If you’re finding yourself running out of steam on guitar, make sure you read the first part of this li’l article.
The #2 and #3 reasons you run out of momentum are just other symptoms of #1, but I will elaborate so that you can take action today!
The only time you should be running a song from start to finish is when you are PERFORMING.
#2 Reason Because you think of things as a performance, you a starting MEMORIZING from the beginning of your song. Why is this problematic?
Well, what’s the beginning of a song designed to do? Grab your attention! How do they do that? Complicated guitar stuff you don’t often hear.
Intros are often complicated, short (unless it’s metal/prog), and rarely repeated. I have found many of my guitar students burn out because it can take weeks to memorize/polish an intro. And by the end they’re only 6-10 seconds into the song. Several hours of “practice”… it’s not up to speed… it’s choppy… and it’s only 5% of your song… Doesn’t sound very motivating to me.
What’s the solution? Analyze your song. That means listen to it AND look at the TAB/ chord chart. Find the most commonly repeated section and start there. You will find that your progress will be much quicker AND you know a much larger percentage of the song. This victory will feel more rewarding while helping you build momentum.
#3 Reason When PRACTICING guitar, you keep starting over from the beginning when you make a mistake. Don’t do that!
Here’s a practical example you can try (or imagine):
Each Inch represents you practicing the 1st measure of the song you’re trying to learn. Let’s say your song is 4 measures long…
Lay a ruler across a sheet of paper.
Take a pencil a draw a line from 0″ to 1″.
Now, without moving the ruler, draw another line from 0″ to 2″
Now another one from 0″ to 0.5″ (This represents a mistake)
Now another from 0″ to 1.5″ (oops another mistake)
Now 0″ to 0.25″ (oops, I was frustrated and went too fast)
Now draw another from 0″ to 2.25″ (nice! I made it further than panicked
Pull the ruler away. Look at the line you made.
…See how dark the line is in the beginning?
…See how light it is from 2″?
…See how empty it is from 2.25 to the end?
This is how your brain learns. You know the beginning of your song really well, and as it goes forward you have less and less experience until you’re into uncharted terrority, panic, then crash and burn.
This reminds me of playing old-school video games. There’s this almost-impossible level that you can’t get past. When your character dies, the game keeps starting you back at the beginning of the level. You learn how to anticipate the first several challenges, but the moment you make it further than you ever have before, anxiety kicks in… “Holy heck, I never made it this far before! But, what if I die! Don’t die… don’t die… Ahh heck… I died!” I think video game developers realized how frustrating it was to keep re-startinng back at the beginning, so they invented the checkpoint.
When you are practicing guitar you are both playing the game AND creating the rules at the same time. Why, then, are you creating rules that set you up to fail?