Jul 20th, 2007
Many guitar players get in a rut after they have been playing for some time. It usually happens at around 1-2 years. It happened to me. I’m sure it happened to you. For one reason or another we just get discouraged. Mostly because we feel we stopped making real progress. So what should we do to motivate ourselves to keep playing guitar?
First let’s try and find out why we lost our flare.
Throughout the first year or two of your playing you are learning so many new things on guitar. You’re like a newborn baby learning all about your new environment. Every day you find out fantastic new things. You learn what the string names are. You learn what a major chord is. You learn minor chords. You learn basic scales and their applications. But then you hit a wall. Where to go now?
Here’s what I think: Throughout the first few years of your playing your progress is very trackable. Last week you didn’t know a 7th chord. This week you do. Last week you couldn’t play a major scale. This week you can. Last wee you couldn’t to a hammer-on. This week you’re trilling. But then you get to a point where you know most of the basic guitar techniques. It’s much harder to notice results in your playing.
It’s gonna be hard for you to notice a lot of the improvements on your own. That’s why you have to show yourself that you are indeed improving. How do you do that? Well here are three steps to help you track your improvement on guitar:
1. Asses your current skills
The first step to getting better is knowing where you stand now. Asses your overall guitar playing skills. Write down chord groups that you know (Major, Minor, 7th, Minor 7th, Major 7th, diminished, augmented, etc…). What scales do you know? (major, minor, blues, harmonic minor, melodic minor, etc…)How fast can you cleanly play a scale with the metronome? (How many BPM on your metronome?). What techniques do you know? (bending, sliding, hammer-on, tapping, sweep picking, etc…). Think hard about all the skills you possess right now. Think about everything guitar related: music theory, technique, tone, listening skills, ear training. Everything. Then write it all down in a notebook.
2. Define your goals
After you asses all your skills, look for areas where you want to improve. Maybe you want to lean 13th chords. Maybe you want to play 5bpm faster. The key is starting small. Don’t reach too far or you will be discouraged. Set weekly goals for yourself of a few things you want to improve on over the week. Don’t have more than 3 goals a week. The key is really focusing on a few things to improve on. If you take on too much then you will keep being mediocre at everything. And make sure you have set aside regular time to practice (even if its only 30 minutes a day). Write everything down.
3. Track your progress
At the end of each week open your notebook and check off the goals you have completed. If you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to you can leave the outstanding goals for next week and replace the completed goals with new ones for next week.
This cycle will really allow you to track your progress and will help you see that all your efforts are not going to waste. Once you go back through the notebook and see everything you learned it will motivate you to continue to play and practice. The key is understanding that any progress, not matter how small, is still good progress. So if you improving from 90 bpm to 95 bmp that is just as good of an accomplishment as learning all the major chords.