Losing the fire

This month marks six years since I decided to make learning guitar a retirement thing.

I’m losing the desire. I’ve been plateaued for months now, getting no better. Things I work on regularly haven’t advanced at all. Stuff like moving from an open chord to a barre Bm (which comes up a lot); I’m still 50/50 whether I’ll accomplish it cleanly or not. Going from a short “lead” fill back to rhythm without completely losing the strumming pattern.

On days when I’m pushed for time, I used to still grab a half hour of practice. Now I think “ah, it’s not worth it” and just skip.

Hell, I’m 73 years old. At that age, good players are generally declining in skill. Why would I expect to get good? Somebody asked me “are you still having fun?” and I’m not at all sure that I can answer that affirmatively.

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As people age we lose dexterity and speed in general, that’s for sure. I’m a lot younger so can’t comment on what it’s like - others would need to do that.

You’ve spent 6 years on this, not a short time at all. I think you need to ask yourself, do you still want to play the guitar? Are you just stuck in a rut or do you want to quit? I don’t want to encourage you to quit, however there is a hang up in society (maybe just western society?) about quitting stuff. It’s OK.

You might just be stuck in a rut though. If you’ve been doing the same old thing, battling the same old stuff for a while - and it sounds like it, you probably need something new. We humans thrive on variety, and a bit of challenge. I read your intro post and noticed you only play for yourself, not in front of others.

What about some of these challenges:

  • Playing in front of family & friends
  • Play in public, even if there’s no real “audience” - e.g. a local park with not many people around
  • Learning a chord melody piece
  • Sharing an AVOYP
  • Perform at a JG community open mic
  • Record against a drum backing track in a DAW and share the recording
  • Learn some drumming, and record you playing drums and guitar overdubbed (could help with the rhythm/lead fill stuff)

Just some thoughts! You’ve been at this for a while and if you’re feeling you’re losing the fire, maybe a shake up would be good.

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Check out Rut Busters in the playground section of the website. There are 10 videos of Justin helping Lee get out of a rut.

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It needs to be a fun, creative and inspirational process. Otherwise what is the point? Put it down for a while and come back when you are ready for it. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

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Hi Mark, I’m hearing you, I have had those same thoughts several times… making no progress, feeling frustrated and asking myself why am I persevering. Although I totally agree with JK that quitting is perfectly okay option, I have however found that if I just keep going, my mindset does eventually change and some of things that were frustrating me are no longer the major problem they once were. This change can happen very slowly, almost imperceptibly, until one day you think about it and realise that whatever it was has resolved itself (or at least evolved into something I can live with).
The best way I have found personally to get through these low points is to hunt out a song I absolutely love that I haven’t tried before and just go about learning it, pretty much focusing on nothing else. I find this becomes a great distraction and you can sometimes make fairly rapid progress at the start with a new song, at least say getting the basic rhythm flowing or a cool intro figured out, which can be inspiring enough to keep going. This is as opposed to perfecting a song that I’ve been playing for ages which I just can’t get right or always stumble at the same points, which can be tedious and frustrating to resolve (although likely very worthwhile when in the right headspace of course :slight_smile: ).
Not sure if this helps! :thinking: However all the best with navigating your way through this, not easy. As someone who has put my guitar in the closet a couple of times myself, but then returned to it with renewed vigor later, I’d be inclined to call it taking a break rather than quitting :wink:

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Hi Mark, lots of good input provided above.

As another person in the same age range, 70, and learning guitar at that stage, I’ll share my head set.
I have no expectation of how good a guitar player I might become. I’ll get as good as can and that is enough. Learning new things about music in general and the guitar specifically gives me satisfaction. Small improvements, successes and detours give me energy and motivation to do more. Yesterday I was watching an old YT of Justin Teaches Tammy. He suggested using a DAW with its metronome to visualize how accurate your strum timing is. I spent the next 2 hours learning how to do that in my DAW and trying different combinations of strums and timing. Simple but enlightening. Today I’m going to see if it is useful to visualize note playing timing. I don’t know if the experiment will yield much but it doesn’t matter. It was fun and I learned a little about me and the DAW.

However… If, over time, I am no longer able to derive enjoyment from learning and playing, I would stop and go find something else to get me energized. I don’t want to do something to fill time, I want to do things that are a challenge, satisfying, and make me and my family happy.

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Not quite in my 70s but…after 9 months in I completely plateaued - do you have a genuine, nice guitar?

I watched Justin’s videos on “cheap guitars” and went out and bought a genuine guitar (not an expensive one, just a proper guitar). The difference was pretty huge and suddenly I can play F barre, I can play standing (although not well) and scales are a lot easier.
Still have a lot of things I can’t do but it helped me really WANT to play again - and the songs I CAN play all sound so much better.

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Exactly! :slight_smile:

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I also watched the Tammy video where he talks about timing and strumming to a metronome and found to my horror that my timing is terrible! So have now put this on my practice routine. BTW I use a visual metronome as find them easier to use.

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Yeah. The electric is a Dean Zelinsky Tagliare, the acoustic is a Taylor 114e. Both have been professionally set up. They aren’t the problem.

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We could always just peer pressure you into playing. I think there was a whole thread about that recently…:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Seriously, I think you are doing well to be honest about how you are feeling. If it doesn’t drive you, do whatever does. There is no obligation to anyone except yourself. Maybe it is time to take up skydiving!

My only recommendation is to keep mentally and physically active. We age better if we do, among other benefits.

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Hi Stuart (@Stuartw),
I normally use a Korg metronome. I have to trust my ears to know how accurate my timing is. I think the DAW ‘test’ might be useful as an occasional check to see how I’m doing, I.e. does the data correlated by the DAW match my audio perception with the Korg. I might also find that the DAW ‘test’ is too limited to be of much practical value. The discussion of how to improve/check timing should probably move to another section, like ‘Gear & Tools Talk’.

Returning this thread back to @Markr31 … Nice guitars. Hope you find a way to enjoy them. That’s peer pressure :wink:

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I wanted to add two more things to the “losing fire” paradigm. The mantra of “Play songs, play songs, play songs”, can be a factor in this issue. I can run out of songs very quickly that inspire me. Also, there is a lot more to the instrument than just playing songs. Being able to comp, play lead over changes, learning triads, scales, modes, can all be great learning tools and very inspirational.

Here it comes, many won’t like this either, but new gear can cause a spark that sends you down cool and interesting paths. Something as simple as a new pedal can make a difference. I buy everything as a high value proposition, so I don’t rule out a new guitar or amp either.

There you have it --two unpopular things that help keep things interesting for me (besides just putting the guitar down for a bit to re-energize your batteries).

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This “plateau” is what I try to challenge when I do online sessions with guitarists from all over the world.

They often got some basics down already but are stuck, need new perspective…
Often they

  1. miss a strategy with long term and short term goals
  2. they are lacking in one or more “foundations”.

No matter you age, you must have some goals?
Have you tried to plot them

Check out these video’s, they might inspire you

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Snap. A Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster and a week later I am playing a song with an F barre chord and not flinching anymore…

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If I wouldn’t do it when I was 20 years old, when the Army offered me extra pay and shiny silver wings to do it, I’m damn sure not going to do it now! :grin:

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Smart man! Oh, well. Back to guitar it is then😉.

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Hi Mark, sorry to read that you aren’t happy with your guitar playing at the moment. Maybe some face-to-face lessons, maybe with one of Justin’s approved teachers or someone in your area, may help? Sure that they could figure out what holds you back to progress. Maybe all you need is just a little push into the right direction. Sure, someone like @Richard_close2u or @LievenDV could help you over the hurdle or find a new perspective. Hope you get back your motivation!

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Isn’t it ironic that you can be retired and still be pushed for time? COVID handed me the opportunity for early retirement. I find I’m busier now than I was when I was working.

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Hi Mark.
I’m sorry to read this comment from you, from anyone when the plateau comes along.

What do you work on regularly? And are you remembering to regularly (always) have fun time built in to your guitar time?
Have a look at two of @LievenDV tips here: Tip: "I feel like I'm not making progress" and here: Tip: Plateaus and lack of SMART goals

That could be a start point for further thought, focus, questions and reaching out for more support as and when you need it.
:slight_smile: