Battling Discouragement

Discouragement is something ever musician has to battle with from time to time, but it can be overcome by changing your outlook.

Ultimate Guitar
In my experience as a guitar teacher, I've seen countless people become frustrated with certain aspects of playing and practicing the guitar. From time to time, I've seen students that simply want to give up playing the guitar because they aren't progressing as fast as they would like to; others feel that they will never get to the level of playing that they want to see themselves at. Whatever the case may be, I've noticed that the feeling of discouragement often stems from not truly understanding the process of learning guitar. I often hear the question from students and parents, such as: "How long until I can play guitar like (insert guitarists name here)?", or "Will my son/daughter be good enough in six months to play in a band?" In my mind, these are nothing more than rhetorical questions. The answers depends on so many factors, including willingness, desire, physical ability, and much more. Learning anything in life takes time, and as the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day". Many people feel discouraged if they can't play something right away. Most guitarists have it in their mind that they should be able to play a song or piece of music perfectly within a week, or even a month. What most fail to realize is that most of these things can take many months, if not years, to perfect! I know this firsthand, and most of the things I can play very well at this point in time, I started learning many years ago. To give you an example, I have been working on sweep picking' for the past two months (If you don't know what that is, don't worry that's not what's important here.) I'm not anywhere near being able to perform this material at high speed, and my confidence with this technique is weak to say the least. Despite how slowly I feel I'm progressing, the most important thing is that I commit to consistently practice it. The only way to get better at something is to stick with it, regardless of how well you perceive yourself doing. After all, if you stop practicing altogether, there is no chance you will be able to truly master a certain technique or approach. It takes time to build muscle memory, and sometimes even if we know' how to do something, it takes quite a long time to actually do' it. Instead of thinking about your playing in a negative way, you should focus on is where you would like to see yourself in the future as a guitar player, and the steps you need to take to get to there. An experienced guitar teacher is really important in this sense, as they can break down all the steps for you and find ways for you to reach your goals. They can even help you define your goals if you don't know where to start. It's important to understand that everyone's journey in music is different, and that the learning curve varies from person to person. Even small feats deserve encouragement in this respect, and time should not be relevant when it comes to progress. The most important things you can bring to your guitar playing are passion, dedication, and desire. Learning something quickly doesn't prove that you have any of those qualities, but working on something for months definitely does. Learning to play the guitar is a long process, and the best thing you can do is commit to it with all you have. Find ways to make it fun for yourself, and try to focus on what you're getting better at. A good way to take note of this is to periodically record yourself. It doesn't have to be a high quality recording; you can even use your computer microphone or webcam for this. If you listen back to recordings from six months or a year ago, your improvements become quite clear (you do have to practice for this to work!) You will find that there's nothing more encouraging than actually noticing the progress you have made, whether it be a small step, or a giant leap. Remember that if you keep at it, and keep focused, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to. How long it takes to master something isn't that important eventually being able to master it is!

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This is very encouraging you know. I was one of them who almost gave up. I didn't give up because I wanted to be a musician. Thanks alot. I appreciated this Do you mind if I tell my friends who are on the verge of giving up what you mentioned?
    I am only 14 yrs dream is to be a world tour type musician...i want to have a band and write thrash metal and shit like that....but this right here is like the bible of how it should go man....1000% true....i appreciate this and it has encouraged me a lot to continue the long journey ahead of me....thank you!!
    i couldn't agree more. my wife is an excellent violinist, and i'm a mediocre guitarist. she tried to pick up one of my guitars and asked me to teach her a few things. i started with the 12 bar blues (of course) and she got frustrated and told me that she was having a hard time learning because i'm a bad teacher, and because the guitar just isn't for her, or because she has small hands. although her hands ARE small (seriously, i mean like the burger king commercial. i mean, holy crap man! my 3 year old has almost as big of hands as her. it's freaking funny), i think that this article might help her in ways taht i really couldn't.
    heres a tip from my guitar instructor...probably more appropriate for adult students. when your feeling frustrated with your progress, flip your guitar to left handed side or right handed side, whichever way you don't normally hold it. Just feel the awkwardness of it and you'll remember how you felt at the start. it worked for me!
    Greer, that is awsome advice from your teacher.. I have tried this before.. Fingers dont
    heres a tip from my guitar instructor...probably more appropriate for adult students. when your feeling frustrated with your progress, flip your guitar to left handed side or right handed side, whichever way you don't normally hold it. Just feel the awkwardness of it and you'll remember how you felt at the start. it worked for me![/quote] i do that everytime i feel that i haven't progressed at all at playing the guitar. my attitude goes from feeling crappy to realizing how much work it took me to get where i'm at.
    Everything you stated is 100 percent true man.Awesome advice and very encourageing.As long as you enjoying what you play thats all that matters,whether you are good or bad doesnt is good for the soul!!
    i always viewed it as no matter what you play, no matter how you somone out there that is the most beautiful thing they have heard,its all just a matter of opinion
    Paddy Irish
    I am a natural lefty and in my early youth someone close to me told me, when I started wanting to play, that there were no left handed Guitarists. I believed this person why shouldn't I? I was 10. So I forced my self to learn right handed, after a bit I came to find out that this person didn't know what the hell he was talking about but by then I figured the die had been cast I was a righty. After years of never quite feeling right with the guitar I put it down and walked away. Fast forward a couple years and I was walking through a music store when I saw a built for lefty guitar and I was stunned having never actually seen a guitar built strictly for a lefty. It may only be an Ovation but I love her and havn't put it down since I bought it 2 months ago. I finally found what the problem was, besides listening to someone who knew even less about guitars than I did that is, I was playing it ass backwards. Now everything flows I can even sing while playing something I could never do as a righty, I wonder why that is? So now I want to learn all I can and i find it 1000 times easier I want to practice. I am the Anti-Celebrity and I despise where the entertainment business has taken us, I want to burn the whole stinkin edifice down
    This article hits the nail on the head for me. After about 12 years of playing guitar on and off,( self taught, and badly at that,) I picked it up again after having my kid, and decided to take it seriously. I bought a new guitar and am now taking lessons with a master. One of the things that gets me down is thinking of how far along I could be if I had taken it more seriously before, and stayed practicing consistently. More recently, my guitar teacher gave me a blues song with chord shapes I was unfamiliar with--lots of 6 chords, diminished chords, etc etc. It took me about a month and a half of hard work, hours of frustration, moments of despair and several dark nights of the soul before I could pull off that song with some semblance of decency! But I can play the song now, and it's opened up a whole lot of other songs and styles of playing that where previously way out of my league. Every time I get impatient and I want to be better at some chord change or technique RIGHT NOW and not weeks and even months from now, I try to remember how long it took to just get that one darn song! Anyway, I think we can get caught up in wanting to be Jimi Hendrix , like, this week, instead of just enjoying the process of learning. Blah blah! Although, I don't actually aspire to guitar god status, just proficiency, so maybe I can take the pressure off...