Is it normal to "regress" when progressing to harder challenges?

Hope this is a good place for this.

I’m an adult learner and I’ve been playing for about 4-5 weeks now. I’m addicted to it in the best way possible. Grade 1 flew by in about 3 weeks and I was feeling pretty good about myself, I was noticing some muscle memory starting to set in, the grade-appropriate songs (I am subscribed to the app) were getting easier and easier to play even at faster speeds… BUT I was only down strumming. Finally a couple weeks ago I decided that I couldn’t stick my head under the sand any longer ( :rofl:) and I started practicing my up-strumming and the Old Faithful rhythm pattern, and it took a couple days to get the hang of the upstrokes.

Alright here’s the thing. Since I’ve started up-strumming, I have gotten noticeably worse at everything else! My chord change speed has gone down (even when I’m not strumming!! lol), sometimes it feels like my left hand fingers don’t even remember how to fret chords correctly, I’m buzzing and muting things I played correctly just a few days before while I desperately try to keep a rhythm going with my right hand :woozy_face:

I understand that now that I’m trying to do different things with the left and right hand my brain is sort of dealing with double the cognitive load… guess I just want some reassurance that it’s normal and that it will get better lol and possibly some tips to get out of this weird spot!

(edited to fix mix up of right and left hand)


4-5 weeks is hardly any time at all. You might have felt you had it but its not as ingrained as you think I feel.

You are now concentrating on more and doing more, and the old stuff is suffering a little, dont worry just keep practicing and take it slow.


That’s your answer right there. :grinning:
Stick at it. You’ll get there.


Don’t forget that paradox that the more you learn, the more you’ve got the feeling you actually don’t know a thing :smiley:

That but also; the first progression is a lot faster then when you’re a couple of months in.

…and of course going in very fast like you, it might be that your foundation is a bit weak. D-u-d-u strumming requires brilliance on the basics.

It could be that your up strum angle isn’t good, that you hook into the string, that your pick angle is too sharp, that you are holding your pick too right or you need a thinner pick.

Meanwhile, while overfocussing on the new skill you are trying to solidify, you can’t rely enough on your “auto pilot” doing things right off the bat.

Foundations are crucial and bad habits there are hard to correct. To quote Justin; “it is harder to unlearn a bad habit than to learn something new”.

Make sure you know how to do your foundations in the dark, without looking :smiley:

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Hello monica,
The people above are absolutely right (obviously).
But with such an extensive enthusiasm you will get there, there are also a lot of nice surprises waiting for you,…practice hard on something, think will I ever be able to do this? and then suddenly" you make a jump and as if by magic it works :sunglasses:…that is a very very nice and almost addictive feeling…I wish you good luck and lots of fun in this adventure,…keep asking and don`t be shy to drop some of your developments,
Greetings, Rogier

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To answer the question directly: Yes, it’s normal to regress when progressing to harder challenges while learning. I’ve experienced that.

But overall you’re not going backwards, you’re moving forwards. If you focus back on something else again, you’ll find you get back to where you were very, very quickly - perhaps as quickly as 5 minutes of refresher practice. As you learn you’ll go broad (learn new skills) as well as go deep (get better at existing skills) - it’s hard to do it all at the same time!

I’ll echo what others have said - 4-5 weeks is hardly any time at all, this is a long game!


I’ll echo everyone else’s comments here and say that’s totally normal. If you’ve gone through Grade 1 in 4-5 weeks then firstly, nice one! But secondly you’ve not given yourself much consolidation time. It’s inevitable you’ll have these bumps if you continue at that pace. I do believe that consolidation of the modules, particularly at the end of the grade is pretty crucial. I was more the other way and spent alot of time consolidating.

The main thing is to not get discouraged, as @jkahn says above, you’re still moving forwards with every practice session and so long as you continue to enjoy the journey that’s all that matters. Good luck :+1:


That’s really good advice, I think I’m gonna stop here for as many weeks as it takes and work my way up on the metronome again. It’s definitely a matter of not being 100% solid on the chord changes yet while trying to incorporate a new big skill!

Haha discouraged is not in my vocabulary, I’m in love with this instrument! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: Time to go back to the basics and really consolidate on those chord changes and strumming patterns. Thank you for your reply!

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Thank you roger, it feels good to know that I’m not doing anything abnormal! You’re so right - even in my quasi-zero experience I’ve seen some of the things you’ve mentioned, stuff that didn’t work the day before that suddenly worked the day after as if by magic :slight_smile:

This community is so supportive, thank you everybody :slight_smile:

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That’s one of the best parts of being here, on your own it would be easy to flounder!
Everyone has given you great advice, there’s only one thing that I would add, Practice the strumming pattern separately to the chord changes initially, just strum muted strings and carry on your changes as you were. When your strumming gets on auto pilot add simple chord changes that you’re good at. This approach should help.

Progress is rarely in a straight line, moving forward and backward seems to be a constant in progressing. Justin makes some very important points on effective practice and how to make learning permanent, such as blocking a practice routine into small blocks (1-5 minutes), rotating through a variety of skills, spending time consolidating, and of course learning songs.
A couple of articles that offer an explanation of what is going on and how to reduce the impact are:
Why the Progress You Make in the Practice Room Seems to Disappear Overnight - PART 1 - Bulletproof Musician
Why the Progress You Make in the Practice Room Seems to Disappear Overnight - PART 2 - Bulletproof Musician
Hopefully these are of interest.


I think some “regression” might actually be helpful on the long run if treated with the right mind.
When focusing on one thing for a long time you might get used to some practices that are not ideal for the overall context, a bit of forgetting lets the mind seek on it’s own new approaches that might suit better.
I found this very helpful during my degree studies and it has recently started affecting my guitar practice. I speculate that this process eventually leads to better understanding of a broader set of techniques that surrounds what you have started with.
The important thing is to let yourself find the way back on your own and keep an open mind while doing so.

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Exact same issue with me - although I’m still firmly in Grade 1, Module 2 after 4 and a half weeks because I’ve been practicing note perfect, 1 minute chord changes (3 chords: E to A, A to D, and E to D), and Buffalo Springfield ‘For What It’s Worth’.

Whilst my 1 minute chord changes were in the mid 30s, I was becoming unhappy with some sloppiness that I’ve detected in finger placement and string buzzing.

I already know some minor chords due to running through a number of music theory YT videos (am comfortable with basics on notes, chords, major and minor scales, intervals, and how to derive chords irrespective of the key due to memorisation of chord pattern algorithm), but I want to consolidate the fundamentals re: finger placement and strumming, before proceeding further.

As yet another self-taught learner, I’m conscious from my other learning that developing bad habits at this stage will hinder me as I progress further. I plan to have an initial hour guitar lesson with a teacher next month, and then a 1/2 hour session every 2 weeks.

I will have 2 and a half months of play behind me (currently everyday mostly 30 mins - sometimes a lot longer at weekends).

Reassuring to see that such apparent regression is natural, and a reminder to consolidate learning. If I cannot play ‘For What It’s Worth’ with reasonable strumming and chord changes (looking at you E and D after 2 strums), then I need more practice before ploughing ahead.

Think of it as your limited focus being displaced. When you first start off you tend to be focused on exactly what it is you are doing. When you add something to that mix you’ll often leave somethings else out of mind and stumble a bit with that until you learn to juggle, so to speak. Strumming will begin to happen more automatically at some point. I’d also add that the more you go into new harder things the more the earlier things will magically appear to become simpler to perfect. I don’t know exactly how that happens. Mind over matter maybe. Progress is a bit like a tide that rises all boats. Don’t mind the waves too much. The glide can be choppy.

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@mrsbot I think everyone to a certain extent tend to regress now and again. Some days I cant do most things right, the next day its all back to normal. Strumming goes wrong, then it`s alright again. Up strums are pathetically bad but later they are not so bad.

Just keep on practising until it all clicks together.

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Well the last week has seen a breakthrough in my playing:

  • rarely need to adjust my fingers in terms of initial pitch perfect placement
  • am in the 40s (high 30s for E-D Chord switching) for 1 minute chord practice
  • I have noticed better and more confident strumming
  • chord changes are slowly improving

I am still midway through Grade 1, module 2. Am very glad with my decision to slow things down and focus on basics, and continue practicing everyday.

I’ll buy a metronome early April (once I have end of financial year end out of the way at work) to develop timing.

Practicing with Buffalo Springfield ‘For What It’s Worth’ and Jefferson Airplane ‘Someone to Love’ are the immediate goals re: to play them in time with the music.


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Outstanding progress, sounds like the “slow down to go fast” approach is working for ya!

You might want to separate the two. Practice your chord changes without any new strumming patterns. Practice new strumming patterns without changing chords, say just a C chord. Or even practice strumming while muting all of the strings, (don’t make any chords at all). That way you don’t have to think about too many things at once.
I’ve played for many years and still do this when I come across a new strumming or picking pattern.

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