Note: this is the fourth 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, and part 3 of this series.
By now we all know that playing guitar more is one of the big hurdles to playing better - you need to spend time on the instrument regularly.
So far, we've looked at ways to play more by keeping your guitar visible, creating a habit so you practice automatically, and putting your guitar time on your schedule so you don't miss it
These are all good strategies that work for people on their own or in some kind of combination. But sometimes, you just don't want to practice anyway.
Maybe you're stressed or excited about something else coming up in your life.
Maybe the material from your guitar lesson is a little too hard, or seems boring for you right now.
Even if you don't spend a ton of time on your lesson material, some guitar time is always better than no guitar time.
Today we're going to look at playing something you really want to play to start off your practice session.
This can be a good strategy if you find yourself resisting your practice time.
Play What You Want To Play - Not What You "Should" Play
Sometimes people find themselves avoiding picking up their guitar, and can't really tell why.
They just don't want to do it.
We've all been there - short (or long) periods of time where you're just not "feeling it" when it comes to playing your instrument.
Which is kind of strange, considering most of us originally picked up the guitar because it was fun.
I find that a lot of times, we avoid picking up the guitar because we just aren't excited about what we're about to play.
If you sit and think about it for a minute or two, you'll probably find that you're not that excited about the next thing on your musical "to-do" list when this happens.
Whether it's an exercise from your guitar lessons, a song from a band you're playing with, or just something you feel like you need to work on - you're dreading it a little bit.
So you don't pick up your guitar to practice it.
In my own practicing, I find that I encounter this when the material (song, exercise, whatever) is just a little bit more challenging than I'm used to, or seems like just too big of a project to handle right now.
Of course, most of the time it's not that bad once you jump in and get to playing with it - so avoiding the guitar work is just delaying your own abilities and growth.
But if you don't want to play, you're not going to play.
So the trick is to find something you do want to play, and do that instead (at least for a little bit).
Find Something Fun To Play
Instead of just avoiding playing your guitar or trying to force yourself into the project you're not excited about, find something fun to play.
Pick a song you already know how to play, or jam along with a backing track, or start working on that thing you really want to work on (but is farther down the list of things you need to do "first").
It doesn't matter what you do, it matters that you do something fun to start your practice session.
I tend to have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to practice on any given day.
I have a system for making sure I'm working on different areas of my playing over time (a system that I share with my students in guitar lessons), and I'm pretty consistent with practicing on most days.
That being said, sometimes I'll hit a wall and just not want to practice.
In the past, sometimes I would power through - like when I had a performance I had to be ready for.
Other times, I would put off practicing for a while, and end up behind again where I had to cram in as much practice time as I could.
Now when I hit a wall and don't want to practice what's on my list, I'll take a minute or two to think about it.
Why don't I feel like practicing? Am I sick? Burnt out? Or is there something else I'd rather be playing?
Most of the time it ends up being option 3 - there is something else in the back of my mind that I'd rather work on.
I've learned to "follow my nose" a little bit in these cases. I'll some time on that new technique or solo I wanted to figure out.
And then later that session, or the next day, I'll jump right back in to my regular practice.
Stay On Your Own Right Track
On the other hand if you're consistently finding that you are play music that is too hard or you are not interested in, talk to your guitar teacher.
If you don't have the skills to play a certain piece of music, that's not a bad thing or a weakness - it just means you haven't developed those skills yet.
So spend some time on developing those abilities and the song will become easier.
If you're really not interested in the music your guitar teacher is giving your to work on, ask for something that you are interested in playing (Have specific songs in mind, and more than one so there are options).
I'm always trying to check in with my students to make sure we are doing things that are interesting for them, and that I'm taking them in a direction they actually want to go.
Start a list of things you want to play:
The next time you're resisting your practice session, take your your list and pick something.
If you don't know how to get started, ask your guitar teacher about it.
Or look it up on youtube.
Or find a book that covers that topic.
Just find a way to play something you're excited about.
Playing something that's fun is always a good way to get started, and it can help you get going when you're dragging your feet on practicing.
Keep playing, and let me know how it goes!
Other Articles In This Series