May 9, 2012

About the Author: Stefan Joubert

Stefan Joubert manager of London Guitar Institute is passionate about adult education. He believes that absolutely anyone can learn to play the guitar and it is just a matter of getting good education and getting started.

We have all been there, and some of us are there today. I’m talking about a frustrating time in your performance and playing that seems to last forever. The problem with progress is that it is rarely a one-way street. Progress is often failing forward.

Sometimes you will feel as if your guitar playing is developing tremendously, while at other times, you might feel that you are actually going backwards.

This phenomenon is perfectly normal.

If you look at anything to do with the human race, progress is rarely a one-way street. We can also see this in the stock market.

Warren Buffett, the world-famous investor, successfully predicts the future of companies on the stock markets. He also understands that the short-term fluctuations of the market (where there is going up or whether it’s going down) doesn’t actually matter that much. He is much more concerned about the long-term(His concern, is that his part of the business goes up in value over a five, 10 or 20+ year period). Development in your guitar playing is very much like the stock market.

In fact, if we had the right software program we could put your progress on a graph and you would notice times when it goes up and times when it goes down. And you know what, it doesn’t matter that much! What matters is that the overall graph is it going up – and is going up fast enough (This is where a great teacher/coach can help you progress tremendously).  So without further ado, here are the 5 steps you can take when frustration sets in.

Step 1: Remind yourself that you are not to blame!

The fact is frustration and peaks happen to all of us, heck it even happens to the stock markets. And the stock market is nothing more than the combination of votes of individual people voting up or voting down. The reason for this analogy is to give you some confidence about your guitar playing and realise that things go up and they go down. Your main concern, like Warren Buffett, should be the long-term value of your guitar playing.

So yes, you are not to blame, make sure you repeat that yourself!

I’m not saying that you should not take any action, as action inevitably leads to results. What I am saying is that you should give yourself a little bit of space. You need space to breathe & you need space to think. Nothing in this world will go up in one direction. If you happen to meet anyone who seems to be going up in one direction without a lot of effort, you can be very sure that the same person will go down FAST in the same manner!

It’s far better to have fluctuations (going up and down), with the overall line of progress moving consistently upwards. (Consistency is far better than erratic progress)

Step 2: Realise that frustration is only temporary

What might frustrate you today, will not frustrate you tomorrow. Yes, being frustrated is part of life. (And if you know a little bit about me, you will know that I’ve had my share of frustrations, and I’m still frustrated a lot of times! – BUT I DON’T LET THAT GET ME DOWN!) I’m not advocating frustration, in fact, I hate frustration – I prefer success and the feeling of being a success.

Unfortunately, feeling truly successful doesn’t last particularly long, as there are always new challenges and mountains to climb.

So understand what’s frustrating you today will soon disappear especially if you utilise the appropriate methods to make them disappear which bring me to my next point.

Step 3: Make sure you get proper training with a knowledgeable mentor/coach – who can show you how to get there step-by-step!

There is one remedy that is undeniably successful when it comes to conquering frustration, getting some training with an excellent mentor/coach.

You are probably immensely frustrated your guitar playing due to a serious lack of understanding of how to solve your problems.

You are probably trying to treat the symptoms.

There are often symptoms around such as “playing out of time” or “playing the wrong notes when improvising” or “struggling to play fast”. Those are the symptoms of all the effects. We have to tackle the roots and the cause. (Tackling the symptoms will produce mediocre results)

By learning how to play the guitar with a master, you will go forward in your playing many light speeds faster than doing it alone. Trust me, I have seen that with my own students. One of my own students recently took a break from lessons for four years, and during those four years, he developed much less than in the last couple of months with me.

Why is this? Well, it’s quite straightforward. Without a school of thought, or a movement to inspire you, without someone helping you to take responsibility for your guitar playing, it is actually exceedingly difficult to progress successfully by yourself.

Is it impossible to progress by yourself – no it’s not?

But there are remarkably few people will have the self-discipline and ability to truly practice successfully by themselves. I would suggest that 95% of all guitarists should get some training and take their guitar playing from being sloppy to becoming great.

Don’t believe me? – I will give you a test.

Try studying with a master for a period of six months. Yes, it is a six-month financial commitment. Yes, it’s a six-month physical commitment. Yes, it is six months of your time where you have to be more committed. I can promise you that if you have any passion for your guitar playing that you will never go back without a coach/mentor.

We all need input and, without input, you will not get far. So if you are constantly frustrated – then you’re your problem pointing towards your education. Great education makes influential people. And I’m not talking about some sort of institutionalised one-size-fits-all education – I’m talking about education that goes to the core of the subject. Education that goes to the very heart of things. By getting that sort of education, you will change your whole life and become what you’ve always wanted to be. At the same time, your frustration will unquestionably decrease! (You will increase your popularity, confidence, mindset and abilities all at the same time)

Step 4: Set goals & write them down

You are probably frustrated because you have no clear goals or plans written down where you can refer back to it, to help you go from point A to point B. Think about the following analogy: A certain builder has decided to build a hotel without consulting architects or taking into consideration that the facility will need plumbing and water supply. Halfway in, he consults professionals and finally realises that he will have to rebuild the entire hotel.

That might sound funny and improbable, but a lot of people approach learning the guitar in this manner. It’s hardly the way to go about things.

Setting goals are one of the most important aspects of learning how to play the guitar.

I do need you at this time to understand that I’m not talking about setting goals in an institutionalised manner. (To be institutionalised means that you follow the herd and simply do things because the culture of the herd prefers done that way. Even when it doesn’t make any sense!)

Goal setting can be really straightforward such as “I want to learn how to play Stairway to Heaven” successfully before the end of 2012. That in itself is a commendable goal.

It is advisable, in fact, it’s absolutely recommended to write down your goals and have a little book with your goals for the year.

If you don’t like the sort of operation, or if it feels too institutionalised for you, that’s fine but I still suggest that you write your goals down. (Even if you write it down on a piece of paper and stick it in your guitar case)

Goal setting will take you from being a downright unorganised guitar player without a plan to becoming a far better, far superior guitar player. Trust me on this I honestly recommend you set goals – in time it will remove frustration from your life.

I leave you with this thought. Many people have asked what is the road to the Carnegie Hall. The answer practice.

In fact, there is also a story about a famous singer who had the picture of the Carnegie Hall on his bathroom mirror with a quotation underneath it that said: “I will sing in the Carnegie Hall”. Now that is powerful – not only is he setting a goal, he is also using the technique of visualisation, as well as the technique of confession and the technique of speaking things that are not as if they were. (That’s called faith)

Yes, it’s no mystery the most successful people in this world have always visualised their future in relation to a certain specific goal. So, of course, we can break goals into short-term, medium-term and long-term. The most prominent point here is that goal setting will bring results.

So yes, please go and set some proper goals for yourself. (In fact, this article you’re reading now exist due to a goal that I set each week. Without doing something nothing happens – remember that and repeat that yourself.)

Step 5: Review your goals

Most people, myself included are highly optimistic. I often set goals that are too high to reach. (I never set unrealistic goals, just challenging goals) Why do I do that? Because I love challenging myself. I do not recommend setting low goals, and I do not recommend setting mediocre goals. But what I do recommend is that every now and again you review your goals. You might find that you are frustrated due to the fact that you’ve set your goal too high – an unachievable challenge. Remember that most people engineer their own disappointments by having unrealistic expectations of what they’re capable of doing.

If you want to play like a great guitarist– let’s say, Shawn Lane. And you decide that you want to become as fluent on the guitar as Shawn Lane.

It would probably be unrealistic to achieve this within two years if you are at a semi-professional level. In fact, Shawn Lane is probably the world’s most fluent technical genius on guitar ever! Am I saying it can’t be achieved?

Oh no – I believe that all things are possible, and I believe that someone can learn to play better than Shawn Lane if they have the faith to do so.

I don’t think there is a limit to our playing ability.

What I would say though is that one should be realistic about goals. And when I say realistic, I’m not saying that one should not have high ambitions. No, you must have high ambitions, but you do need to have a map or plan to reach those goals, and usually, those goals will be reached by achieving smaller sets of goals first.

For example, if someone decides to climb Mount Everest, that individual would be wise to first climb a smaller mountain in order to gain some experience.

It would be downright foolhardy to climb out of Mount Everest without having any prior experience in mountain climbing.

In fact, it’s so foolhardy that this individual will probably never return from Mount Everest! (Under those circumstances)

Tags: Dealing with guitar frustration, Guitar advice, Guitar wisdom

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Tags: Dealing with guitar frustration, Guitar advice, Guitar wisdom