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Are you struggling with your current guitar playing? Do you have the feeling that you are not getting better, although you practice on a regular basis? Here are 3 common reasons why your guitar playing progress is poor.

1. No System That Makes Progress Visible 

Have you ever had the experience in your youth, that friends of your parents were visiting and said something like “Wow, you have grown up”. Those comments were very annoying on the one hand and not really understandable on the other. Why is that? Let me try to explain that to you. When we look in a mirror every day over a long period of time, our physical changes from one day to the next are so small, that we do not notice them. If acquaintances drop by only once or twice a year, the changes are much more obvious to them than to yourself because of their different reference points. That is exactly what happens to your guitar playing after some time. We often do not realize how much better we have become over time, because of our distorted perspective. Most of the time we can roughly remember how badly we played at the beginning, but that’s about it.  So what is the problem with all of that? Well, as long as everything is smooth and we are still making some progress, there is not really a problem at all. Problems only occur, if we are stuck. Once we realize that we are not making any progress, it is harder and harder to stay motivated and after some time, most of us are getting frustrated. I realized over time, that the real problem is NOT necessarily that you are not getting better at all. It is simply not obvious enough to yourself how much better you have gotten.  In order to get rid of that, I am going to show you 2 simple tricks, how you can make your progress more visible and maintain your motivation over a long time.


1. Keep a Training Book 

The advantage of a training book is that it will show you immediately how much you have practiced a specific topic per day, week or month, and how well you have mastered these exercises. It is very simple to record your progress with the help of a metronome. A metronome not only helps you to tack your maximum guitar speed, it also makes it possible for you to register the accuracy of your playing. The difference between those two elements is critical and should not be mistaken:Your maximum guitar speed is the speed that allows you to play a certain lick or exercise cleanly once or twice. Your accuracy is the maximum speed you can play the identical lick or exercise at least six times in a row without making any mistakes. Be aware that it is absolutely normal, that your accuracy is always below your maximum speed. The more you practice, the lower the discrepancy is going to be.  Now take a metronome and set it to a comfortable tempo at which you want to practice a specific lick or exercise (e.g. A minor pentatonic scale). Take your training book and write down your maximum guitar speed and your maximum tempo for accuracy. If you practice on a regular basis and keep your training book updated, you are going to realize that you are able to gradually increase the tempo of the metronome. Think about it like an athlete in the gym who is able to gradually put on more weights on the bench. Keeping your training book has two advantages for you. First, you are able to see exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are, and secondly it helps you to make your practice much more efficient by not guessing what the right metronome speed was the last time you practiced.

2. Video Record Yourself While Practicing 

Recording yourself during your practice routine is going to make it even more obvious to you, how much progress you have made over time. The next time you practice record yourself and save the recording on your computer. Try to record yourself every six weeks and watch your old videos after that. You are going to be surprised at how much you have improved over that period without even realizing it.

2. Lack of Motivation

If we are not motivated enough to follow through on something, nothing is going to happen. We already discussed some small practical tips on how you can increase your motivation in the last paragraph. Another important tip, most people underestimate is that you have to start setting yourself goals. Why is that so important? If we do not have clear goals in our mind, it is really difficult to see the real meaning beind our actions. Once we get stuck, we subconsciously often ask ourselves “Why am I doing this anyway?”It may sound trivial, but if you start setting long and short term goals for yourself it is going to be much easier to keep yourself in a good state and stay on track once you are having a hard time. I highly encourage you to start and define short and longterm goals by writing them down on paper, so that you can review them daily. Maybe you would like to write your own songs? Jam with friends? Or play in a band? It is very important that you define both long term goals (such as playing in a band) and short term goals (like being able to play “Song XY”). This is critical because the short term goals are giving you little victories along the way and keep you motivated to stay on track with your long term goals. Make sure to check your short term goals regularly and reconsider, if they are still in line with your long term goals.It does not matter what your musical goals are. Start to write them down and they are going to help you stay motivated.

3. No Professional Teacher

Why exactly do all top athletes of the world have coaches? Because they have to fully focus themselves on the training and simply do not have the time and the knowledge to do the things a good coach does. Even if a lot of top athletes have the theoretical knowledge, most of them do not know how to use that knowledge in the most effective way. A good coach also sees mistakes that the athlete is not aware of. You might say now: „Well I know what my mistakes are, I do not need a coach to tell me what I am doing wrong“. Yes that might be right, realizing a mistake is not very hard to do. We all recognise when something is going wrong. The difference is that a good coach is not only seeing the mistake, he is also aware of the root that causes this error. After recognizing a mistake he is able to analyze quickly and come up with a good strategy to eleminate it straight away.  That is why it is so crucial to have a competent coach that guides you through the process of becoming a great guitar player. The benefit is that you will be able to concentrate yourself more on playing your instrument and improve much faster at the same time. Great, right?I can not emphasise enough, how incredibly important it is to learn the fundamentals right at the beginning. We often neglect those basics at the start and tolerate minor mistakes. Those mistakes will gradually get worse and prevent our progress in the long run. After nurturing those bad habits over a long period of time it is going to take a lot of time and energy to fix them in the future.For that reason it is very important to have a professional coach on your side right from the beginning, who prevents you from acquiring bad habits and a wrong technique.

About the Author:

Matthias Hornstein is the founder of Gitarrenunterricht FFB, a guitarschool located in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany. If you live in Fürstenfeldbruck, Emmering or Eichenau, contact him at and schedule your free introductory lesson.