5 Common Misbeliefs that Hold Guitarists Back

As guitarists, most of us go through similar phases. We have the trials of first learning our chords and learning our notes. We labor to get our fingers to to what we tell them to. And on and on.

But we also often fall into believing some things that may not be true. In fact, some beliefs we hold are outright mistaken.

Here are five common misbeliefs that many people hold. Enjoy!

#1. I should be learning this faster

Most skills we need to play classical guitar (and guitar in general) take time. We have to build and connect the synapses in our brains. We have to etch the grooves into our mental records.

And when we’re taking too long to learn something, we may judge ourselves harshly. We tell ourselves something is wrong.

But learning takes exactly as long it’s supposed to. Guitar is an ongoing study. It’s not a summer project (though guitar summer projects are wonderful).

And what’s more, our learning is not a “one and done” affair. Just because we ace a technique today does not mean it will still be aced when we wake up tomorrow morning.

The better belief is that we have all the time in the world. And that the way to improve at guitar is to give it our full, undivided attention when we practice. Then let the results take care of themselves.

#2. Other people have an easier time with this

There’s a saying that “Everyone is fighting battles we know nothing of.” This is also true with guitar.

Guitar is not easy for anyone. Sure, some people have genetic advantages. Some have already built skills that help them learn guitar faster. And loving music and the act of practicing also helps.

But these folks still have to work just as hard.

When we see someone who has mastered something, it means they have worked hard to get there.

Comparisons are futile and dangerous. When we compare and find ourselves on the lesser side, it’s demotivating. It sucks the joy from our practice and causes unnecessary inner turmoil.

When we think this, the best answer is: “ No they don’t. Stop comparing.”

#3. I don’t know how to solve this problem

This belief may actually be true. But it becomes a misbelief is when it becomes a stopping point.

Learning guitar pieces, we often find problems we don’t know how to solve. It’s normal.

The next step is to experiment. Solving problems is usally a process. The path forward is to try several solutions. We can practice the section (how to hold a guitar, technique, etc.) in first one way, then another.

By approaching the issue from many directions, problems often solve themselves. We may or may not know which of our practice methods succeeded. It may well have been a combination of them.

When we face an impasse, when we locate a stumbling block, this is an invitation to change the way we practice.

Instead of banging our head against the same wall, we can instead try something different. We can play the melody and bass one at a time (for example). We can use the 7-step process to dissolve confusion. We can use every trick and practice we can think of.

And in the end, there was nothing concrete about the problem. It was just a call to experiment.

#4. XYZ is too easy for me to spend time on

For intermediate and advanced guitarists, the biggest obstacle is often the ego.

If we pay attention to small details, no piece is “easy”. In fact, a sparse set of notes can be even more challenging to make sound musical and compelling.

When we judge a piece by how many notes we find on the page, we miss the point of music. We miss the opportunity to look deeper into something besides the technical.

Lower-level pieces offer intermediate and advanced guitarists a treasure trove of study options. We need not spend months on these pieces. They can be short-term projects.

But without the challenge of learning and playing the notes, we can work on dynamics, rhythm, and more.

If a piece seems too easy, and we find no challenge in it, we should embrace this as a strong signal. This signals that we don’t know what to do with it.

And this can be the call to explore. This tells us that, while we may be able to learn complex sets of notes, we are still musically immature.

This is wonderful news, if we take the next actions to learn something new and grow.

#5. I should be doing more

We do what we can. There is no minimum speed or time limit on learning guitar.

Most guitarists would love to spend more time playing. After all, guitar is for fun. It’s a way to study and improve. It’s meaningful work we do for the sake of doing it. It makes life better.

But when we hold negative feelings about our progress and the time we spend – this is detrimental.

Instead of fussing that we can’t or don’t spend more time with guitar, we can opt to be grateful for the time we do have. We can feel good about it.

Guitar is a long-term hobby. It is a relationship we plan to continue through to the end. When we make unrealistic expectations of ourselves, then fail to meet them, we feel bad. And this is unnecessary.

This is purely an attitude problem.

Whenever we feel we’ve let ourselves down, we should immediately stop and reassess.

Personal goals and commitments are useful. But negative feelings only taint our musical experience.

If we want to do more, we’ll find a way. If we’re fine with what we currently do, we’ll continue to do it. Our actions reflect our priorities. If we truly want to practice more, we will.

But beating ourselves up is not a habit worth fostering.

This is All for Fun: Guitar is Supposed to Make Life Better

The misbeliefs listed above all are not an exhaustive list. There are others. And we may notice new ones coming up occasionally.

But any time we feel bad about ourselves in relation to our music, it’s like we’ve poured the wrong spice into our stew.

We will improve faster and enjoy guitar more when we release any bad feelings about our music.

Guitar is for fun. Yes, it will bring up emotions. And yes, it will be challenging and difficult at times.

But this is not a reflection on us. It’s part of the game. To climb any mountain, we have to walk uphill. The important part is to enjoy the view.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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