27 January 2009

Guitar Progress Blues

Not making progress was cited by a third of answers to the Guitar Learning Challenges survey. After addressing some of the other top challenges...

... it's time to help those who suffer from the feeling that you're not making progress, or just itch to go faster.

There can be a lot of different reasons why you're not making progress. So it's up to each player to take a close look at their playing and figure out what their problem is and how to fix it. Here's a list of tips that will help you do this.

1. 3 P's - Purpose, Practice, Persistence

Use the 3P's formula - purpose, practice, persistence - to ensure your progress.

Your purpose is like a sailor's compass, it fixes your direction and ensures you progress to where you want to. Without a clear purpose you could end up wasting a lot of effort going in circles.

Practice is the wind in your sails that pushes you towards your purpose. A regular steady wind will take you where you want to go faster than the occasional storm followed by a long lull.

Finally persistence is required to complete the long voyage. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are skilled guitar players.

2. Keep a Done List

Sometimes you feel you are not progressing, when in fact you are learning a lot more than you think. Write down all the songs you learn and master. List exercises, short pieces, and skills too.

You might not feel a lot of progress from day to day, but if you keep track of what you learn you'll get a better perspective on your progress.

3. Record Yourself For Later Review

Why not keep your done list as an audio recording. It's an easy way to record (literally) your progress and give you perspective on how you've improved.

4. Take Small Steps

Achieving goals regularly gives you a sense of progress. Set yourself small goals to work one song, one skill at a time. Choose goals that don't take too long to achieve, a week or two at most. When you've completed one, set another and keep going.

5. Are You Practicing, Or Just Playing?

Guitar practice is not the same thing as playing guitar. You can easily fall into the trap of playing things are already comfortable with instead of practicing new skills. Playing guitar might be fun, but it won't bring you progress.

6. Durable Development

Hurrying from one exercise to the next might feel like rapid progress, but are you sowing the seeds of durable development? If you want long term progress you need to develop good habits, ensure you play accurately and efficiently, and master the skills and musical ideas you learn. It takes time to do this properly.

If you are always rushing after the next thing you can short change this process. You end up with half-developed skills and forgotten ideas that will slow your progress in the long run.

Keep a long term perspective and give yourself time to really learn before moving on.

7. Horizontal and Vertical Progress

Think of vertical progress as the growth of your guitar skills, their number and level. This kind of progress is usually the hardest and requires diligent practice to achieve.

Horizontal progress grows the breadth of your knowledge, your repertoire of songs and styles. Progress of this kind doesn't always require new skills so can be easier and faster.

Think carefully about the kind of progress you want and need and aim for the balance of horizontal and vertical progress that suits you. Horizontal progress can help you keep motivated while you build your vertical skills more slowly.

I hope that at least one of the ideas in this post has given you inspiration or food for thought to fix your progress problems.

Whatever your problem, remember that learning guitar is a complex process, it's normal to have ups and downs. Sometimes you will feel that you make rapid progress, other times progress will feel slow.

The final tip then is to remain patient. If you keep practicing and playing then you will improve, even though you may feel frustrated at times by the pace of your progress.

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Anonymous said...

Good advices. It's too easy to forgot the progress you made when you practice every day...

Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

Hi Extra Guitare, Thanks for the comment, glad it helped. In guitar like in the rest of life you need to lift your head up from the everyday and see the road ahead and the road behind you.

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