Striving to be the best guitar player we can be is a lifelong journey. Players who take guitar playing seriously are continuously seeking to improve their skills and adopt the “always a student” mindset. If we take a look at many of our guitar heroes, despite them having reached a phenomenal level of guitar mastery and influencing generations of players, they still feel like there is room for improvement in their playing and are still refining their craft.
It is this very mindset that contributes the most to their success as a musician. Part of the reason why they can sustain this mindset for their entire lives is that they consistently seek for inspiration and ways to stay motivated. In this article, we will be going through some methods to constantly find inspiration and train our mind to adopt this same mindset that the greats have.
1. Don’t compare yourselves to other players.
As guitar players tend to be self-aware, it is easy to fall into this trap. When we watch a player that might be more advanced then we are currently, there are typically two ways guitar players tend to feel. The first way is negative, where you feel intimidated and keep comparing everything the more advanced player can do to your current level, and you get disheartened, asking yourself “what’s the point of even playing guitar when so many players are better than me?”.
Getting consumed by self-doubt absolutely sabotages your progress as a guitar player. This will leave you unmotivated and unexcited about even picking up the guitar. You should keep in mind that your journey as a guitar player is unique to you and it is pointless to compare your playing to others’ without taking in other factors, such as how long have they been playing, what are their individual goals compared to yours and how much have they practiced to get to where they’re at.
The other more positive way you could react is by drawing inspiration from more advanced players. Instead of putting yourself down, ask the question, “what do I need to work on in order to do what that player can do?”, or just ask the player about what he or she had to work on in order to pull of that phrase. Guitar players generally love talking about practice methods and sharing certain techniques that they use.
Be inspired to pick up your guitar and practice even more. This is the mindset that the greats have. When they look at a more advanced player, they immediately see all the areas in their own guitar playing that they need to work on, which they might have not even been aware of before watching that other player. Having this mindset will keep you constantly motivated and push you to keep improving.
2. Have fun
Just because you take your guitar playing seriously does not mean that guitar shouldn’t be fun. When you are obsessing over mastering a new technique, it is easy to get tunnel vision and forget the reason you picked up the instrument in the first place. It is called “playing” guitar because it supposed to be fun.
Again, your journey is unique to you. You must enjoy the journey and trust the process. Find ways to turn boring, repetitive exercises into something more musical. Turn chromatic exercises into diatonic ones, practice over a backing track and in front of a mirror, break down large goals into smaller, more achievable goals.
Each small goal you achieve is always a reason to celebrate. If you experience burnout, take a break from practicing and just “play”. Pretend you’re performing in a sold-out stadium in front of thousands of fans and work on your stage moves! Any activity that fires your enthusiasm is going to lift your spirit and give you a more positive outlook towards the guitar.
3. Go to the big picture
We all know that the process of mastering anything isn’t always a walk in the park. If it was easy it wouldn’t mean anything and would hold no intrinsic value to us. It is perfectly normal for you to experience struggles throughout your pursuit towards guitar mastery. It is important, however, that whenever you do experience such struggles, you are not defeated by it but come out the winner instead.
One way to do this is to go to the big picture. What this means is that you must focus on the end game. If you are faced with a challenge that might seem impossible for you to overcome, focus on some point in the future where you have already mastered it. When you say to yourself, “I can’t do this”, or “my fingers were not made to perform this motion”, go to this bigger picture, and you will see yourself doing it.
When you visualize yourself doing whatever it is you’re struggling with at the moment, focus on as much detail as possible. The feeling in your hands of getting it right, the sound of nailing it, the rush of excitement you feel throughout your body when you do it, where are you sitting or standing when you do it. The more details you focus on, the more crystallized your vision will become and you will push through the challenge knowing that you are coming out of it a better player. Visualization is an important tool that you should keep refining.
Learning to play guitar on your own can be frustrating and challenging, especially if you don’t know what to do. Having a great teacher makes the whole process more fun, enjoyable and gets you real results fast.
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