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Why You Make Slow Progress On Guitar (And How To Speed It Up)
By Tom Hess - 08/21/2014 - 10:37 PM EDT

Your guitar playing progress will be very slow until you get a clear picture of what must be corrected to reach your musical goals. Until you learn this, you will always be disappointed whenever you try to improve during your practice time.

Here are 5 reasons why you aren’t making fast progress (and what you must do to get your guitar playing back on track):

1. You Practice Guitar Without A Strategy

Everyone knows the old adage “practice makes perfect”. You’ve probably also been told at one time or another that “perfect practice makes perfect”. The reality is, neither of these statements describe the big picture when it comes to making fast progress on guitar. To make fast progress, you must first have a strategy, then execute it perfectly.

Here is the difference between following the above-mentioned clichés versus using a strategy to get better:

Without a strategy, your practice will consist of sorting through endless tablature, exercises or lessons and trying to work on them to get better. As a result:

1. You eventually become burned out and frustrated when you compile more practice materials than you can deal with. This happens because random tablature, exercises and lessons are not centered around a strategy for helping you achieve your goals in as little time as possible.

2. You have no method for tracking your progress, because you did not create a long term goal for your practice (this is much more than generally wanting to “get good at guitar”). So you keep practicing for the sake of practicing without ever really getting any results.

3. Your musical skills are unbalanced (read below to learn more about this).

Note: having effective practice habits mean nothing if you are lacking a strategy. Knowing how to practice the wrong things correctly is equally as bad as knowing how to practice the right things incorrectly.

You need to understand what guitar exercises to practice to achieve those goals, and not distract yourself with random things that do not further your progress toward them.

2. You Don’t Know What It Takes To Become A Better Guitarist Each Time You Pick Up Your Instrument

Knowing what to practice is merely one piece of the puzzle when it comes to making improvement on guitar. To make fast improvement, you have to know both what to practice and how to practice it. Even if you have the right strategy plus a full list of correct exercises and skills to practice, it will be useless if you:

1. Practice guitar in a totally random manner.

3. Aren't sure how to find solutions to guitar playing issues without experiencing a lot of frustration.

3. Don’t have an effective practice schedule for guitar to organize the items you already have.

The best way to understand the most effective approaches to practicing guitar is to work with a guitar instructor who A.) has achieved the same goals you are working towards B.) knows how to quickly take you from where you are now to where you want to be in your guitar playing and C.) has effective methods for helping OK guitar players transform into badass guitar players.

3. You Are A Self-Taught Guitar Player

A lot of guitar players choose to learn guitar by themselves. In many cases, they do this because they think they can make the same progress on their own that they would make with a guitar teacher. Unfortunately, this belief could not be any more wrong.

Here are 2 reasons why this thinking is totally backwards:

1. Assorted videos, song tablature or amateur lessons you locate on the internet can’t correct your mistakes when you practice inefficiently, use highly ineffective guitar playing habits or begin practicing items that don’t bring you closer to your musical goals. They also do not help you when you have questions, give you feedback or personalize themselves to fit your skill level and musical interests. This leaves you on your own to figure everything out even though you don’t have a clear idea on how things need to be done in the first place.

However, a good guitar teacher will put together an effective learning strategy customized to fit your needs, will guide you past every challenge in your playing, and give an ample supply of support/encouragement as you make progress. This not only helps you make faster progress, but also enjoy the process of improving and attaining your musical goals. This leads me to my next point:

2. Guitarists who learn alone, usually make much slower progress once they become unmotivated to practice (since they aren’t seeing much results). Working with a great guitar teacher eliminates this issue. Not only does your teacher help you learn exactly what and how to practice, but he holds you responsible for the progress you make and will frequently push you to make the greatest progress possible. Without this kind of accountability, you experience a HUGE slowdown in your progress.

For example, think of improving on guitar like trying to lose weight at a gym. Learning guitar by yourself is like using an exercise video someone recommended to you and losing interest in a matter of several weeks, once you don’t meet your weight-loss expectations. This is often very frustrating and causes a lot of people to quit going to the gym.

Compare this to a personal trainer who will:

-Make sure you stay motivated to go to the gym each week.

-Explain that your initial weight loss is normal, because your body is making adjustments to your new training program and that the weight you put on after exercising is really muscle (this is good!). This is a situation that occurs in guitar playing as your skills seem to briefly take a step backwards, as you work on transforming old and ineffective guitar playing habits into effective ones.

-Put together a powerful advancement program, customized to you, that is simple and takes into account your current physical needs, your long term goals and personal motivation.

While doing things on your own, you prevent yourself from reaching your weight loss goals. When you work with a trainer, you have the best chances of not only achieving the goals you set out to achieve, but doing so in a fun way with less risk of injury.

4. You Aren’t Aware Of (And Don’t Know How To Correct) Your Ineffective Guitar Playing Habits

You can know exactly what to practice on guitar and how to practice it, but still make very slow progress due to ineffective playing habits. Read the 7 points in this article about finding solutions to highly ineffective guitar playing habits.

Stop Believing These Lies About Slow Guitar Playing Progress:

Now that you know the 5 things that make it very difficult to improve your guitar playing, here are 3 things that truly have nothing to do with your lack of progress:

Not Having Natural Talent: Tons of guitar players think they can’t get better at a faster pace because they aren’t naturally gifted. Fact is, all awesome guitarists sucked at one point, and it was NOT natural talent that helped them overcome challenges to become great. They became great players because they spend every waking moment working as hard as they could to get better (and did not make any of the mistakes discussed in this article). When you do this too, you will get the same results they got.

Being Too Old: Learn more about it by studying this article about becoming a much better guitarist.

Having Very Limited Practice Time: As long as you don’t make the mistakes mentioned above in this article, you can make tons of progress with very little practice time. To find out more on this topic, read this article about the best way to practice guitar with less time.

5. Your Guitar Playing Lacks A Sense Of Balance

You will significantly slow down your progress on guitar when you waste a lot of time practicing techniques or exercises you can already do very well, while not improving your weaker areas. This leads to unbalanced guitar playing, when you become very strong in some areas while remaining very weak in others. In nearly all cases, your weak areas will hold you back from advancing your guitar skills as a whole.

For example, I get messages from guitarists all the time who struggle to play great guitar solos (even though they work a lot on technique). I then have to inform them that technique is merely one aspect of playing great guitar solos. To improve, they must work on their lead guitar phrasing technique, music theory understanding, visualization of the whole fretboard, ear training skills and many other things. Regardless of whether or not you are interested in playing guitar solos, chances are your playing is unbalanced in a variety of ways, because you already spent many years learning on your own (and/or developing bad playing habits).

Learn how to make your guitar playing more balanced by checking out this article about what you should be practicing on guitar right now.

Now that you know why so many guitarists struggle to improve their playing, take electric guitar lessons online and quickly become a better player.


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