Why You’re Stuck on Guitar and What to Do About It

guitar progress stuck

Feeling stuck in your guitar playing? Don’t fret! Many musicians experience this frustration for a variety of reasons – both mental and technical. In this article, we’ll explore these challenges and provide effective solutions to help you break through and regain your momentum.

The reasons why you feel stuck with your guitar playing could be both mental and physical. To overcome these barriers, rethink your goals, and own self-imposed limitations, reassess your practice methods and update your musical knowledge. These steps can help lead to a breakthrough in your playing.

Want to learn more about the factors behind feeling stuck in your guitar progress? Keep reading to uncover new insights and advice to help you push through.

How to Break Through a Guitar Plateau

stuck on guitar

#1 Rethink your Guitar Goals

Playing guitar for the right reasons is crucial to your success. If your motivation is to impress others or to gain social media recognition, your drive and commitment to the demanding journey of being a musician will likely be lacking. The only valid reason to play guitar is a true passion and love for the craft. If listening to music sparks a rush of excitement and energy within you, then you have the potential to excel as a guitar player.

#2 Don’t Let the Little Details Derail You

Many beginner guitarists often get stuck on small details, such as their pick grip or hand position on the neck, and believe that this is the reason for their lack of progress. Although these details are essential parts of your overall guitar technique, they will improve naturally with enough playing time.

Many guitar players blame a lack of progress on various factors, such as technique or equipment. However, the main reason often lies in insufficient practice. Avoid making excuses for not putting in the effort, and remember that your progress ultimately depends on your dedication and discipline.

Driven and focused guitar players without natural “gift” will outdo any lazy prodigy with enough dedication and practice. The key to mastering an instrument lies in consistent and diligent practice.

#3 Overcome Self-Doubt in Guitar Playing

guitar progress stuck

Some of you may think you will never be able to fulfill your guitar dreams. You have watched famous guitar players doing extraordinary things, or even someone at the guitar shop shredding like crazy, and you told yourself you would never be able to reach that level. You justify that thought by saying to yourself that these people are more talented than you, or maybe they are more intelligent or perhaps even that they have an advantage because they started playing at a very young age, and you will never catch up to them. 

All of that is wrong! Talent is a myth. All of us humans are musical beings, and we all can develop these skills further on. It is true that some people have a better starting point than others. Some were born into musical homes, some were blessed with perfect pitch.

If you think that’s what makes a guitar player, you are dead wrong. And if you need proof, look into the stories of successful guitar players. You will find out that they came from many different places, social and economic statuses, and were born, each one, with a different set of skills.

The most important thing you need to have is a love for the guitar and the willpower to be the best version of yourself. 

Author’s note: I can attest from personal experience that I was often the weakest musician in the room during the beginning of my musical journey. Despite difficulties in developing a strong sense of pitch and struggles with jazz studies, I never lost faith in my ability to reach my musical goals. This confidence was strengthened by the guidance of older musician friends who showed me what lies just a few steps ahead on the journey and reminded me that progress is achieved through hard work, not inherent talent.

#4 The Importance of Proper Practice for Guitar Progress

stuck on guitar

The key to success with guitar is practicing consistently and effectively. Simply dedicating hours at a time to one exercise and then neglecting it for weeks will not bring you the desired results. To see progress, it’s important to incorporate a variety of exercises into your daily practice routine, each performed for short periods of time.

Consistency is key when it comes to practicing guitar. Practicing for an hour every day is more beneficial than having two 4-hour sessions per week. Regular and frequent practice is crucial for progress.

If you’re looking to optimize your guitar practice and take it to the next level, this comprehensive guide on guitar practice is a must-read.

#5 Your Gear is Not What’s Holding You Back

guitar progress stuck

The quality of your gear may be a factor, but it is not the determining factor in your progress as a guitar player. It’s a common misconception for beginners to think that investing in high-end equipment will magically improve their playing. However, a talented musician can create beautiful music even with a basic setup. Don’t fall into the trap of endlessly shopping for new guitars and pedals or splurging on an amplifier you don’t need.

Spend your resources wisely and invest in your development as a guitar player. Instead of buying more gear, consider enrolling in an online guitar course or finding a knowledgeable teacher or guidebook. These options can be more cost-effective and yield greater benefits than buying new equipment.

Sometimes, a guitar may actually be unplayable (especially with extremely cheap options). However, it is possible to find a decent guitar that will serve your needs for as low as $150 for a classical and around $300 or less for an electric. If you feel that your guitar may be unplayable, make sure to consult with someone knowledgeable about guitars.

#6 Guitar Progress Recharge: 8 Vital Steps

Put Your Exercises Into Practice

To advance as a guitar player, practicing scales and chords is crucial, but it’s important to apply them in a musical context. After completing your daily exercises, try to create musical pieces using them. For instance, turn a major scale exercise into a guitar lick and play it over different scales and chords. Similarly, use the chord exercises to find interesting chord patterns and play them over your favorite chord progressions.

The Importance of the Metronome

If you’re looking to enhance your guitar-playing skills, the metronome should be a regular part of your practice routine for two key reasons. Firstly, using a metronome will improve your sense of timing and rhythm. Secondly, it offers an objective and measurable way to track your progress.

The metronome’s repetitive clicking sound is much shorter and less musically complex than a drum beat, making it easier for you to identify even the slightest inaccuracies in your playing during practice. So, incorporate the use of a metronome in the background of all your practices.

Start Learning Songs by Ear

break songs by ear

Learning songs by ear can be challenging for many guitar players, while others might even view it as a form of wizardry. However, like any other skill, it can be perfected with constant practice. Breaking down songs by ear is a crucial aspect of a musician’s development.

Training your ears will give you the musical freedom you desire and help you climb out of the rut. Start with simple songs that use basic musical concepts, such as those by Arctic Monkeys or Rage Against The Machine. Punk and Grunge bands also make great resources for ear training, as they often use power chords with less musical complexity.

A different approach to training your ears is through musical dictation, and numerous free websites offer this type of training. Check out Tone Dear, a free ear training website.

Maximize Your Guitar Practice with a Slow Down Software

Revitalize your passion for guitar by revisiting your favorite song, solo, or lick. These favorite artists who inspired you to play guitar can serve as the motivation to get you back into playing. Start with something simple that you can easily understand, then gradually advance to more complex material once you have regained your interest.

Steer clear of ‘how to’ videos and guitar tab websites, as many contain inaccuracies. This would result in the waste of time spent re-learning incorrect information, as well as being detrimental to one’s musical growth. Rely on your own listening skills instead of following tutorials, and use slow-downing software to aid you in this process.

YouTube’s built-in playback option can be helpful when attempting to learn a new song or piece by ear. However, there is also specialized software available that makes the process of learning by ear even easier, with features such as looping and adjustable playback speed for comfortable practice.

Try using The Amazing Slow Downer or Audacity, which are both free to use!

Keep Your Guitar Handy, Not Hidden Away

take guitar out of the case

Keep your guitar accessible by using a guitar stand or wall hanger so you can easily grab it and play anytime. This simple tip will help you play more frequently and, thus, progress faster. Don’t let your guitar stay in its bag after a rehearsal or performance. Take it out right away.

Keep Your Guitar in Tune and Always Have a Backup Set of Strings

Avoid the common error of playing on an out-of-tune guitar, as it affects not only your auditory abilities but also your visual and motor skills. Guitar tuners are now easily accessible and can be found through smartphone apps, many of which are available for free.

Breaking a string during a practice session can be frustrating, but having no spare on hand is even more so. Neglecting to purchase new strings regularly can result in lost practice time and a setback in your guitar-playing progress.

Get Familiar With a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

digital audio workstation

Working with a digital audio workstation (DAW) can significantly enhance your understanding of music by allowing you to experiment with other musical elements, such as bass, piano, and drums. This will give you a broader perspective on the role of the guitar in music and sound.

Recording yourself also provides an objective view of your playing. It enables you to identify instances of overplaying and to improve the integration of the guitar into music. Furthermore, it assists in creating better licks, grooves, and guitar parts, as well as in understanding the crucial impact of sound on the overall mix.

Find Quality Guitar Lessons and Online Courses, Both Free and Paid

Online lessons offer a cost-effective advantage over traditional methods as they provide a wealth of information at a lower price. However, the drawback of online classes may be the lack of direct access to a teacher to answer your questions, requiring you to search the web for answers.

Short Instagram lessons are also great for picking up new licks. Here are a few recommended channels:

BluesSeth Rosenbloom
RockKbald__guitarist sr.guitar
Blues, Jazz, and RockEmanuelhedberg
Fussion and Jazzrodrigogouveiaguitar
Blues, Neo-Soul, Instagram style guitarsatria_stm

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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