3 Secrets to Becoming Incredibly Motivated on Guitar

Three ways to improve your motivation and achieve your guitar goals.

Ultimate Guitar
We all struggle with motivation on guitar. Whether it be pushing yourself to practice after a long day at school/work or feeling like you're not making progress, there are many reasons for a decrease in motivation.

Motivation is absolutely key to your success - not just in guitar but in all areas of life. High motivation results in more practice time, thus resulting in more progress and better results. Who doesn't want that?

Low motivation, however, results in less practicing, meaning you'll get less progress and take much longer to reach your goals. This can result in the feeling of "I'll never play like my heroes" or "I just can't do it," which can severely limit your abilities as a guitarist. These thoughts can eventually lead to people quitting the guitar - something we obviously don't want!

Thankfully however, there are things you can do about this. Simple tricks and habits can help to keep your motivation levels high and speed up your progression dramatically. By forming new habits and thought patterns you can massively improve your motivation and get better results than ever before!

These three secrets are, in my opinion, the top three concepts for improving motivation. The first is 100% essential if you ever want to get anywhere with your guitar playing, so make sure you do it! The second and third are incredibly useful and I would highly recommend them, but they're not 100% essential if you find they don't work for you. I beg you to try them, however, as they can make a huge difference!

Secret 1: Set Goals

Goal setting is probably the number one tip given to people who want to succeed at anything - their career, their guitar playing - there really is no limit to its applications. It helps you to get a clear picture of exactly where you want to go guitar-wise, as well as form a plan to get there. In short, it is absolutely key to your success as a guitarist.

So, how do you get started? Well, it's simple. Do this two minute exercise to get an idea of where you want to end up.

1. Sit down and close your eyes.

2. Imagine yourself in an ideal playing situation - what would be the most fun? Are you sitting in a recording studio recording the riff for your next hit record? Are you soloing away in front of an audience of thousands? Are you finally mastering that Yngwie Malmsteen song you've always wanted to play? It doesn't matter what it is, or even if it seems unrealistic. The idea of this exercise is to get a mental picture of how you want to end up - like a destination to head for on your journey. Without a destination to head for, how do you expect to get anywhere?

Now that you've done that exercise, you should be aware of your overall goals guitar wise. The next step is to break that overall image into three (yes, only three - we'll focus on a small number of things first to prevent overwhelm and get progress more quickly) specific skills or goals that are the main ones involved. For instance, for the "soloing in front of thousands" goal, we could decide on the following three skills:
  1. Improvising solos in minor keys
  2. Alternate picking (choose three mega licks to aim for)
  3. Stage presence
Now, of course, there will be other skills involved (such as sweep picking, getting a great vibrato...) but by focusing on just the three main skills we can get progress much more quickly and thus get to that mental image even faster.

Next, we'll choose one of those to focus on in the short term - yes, just one! By narrowing our focus even further we can create a surge of progress that will spur you on to achieve more. It will also give you far more time to focus on learning that one skill, thus speeding up the whole process and preventing you from getting overwhelmed by focusing on too much at a time.

In this example, lets say we chose alternate picking as our first area to focus on. Now, we'd break this down further. For this example, let's say we chose three licks that we'd like to learn and broke them down into simple segments focusing on different micro-skills (specific areas of a more general skill).

So suppose we broke it down into this:
  1. Single string picking
  2. Crossing strings (outside picking)
  3. Crossing strings (inside picking)
  4. Left hand position shifts in the middle of a lick
  5. String skipping
We could go on to more micro skills, but this will do for now. By breaking the skill down like this we can get an idea of how long this skill will take to master, before then going on to form an action plan and get that skill! (Note: Internet research can be incredibly helpful in doing this to find out what elements a skill can be broken down into.)

So then, if we commit to an hour a day on alternate picking, focusing on a new micro skill each month (to give sufficient time to really get the skill down, even if it's not at a pro level yet), then it will take 5 months to get this skill learned.

Now, on to the final step: write the goal down! This includes the time plan and micro skills. Get a notebook or folder that you can use to write down the goal (and yes, you do have to write it down) and refer to daily. I personally use a small "2016 - Day to view" diary so I can look at my goals each night and then write a plan of what I am going to do the next day to reach it. An example could be "Reach 80bpm 16th notes (four notes per beat) on lick X." Then, when you have done the day's task you can tick it off and know that you are on the path to success!

An example of a goal written down would be:

"By the 24th of June 2016 I choose to alternate pick licks X, Y and Z involving micro skills A, B, C, D and E at 240bpm 16th notes in a completely effortless manner. I will master the micro skill A by the 24th of February 2016. I will master micro skill B..."

Note 1: The "By X day I choose to... Involving micro skills... In a completely effortless manner" format is a great one to use. It gives a clear picture of what the goal is, adds time constraints and most of all is SPECIFIC! Check out SMART goal setting for more on this, as there is a lot which is beyond the scope of this article.

Note 2: 240bpm 16th notes may seem ambitious, but that's the idea. A big goal like that is far more motivating than "at 140bpm triplets" meaning you'll work much harder and thus achieve more, even if you don't quite reach that goal. If you aim for 140bpm that's all you'll get, but if you aim for 240bpm then you'll achieve 240 (or at the very least get more than 140). "If you aim for second place, that's what you'll get". Bigger goals are more motivating, so set them and you'll plow through difficulty easily.

Then, go chase those goals!

Secret 2: Visualize Success

This one is pretty simple, and links in with goal setting. All it involves is imagining that you have achieved your goal and really feeling it. Hear it, taste it, see it, and experience the whole situation. It will get you fired up to practice like nothing else. I personally do it every night as I lie in bed, as it helps me to get into a positive mindset that stays with me throughout the next day. Steve Vai has stated in interviews that he used to imagine an amazing guitar player in front of a huge audience as he lay in bed, so if you need any reason to do this, there's one! It really can make the difference between success and failure.

Although it's not 100% essential, it is highly recommended due to the incredible difference it can make. We all visualize success to a certain extent - think about when you jam along to a favorite song and imagine you're the lead guitarist. Doing this consciously and deliberately, however, multiplies its effectiveness tenfold.

Secret 3: Have a Success Card

This has made a huge difference to my progress and motivation not just with guitar, but with all areas of my life - from fitness to business.

A "success card" is a small piece of paper with your goal written on it - that's it. Just write down your goal (yes, again - come on, it's not difficult. Just do it!) on a small bit of paper that you can fit in your pocket. You don't have to write down the full plan or goals for micro skills; just the overall "By X date.. Etc."

Keep the card on you all the time, and read it whenever you can. I personally read my success card up to 8-10 times a day - when I wake up, when I go to the toilet, when I have a minute spare while preparing dinner... Just read it a lot!

Now, this sounds rather cheesy and like it won't make a difference, but try it. The power of this secret is that it immediately focuses your mind on your goal and puts you in a success-focused mindset ready to learn and achieve. Your mind will visualize the goal a little every time you read the card, cementing the image in your head and making it real. This repetition is vital for making your visualization work, thus making it go hand in hand with the other two secrets.

Again, although this is not 100% essential it is incredibly helpful for staying motivated and getting what you want on guitar. Try it and see!

Hope you enjoyed this lesson, and I sincerely hope it helps with any motivation issues you may have had. These tips have helped me massively when struggling for motivation so follow the steps above and see if they work for you. Goal setting is essential so if you only take one thing from this article, let it be that!

My blog/site www.GuitarAdvancement.com features a host of articles and free lessons all about guitar, with a focus on removing the mystery and making guitar easy! I mainly focus on writing riffs as many guitarists seem to believe it is incredibly hard to write a great riff, when actually it is far easier than they think. Be sure to check it out if you enjoyed this article!

See you next time:)

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Just do Coke or speed bruh
    Coke doesn't motivate me, I tried a whole 6-pack once and...nothing... OTOH, I do like driving fast!
    Actually, drugs have been a huge part of musicians life (Rock/Jazz especially) because they actually get creativity flowing. Saying that, they are a dead end that will mess you up severely. I'm talking about the hard stuff, obviously.
    1)girls 2)money 3)drugs .. and forget trying to shred your guitar, just write a good song ..you know .. chords and lyrics ... you can stick the killer solo on later
    Also remember to spend less time looking at more gear, especially if you already have a decent setup. Spend more time with what you have and once you get the basics down, stop doing the songs you really don't want to do.
    1. find a riff you can play, but not clean, sloppy 2. switch on your inside perfectionist 3. try to play it clean, right and good 4. ??? 5. Profit! You tried to play it clean for a couple of hours, your ass is hurt because of long sitting, but practice is good, ain't it?