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Beginner Guitar Frustration at the One Year Mark

Question by Tiana

I've been playing for about a year, as a total beginner, on a daily basis for about one hour or an hour and a half.

I've learned the basic chords and about fifteen songs but I just don't know how to become really good.

Every time I try to learn a song that's harder, like with barre chords and everything, I get so frustrated and just give up.

What I'm trying to ask is how do I progress without giving up so easily?

Hope you understand
Thankyou, Tiana :)

Progress Demands Practice, Patience and Perseverance

At just one year in to your guitar learning journey, Tiana, I wouldn't feel so down hearted.

You should not feel disappointed with your progress so far. Learning fifteen songs and the basic chords is a great one year achievement.

Progress is what matters, no matter how small.

The fact that you're struggling with barre chords is all too familiar to any intermediate-advanced guitarist who remembers their first years of playing.

Barre chords are one of the first major obstacles to appear in most beginners' learning path.

Be reassured that barre chords eventually become as easy to play as any other chord. You just can't imagine that right now, because they seem so difficult.

The reason they seem so difficult is because you lack the strength and articulation in your fingers to play them.

You must keep persevering with them every single day. There is no magic bullet. There is no short cut. You just have to play the same damn chord over and over again until that muscle memory is set.

Your fingers will gradually get stronger and stronger.

Patience is your friend.

Play Something You Know

Don't make picking up the guitar a chore.

As soon as you pick it up, spend ten or so minutes playing what you know you can play well. Something you really enjoy playing.

Or spend time writing a simple original song using the chords you know. There's nothing quite as satisfying as playing something that you can call your own.

This will instantly boost your confidence and remind you that you have achieved something, giving you the positive energy to dive into a more demanding practice session. Do it while you're inspired.

If at any time you feel you want to "give up", simply go back to playing what you know, but this time try adding something, anything, to it.

"Giving up" will soon become a reminder of what you have achieved. In other words, it turns a negative into a positive and keeps you playing.

When You Lack the Will, Get Some Inspiration

You also have to be able to see the value in what you're learning in order to put your all into it.

For example, listen to a song you love that uses the technique (e.g. barre chords) that you're trying to learn. As you listen, hear the ease at which the guitarist plays what s/he plays. How awesome it sounds.

Instead of thinking "I can't do that!", think "Given enough time, patience and perseverance, I can achieve that".

If you truly want to make progress, you will put in that time and practice. If you don't, you will stick with playing simpler things, which is fine, if that's what you want, in which case it's not a problem!

You can't make yourself want to do something. And why would you?

Observe The Detail of Why You Can't Play Something

The problem I see time and time again with guitarists struggling to make progress, is that they get deeply frustrated, believing whatever they're stuck on is THE ultimate road block on their learning path.

The truth is that every single road block you encounter is merely a sign that you have arrived at what is currently beyond your ability.

That "something" is usually a very specific mistake or faulty technique.

Your challenge, therefore, is to step back and take a look at exactly what it is that you can't yet do.

And I mean really specific detail here.

Take barre chords again for example. Rather than thinking "I can't play barre chords, I give up!", look a bit closer and it might simply be that: "my index finger is not sitting right on the strings".

Adjust, check the strings ring out cleanly, adjust, check, adjust, check...

Once you find the sweet spot, practice changing between that position and other chords, shaking off the aches as they come.

This eye for detail is crucial in overcoming anything that proves beyond your current ability.

Take sweep picking. Many players simply declare "I can't sweep pick, it's too difficult".

But what specifically about it makes it difficult to play? Watch yourself closely as you attempt it. Is it your fret-pick hand co-ordination? Is it that your pick hand is veering off when it should be ready on the next string in the sequence?

Look at the physical detail of what you're (not) doing to obstruct progress and you'll be much clearer about what to work on.

What Does "Getting Good" Really Mean?

Getting good on guitar is a wholly subjective thing.

I remember watching a friend play Burn Baby Burn by Ash - a pretty simple power chord number - and thinking what an amazing guitarist he was.

This was back when I'd only just bought my first guitar. Within weeks I'd learned how to play power chords and where the gain knob was on my amp.

It's true, you don't have to do that much to sound good on guitar, to be considered a good guitar player.

But a far better measure of your playing ability is by acknowledging your progress and accomplishment in relation to your personal goals (how you see yourself at the peak of your ability).

As long as you are gradually getting better, moving towards your goals and expanding your skill set (which you will inevitably), you should feel good about it.

Just like my friend playing Burn Baby Burn, if you can play something meaningful, flawlessly and in the moment, then consider yourself a good guitarist!

But if you know your standards of "really good" are way beyond your current ability, it's all down to the three P's...

Practice, Perseverance and Patience

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