Note: this is the fifth article in a short series designed to help you play your guitar more often, because the more you play your guitar, the better you'll get! If you haven't already, check out part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 of this series.
Earlier in this series, we looked at various techniques you can use to play your guitar more often.
Keeping your guitar on a stand, creating a habit, scheduling your practice time, and playing for fun first are all things that can help you play guitar more often.
In this lesson, we're going to work more on your mindset when it comes to practicing guitar.
Too often playing guitar can become frustrating (like when you think something should be easier for you to play), or like a chore (like when you're playing through material that is boring for you).
One of the best ways to get around feelings of boredom or frustration in your guitar playing is to approach your practice with curiosity.
By staying curious and treating your guitar practice as a puzzle to solve, you can keep yourself motivated to pick up your guitar day after day.
If you approach your guitar playing with curiosity, it's hard not to pick up your guitar and play.
When you hear something great in music you are listening to, it's tempting to think "Wow, that's amazing - I'll never be able to do that."
Or the variation, "Someday I might be able to do that."
A better approach would be to say to yourself, "wow, that's amazing - I wonder how they did that?"
It's simple, but in your mind it changes this amazing thing you just heard from something that you could never do, into something that you could figure out how to do.
Your next steps could be to ask your guitar teacher about it, look it up online, or try to play something similar yourself (even if it's way out of your league right now - just trying is an important thing to practice).
Curiosity VS Frustration
Curiosity can also help you keep from getting frustrated when you're working on something challenging.
Instead of becoming frustrated and putting your guitar down, you could pause and ask yourself "why can't I play this right now? what do I need to do to make this work for me?"
There are many different answers depending on your situation, but thinking about how you could make it slightly easier on yourself is the first step
We all have a tendency to try and "just keep pushing" when we run into something challenging.
You'll try and force yourself to be able to play the scale, solo, or chord that is giving you trouble without pausing to ask yourself why this thing is tricky.
Sooner or later (oftentimes it's sooner), you'll get frustrated with the challenge and put the guitar down.
Rather than trying to force yourself to play something that is too challenging at the moment, take a pause and investigate for a moment. What about this is hard?
Try to honestly look at where your skills are holding you back from playing the way you want to play. Once you know the actual problem, you can work on improving it.
Great advice, but hard to follow.
I spend years working on playing my scales faster. I could never quite get myself up to the tempos I wanted to play.
Something always seemed to get stuck, and I assumed that I just needed to keep working on it.
One day I decided to try slowing way way down to figure out what was going on, and found the root of my problem with my scales: my picking hand.
I was moving my picking hand too much, and it was getting caught on strings it shouldn't be playing, and slowing me down as I played.
The only way I solved this issue was I decided to figure out what the real problem was.
I let myself become curious about my own playing, and solved a problem that none of my guitar teachers over the years were able to help me with.
We were all (myself included) looking at the wrong possibilities for my speed issue, instead of spending the time to figure out what the real problem was.
I could have saved myself several years of frustration by spending the 5 - 10 minutes of playing slow that it took me to figure out what was going on.
Treat issues in your playing like a puzzle to be solved, and you can help yourself avoid tons of frustration as you learn.
Keep It Moving
You can also use curiosity as a tool to keep your guitar playing moving forward instead of getting stuck.
With just about anything, the moment you think you know everything you need to know, you get stuck.
No one really wants to be frozen at their current skill level, so it's important to keep an open mind.
Remember that there is always something you can learn whether it's a new technique, observing someone else's approach to playing guitar, or even recording yourself and listening as if you were your own guitar teacher.
(What would you tell a student about what you just played?)
I'm constantly looking for things to improve in my playing and in my teaching. And I always find something interesting to work on.
When I was in graduate school I was researching different approaches to playing guitar - all kinds of different systems and techniques.
By keeping a curious mind, I was able to gain a more complete picture of what goes in to good guitar playing - both for myself, and for my students.
Because of the time, effort, and money I spent on finding all of these different approaches and techniques, I can help a wider variety of students find the approach to playing that is right for them.
It also keeps me from getting bored in my own playing - there is always something new I can explore and work on to improve my own playing.
For the next week, try to approach your guitar playing with curiosity.
This can mean trying to turn frustration into a puzzle, observing a guitar player from a different style of music, or listening back to your own playing as if you were a guitar teacher.
Do your best to ask yourself questions as you go:
Paying attention and asking yourself questions can make a big difference in keeping yourself curious about your guitar playing.
Remember that there is always something to learn (or re-learn), and always something you can improve (even if it's the tiniest change).
Keep playing, and let me know how it's going!