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Guitar playing stuck in a rut

Has your guitar playing stalled?

A lot of hobbyist players out there simply don’t seem to realise how much further along they could be by now.

I’ve seen so many people who have played guitar for several years but only know a handful of chords or a few bits and pieces of songs.

I see even more players who aren’t quite beginners anymore, but they’re trapped in a few familiar patterns… replaying the same old riffs and licks, not understanding what’s going on, and never truly able to play the things they want.

Maybe you’re happy to just remain at the same level forever…

A kind of guitar-playing Groundhog Day, where your skills are permanently frozen at a previous point in time.

If that’s okay with you, then that’s your choice. Nobody is going to force you to do anything.

But if you do want to actually be a good player, then it’s time to sound the alarm and wake up.

If you care about your playing – but you’re not making progress or moving closer to your playing goals – then something is very wrong.

Your playing should not be stuck at the same level it was months, years or even decades(!) ago.

If it is, it’s time to shake things up and raise your expectations.

Because you’re capable of far more.

If you’re practicing the right things in the right ways, then you should be making noticeable progress each and every time you pick up the guitar and practice.

If you feel like you are making an effort, but you’re not getting better, then the only explanation is that you’re either:

1) Playing or ‘noodling’ from time to time, but never actually practicing

Or else you’re wasting your practice time by:

2) Not working on the right things


3) Not practicing them in effective ways

If you look back a year or two (or longer), can you honestly say you are a better player now than you were then?

If not… why not?

You can become a really good guitar player, but you won’t get there by sitting around being content with mediocre effort and half-hearted progress.

Raise your expectations. Stop settling for less than you’re capable of.

Demand results, and you will soon start seeing progress you can be proud of.

If this strikes a chord but you’re not sure where to start, a great place is to work out some goals for your playing.

Many players hear the word ‘goals’ and think it doesn’t apply to them, but they couldn’t be more wrong.

Having goals simply means knowing what kind of player you want to be.

Close your eyes, forget about any negative beliefs or limitations you think you have, and imagine your ideal self playing guitar.

What do you sound like? What are you playing? What kind of things are you able to do that you can’t right now?

Try to be specific.

Are you playing for someone in particular, or with other people? Who or what else is present in the scene, and how does it make you feel?

These are your goals. They’re not the same for everyone, but what matters is that you know what yours are.

If you don’t know, or if it’s been so long that you can’t remember the last time you sat down and thought about why you’re playing guitar, then this a huge part of the problem.

If you don’t have goals, then what are you aiming for? Without goals, there’s nothing motivating you to take action.

Without clear goals you can’t get anywhere, because there’s no destination to get to.

The second step after working out what you want is that you need to believe your goals are possible for you to achieve.

I mean really believe it.

You might think that sounds cheesy, but I can tell you this is perhaps the most important thing of all.

Many people want to do things, but deep down they don’t really believe that they can get there.

Often, the reason people don’t really believe in themselves is that our goals can seem too far off to be realistic.

The desire is there, but we can’t see how to get from A to B because the gap seems too big, and there are too many unknowns in between.

The solution is to break down your ultimate goals into shorter and more medium term goals.

Your short and medium term goals are like waypoints on the road. They’re achievable marker points from which you can look back and see how far you’ve come.

As you reach each one, your confidence grows and you start to see that it really is possible for you.

With every step you can see the road ahead more clearly. The goal becomes bigger and bigger until it’s right there.

Of course, some of this is easier said than done for most people.

You’re the only one who knows where you ultimately want to be, but you probably don’t know how to break it down into manageable chunks that you’re motivated to practice.

You probably don’t know what things you should be working on, in what order, or – even more importantly – how you should be going about it.

If you did, then you would already be making huge progress.

Ultimately, though, these are things you can get help with.

But before any of that can happen, you need to make the decision that you want to become a better player.

It all starts with you.

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Frets on Fire provides world-class Rock, Blues and Heavy Metal Guitar Tuition, in-person and online. We demystify the secrets of the greatest guitarists of all time, and show you how to play with the same confidence and freedom as your heroes.

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