.

I wasn't what you'd consider a complete novice - I knew my blues scale positions and I knew how to play a handful of classic rock tunes by the likes of Nirvana and AC/DC (check complete guides to "Smell Like Teen Spirit" and "Thunderstruck" at UG Wiki). I also delved into music theory a bit, although I admit I didn't really understand what was going on with it.

I was no Randy Rhoads, but at least I wasn't a hopeless case.

Thus, the hubris of my sixteen-year-old self led me to believe that I could get better on my own by winging it.

In those days, a typical after-school "practice" session would go something like this:
  • Pick up guitar and fiddle with effects for a few minutes;
  • Noodle through a few chromatic warm up exercises;
  • Sit for a few minutes and figure out what I should work on;
  • Decide to learn sweep picking because that's what shredders seemed to do;
  • Scour the Internet for a decent sweeping lesson;
  • Plow through the best lesson I could find but struggle with an overly-complicated exercise;
  • Grow bored/frustrated/no longer "feel like" sweeping;
  • Switch gears and pick a Metallica song to learn;
  • Learn half of the first riff of "Master of Puppets" but get interrupted by mother calling me for dinner;
  • Decide to watch "Seinfeld" reruns instead of resuming practice after dinner.
How's that for productivity?

Expand this unfocused "practice" regimen over the next few years and you had yourself one extremely average guitarist.

Realizing my limitations really hit home when I saw younger, less experienced players surpassing me.

Goddammit.

When This Really Started to Suck

So what did I do once I realized I was taking the slow train to Suckville?

Very little.

Instead of nipping my bad habits in the ass, I started to feel more and more self-conscious about my playing. I grew increasingly frustrated and uninspired to practice.

My inner self-critic seemed to dominate every guitar playing situation I found myself in.

I knew I couldn't play songs accurately. I knew I wasn't cutting as a songwriter and guitarist in my band. I would routinely biff improvised solos whenever I was in a jam situation with friends (that one really felt like sh-t, by the way).

"Oh, sad, young Zach... You had no idea how terrible you were." - Current Zach

I was rusty and feeling increasingly self-conscious about my playing abilities.

Sometimes my guitar would stay in its case for weeks.

But I still wanted to be a sick guitarist!

Every now and then, I'd get a burst of inspiration, usually after going to a show. "This time I'm gonna buckle down and get back into it!" I'd declare to myself. Then I'd get my hands on a ton of learning materials and commit to developing every area of my guitar playing - scales! Technique! Improvisation! 2 hours every day!

But once my motivation wore off and I realized my self-imposed rigorous practice routine was a completely unrealistic commitment, I'd stop after a few days at best.

Ultimately, looking back, the saddest part about this experience is the gradual loss of the joy I felt when I picked up my guitar.

Guitar seemed more like a chore as the months moved on, and although I still wanted to get better, deep down I looked at guitar like an adversary rather than a friend.

How I Turned This Disaster Around

Something clearly had to change if I wanted guitar playing to become a positive thing in my life again.

So what ended up working?

I wish I could say the ghost of Jimi Hendrix hit me upside the head one day and I woke up with a savant-like virtuosity for the guitar, but alas, that wasn't the case.

What ended up working, ultimately, came from a gradual shift of some deeply rooted assumptions I had about guitar playing. This led me to refocus my priorities so that I wasn't taking random stabs at improvement. Once I did that, the positive results started becoming surprisingly apparent.

Today, I'm happy to say I've never been playing better than I am now. I play with killer musicians and am able to play guitar and bass professionally. My skills are recognized by musicians and audiences alike, and most importantly, guitar is fun and I look forward to playing it every day. I no longer feel like a hack and I generally feel confident and challenged as I continue to grow as a player. Guitar became my friend again and it feels fantastic.

I'm not saying this to brag, by the way - I merely want to illustrate that it's possible to improve in great strides and receive all the gifts that guitar can give you, even if you aren't able to commit to formal lessons or have a ton of time to practice per day. If I can do it, you definitely can.

It took me while to come to these conclusions. A few years, in fact. But you don't need to take that long to turn things around if you happen to be in a rut, lost, frustrated, or pressed for time to practice.

If you feel like you might be a crappy self-teacher, keep reading to learn the 3 biggest takeaways that helped me turn my guitar life around and become a better teacher for myself.

This is what worked for me and it just might work for you.

1. Make Learning Songs Your No. 1 Priority

In other words, refocus your efforts and learn as many songs as you humanly can! That's it. This is a fairly straight forward concept, but it can be a game changer.

I think that most players would agree that playing along to their favorite songs is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying pastimes while playing guitar.

Often, learning new songs deeply connects with the initial excitement we feel we first learned the instrument. Virtually everyone who picks up guitar gets that unmistakable rush of excitement when they learn enough fundamentals and can jam along to their favorite tunes.

The guitar legend Slash, for example, reflected on how important learning songs was to his early development as a guitarist in his autobiography:

"Simply understanding that I could mimic the songs on my stereo was enough to imprint the guitar on my reality forever."

How's that for a powerful sentiment?

So if learning songs is so deeply rooted in our enjoyment of the instrument, why don't many players prioritize it when trying to improve on guitar?

My guess is because we equate learning and playing cover songs as "fun," we therefore feel like we shouldn't be doing it as much as rigorous and technical guitar practice. It's a form of guitar guilt!

I won't deny that fully-dimensional, focused and consistent guitar practice has massive benefits. But, if you don't take frequent one-on-one lessons with a teacher, you know how much of a challenge it is to come up with an appropriate practice routine based on your current skill level. Plus, if you don't have a teacher, there's the added challenge of having enough self-discipline to stick to your routine.

This was a huge problem for me. I felt like I should learn X, Y and Z on guitar, so typically I'd try to learn complicated techniques and prioritize scale practice. Not only would I not have fun with that approach, but also I had difficulty applying what I learned to real musical situations.

When I decided to say screw it and just focus on learning the songs I liked, a lot of things changed:
  • I looked forward to playing more, often fantasizing about coming home at the end of the day and diving into practice;
  • I didn't take guitar as seriously, which, counter-intuitively, helped me improve;
  • I would see the practical musical applications of the different techniques and scales used in the songs I was learning;
  • My playing became more "musical" and my ear got more critical through the process of transcribing riffs and solos and mimicking the phrasing of my favorite guitarists;
  • The songs I learned often inspired my own musical ideas. My songwriting improved as a result.
All in all, the benefits of prioritizing song learning greatly outweighed any success I had with more traditional self-guided practice.

Action Step for You

Make a list of all the songs you've ever wanted to learn. It can be as long as you want. Include songs at any difficulty level and any genre. The more variety, the better. Consult this list each time you practice guitar and build up your repertoire of cover songs!

Example of a Spotify playlist I use to practice songs I know and add songs I plan on learning.

"But what about songwriting, scales and technique? You can't just ignore those!" you might be wondering/rolling your eyes at your computer screen.

Well, with this approach, you won't completely ignore these aspects of guitar practice, you'll just approach them differently. Which brings us to Step 2.

2. Use Your Song Study to Inform What You Need to Work On

The more time you spend learning songs, the more you'll naturally work on different areas of your playing. Over time, you'll also become more perceptive to what areas of your playing you need to work on.

With this approach, your song study is the overall main focus, but you can use the songs you learn to address any apparent and immediate weak spots you have.

I realized how beneficial this can be a few years ago when my old roommate - a brilliant, classically trained guitarist - casually noticed I was struggling with David Gilmour's solo in "Time."

I had always wanted to learn the song, so I was naturally having fun learning it, but as I got deeper into it, I knew I has having trouble making the solo sing like Gilmour.

I was playing the correct notes, but we realized my bending technique was underdeveloped.

My roommate recommended I try a few simple bending exercises so I could practice bending up to pitch and applying steady vibrato at the top of the bend, like Gilmour.

I spent a few days working on full and half-step bends on different areas of the guitar neck. Once I returned to the solo, learning the rest (and sounding more like the record) became much easier.

In this case, I was developing the technique for a very specific purpose and practical application - to play a solo I was learning. I wasn't practicing technique for technique's sake.

In this example, I had some help from an expert (it's always a good idea to surround yourself with great musicians if you can), but, over time, I became much better at self-diagnosing my areas of weakness and tending to them accordingly.

Approaching exercise-based practice this way is not only more enjoyable because you get the more immediate payoff of being able to play your song, but it also makes progress happen much faster because you become better and faster at addressing and correcting your problem areas.

The same thing applies to scale study. Instead of randomly deciding you should memorize the harmonic minor scale in all keys (a.k.a. learning and forgetting them), you might decide you want to learn more about the composition of a guitar solo you're learning. Try searching online for a compositional analysis of the solo, noting what scale it's in and how the scale relates to the underlying chords.

This is much more practical to your overall playing than learning scales in isolation because you can immediately see the musical application.

To recap where we are at this point:
  • Priority No. 1: Learn as many songs as you can;
  • Priority No. 2: Use what you're learning to dictate your technique, scale and theory practice.

Action Step for You

Think about the songs you do know but can't really play flawlessly. What could you do to fix your weak areas? Come up with 3 problem areas you want to improve and use those songs as a springboard to improve them. Search for lessons online and nip those problem areas in the ass.

Now for the icing on the cake - the next step may seem obvious, but it can help you save a ton of time.

3. Eliminate Small-but-Frequent Time Wasters

I'm tempted to say just be more productive, but that's actually a terrible way to say it.

I'm not talking about taking an ultra-productive and no-nonsense approach you your guitar playing, but if you're someone who doesn't have a lot of time to play or feels like your practice sessions meander into random acts of noodling, a simple solution to keep you on track is to eliminate time wasters during your practice sessions.

If you find 30 minutes in a given day to practice guitar, wouldn't you want to maximize the time you have and not spend 5-10 of those minutes searching for an online lesson, fiddling with your guitar tones or even choosing what you want to practice?

Although they may not seem like a big deal, those little activities add up over time and can eat away at your focus and motivation.

This set me back quite a bit when I would manage to set aside time to practice - I'd spend too much time addressing time-wasting tasks like searching for a good tone or guitar cables. Worse even, if my practice space was a mess and I knew I had a broken string and no replacement, I'd use that as an excuse to not practice.

You can cut down on those small time-wasting activities with some simple organization.

Here are a few recommendations:
  • Make a song list to consult every time you sit down to play your guitar;
  • Organize your learning materials (for example, bookmark your favorite sites; organize your notes and instructional books; make an iTunes, YouTube or Spotify playlist of all the songs you know and want to learn);
  • Strip your practice surroundings of clutter and make sure you have everything you need - strings, cables, tuner, metronome, etc. - within arm's reach;
  • Dial in and save your favorite tones on your amp or digital amp simulator so you can quickly select them when you sit down to practice;
  • Take a less-is-more approach to your practice space. What are the main elements you need to have a productive session? What can you get rid of?
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how must time is wasted due to a lack of direction and organization.

Example of my home practice space. No bells and whistles, just everything I need for a productive practice session.

Action Step for You

The next time you have a free afternoon, take an inventory of what you currently have in your guitar practice space setup and what you need and what you don't. Spending a little time getting rid of distractions and creating a comfortable practice space will encourage you to get into the practice chair and get the most out of your time.

All of This Sounds Pretty Simple, Right?

It is simple! Not that there's anything wrong with that!



With a virtually endless amount of information we can consume as guitar players, it's no wonder why it's easy to get off track or lose direction as a self-taught player.

Even though at face value it can seem laughably obvious, the simple framework can help you get direction, stay on track and enjoy practicing guitar.

I wanted to share my experiences with you to help you realize that if you want to get better, you can. There's really nothing stopping you.

Share your own experiences as a self-taught guitarist in the comment section below. What do you struggle with? What have you tried to overcome your struggles?

TL;DR: If you suck at being a self-teacher and are disappointed with the results of your efforts to get better, refocus your approach to learn as many songs as you can. This can help you determine what skills you need to work on and give you constant practice applying musical concepts in real songs instead of exercises. I used to suck as a self-teacher, but by applying this framework, I was able to see massive results and enjoy the process of improving on guitar. You can too.

About the Author:
By Zach Pino. If you like this approach and want to get a little more specific with how you can apply it to your own playing, I have something extra for you (free of charge). Head over to zachpinoguitar.com and enter your email address in the top form to get access to my free e-guide, The Zach Pino Guitar Game-Changing Guide to Learning Songs as Quickly as Possible. The guide gives detailed step-by-step instructions on how to get organized and how to learn songs faster and more accurately so you can really start seeing the results you want.

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104 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Ro-may-o
    I have a real feeling this lesson is gonna help me. I can play some cool shit on guitar, but the problem is it also sounds like shit.
    PiercedBand
    You're probably using way too much gain. I rolled my gain knob on my amp head from 10 to 5 and I got the same amount of crunch but with less mud and barely any feedback. If that's not it, practice what you're playing XD
    tonello
    That's a mistake a lot of people, myself included, make. What may sound like an awesome beefy tone in your bedroom will be pretty lifeless in a band situation. Scooping mids is another problem people have. Boost the mids a bit and you won't be trying to compete with the bass guitar for frequencies.
    valrulv
    Ignoring everyone that thought they knew better, this method has served me and served me well for over twenty years. Playing guitar should always be enjoyable, and there's no reason why one can't incorporate the fun of learning a favorite song with learning technique. Excellent article. A++
    Kevätuhri
    This is pretty much my life But I am making a conscious effort to change that, and it's nice to see that you came into the same conclusion as I did. I've just decided that instead of learning new scale positions or hacking down tapping licks I'd try to uphold a practice routine where I would steadily learn new songs from different genres and styles: my plan is to alternate between my favourite music and genres relatively unknown to me, and hopefully it will keep me both motivated and progressing I don't think that selfteaching is as simple as "learn new songs" but I still enjoyed the read, you had some fair points.
    PiercedBand
    Actually I'd say selfteaching is "learning new songs" for the most part. I've learned a whole bunch of techniques from playing songs in multiple genres. Once you get the basic techniques from the songs you have learned then you can take that certain technique even further.
    tonello
    It actually is just as simple as teach yourself new songs. Learn new licks, techniques, or rhythms that can help expand your musical library.
    Kevätuhri
    Well, depends on your goals. At least to me, studying theory and composing my own songs and improvising over backing tracks are a huge part of guitar playing, none of which classify in any way as "learning songs". Not arguing with the author, it is the best way you can spend your time with the instrument if you don't have much time daily, but if you aim at anything else than being good at playing other peoples' songs I suggest that you'd spend time working on your own style as well.
    maowcat
    Learning other people's music is part of how you create your own style... playing them is equally as important. Whether you teach yourself or take lessons is ultimately preference, your overall knowledge of musical theory doesn't mean your going to be a better performer or composer than someone who doesn't practice theory.
    danielprietog
    That's pretty nice advise, and I think it may work in a lot of ways, still I agree with Kevätuhri, you have to be able to explore into the unknown, find a new style or genre. The other thing I would add is: Play with someone, the more advanced is the person playing with you, the best. That will teach you how to communicate and will give you instant feedback that toy couldn't get by playing by yourself.
    MikeBTE
    Personally I improved dramatically by joining a band with a guitarist much better than me. My chops improved and creativity starting flying.
    TJ1991
    This is brilliant. The approach of learning songs is what I've always done, but I can't emphasise enough the importance of learning them properly, inside out, with every tiny passing note, suspended chord, everything. Don't just use the first tab or chord sheet you find - yeah, maybe use that to get a rough idea, but spend a lot of time listening closely to the song, experiment, and learn the song 100% how it is on the record. In the long run that's what makes the difference between a half-decent YouTube guitarist and a serious professional. If you're gonna do it, there's no point in half-assing it.
    MaggaraMarine
    Exactly - there's more to a song than playing the right notes. By just looking at a tab, you'll learn the right notes, but that's it. To properly learn how to play the song, you need to listen to small details that have to do with phrasing. You can play the same thing in many different ways. For example the riff may be more staccato, but you are playing it more like legato - that's not going to give the right sound.
    FaceMelterx2530
    It's as if you were reading my mind while writing this. Thank you SO much for this! I'll definitely be going back to this article countless times throughout my journey.
    AwesomeOne3
    This article... this article helped me a lot. I'm self conscious as a guitarists and I don't think I'm that good, and I'm thinking the same as yo as you were in high school. Your advice inspired me now. Thank you.
    phil tweedie
    Well, this seems to hit the nail on the head! great article that many people seem to relate to with great advice. Cheers dude
    metal.warrior
    I had to grin at quite some praragraphs - remembering myself doing that very same mistakes Very well brought to the point! Thanks for the article. Michael \m/
    Jazzmandtk
    Fantastic article, really inspired me. Signed up for your site--cheers and thanks man!
    GUITARISTmb
    Very great article. I feel actually at one point when I was in high school I fell under that cycle and actually I bet A LOT of guitarist do. I want to be a music teacher someday and this will definitely be something I have my students read
    onetonryan
    Great article! I have never been motivated by practicing scales, or any other 'technique exercises'. My motivation always came from learning songs/solos that I like. btw, I miss the weekly Zack Pino article.
    Seriden
    I believe in learning songs and also learning theory. The theory, while dry, helps you alot later on. I think the author is right on. I wasted alot of time early on just noodling around without context.
    Funnyname99
    I'm going to send this to my friend and he's going to read these comments and know that I don't really think he *sucks* - just that he wacks discipwine.
    brianfallen97
    thanks for this article. as soon as i get home after school's finished, i'm gonna start learning a bunch of songs.
    MetalSaint
    Cool!!! this should help me a lot! my problem is I tend to go and learn songs that are by Hizaki and his style of playing is cool but hard as F**k @_@ but I'll keep on trying even just to learn one riff or a part..
    FERAL1975
    This has it's place but I find if I just stick to playing along to songs with whatever instrument I'm on eventually it just feels like a glorified instrument karaoke.
    fradd
    Yeah, I've only been learning guitar from playing songs that I know. I have about 1600 guitar pro tabs of songs I know, and I've played all of them at least once. Well, whatever I can do. Most of them I can do okay, but I still can't do most metal solos. The hardest solo I can do successfully is like the one on Metallica's "The Judas Kiss". So I'm kinda stuck, I don't know how to go faster with my fretting hand and my picking hand.
    Basham
    If you aren't doing so already, focus more on tremolo picking to a metronome. Keep increasing the speed until you can play at your fastest speed comfortably for a few minutes. Just practice on each open string individually, you can practice with the fretting hand once you find your comfortable speed, the idea here is speed. (Remember not to strain your wrist when picking, keep it relaxed and smooth) You could even play to a metronome that slowly increases bpm at a steady rate and increase your speed as it increases too. Play until it starts to strain your arm/wrist and then stop immediately and repeat the exercise. When you are picking at a comfortable speed, it's much easier to practice your fretting hand.
    fradd
    I can tremolo pick 16th notes at 180bpm, maybe more. But only with one note. I don't know how to do that with many notes, like they do in guitar solos. All I'm doing now is playing through, songs, then attempting to play the solo slowly and ending up crying.
    Azunaii
    Great article - made me realize I'm facing much of the same issues you were. Very recognizable. I do have a teacher, but I run into the same motivational/lack of progress issues you describe. Although I still want to be awesome at guitar, the guitar indeed "becomes more like an adversary than a friend." So I will try this advice. Definitely the making a list of songs I want to play is neat. I can't believe I didn't think of it myself!
    san-hunter
    I love playing along with my songs, and i do it everyday, but most of the theory stuff just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. i really want to be able to try songs which have no tabs. this article is very accurate though- really does help to follow these things
    mikasapinata
    Well, the thing with guitar tabs on UG is that they don't actually use music notation, so not real theory.
    Thomashuyskes
    What a great article. It is as if you desrcibe the story of my life( and that of many oher guitarist, supposedly)Yesterday I fetched my guitar, started playing a random bunch of chords which I dreamt up about 2 years ago. I have probably played that tune a gazillion times, but always stuck with it, together with other self-written chord progressions. There have been so many instances where I felt guilty because I never felt like sitting down to study the different scales. I felt like I didn't want to learn songs either because I thought that would be a waste of time, and that the real quick en efficient way to teach yourself all the guitar techniques was somewhere out there on net. As a result I spent some time searching the internet, started some lessons, completely forgot about them. Now I realize that you can learn most quickly en efficiently by playing the songs, and let them show you the path to guitar-enlightenment. It's all about the milage..
    TheGroundZero
    Great write up! I started playing playing guitar in 1986. There was no internet, and the best thing you could get without lessons was Guitar For The Practicing Musician and Guitar Player mags. For whatever reason, I literally never spent time practicing scales and techniques, but instead learned songs. So twenty years later I knew how to play a TON of songs. In fact, it was rare that I would jam with someone and not know a song they were playing, or be able to pick it out while playing it. I wish I had started working on technique and music theory sooner, but I didn't. I didn't really start learning more than basics until about 5 years ago. It was like giving me the translation to a foreign book I've been reading for 20 years. I could read the book, but NOW I know what it means. I understand why I'm doing what I do and playing what I play. Anyway... I still learn songs all the time. It's what I really enjoy about playing. I do work on technique and theory now as well, but I really love playing songs. That's why I started playing in the first place. I don't feel like I'm in competition with other guitarists, and I play for MY OWN enjoyment. Learnign songs gives me enjoyment. Again, great article! Really hit home for me.
    JimDawson
    Man, I'm pretty much the exact opposite of you. From the beginning I wanted to learn pretty much how music works and how people played a chord and magically knew it was a C major or whatever. Or even how to figure out any note on the fretboard- it seemed so arbitrary back then. Of course, that was 5 years ago so I had the internet to research all this stuff. It's fun to jam and come up with your own music, but I envy your knowledge of many songs! I can only play a handful of songs from start to finish- better start working on that!
    laughlin8381
    If I could go back in time to my adolescence, I would tell my teen age self to stop trying to learn new songs out of "Guitar for the Practicing Musician" and do two simple things instead: consistently keep your guitar in tune and practice scales, particularly the pentatonic blues scale. These two simple steps will help you develop your ear, learn the fret board, and figure out most rock riffs on your own. Learning a new song out of a magazine or off the internet is nice, but these skills are essential.
    mikeya02
    This is good advice. Only problem is, Manson fans WANT to suck. Nothing you can do about it. lol
    jasperado
    good article, but next time proof read it before your done though
    Saesang
    Compositional analysis are rare to find. How do I then inform myself on theory using your approach? Do I go about analyzing a song myself, and if so, how?
    BibiQ65d
    I share your view, but I also found out that learning the 7 modes ( Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian) can enormously enhance your feel for Harmony . Learn it first in the C major chord-family (C Dm7 Em7 F G7 Am7 Bm7b5), learn one chord-progression for every chord of the C major . Transpose it to your favorite key, only after you play it fluently in the key of C . For instance,your chord progression for the Phrygian(Em7) has 2 chords . In this case, you'll have to play the Em7 chord, with the E in bass . The second chord would be F with the E in bass . For instance, your chord progression for the Ionian Mode is I V IV ( C G F ) . Play the C then the G/C and finally the F/C . Note that the bass note is crucial in determining the Mode you're playing . Take your time, and figure out simple chord progressions to the remaining 5 Modes . Keep the bass note on the root of all the chords you play . That's how it works properly .
    jesseabra
    I read this article just in time. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and use to have a lot of fun. Now I still play daily but most of my time is spent on scales and arpeggios. Not that that isn't fun sometimes, but it seams like I've forgot half of the songs I use to know. This is a good way to spice things up. Nice article..
    riddenzblitz
    I dont know if anyone else has tried this but i think playing RockBand actually helps with a few things like timing and finger strengthening
    Juan0fakInD
    great article thanks for the inspiration. i just read what i needed to hear for a very long time. thanks again!!!
    yisraelkaminetsky
    Keith Richards is reported to have said that "if you don't know the blues, don't bother trying to play pop or rock on guitar." Seems important to play along with blues records. Many guitarists including Clapton and Hendrix have done so. It works and it's fun
    lolidunno
    lately i pick up a guitar and i just want to smash it i suck so much and it's very frustrating. i feel like i'll never get any better than i am, like i've reached a plateau and i just want to quit.
    cheesedips
    some songs seems overwhelming when you look at the whole song...how or where does one begin???in small pieces or what?
    thewrongsondi
    I've ONLY ever tried to learn songs and there is truth to this. I'm actually for the first time in my years of playing starting to run scales because I want to improve my soloing. I learned proper bending technique strictly from trying to match what I was hearing and I can't tell you what a single chord I play is named but I know a lot of them just from trying to play songs. There are some artists who use really unique chords (Dean Deleo from STP for example) that I wouldn't have learned on my own. When you realize that the song you're successfully learning is harder than one you never mastered in the past and then can revisit and nail it first go the progress is clear. Good article man!
    Dean_D123
    This is actually really good advice. I tend to write music in the style of old school Metallica mixed with some In Flames influences, mainly because I learned songs by those bands, and I'm familiar with the theory behind it now that I played it. It's made my spark to learn guitar ignite again, which, of course, is always good
    AlbertCamus
    Wow, that was very well written and articulated. Great article man. There is a lot of poignant and applicable advice in there that I'll certainly try implementing into action. Thanks for writing it!
    RuleTheStage
    As I sat here reading your article, I finally realized that I'm not the only one who sucks as a self taught musician. One of my biggest obstacles is small hands and short fingers. I have a hard time playing 3 fret chords, and an even harder time stretching to 4 frets. I also have a learning disabilty that makes it difficult for me to understand concepts. I can't make heads or tails out of sheet music, so tabs are essential to me. I think that your approach is the perfect storm. I went to my first concert in 25 years last week, and it really re kindled the spark!! I believe the real message from your article is..Keep it simple, and progress gradually. Thank You
    mainman69
    One simple method of dealing with 'practice' is this-I would set a timer for 1/2 an hour.If i got frustrated(i usually start to over heat/pissed)i could walk over see how much longer i had to 'endure'.When the bell went off it told me id put in 'time on the fretboard'. Because i started practice knowing there was an endpoint, it got me started and of course once started id often play longer.Playing with others/for others is 3-1 better than practice time.I play outside, far enuf away from people but close enuf they hear us and once/day say something supportive.Strum once you have changed reality for anyone listening.Plus playing others songs allow even the ameteur to 'wear' art and feel that art in a way no other artform allows.
    gitmaniam
    Two things: a) I clicked on your link, and then "Get the free guide" and got an "invalid email address" error. I was never asked for an email address. I stumbled through your site and guessed "Start Improving" might take me where I needed to be. Did, but wanted to let you know the link in your article doesn't work. b) There are two typo's in your article, things it looks like autocorrect just put the wrong word. Otherwise, great article! I think I was coming to the same solution myself.