“Sometimes you’ll want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.”
After a few years of carefully watching a lot of people deciding they want to start playing the guitar, actually buying one and taking first steps in the direction, only to completely (or almost completely) quit it after a few months, I decided to have a closer look at why do those people stop despite the fact that they really wish they could play.
The result is this article, which is a must for any beginner or anyone who seem to be “stalling” right now, so feel free to share it with others who might find it useful if you’ll think I delivered what I promised.
On the way to the acquirement of any new skill, there will be times when you will have major motivation problems. Today we’ll tackle them all and make sure your way to be the guitarist you want to become will be as smooth and as fun as it can be on every step of the journey.
If you decided you want to learn guitar, so your goal is probably being able to play songs that you like, and do that in a precise and enjoyable manner – both to you and to the listeners. Why is it important to define your goal now? You’ll see in a bit. If your guitar goal is different than the above, think exactly what it is and have it written down clearly, because the road to your goal might be different. (for example, if you want to become a “shredding master” on an electric guitar.
The 80-20 Rule
Before we even begin, let’s have a look at a principle that can be hugely beneficial to you when learning guitar:
The 80-20 rule simply states that 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. It can work with everything in life, but guitar wise it means that with concentrated effort on the REALLY important building blocks of playing guitar (basic chords, strumming patterns, etc…) you will get to where you want 5X faster than if you would just hover around with no precise direction.
If you prefer video over text, here’s the video version of this post from the Guitar Songs Masters YouTube channel:
The 6 Problems Causing People to QUIT Guitar: How to Eliminate Them All and Become The Guitarist of Your Dreams
Problem #1: Not Having Enough Gratifications along Your Way That Will Motivate You to Keep Going – i.e. Doing Boring “Exercises” and Scales Instead of Playing Actual Songs That YOU Like
What would be more gratifying for a beginner and will motivate him to sit down and keep putting in the hours – learning guitar scales that are not even useful to him at the beginning, (and yes, I have heard of guitar teachers that teach that on the 1st guitar lesson!) or learning some basic chords that will unlock the beginner’s way to playing hundreds of the songs that he likes out of his own hands? I think we both know the answer.
The solution: The first things you’ll want to learn are chords and strumming patterns. Together, the two will let you play songs instantly from any chord sheet that you’ll open, and feel the beauty of crafting sound for the first time out of your own hands. Not only sound, but the sound of your favorite songs. Keep playing, and this sound will get better, sharper and cleaner.
Ultimate Guitar will give you the chord sheets and the chords fingerings for any song you can think of. Good beginner songs that involve a small number of easy chords and will get you on your feet in the fastest way are:
- The Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Chord Sheets)
- Bob Dylan – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Doors (Chord Sheets)
- Creedence Clearwater Revival – Proud Mary (Chord Sheets)
- Old Crow Medicine Show – Wagon Wheel (Chord Sheets)
- Sublime – What I Got (Chord Sheets)
- Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (Chord Sheets)
What not to do: Do not start doing some terribly boring finger exercises for hours. Do not start reading music note sheets. Do not learn scales or any of the likes. These are all great things but they belong further down the road. You gotta start with pure fun if you want the guitar to stick around, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
I have seen dozens of people fall into that trap and now they are usually nowhere near a guitar. Learning can and should be all about the fun.
When I just started playing guitar, I was sitting for 2-3 hours a day with a big chord book that had chord charts and a lot of my favorite songs that I bought in a music store, and just taught myself more and more songs and chords. It was so enjoyable and gratifying that I just didn’t want to put the guitar down!
If you’ll arrange yourself a similar learning experience – the results will be the same for you.
Problem #2: Not Thinking Enough About All The Benefits You’ll Have When You’ll Be a Good Guitar Player
With everything new that I am trying to do in my life and demands effort, I remind myself constantly of all the benefits. This makes my will power very strong and gives me a huge source of motivation to succeed and keep persisting. What exactly do I mean and how can you do it yourself?
Make yourself a list of all the great things that the guitar can bring into your life. Of course these things can vary a lot from person to person, depending on age and where you are in life, but here are some examples that can fit into a lot of different people’s lists.
- I will be able to play my favorite music by myself!
- Understanding how playing guitar feels like will help me enjoy listening to music even more and make my music experience richer.
- I can be in a band and play on a stage like I always dreamed about.
- I will be able to play a happy birthday song to my granddaughter by her next birthday.
- I will have a new and very fun hobby and interest.
- It’s cool.
- I will finally be able to play that beautiful guitar that belonged to my dad and has been sitting around my house for years.
- I will finally have something to sing along to!
- I will be able to join those cool jams that my uncles are always having on family meetings…
And these are just random examples, I am sure that if you’ll look inside yourself – you’ll find dozens of more great reasons to sit down and learn.
The solution: Write down a list of all the reasons playing guitar will benefit your life. Do it now before you forget about it. The list can be in your smartphone notes app, or in a paper note that you’ll put right in front of you in the room where you usually practice the guitar. Next time when you feel that you need a boost of motivation or that the guitar journey is overwhelming you – open that list and take a sip of will power out of it!
Problem #3: Not Having a Clear Learning Path In Front of You – Not Knowing What to Learn Next and What to Focus On (The 80/20 Rule Revisited)
Another big problem where a lot of beginners get stuck is that they start messin’ around with stuff that isn’t very beneficial to them, like getting stuck on playing guitar solos from tablature, while what they really want to do is to be able to play whole songs. Suddenly, they find themselves two months in and after they have invested many hours, but they still can barely play a single song. And that’s just one example.
So here’s what to do: If you’re like most people, and your guitar goal is to be playing songs, (at least in the beginning. We will definitely get later into solos and such) then what you have to do is to first learn basic chords (G, C, A, E, D, Dm, Em, Am) and strumming patterns to mix them in into songs, just like I said on item #1.
Work carefully on your technique and your chord switches so you will also sound good and clean. And that’s it about playing songs in a pleasant way – it really all comes down to two ingredients – chords and a stable strum pattern. You can do it!
After you got these basics down and you’re comfortable with playing songs, (can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months) you can start getting to other fun stuff like more chords, fingerstyle guitar, guitar theory, basic riffs, (click here for an awesome video of 100 Riffs That Defined Rock N’ Roll History), learning scales in order to play lead guitar, and all that other wonderful stuff that makes guitars a whole world.
Problem #4: “I Don’t Have Time”
I believe that the time card is an excuse people use when they do not feel enough gratification and pure fun in the process of learning guitar. Everybody can have time for anything that they choose to make time for – and when it comes to purchasing a new skill that will be with you for the rest of your life – like the guitar – I am sure everybody can make time if they choose to and if it seems important enough for them.
The solution: First, re-read the solution to problem #1 and structure your learning process with more gratifications. After that – think about all the time you waste on social media, facebook, watching random TV shows, watching random YouTube movies, surfing the internet mindlessly…
Be honest with yourself and you’ll see that you do have plenty of wasted time that you can exchange for guitar time and for achieving your goal of becoming a capable guitar player.
Problem #5 – Not Having a Guitar Role Model to Aspire to and Take Inspiration From
Some guy I knew and saw how he played the guitar was my inspiration to start playing guitar in the first place on one random day. Some other good friends that were awesome guitarists that I met along the way gave me constant motivation to keep on improving and a living proof of what can be done with some practice.
To this very day, I still always try to look for new guitar heroes, whether it’s a friend next door, someone I saw on YouTube, (I take a LOT of inspiration from Josh Turner – an average guy like you and me who records astounding guitar covers at home) or listening to records of Jimi Hendrix and other legendary guitarists.
But I do tend to believe that the most powerful guide and call to action will come from friends that you can sit with while they can show you their abilities live from a couple of meters away. There’s nothing stronger than that as a motivator – since you’ll want to be like them! And you can also ask them questions and learn more from the conversation – enjoy those opportunities to the fullest!
There’s nothing stronger than that as a motivator – since you’ll want to be like them! And you can also ask them questions and learn more from the conversation – enjoy those opportunities to the fullest!
“You can’t hit a target you can’t see.” You always have to aim somewhere that is taller than where you are right now with the guitar, and that will give you constant motivation to keep up the guitar and practice, and also have a great time doing that.
Read more here to get some useful ideas on the subject: The Importance of Finding A Guitar Hero – Spark Up Your Muse
Problem #6: The “F Barrier”
Another thing that happened to some people I know who tried to learn guitar – is that they reached the point where they tried to start learning barre chords, about a month in their guitar journey. Yeah, barre chords can be intimidating, but those people just ran into the “F Barrier”, tried a bit, didn’t succeed at playing it cleanly, and then decided that they’re just “not good enough” or “they’re fingers are too big / too small” or that they’re just “not musical enough”.
Forget about all of that stuff and don’t let anything put you down, you can conquer anything – any chord, any song and any solo, with a few hours of good practice. And if not, give it another try the next day, you’ll slowly see how things are getting easier and you are getting a grip of the situation.
That’s the whole beauty of playing music – the way you keep reaching new peaks all the time and manage to do stuff that yesterday you couldn’t! Cherish those moments and keep going forward!
EVERYONE can learn how to play guitar if they only put their mind to it. Eliminate those problems, and the guitar is yours to conquer!
Thanks for reading and I hope you got a lot out of it. I’m sure everybody reading would love hearing more tips that helped YOU stick to the guitar – in the comments section below – thanks!