You are working hard, practicing and refining your playing, but something doesn’t feel quite right… You feel like you are stuck at one place, as if you have hit the roof of your capabilities and you don’t know how to move forward. Sounds familiar? If you have been a guitarist for a while, then most definitely. Learning the guitar is an endless process – and in it there are constant repeating cycles of thriving and being stuck.
The latter can be quite discouraging but is definitely not a reason to give up or feel powerless, because there are actually plenty of ways to get past this slump. First and foremost you have to identify what is jamming your progress. To help you with that, here are the most common reasons to get stuck while learning to play the guitar.
1. You are not practicing regularly
Let’s first get the most obvious thing out of the way – if you are not taking the time to practice regularly you can’t expect to advance. Muscle memory, finger strength and understanding of theory take time and dedication. There is not much more to be said here. One thing though is for sure – it is much better if you spend a little time more often than an hours long session once in a blue moon.
2. You are going too fast
Do you have the tendency to hurry to learn your newest favorite song? Impatience isn’t something you want to accompany you on your guitar journey – it will definitely be only a hindrance. Your fingers need time to get accustomed to each new thing you are playing – going too fast too soon will only make the lick seem extremely hard and like you are incapable of learning it. Which is definitely not the case – if you start slow and step by step pick up the pace you can learn anything. Yes, it will take more time but at the end it will be worth it – you will be able to play the song fast and comfortable without making mistakes, instead of stressing over the inevitable mistakes you would make if you are going faster than you should. And as it is harder to unlearn mistakes, it will actually end up taking you longer to learn if you speed up too much before you’re ready.
3. You lack theoretical knowledge
Playing the guitar indeed is an art form, but every artist needs to also have their homework done. Learning intervals, chord construction and how chords are connected to scales may not be as fun as jamming with your friends and improvising on your guitar, but it will give you access to a whole new dimension of playing. And once the knowledge of the theory behind what you’re playing settles in, your jamming and improvising will improve too! Think about music theory as a toolbox – it contains various tools that are of immense help for reaching your goals.
4. You lack direction
Picking up a guitar and learning chords and licks at random won’t do much about your progress. You need to have a plan of where your learning process is headed, what skills you need to cover on each step and so on. Here come in handy manuals, structured lessons online, or if you have the time and financial means – private lessons will definitely give your playing an immense boost by putting you on the right track.
5. You haven’t adjusted your gear properly
Did you just pick up your old guitar that hasn’t been touched in years without thinking much of whether it is tuned right? That is a definite formula for fail. Other than tuning there are plenty of other stuff you have to also be mindful about – like string height (also known as action), balance of the truss rod, string gauge, quality of your amplifier and so on. If you haven’t set up your gear properly, you might end up spending months thinking there is something wrong with you, when it was the gear all along. There is a lot more that can be said on gear, so let me know below if you’d like us to delve deeper in that topic.
6. You are not playing with other musicians
If you have been playing for a while now but your only audience has been your room, teacher or family members, it is time to expand. Even if you are hesitant to play with other people – just hanging out with other musicians can inspire you, remind you why you started playing the guitar in the first place and who knows, someone might even give you the exact advice that will get you out of the rut. Collaboration in musical endeavors gets you to yet another dimension of playing – and if I may add, it might just as well be the best one.
Here me out on this – it might sound weird, but you will be thankful later. Try practicing while imagining yourself playing. You can do it while listening to the music you’re learning while going somewhere and imagining yourself playing it – visualize the left and right hand movements, the chords and anything in between. You can even do it without music – if you get an idea for a melody try to imagine what it would look like playing it on your guitar and also imagine the sound your guitar is producing. This technique will improve your memory, listening skills, physical technique and it will also boost your creativity. It is similar to what athletes do when they visualise their success, hurdles etc.
8. You don’t give yourself a break
If in your desire to get as further away from reason 1) you are pushing yourself too hard – tiring your arms, giving your fingers painful blisters and just driving yourself mad from constantly thinking you should advance faster – this will only have the opposite effect. Probably you started playing the guitar because it is fun – and it should always remain like that. Relax, give yourself time and space to bloom without stress. Once in a while even leave the guitar for a couple of days. When you pick it up after that you will be full of brand new energy and appreciation and all of your practice will have settled better in your subconciousness.
Do you see yourself in some of these points? Some might be obvious for you, but still check up on them occasionally. And if you don’t believe you are doing any of those and you still find it hard to move forward, then maybe you need some help – join Neli’s Guitar Family where you will find a group of musicians eager to help you, or book a private lesson with Neli – the first one is 50% off! But most important – keep calm and carry on!