Getting discouraged while playing guitar

As a professional guitar player, I know first-hand what it takes to master the guitar. You need to be driven along with being patient while walking the neverending path of musical development. Even after many years filled with music schools, shows, rehearsals, and recordings, I still get discouraged while playing guitar and now I know that It is an inseparable part of the guitar journey.

There are some things you need to understand for you to overcome the feeling of discouragement while learning guitar. You need to realize the meaning of true talent, you need to set your goals straight and focus on yourself while sticking to the things you love doing. Make sure to trust the process and do it only for the right reasons.

In this article, we will break this thought process into bitesize pieces and try to battle your feeling of discouragement with a fresh view and new and innovative solutions.

Focus on the process and not the result

The reason why you feel discouraged may be connected to how you tend to set your goals. Knowing how to choose the right goals is essential for maintaining the healthy mindset needed for the long journey of mastering the guitar. 

Here is the secret – focus ONLY on things that are completely up to you. For example, telling yourself that in two weeks, you got to be able to play a certain piece flawlessly is the bad kind of goal because you can’t know exactly how much time it will take you personally to learn this piece. For some people it will take a week and others will need a whole month.

A healthy type of goal will be practicing one hour every day, with no disturbances, 6 days a week, for a whole month. This type of goal is 100% up to you. You will just have to learn how to manage your time. Remember to not be too harsh on yourself in case you’ve missed one practice day, keep your chin up, and don’t blame anyone else for your failures.

Does talent exist?

Is talent a figment of our imagination? Or maybe it is a misused term for the word dedication? If so, do people in this world got to where they are ONLY because of hard work and practice? Seems unfitting. Maybe there is some unseen force given to them by birth that drives them further on to be more successful than others.

“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”


The concept of talent could be misleading and discouraging for many of us because it depicts that innate ability rather than practice and determination is what ultimately determines whether you will be great at what you do. This toxic idea will rob you of your incentive to practice because you’ll feel you have to work too hard for something that others are born with.

In a Japanese study about perfect pitch, the psychologist Ayako Sakakibara shows that even a skill that is considered completely hereditary could be learned through practice (if you are young enough), On the other hand, in sports, for example, innate traits like height, or body type can make a big difference over one’s success but luckily in music, these traits mean nothing!

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Each of us is a little different, some grew up in music nurturing homes and others didn’t, so yes, each of us have a little different starting point when learning music, but at the end of the day, what count is how determined and devoted you are to mastering the guitar.

For a good “shot” of determination, I recommend reading Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.

learn guitar for the right reasons

Mastering a musical instrument is a journey that spreads over years. It is a long and winding road filled with obstacles, and you’ll find yourself struggling through each new goal you’ve conquered. You better have a strong motivation to do whatever it takes if you want to reach these goals, and for healthy motivation, you need some good inspiration.

If you decided to play guitar just to maintain a certain persona and pick up some likes on social media, you are in it for the wrong reasons! Many amazing musicians would testify that music kind of chose them and not the opposite. People who truly love music will do it because nothing else in the world makes them feel this way.

Here are a few quotes by some of the greatest musicians to walk this planet that emphasize just how music is a genuine part of their lives rather than a job.

  • “Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” Charlie Parker
  • Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there’s no more music in them. Louis Armstrong
  • The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with. Bruce Springsteen
  • I would rather write 10,000 notes than a single letter of the alphabet. Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Music is my religion. Jimi Hendrix

Comparing ourselves to others could be discouraging

Comparing ourselves to others is a very natural and human thing to do. It enables growth by helping us assess ourselves, question our goals and ways we act and take examples to avoid mistakes done by others.

Comparing yourself to others could be a positive thing as long as it is done in a healthy way. Looking at someones else’s high guitar skills and using them as your own mental fuel to practice more guitar is a positive way of channeling envy.

Comparing yourself to others is a double-edged sword as it can also deter you from doing what love, and even negatively affect your mental health.

Social Media

In today’s social environment, with smartphones in our pockets and a huge variety of social media platforms, it is extremely hard not to compare yourself to others. It is already well known among the scientific community that the more you will do it, the more discouraged and sad you are going to get.

Social media is filled with amazing, skillful, and extremely young guitarists, and you have to remember that the social media feed is built out of the most impressive players of a given moment. Furthermore, some of these videos are studio-recorded, heavily edited, mixed, and mastered while never depicting how much time and effort the musicians had spent to reach their level, or how many actual takes it took them to capture this 30-second guitar part.

Use social media positively as a source for new ideas, follow guitar players that inspire you, and try to get a little something from each of them while steadily building your own musical identity. Social media is also an incredible source of music lessons, and you can find there everything, from classical to metal, jazz, pop, or any other style. Focus on yourself and on your own progress.

Play what you love to play

When learning how to play the guitar, exercises are an inseparable part of the process but don’t drown yourself in them. Make sure to leave some room for enjoyment or even try to alter your exercises to be more fun.

Learn songs and solos that challenge and inspire you. You’ll see how time just flies by. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing a musical piece that you love coming out from your own fingers.

Don’t jump too high

Start by learning things that fit your level of skill. For beginners, punk, grunge, and rock bands like Nirvana or Arctic Monkeys can offer plenty, as their musical vocabulary is pretty simplified. If that’s not your style, try fiddling with blues as it is one of the simplest and coolest genres you can find.

Take small steps while you’re practicing as well, and remember that precision and clean playing is much more sought after than speed. Take your time and master slow playing before you try to shred.

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Gon Zadok

Gon Zadok is a Tel Aviv-based session player, recording artist, and independent producer for Simply and local artists. He plays various instruments, including guitar, bass, synths, and ukulele. Gon studied music at Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Israel and music production at SAE Institute in Berlin, Germany.

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