Have you ever felt frustrated with your guitar playing progress? We all have been there, and often the lack of progress on guitar is due to accumulating lots of bad habits over years of playing without realizing it. In addition, you may also have experienced a feeling of helplessness after realizing that you essentially need to ‘start from scratch’ with some aspect of your technique before you start seeing the results you want in your guitar playing.
First, here is the bad news about these situations: If you have noticed that you’ve reached a plateau after many years of playing/practicing guitar, you ‘will’ need to face the frustration described above (possibly many times) before you accomplish your musical goals. I see this happen ALL THE TIME to guitar players who have spent the majority of their time teaching themselves how to play. This is a very risky way to learn guitar because without a teacher to guide you, you are almost certain to develop destructive and limiting playing habits.
Now here’s the good news: You can reduce the frustration of going through the situations above when you alter the mindset you have toward solving bad guitar playing habits and use the approaches described below.
In my experience of turning average guitar students into great guitarists for almost three decades, I’ve helped people fix any kind of poor playing habit you can imagine. The following list is just an example of some of these bad habits I’ve seen in new students who have to me to me for lessons:
- Guitar practicing methods that are not effective, because they are based off of misinformation or faulty premises. These types of practice approaches make it nearly impossible to accomplish what you want on guitar. I talk more about these poor practicing habits (and solutions to fix them) in this video about practicing guitar more effectively.
- 2. Poor picking technique that is built off of years of inefficient picking hand movement and/or using an ineffective picking system. Watch this guitar speed video to see what I am talking about.
- Frequently using the CAGED method as a means to memorize the fretboard and learn scales. The CAGED method is one of the worst things a guitar player can learn – it causes so many problems that I’d have to devote an entire article (or book!) to cover them all. At the very least, this system will greatly limit your ability to creatively improvise on guitar. Many of my new students come to me frustrated after using CAGED system for a long time and we have to take the time to fix all the problems they developed from using it. However, once we are done, they always thank me because they have become MUCH better players.
- Undoing all the guitar technique mistakes caused by years of using too much tension while playing.
- Of course, the points above are only a few of the possible bad habits you might have. Whether you are suffering from ‘these’ specific bad habits or different ones, there are several steps you can take that will help you fix them and become a much better guitarist. These steps will help reduce the frustration described at the beginning of this article.
Here is the process you need to follow:
- START GETTING EXCITED. Many guitarists have the gut reaction of feeling disappointed when they come across very fundamental mistakes in their playing. However, you really should NOT be feeling this way. Why? Because when you discover major faults in your guitar playing, you are learning ‘exactly’ what needs to be fixed in order for you to become a MUCH better guitarist. This is not a negative thing at all – it’s a reason to celebrate!
- Become very analytical. To entirely eliminate a core issue in your guitar playing, you need to:
- Clearly identify the issue or bad habit (use these guitar playing improvement assessments to understand what your most critical problems are)
- Think about WHY this issue is keeping you from reaching your musical goals
- Determine the steps you must take to eliminate the issue
- Figure precisely why these specific steps are the best solutions for solving the issue
- Picture how much better you will be once you have solved the issue and improved your guitar playing skills
Every one of the five points above is absolutely crucial (and the assessments mentioned will serve as great tools for gaining clarity on these points). Simply ‘being motivated’ throughout the correction process of a core guitar playing problem is very important. In order to remain motivated, you must clearly understand both WHAT your specific issue is and WHY it holds you back from achieving your guitar playing goals. You will also find that visualizing how great you will be as a player after solving your problem is CRUCIAL for sustaining a high level of motivation.
The majority of guitar players only focus on letters A and C in the list above – while not paying attention to letters B, D and E. This causes them to become unmotivated fairly quickly, preventing them from fully eliminating their bad playing habits. Avoid this by reading this article about overcoming musical burnout.
- 3. Focus on correcting one issue at a time. It is very easy to become overwhelmed when you learn that you have tons of issues to work on (essentially making you feel like you are starting over as a guitarist). You don’t need to feel this way and I’ll explain why:Keep in mind that simply being aware of an issue in your playing is the first step to correcting the issue and becoming a much better guitarist. This applies to all issues you may be having whether they are very core, fundamental problems or smaller less important mistakes. So don’t feel overwhelmed – put together an organized guitar practice schedule and tackle each issue one by one until you have solved them all. Use this guitar practice schedule generator to effectively organize your practice time.This transitions into the next point:
- 4. Don’t feel like you have to solve ALL of your guitar playing issues at once. In other words, don’t put your other guitar skills on hold in order to fix your bad habits. This is something that many guitar players do and their playing suffers as a result. Rather than doing this, simply set aside time to practice/improve your problem areas, but continue to develop in other areas of your playing as well. Get more insight into why practicing only on one area of your playing is a huge error by reading this article about how to make progress on guitar.
- 5. Don’t make the common mistake of trying to eliminate deeply rooted bad guitar playing habits by yourself. There is a reason why you were unable to see these issues in the first place. You need the guidance of an expert guitar teacher to help you completely eliminate any poor playing habits you have accumulated over the years. When looking for a great guitar teacher, always make sure that this person has a proven track record for helping guitarists – who are the same situation as you – effectively solve their playing issues. Learn how to find such a teacher by downloading this free resource about finding a great guitar teacher.
- 6. You become like the people you surround yourself with… so surround yourself with excellent guitar players who will support you as you work on correcting major guitar playing issues. By simply being around these types of people, you will gain a huge motivational boost to reach your musical goals faster. I know this is true, because I continually see the massive positive effect my private musician forum has on every new student who begins taking lessons with me.
- 7. Maintain your patience throughout the correction process and push through to the end. Eliminating very fundamental bad habits in your guitar playing is no easy task. As soon as you begin the process, you will have to strongly resist returning to your old, more comfortable playing methods. To make sure you stay on the right track, ALWAYS keep your mind focused on the end result you desire for your guitar playing. For help with this, read this article about perseverance for guitar players.After reading this article, you are now prepared to begin fixing fundamental issues in your guitar playing. Take these guitar playing improvement assessments right now to begin the process. Next, carefully follow the points in this article, apply the concepts into your current practicing methods and find a great guitar teacher who will guide you along the right path. Once you do this, you will quickly reach your highest guitar playing goals and become the guitarist you always wanted to be!