Interest in practising guitar is waning? How to get motivated again.


………..It’s horrible for someone to listen to someone learning any instrument – when I was first learning the banjo, I used to have to go out and sit in the car, and even in the summertime I’d have to roll up the windows. Because you just couldn’t practice a banjo or a fiddle with other people around. Unless they’re being paid. – Steve Martin

Learning guitar, or any instrument is hard, kinda like learning a new language. Countless times I have seen students young and old throw in the towel after only short periods of time because it’s just too hard, they’re not as far ahead as they thought they’d be after only a few months or they’re just not as committed and inspired about the idea than they were only a couple of months ago.

To quote Zig Ziglar, ‘motivation doesn’t last, well neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend doing it daily’. To stay focused and motivated in those initial stages of learning is what makes the process challenging. Taking 15 minutes just to play a damn G chord can grow tired after a while, I get it. This is why I suggest you make practice as enjoyable as possible, take it at your own speed and always be doing a song/scale/exercise etc that’s within your reach.

When I see students throwing in the towel so early on with their guitar lessons, and it is mostly adults as children are not nearly as harsh on themselves with the speed of progress, the most common thing I see is that they expect to be playing like Jimi Hendrix within a month of starting lessons and then getting disappointed when it hasn’t happened. What is heartening for me to see though is adults who don’t expect miracles and stick with the instrument over a course of a couple of years and by that time have developed a repertoire of chord progressions that they can play along to the original recordings of the songs. These students do have a more realistic expectation of what they can achieve and understand that learning is more of a tortoise and hare, slow and steady progression than a sprint toward a finish line that doesn’t actually exist.

The Mastery Curve
George Leonard was a martial arts expert who in his book ‘Mastery: The Keys To Success and Long Term Fulfilment’ came up with the concept of the Mastery Curve. After years of watching his martial arts students on their journey of improvement he came to a conclusion that the learning process looks something like this

This diagram illustrates well the pattern that most of us follow when trying to master something. That is we start with a plateau, then before too long we have a sharp rise in improvement, then another long plateau and so it repeats. The key to mastery is being able to stay the journey and learn to love the plateau. One of my students once commented that you really have to enjoy sitting on your arse and playing the same 4 notes over and over for hours on end. Honestly it doesn’t have to be that hard or boring, but like so many things in life that are worthwhile it will take patience and perseverance over a number of years, but the rewards are definitely there.

One strategy I do suggest to keep people inspired is set out some goals for your guitar playing. Even if its as simple as playing the three chords for ‘Gloria’ by Van Morrison up to speed with the song playing in the background after 6 months. And after one year maybe aiming to play a whole song start to finish in front of a friend or family member. Then say a three year goal maybe to take the guitar along on vacation with friends and playing a series of songs while they sing along. ……

Simple ideas sure, but they can really help give you a focus and something to work towards when you’re struggling to stay focused. Give it a shot!

SO as always practise, practise, practise. (and enjoy the plateau)

No Comments

Leave a Reply