Struggling to Make Progress

Hi everyone,

Lately my workload has been so crazy I seem to find myself making zero progress in guitar playing. I know the key is finding practice time, which is getting harder and harder the past several weeks. I also battle arthritis/pain in my hands and it has been bad lately. Any tips on what to suggest to turn things around? Thus far I switched to electric guitar, which is easier on the fretting hand anyways. I am not the greatest yet in finding the proper balance of my amp to sound good, but I will get there. It is long overdue to cut the acoustic guitar umbilical cord.
On a positive note (per one of Justin’s lessons) I finally started hearing the music and being able to hear the chords played without cheating and looking up the tab. At least a couple songs: fallen angel by Poison and what you give by Tesla. Also expanding my chord knowledge to play When Love and Hate Collide by Def Leppard. I found it helpful to use the B and A down on the 6th and 8th fret per Justin’s lesson for a new sound. Hoping to post a video, but still in the awful stage for all newly learned songs lol.

Overall just not happy with my progress. I know I can do better. The one minute chord changes have been helpful. Any other advice? Should I be working more on just fundamentals and skip the songs?

Thank you,

Jeff

1 Like

Hi Jeff. Songs are what makes guitar fun. I’d say concentrate on the songs and the fundamentals you need for those particular songs.
Once you get a few new songs down your mojo will come back. :smiley:

5 Likes

Fully agree, for me, learning songs is what made all the difference.

1 Like

Hey Jeff - that’s life for you, it always gets in the way when your having fun. Progress is going to slow down at times when practice time is reduced but we just have to make the most of the time we do get to pick up the guitar. @sairfingers makes a great suggestion to concentrate on learning songs and the techniques required by those songs. Sorry to hear your also having a tough time with arthritis in your hands. That’s a good idea to start practicing on the electric. It’s also an opportunity to explore your amplifier and get the tones that sound good to you in the process.

1 Like

We all have to find our own way. There’s a million things to do, find out what makes you pick up your guitar instead of doing at least one other thing. For me it’s about being inspired. Hearing a new song or progression that moves me will make me pick up my guitar more than anything else. Or maybe stylizing a song that I know real well can do it. A good backing track can send me jamming. That’s just me.

As for being happy with your playing, I’ve never been happy with my playing to be honest. It is what it is and I keep working on ways to improve. It’s a journey not a destination. Peaks and valleys will occur. Find that thing that will spark your interest and creativity. As always, try to find your own voice on the instrument.

3 Likes

I’m also getting to this stage and it makes me feel a real connection with the fretboard. I just do downstrums on the beat and hum, and if I get the chord wrong I’m able to correct it. Learning to anticipate the chord gives me real joy…does it to you? Because I think this is very valuable practice…just think of it…you’re building a true connection with your instrument :slight_smile: is there any more valuable skill than this?

2 Likes

Yes, it can be a challenge if you are still working. If I’m too busy for a reasonable practice session, I’ll try to pick up the guitar for a few minutes and play scales or practice barre chords. 2 minutes is a lot better than nothing. Try to leave the guitar where it will be visible to you. I picked up my guitar and did 5 minutes just before I ran out the door for work on Monday. Do something that doesn’t require a lot of prep or focus. Scales, barre chords, strumming patterns, whatever. Quick and easy. Might help with the arthritis too.

2 Likes

Few suggestions here Jeff coming to mind and how I would approach it in your shoes:

First I would stick with songs, but rather than picking complex ones I would start with as easy as you can. Start with a song having only A D E chords, play it record yourself and try to answer to yourself if it was good to your ears and if there is anything you would improve. You can always post it here if you struggle with self assessment, it’s not always easy!

Then if you think strumming simple pattern like D U D U D U or even an old faithful is bang on, chords played are super clear, no issues with changes - you can try to add to it. Find a song with 4, 5, 6 etc different chords in order as Justin teaches them. Again assessment and question - do you need to stick around and practice particular aspect of your play or can you move on?

In my opinion you shouldn’t be practicing songs that are too far from you as this will hold you up. I would love to play Cliffs of Dover, I gave it a go once and I thought “no this is waaay to difficult, few steps back let’s learn something easier” and that is how I roll and how I would encourage others to do :slight_smile:

It applies to anything - as simple things as A D E and good old faithful strumming to complicated solos. Don’t be afraid to look into the mirror and admit the shortcomings in your play, that’s part of the journey :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Hi Jeff, sorry to hear you’re not feeling good about your progress. Guitar is a long journey, and we all hit plateaus. Everyone progresses differently as we all have different backgrounds and strengths/weaknesses. I can’t help with the arthritis thing unfortunately.

There’s some good advice here already, I’ll point out some things that I think may help you specifically and share some things that help me - which might help you.

From watching what you’ve shared, I think you tackle songs that are a bit beyond your playing level. And this impacts your timing, and how good the songs sound.

Compare what I think is your best AVOYP, Shadow of the day- Linkin Park with a newer one, Goodbye Def Leppard. Your Shadow of the Day performance is significantly better than the Def Leppard one. Like, a LOT better. It’s great. Some reasons. IMHO your timing and chord changes make all the difference. You were struggling with a chord change in Goodbye, and you got off time, strumming got out of whack. Break the rhythm, break the song.

Some other advice: just play the guitar, until the guitar is perfect, don’t sing. It’s fun to sing and play. But when you’re learning the songs, just play the guitar parts, and listen to your guitar parts. Let the whole song run in your head, or play along to it with Spotify to get the timing. That will help get the timing and strumming right. Once that’s perfect, add singing in (it’s hard mode).

If a song has a new chord, you need to practice a LOT more to get that chord change right, and try to keep the rhythm with it, even if you flub the change. @adi_mrok’s advice around sticking to easy chords until you’ve nailed those songs rings true.

Something only you know: if you’ve skipped modules or grades before properly mastering the material there, it might be worth a refresher. Guitar is very much a practice based activity vs a mental learning based one.

Okay. Some stuff now that’s a bit more generic that I use, which may help you.

I found this page shortly after I started playing, wondering how long it would take me to get good: How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar? | Hub Guitar. Check out that table on practice - it’s possible for someone that’s played for 3 1/2 years to be at the same level as someone who’s played for 10 months, just based on how much they practice. Now obviously those are just example numbers and some people learn faster than others, but the point is - it’s all about practice.

I have a rule I set for myself a while ago. Pick up the guitar every day. Tune it, strum some stuff. If I don’t have much time, I might just play a simple song or practice some strumming with a chord progression. More often than not I lead into my practice routine and practice at least an hour. I think it makes a big difference.

I try to mix up learning songs I will be able to play well now (chords I know), with songs that have new techniques in. As well as general technique stuff from Justin’s lessons. There’s something to be said for just learning new material and using the skills you’ve got already, rather than trying to play stuff that’s outside your skill level. But I practice both :smiley:.

Don’t give up Jeff! You’ve just hit a plateau, push through and keep practicing.

4 Likes

Oh, amp tone. I think you have a Fender LT25? I had that, now have a Fender GTX50. From memory the presets were not great, but you can get a good clean tone with the the fender cleans - either deluxe or twin reverb amp models, with a bit of reverb applied.

Good crunch tones I found 80s Rock & 90s Rock were decent (Marshall JCM800 & Mesa Dual Rectifier). Not too much gain.

I left most tone knobs near the middle with only minor tweaks and used the tone on the guitar. BTW - the headphone sound from the LT25 sucks no matter what you do, so use the speaker :smiley:. Remember it is an inexpensive amp, there’s a reason I upgraded!

Plateaus are normal, I spent some time as a flying instructor and also Air Traffic control instructor, students all progress at different rates but all of them will plateau at some stage, often multiple times, but with practice they invariably will progress if they put in the effort. You just gotta want it.
I have to keep reminding myself as I’m in the same boat with the old finger syndrome in the middle finger of both hands setting in. Sucks.
Good luck with it.
Cheers :beers:

Hi Jeff, We are own biggest critics and its quite naturally to have periods where we plateau on our progress.

I have had many times where my progress as stopped and sometimes I feel that I gone backwards :frowning: however when I reflect back where I started and my level of playing, then I am happy where I am currently. Now I work on songs and techniques required for the songs and my practice routine is less rigid

Try not be so hard on yourself and stay positive.

Hi Jeff, I‘m sorry to hear that your arthritis has become worse and that you are struggling with your increased work load at the moment, so that you have the impression, that you‘re not making any progress on your guitar :slightly_frowning_face:. I honestly think that those periods are necessary before we can do the next big step. We definitely can‘t force it.
I agree very much with Adrian to step back a bit, enjoy what you have already achieved. Focus on that. Have fun with songs you can already play without much effort. Maybe you put too much pressure on to yourself? Try to let it go. Times will become easier again, and progress will automatically return. Learning to play the guitar is no race, but a looong journey (it‘ easier said than done :wink:). I think, the most important aspect is to keep the joy alive.
I wish you all the best, Jeff.

Sorry to hear you are struggling. I am in a bit of a flat spot myself. Mostly a long summer with less time and energy to play as much.

I have been using the guitar as my quiet wind down time in the evening. That mindset gets me playing most nights, so that is great. It is just hard to invest the energy into learning something new that progresses me, but I do need all the rote practice I can get as well.

My point is that rather than feeling bored about it, I think of it as soothing and relaxing.

I don’t know if my thoughts and experience help, but hopefully they at least show you are not alone.

Arthritis is tough. My fretting hand gets quite stiff after playing barre cords or holding a single cord for a while practicing something.

My classical guitar course has older players as well. One of them does a simple exercise of rolling a pencil between the hands for a little before playing. Other options are moist heat. At least around the US, you can buy a paraffin bath for your hands. That is really nice for the arthritis. Not to mention your skin.

Here is one. I don’t necessarily recommend this model, it is the first one that came up to use as an example.

1 Like

Thanks for the advice.

Thanks for the idea to put a positive spin on it and explore the amp.

I love the way you put this. Thanks for the inspirational words.

1 Like

Good points-find a balance between progress and not being overwhelmed. I can play 20-30 songs with A-D-E-G-C type chords-just trying to expand my knowledge but maybe moving too quickly.

I love the advice and see you took the time to give a well-thought out answer. You are right that maybe I am not ready for Def Leppard songs just yet and the Linkin Park song was way easier for me. This week I have been playing Fallen Angel by Poison on my strat-fun song yet still easy chords- Em-Cadd 9-G and D mostly. My strumming pattern is boring though so need to fix it. Thanks again.

1 Like

Thanks for the advice on the amp. At least now I know it is not 100% user error lol