4 Practical Tips For Guitar Players To Stay Focussed and Motivated
Author: Miguel Marquez
Are You Stuck in a Rut?
These tips for guitar players are written primarily with beginners in mind, but anybody stuck in a rut could derive some benefit from it. I’m convinced that every guitar player has at some point been in a rut and faced what people call “hitting a wall”.
It’s what happens when you feel like you don’t know what else to learn. You can spend days, weeks and even months playing the same things all over again. Being stuck in a rut can be frustrating and in the worst case scenario, it may even lead to people quitting guitar altogether.
The origin of this article is my own experience as someone who has been there in a rut and successfully managed to move past that stage. In this article I won’t be discussing technique or music theory but rather something very important that is often overlooked:
The mental aspect of being a guitarist.
The following tips will hopefully help you find some new inspiration.
HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO GET OUT OF THAT RUT
1. SET NEW GUITAR GOALS REGULARLY
I like drawing parallels between a musician’s path and that of a sportsman. Common to them both is the pursuit of a goal greater than one’s self. Let’s say you’re obsessed with becoming stronger. You wish to bench 140 kg, which may not be all too difficult for a professional lifter or a strong man.
Nevertheless, it’s a weight that only a select group of people get to the bench during their lifetime. Your goal will have a major impact on the way you approach your diet and training. You won’t just go to the gym, curl some dumbbells for 10 reps and call it a day. If you’re realistic in your goal, you’ll pay special attention to the muscles involved in the bench press and keep track of improvements.
Similarly, if you want to play something beyond your current technical level, you’ll approach that piece or song in a conscious manner, by means of a strategy. But before you have a strategy, you need to know what you want to achieve. Perhaps you don’t just want to master that one song which makes your fingers burn, but you also want to be a faster player or become more fluent in improvisation. Maybe you just want to write better music.
Perhaps the best thing you can do to avoid being stuck in a rut is to set new goals across three different fields:
1 – Repertoire: learn more songs.
2 – Technique: reach higher levels of technical proficiency
3 – Theory: learn more about music theory and integrate it into your playing
2. WORK TOWARDS ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS
Now we move on to the practical aspect. It’s safe to say that different people approach the same thing in their own ways. Some strategies to avoid being stuck in a rut do happen to be more effective than others. You can download the latest version of the Uberchord app which helps you learn guitar and track your progress. You can even set daily and weekly reminders, if you are someone who loses focus easily.
Here are some pointers that can hopefully stop you wasting time.
If you’re obsessed with mastering difficult music, start by printing out a score or tablature of the pieces in question. Use a marker to identify spots that you can’t play well (yet) and focus on them. There will be parts that won’t need much practice, but only require work on phrasing and expression (slower parts, for instance).
I personally highlight the measures which require special attention and intensive practice in green. Ask for advice from players who exhibit a great deal of proficiency in the technique that is giving you trouble (don’t take advice from people who are at your level or just slightly above it). You will notice more improvements by means of this approach than just by noodling around, which is a surefire way to avoid improvement and stay stuck in a rut.
3. ACTIVELY SEEK INSPIRATION FROM OTHER GUITAR PLAYERS
One of the most effective ways to get motivated and get out of being stuck in a rut is to inspire yourself from people who are doing what you want to do. For me, it’s hard to watch a video of giants like Steve Vai, Guthrie Govan, Jason Richardson or Michael Romeo playing and not feel the intense need to pick up the guitar and practice. Try it out yourself: watch (don’t just listen) to what your idols have done, and let the inspiration come.
Here is one video by the guitar god himself: Steve Vai on how to stay motivated and be successful
4. MAKE YOUR GUITAR DREAM A REALITY
Relying on a mix of patience, motivation and focused practice, you will find yourself achieving your goals and out of that rut sooner than you thought. Remember to set yourself new goals every now and then, lest you hit another wall. All of the ideas I’ve explained in this article are clearly nothing new or revolutionary. Sometimes, however, even the most obvious solutions elude us. I do hope that these words will help you in becoming a better player. If everything else fails, I suggest you check out this video of a grandfather walking in a guitar shop casually and stunning everyone.
Since 20yrs waited for someone to bring out of rut
Nice list, I particularly like to listen to different types of music as inspiration. Here’s one more – teach someone what you know. I’ve found that teaching people really forces you to fully understand what you know and kicks you on a bit.
Thanks for sharing this. I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces. After completion of my piano lesson, I will definitely go for guitar lessons.
Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and confident to be successful in just about anything you do – but with music, there’s a deeper emotional component to your failures and successes. If you fail a chemistry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chemistry (the latter of which is totally understandable). But if you fail at music, it can say something about your character. It could be because you didn’t practice enough – but, more terrifyingly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mastering chemistry requires diligence and smarts, but mastering a piano piece requires diligence and smarts, plus creativity, plus the immense capacity to both overcome emotional hurdles, and, simultaneously, to use that emotional component to bring the music alive.
Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.
But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy, I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.