Do you find yourself saying this over and over again? If you already think that this phrase sums up your guitar playing experience, then reading this post may bring some long needed answers to your mind.

So why does this happen to people? I mean you get motivated to practice and a couple of months down the line you realize that you haven’t really gotten any better at all. This is very frustrating and I have been there as well. When you’re in this stage of guitar playing, it seems like you are looking through a long tunnel that never leads to anything. You’re doing what you think is the best way to becoming a guitarist and it isn’t going anywhere.

Here’s my advice to you. I’ve been stuck in these situations at many times in my 21 years of playing, so this is what I have learned through my experiences.

You’re practicing things you can already play.

If you’re practicing comprises running down all the licks you already know, then the only thing you will get better at is playing those licks. This will help to maintain your current level of proficiency, but it won’t help you get any better than you already are. A quick solution is to practice the licks you already know, but try changing a few notes in between and use your ear to find new tones you can use.

A lot of times I sit around and improvise and try to play things that pop in my head. Sometimes I have a hard time getting the exact sounds, but I can usually find it relatively quickly and then improvise on that. I find that this really helps me to create new ideas and keep things fresh.

You practice sloppy.

As they say in baseball, you play like you practice. If you’re practicing consists of flying through scales, exercises, and licks just to get through them, you’re probably not going to get anything out of it. You would be better off playing each note slowly and correctly than fast and sloppy. Nothing sounds worse than fast guitar licks that are just not executed proficiently.

You’re not practicing properly.

In front of the TV with a twinkie in one hand and a Dr Pepper by your side, checking your smartphone for who commented on your recent monumental Facebook post is NOT practicing. This is an exaggeration, but I think similar situations happen to many people.

If you’re serious about getting better, then go in a room by yourself and spend 30 minutes concentrating on becoming a better guitarist. These 30 minutes by yourself will do much more for you than the situation I described above.

If you think you don’t have enough time to practice, then try not to spend so much time on guitar forums researching the tone differences between different pots. In reality, it will not make that much of a difference. I know a lot of you are busy, but I think time can be found if you will sacrifice things such as TV time or Internet browsing.

You don’t focus on one thing at a time.

With the Internet, a guitarist can have access to millions of guitar lessons at the click of a mouse. While this may sound like a good thing, it can be detrimental. In a way it kinda teaches people to learn one little thing, then move to the next thing, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the………………………………………………………!!!!!!! You see what I mean. Before you know it, you don’t even remember the first thing it is you were learning.

I don’t think it’s possible to learn something once and then your’e done. You have to learn how to apply it, and then practice it. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Internet guitar lessons are great. I am fortunate enough to create them for a living and really see the value in them. I do however think with so much access to so many lessons, it’s hard to stay focused and driven to work on one specific thing at a time.

So What Can You do?

I think the key is to have written goals about what it is you want to accomplish. By writing it down on paper, it kinda keeps you focused on the prize. I keep a whiteboard in my office of all the things I’m working on with the website, so it keeps me aware of all the things I need to be focusing on. I think the same will help you with your guitar playing.

If you have a room you practice in, and every time you walk into that room and see the goals written down, it will stimulate you to get busy working on those things. Playing live will also help you very much as well. Anytime you have the chance to play in front of people, do it. You will learn so much by being in it and having to react so quickly to situations.

Those are a few thoughts I had when I read that phrase today. (I practice guitar but I don’t get any better.) I thought I would share them with you and hopefully it will spark something inside of you. I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite speakers.

“Motivation gets you going and habit gets you there . Make motivation a habit and you will get there more quickly and have more fun on the trip.” – Zig Ziglar

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7 Comments

  1. Great article John. I teach guitar and am constantly helping my students develop good practice habits. Consistency is another big factor. Little bits each day get you a lot further than the once a week marathon.

    Thanks for all of the other great stuff on your site!

  2. Thats great, I about pissed myself laughing when I read the part about not practicing properly. I always tell people who moan about praticing. Make yourself do what you suck at first and get it out of the way. Even 15 min a day will move you toward your goal a lot faster than “when your up for it”. The whole post is well said. Thanks. Now where is my guitar.

  3. Focusing on one thing at a time is the part I struggle with. I really know how to research and utilized the internet and it’s resources to learn. The problem is that I gather so much information that I get overwhelmed! This article is a great reminder to focus on a few things at a time.

  4. Excellent post John!! I’m guilty of all of the above and need to follow your advice. If someone wanted a first six month plan for learning guitar, what would you recommend? Which lessons, etc. Thanks.

  5. Great point about how all of the readily available info on the web is not always a good thing. This was an issue for me when I was younger…couldn’t focus on one thing

  6. This is good advice for every level of player. When I picked up the guitar again after a 18 year break I collected too much info that was above my skill level as a player. I had to unlearn bad habits, and relearn how to practice.

  7. This is similar to playing with the toy juggling clubs laying down and after nearly a whole year nothing to show for it except for tossing those toys but once. Its the same problem only a different thing.

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