What To Do If Your Guitar Playing Stopped Improving - 5 Ways To Solve Your Guitar Playing Problems

by Mike Philippov


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Have you ever run into guitar playing problems that you did not know how to overcome? If you have, then you can probably recall the familiar feeling of “helplessness” that comes from simply “not being able to play something” no matter how much time you spend practicing guitar. It is at this point that many guitar players either completely give up learning to play guitar, or continue to play and practice, but begin to accept/settle for their (perceived) musical limitations.

Fortunately, anybody with fully functional limbs can learn to play guitar well and overcome any guitar playing challenges they face. Although it is impossible to prescribe an effective “one size fits all” solution to every possible guitar playing problem, there are several very effective techniques that will help you to solve any guitar challenge you face when you practice guitar. If you notice that your guitar playing has stopped improving, follow the 5 steps below to begin making progress again:

1. Get Specific About Your Guitar Playing Problems

Before you can “practice” to solve a specific guitar playing problem, you must know clearly “what” the problem is and what is causing it. This seems very obvious, but many guitarists either completely neglect doing this, or simply “assume” or guess (often incorrectly) what their general problem might be. In addition to the obvious need to identify problems before you can take any action to fix them, it is critical to be as “specific” as possible when describing your guitar challenges. General statements such as: “I can’t play guitar fast”, or “I can’t solo”, or “My guitar playing is sloppy” are not specific guitar playing problems, and your musical skills cannot improve without first assessing what, when and how specific problems appear in your guitar playing. If you don’t know how to identify your guitar playing problems, pay attention to the areas of your musical skills where you have the most trouble and then complete the following sentence to get specific about the problem: “I have a hard time with (insert a musical skill here) every time I (insert a description of a specific musical context here).”

2. Think It Through

Although being a musician is a creative endeavor, the process of “playing guitar” (or improving your guitar technique) is a physical activity that obeys the basic laws of physics and common sense. Many times you may experience what seems like a complete breakdown in your guitar playing that is caused by one minor flaw in your guitar technique that you can correct yourself, simply by thinking it through logically. Although you will typically learn to play guitar much faster by studying with a guitar teacher instead of trying to learn everything on your own, don’t underestimate your own ability to solve some of your guitar playing problems.

For example, when faced with a guitar technique problem of not being able to play a particular lick, think carefully about the movement of each hand, analyze the picking hand motions, the fretting hand motions and the fingering (actually “look” at each of your hands when doing this) and think of ways to make all of the motions more efficient. Use the basic laws of physics and common sense to your advantage when looking for ways to solve a particular guitar playing problem. To see an actual example of the process of solving a specific guitar playing challenge, watch this video about changing chords on guitar.

When thinking about your guitar technique challenges, be careful not to "over think" the problem. Do not fall into the trap of “paralysis by analysis” of trying to decide between hundreds of different ways of holding your guitar pick or dozens of different hand positions. Remember at all times that the ultimate goal is to make your guitar playing sound good rather than to have “perfect” technique. So the ultimate test of the effectiveness of your guitar practice approaches is how good your guitar playing sounds.

3. Categorize Your Guitar Playing Problems

Not all of your guitar challenges are equal and in order to solve them in the most efficient way, divide them into three main categories: Actionable Guitar Playing Problems (such as the ones that you can solve immediately given your current skill level), Semi Actionable Guitar Playing Problems (the ones you can take some action to improve now but can't immediately solve in their entirety) and Non Actionable Guitar Playing Problems (the ones that will only go away with time as you become a more advanced musician in general and can’t quickly be fixed right now). Spend the majority of your “problem solving” guitar practice time on the Actionable and Semi Actionable guitar challenges in order to fix them on your own and get a guitar teacher who can help you to improve your general guitar playing to a more advanced level so that you can move the currently “Non-Actionable” guitar problems into the “Actionable” category and finally eliminate them from your guitar playing.

4. Exaggerate The Difficulty Of Your Guitar Playing Problems

To make the original guitar challenge you are struggling with feel much easier, intentionally distort the difficulty of the music you are playing by making it MORE difficult to play than it really is. The way to do this is by inserting additional restrictions or technical demands into the music that weren’t there before. Use your imagination to think of many ways to do this and you can also see several specific examples of this guitar practice approach in action, by watching this free guitar practice techniques video. This guitar practice method of exaggerating the difficulty will work most effectively when you are already 100% clear on what specific guitar playing problem you are trying to fix.

5. Never Give Up

When your guitar progress seems slow, realize that you may only be one guitar practice session away from a HUGE breakthrough in your guitar playing. Remember that ALL problems on guitar can be overcome and that the solution to them can appear from any number of often unexpected sources, such as you discovering it yourself or finding the answer from a guitar teacher or a guitar learning resource.

All great guitar players were able to successfully overcome their guitar playing problems not because of “natural talent”, but rather through their determination, persistence and consistent application of the guitar playing problem solving tools described in this article. When you begin to take the same approach during your guitar practice sessions, you will greatly increase your ability to solve your guitar playing problems.

If you haven't yet watched the free guitar practice techniques video mentioned above, I recommend for you to do so now to get more help with solving your guitar challenges.

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