As I reach my 4th guitar anniversary and reflect on what I have achieved and which direction to take to my future learning, then this is where im lost and any advice would be most appreciated.
Im currently working on the Grade 3 course, but Its easy to find a distraction on work on other things that I am also interested in learning such as fingerstyle blues and there is so many songs to learn, that I feel that I need to pause and get 5-10 songs that I can play comfortably before moving on with my learning.
I think this is very common. You’ve got the basics and now you want to break out of the constraints of the formal learning program. It can feel like drudgery sometimes. I wouldn’t stress about it. Go down those rabbit holes and work out what you like and don’t like. Then focus on the stuff you like.
I think perhaps you’ve answered your own question. After 4 years of learning and in grade 3 you should certainly have a repertoire of songs. Get those songs learned, add in some fingerstyle, some lead lines, some bass lines.
As already mentioned this is very common - this journey will be filled with ups and downs, and it never ends.
I’ve met a lot of guitarists who can’t play a whole song - they have a bunch of riffs or sections of songs, but if you put a guitar in their hands and say play me a song, they just can’t.
I think the most important thing here is that it needs to be fun, you need to enjoy what you’re doing - perhaps for some being able to play bits and pieces makes them happy and that’s great, but it’s not for everyone.
I try and mix things up - my guitar time is made up of a number of different things. Currently my time splits into the following areas…
Technique - spending time drilling some aspect I’m trying to improve
Ear training - transcribing
Learning new songs - always have one or two on the go (try not to have too many)
repertoire - playing through songs I have in the bag
6 Recording - critical listening of my own playing
I don’t do all of these every day, but I like to mix it up a bit so I have some variety in my guitar time.
TLDR: Do what makes you happy. I suggest you try and learn some songs, but perhaps mix it up with some lessons too.
On my playing, I need to improve my strumming and use of dynamics and some techniques like the E shaped barre chord.
In terms of songs that I like to play then its more rock and blues but I mainly prefer fingerstyle as there as I can avoid singing.
In terms of where I want to go is to arrange my own songs for fingerstyle and this is achievable as I have my first arrangement for Three little birds.
To move forward I need to incorporate ear training , music theory and develop my technique with barre chords amongst other things.
I have been playing for 2.5 years and progressed in classes to the end of Grade 3. I’m not very fast getting some elements of play into my head-hand coordination, but I am not getting tired of playing nor feeling lost.
My playing proficiency is not that far in places and further in others because of trying to learn “simple” songs that interest me that wind up needing things not taught yet. This highlighted the strong need to improve my accuracy in picking and fretting before I felt I could hope to take on the new lessons.
Take a look at anything you know is a weakness that may prevent practicing future lessons and try to get that in place.
I decided to do similar to you and learn songs at the expense of moving ahead in lessons. I am choosing to select songs I feel strongly about playing that have elements I know I need to work on. This is not improving the speed that I am learning to place my fingers in the right spot, but it is keeping my interest while trying to figure out this very basic requirement for playing.
Select songs that exercise your practice goals
I also have a few songs that I have decent progress with. I can generally play these with only a few mistakes during a complete song. I am working more on finesse with these and can use them when I “just want to play something”.
Have a few songs that you can play reliably to fall back on when you get annoyed at slow progress of a lesson
You may find that your hands won’t move to the position you need without some effort. I have this in many places and also managed to overcome this in time in a few places. I created exercises, often using the song as a basis for the exercise, that slowly built the movement I needed.
Expect changes to your hand range of motion to come slowly. Be sure to plan your exercises to grow your capability similarly slowly. Do not hurry this kind of change!
oh yeah… I think many things are this way, especially happens with complex things.
sometimes simple stuff can be a useful and enjoyable change. For instance, I may be having trouble with a string bend (well, I am in reality) so I might try a new string diameter out. This costs me about what a pint at the local pub would but gives me hours of enjoyment where the pint is good for an hour or less. I get to grow some strength for that particular bend, and can later go back to the heavier strings if I like. Lots of little things like this are right in front of us when we look. It keeps the waiting to get proficient not seem too difficult.
A lot of good advice here. I am also on Grade 3 and have had several up and down moments over the last couple of years. When I started I made a rule for myself that I had to pick my guitar up every day and play it, however briefly (and some days it’s been very brief!) and I have stuck to that for just over two years now.
Once I got to Grade 3, where Justin recommends an hour a day of practice, I have made that my aim (although not a hard and fast rule like my pick it up every day rule) and I can now spot the signs of an impending ‘lull’ as practice feels like a chore and I start coming up with excuses to put it off until later in the day or do less than an hour.
What works for me is to recognise the lull and sit down and re-write my practice routine. I do an honest self appraisal of my weak spots and try and add more practice on those and the sense of achievement after a while from seeing visible improvement is motivating. I recently reviewed the whole course from Grade 1 and incorporated some things that I passed over too quickly at the time and have found that my increased experience have made them possible (I’m looking at you, fingerstlyle Happy ****** Birthday, which I can FINALLY play from memory). I am also doing some ear training and theory which I have discovered I really enjoy and feels like this knowledge is going to give me the ‘keys to the castle’ as I can now see a future where I am not restricted to learning by rote.