4 March 2011

What Stops A Lot Of People From Learning New Guitar Skills (And What To Do About It)

A lot of guitar players experience the feeling that they’re not making progress and are stuck playing the same old things over and over. This is often described as being “stuck in a rut”.


I think this feeling results from not learning enough new guitar skills that give you new things to play and new ways to play old things. New skills don’t mean we have to learn a whole new style of playing every month. A few new licks, a new scale position, or a few new chords or progressions suffice. Whatever the skills, we simply need to be on the look out for new things to try, and get to work trying them and applying them.


But of course, not all the new things we try prove to be easy. Many are beyond our current reach and turn out to be much harder to learn and master than we thought. We quickly discover that our goal of learning them in a month, or three months, is not going to happen…


Fear Of Failure?

The fear of failure starts to take hold, and we look for ways to avoid it. Suddenly, there’s no time to practice, one of our favourite excuses for not doing what we set out to achieve. After a while some start telling everybody they’re in a rut, or even give up altogether, submitting to that “no talent” voice in their head with barely a struggle.


But what could you do instead to combat this fear of failure?


It took me a long time to realize it, but I think the problem is not so much the fear of failure. Fear of failure is just a symptom of the real problem, the idea that you have only one chance to succeed.


Whenever I set out to learn a new guitar skill I had this implicit idea in mind that if I didn’t learn it, and learn it now, then I would never learn it. It’s from this idea that you have only one chance to succeed that the fear of failure takes root.


What To Do About It?

You can take a whole lot of pressure off yourself when you realize that the skill you’re trying to learn right now is not your only chance to succeed. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Who cares if you don’t learn to play bar chords this week, this month, or even this year? If you don’t succeed then you can just give yourself more time or go and work on something else instead. You might come back to bar chords later if you still feel you need them, or maybe you’ll discover some other style of playing where you don’t ever need them anyway. The same applies for any skill, there are many possibilities to try...


So if you’ve trapped yourself into a corner with the idea that you have only one chance to succeed, realize that in fact you have as many chances as you are willing to give yourself.


What About You?

Do you find yourself stuck with the feeling you’re not improving and learning new guitar skills? Use the comments link below to share how you deal with it…


Anonymous said...

I often get overwhelmed by things I want to learn being outside my current skill level. One thing I do is keep everything I try and go back through those lessons, ideas, etc. months or years later...especially things I never actually learned the first time. Recently I've surprised myself how things I couldn't do a few years ago are now coming easier. It is also a nice way to see that you are making progress, even if it doesn't feel that way.
Another thing I try to do is schedule my practice time. Otherwise I usually spend too much time online and not playing (one reason why I love your blog title).

greatguitarlessonsonline said...

What I do to shake things up, is to listen to some music that has inspired some of my favorite musicians. You really have to be inspired to learn new skills and checking out different types of music or artists is a great way to get out of your rut.

Melissa said...

I am definitely in a rut right now. My rut is caused by frustration more than fear of failure. The only thing that has helped me overcome it and motivates me to learn new things is to play with someone else.

My boyfriend is learning the banjo while I'm learning the guitar, so we work on learning new songs together. The only problem now is that he's getting better than me and I can't keep up, so the frustration is setting in again...

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