Learning to play the guitar well is one of life greatest pleasures. Succeeding takes time and patience, and staying motivated when you'd rather be doing anything else isn't easy. There are several things you can do to remain driven until you master it.
1. Structure your practice sessions.
Mastering the guitar requires long hours of practice, and this is usually the main reason you lose motivation. Schedule your practice for the week and do not make practice sessions longer than an hour. For each session, set yourself clear, time-based, achievable targets.
Depending on your current level, your target might be as simple as mastering the different chords, or as advanced as playing a solo piece. Being ambitious is good, but don't choose goals that are unattainable.
Consistency is important and will prevent the loss of motivation. It is far better to practice six times a week for one hour rather than practicing for six hours once a week. Humans have a natural aptitude which controls the way and speed we learn things.
During practice sessions make sure to remove any distractions, such as your phone or computer. It is also important not to compare yourself to others, you will learn at your own pace. Instead, at the end of each week look back and list the things you have learned and accomplished.
2. Don't obsess over one technique.
If you find yourself unable to master a particular technique, move on. The mind continues to absorb the mechanics of skills even when we stop practicing. Focus instead on a different technique and then go back to the first technique after sufficient time has passed or in your next session. Obsession focuses your attention on just one thing and if you do not immediately succeed you will most certainly lose motivation.
To make sure you have other techniques lined up, in case one is too difficult, plan ahead. Use different sessions to practice one or two techniques, not more. Doing this will distract your mind and prevent obsession. Mastering your backup technique will also give you the necessary motivation to master the first one too.
3. Remember to reward yourself.
There is a reason that parents normally reward children when they pass an exam or succeed in a challenge. Humans are naturally motivated by rewards. Visit guitar shops and see what equipment they offer that you can afford and would like. It can be something as small as a pick. When you are preparing your targets for the week, set a reward that you will give yourself if you reach 90% of them. Doing this will help keep you focused.
Similarly, make sure that you have a quality guitar that is in good condition. You don't need an expensive guitar to be motivated, but you do need one of good quality. If something is not quite right with it, playing it will not be fun. Repair your guitar or invest in a guitar that you can grow with before attempting to play further, since the bad sounds and tones will be disappointing.
4. Play with others.
Sometimes all you need to remain motivated is good company. You can find one or more friends who are also learning the guitar and practice with them. You don't need to be on the same level. Sometimes it’s good to play with others that are more practiced. It will inspire you to play harder!
You can each focus on your day's target, but you can support each other when you feel you might give up. This support system is commonly used with gym buddies, study buddies and also guitar playing buddies.
If you have reached a good level you can practice playing a solo piece together. The experience, especially when you play the very first piece, is one of the best motivators. Keep thinking of what you felt as you progress into more challenging pieces. Eventually, you could even have a small audience to hear you play and cheer you on.
5. Simple actions that work.
There are a number of simple actions you can try to remain motivated. A 2009 study by Baylor College of Medicine has shown that chewing gum stimulates the brain by increasing blood flow to it. This makes learning easier and faster.
Many professional guitarists display their guitars around the house. The concept behind this is to keep their passion visible in front of them at all times. Since you probably only have one guitar, simply keeping it in the room where you spend the most time could be helpful.
Finally, be sure to listen to your favorite guitarists and allow yourself to be inspired by them. Consider listening to music even whilst sleeping as studies have also shown that it helps you learn and rest at the same time.
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Sources & Further Reading:
- Chewing Gum Can Lead to Better Academic Performance
- Finding the Perfect Acoustic Guitar for You
- Are You Learning to Play Songs or Learning to Play the Guitar?
Colleen Kinsey Colleen has a passion for guitars and ukuleles. She enjoys jamming, teaching, and getting others involved in music. Her website, Coustii, focuses specifically on guitars and ukes. Colleen loves to travel and uses her ukulele as a conversation starter on the road.