The Top 5 Reasons Most People Quit Guitar…and how not to!
1. Not enough time
This is probably the number 1 complaint from people in the world today. “I just don’t have the time”. The first thing we need to ask ourselves when it comes to this kind of unquestioned belief is: Is it true? In reality, we all have the same amount of time each day. 24 hours. And that’s it for all of us. Answer this question. Do you ever spend time doing something that you know is not serving you, you know it’s not productive and that it’s not doing anyone any good?
For example, have you ever found yourself watching a TV show or looking at something on the internet that you weren’t even interested in and weren’t even enjoying?
When it comes to learning guitar, massive improvements can occur in very short spaces of time. Especially if we’re consistent. Improvement happens in tiny increments. Significant improvements can happen in as little as 1 minute of solid focused practice. For example, if we are working on a particular movement of our left hand fingers or a particular right hand pattern, we can pinpoint exactly where the issue is. We can then focus on that 1 thing for even a very short time and it will improve. It’s really never a matter of the amount of time we have, but always a matter of priority. If we put TV, Facebook, the newspaper etc. ahead of 15 minutes practice then that is not an issue of time, it’s simply a matter of making something more important than something else. Do yourself a favour and put something rewarding and enjoyable (e.g. practising guitar) at the top of your list…or at least above TV, even if it’s for just a few minutes a day.
Action: write down how much time you spend doing things that aren’t very important or enjoyable. What’s something more rewarding that you could do instead? Remember you only need 15-20 minutes so you still have plenty of time for TV and the internet.
2. Not improving fast enough
The first question to ask yourself here is: Have I really done at least 15 minutes practise every day? Or did I do 15 minutes one night, then skipped 2 nights, did 3 minutes the next night, then skipped one night …etc. Or did I really do as much as I could and I still didn’t improve? Highly unlikely! Firstly, It’s important to get clear about how much we actually did, in reality. It’s best to write down how much you did after each practice session, so you can see it on paper (we forget easily and then delude ourselves!).
The feeling of not having improved is usually due to the fact that, despite what we tell ourselves, we haven’t really done the practice. A person who practises for 15-20 minutes per day cannot help but improve.
If it’s true, that we haven’t actually been practising, improvement will of course be minimal. The first step to mastery in any field is honesty with ourselves. The next step is to commit to an amount of practise that we feel is do-able. If we believe we can only spare 5 minutes out of our day, then start there.
It’s also important not to beat ourselves up! If we haven’t stuck to our practice routine, we just let it go…and try again. Forgive yourself, be kind to yourself. Most people quit because they feel bad going to lessons each week having not practised. But I believe it’s still worth going because of what you can learn in that 1/2 hour or hour lesson.
Action: decide on how much practise to do every day for a week and stick to it. You could start with 2 minutes and build up from there. Start small and set yourself up to succeed.
3. Say to themselves “I’m not good enough”
Many people suffer from a lack of confidence when it comes to learning to play music. It often stems from a misunderstanding about how people get good at an instrument. When you see someone playing guitar really well, it can almost seem magical, like a gift from the gods and we say things to ourselves such as “how do they do that?”, “I could never play like that”, or “they are so gifted”.
All of these statements might well be true, but they are ultimately disheartening, because they are based on an illusion. The truth is that the person in front of us making this amazing music has spent thousands and thousands of hours in focused practice and attention to detail. Hours that we can’t see no matter how hard we look. An enormous amount of work has gone into producing the “result” you see before you…namely, someone playing really well.
Even the most so-called “gifted” musician has had to put in huge amounts of time to get their fingers to do what their genius brain wants them to do. So, don’t be fooled…and never compare yourself to these folks, only compare yourself to yourself …before you practised. That way you can see and acknowledge your own development.
Action: keep a practice journal and track your progress. Noticing even the tiniest improvements gives you a great sense of confidence in your abilities.
4. The wrong method
Many, if not all guitar methods I have seen, recommend starting with chords. This can be fine for some people, but for most it’s not. When it comes to chords we are often using 2, 3, sometimes 4 fingers on the guitar at one time…yet we haven’t learned to use even 1 finger properly yet!
Other methods have us reading music from the beginning as well, so in effect we are learning to hold the instrument correctly, co-ordinate 4 left-hand fingers and our right-hand picking/strumming, while keeping time and playing the correct notes, all the while decoding these tiny little dots from a page…and translating them into movements of our fingers and hands. It’s too overwhelming!
Thankfully there are methods that take you step by step through a process using great sounding music from the beginning. Check out the Easiest Guitar Method here.
Action: Find a method that has you playing great sounding music from the beginning, that takes you step by step and doesn’t overwhelm you with too many components to learn at once.
5. The wrong teacher
A great many guitar teachers are actually musicians who need to make a living and see teaching as a way to do this that is still music related. The problem is, playing and teaching are two very different animals.
This is the fact of the matter: most guitar teachers haven’t trained as educators, they don’t always have the best communication skills and very often they teach a fairly haphazard “method” which they kind of make up as they go along. How do I know this? I was one of them! Until I decided to go and learn how to teach properly.
You need to find someone who understands how people learn and has a structured, step by step way of presenting the lessons while making them enjoyable.
Action: Find a teacher who is a great communicator, has a systematic step by step method and who knows how to help beginners feel at ease.
Once we become aware of how we use these ideas as excuses to quit (awareness is always the first step) we can be more honest with ourselves and realise that great rewards, achievements and enjoyment comes from putting in the work and sticking at it for the long haul. We need to be gentle with ourselves at the same time, so that when we do fall off the horse, we can just get back on and not lose our confidence. We have to keep in mind what it is we want, whether that is playing a few songs around a camp fire or playing on stage.