3 Tips For the Discouraged Adult Guitarist

Every musician gets discouraged sometimes.

Let’s face it, the path of guitar is frustrating, especially when time is limited. If you don’t see and feel progress, it’s easy to second-guess yourself. You may feel this way especially if you are an adult guitarist.

It’s possible that if you feel stuck, your practice method may need adjusting. Effective practice does allow you to gauge progress when you keep your goals modest and organized. So if you’re not seeing improvement, you may not be paying attention to the right things. Self-awareness and a problem-solving mindset will always pay off in the long run.

But it’s also possible that you’ve lost perspective. After all, most people are trying to fit guitar practice into an already busy and complicated life. When you find yourself wondering if it’s just too difficult to learn to play as an adult, it’s helpful to keep a few realities in mind. 

1. You don’t need to know everything.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by just how much there is to learn. It doesn’t help when the internet guitar world tells you things like, “every guitar player must know their modes” before you’ve learned to play rhythm through a complete song . (You can substitute any number of musical subjects). 

Learning something new about music is never a bad thing, and every new piece of data is a potential tool in your toolbox. But there are no absolutes. You can be sure that there are musicians you have admired your entire life that have a very limited skill set. Most of our heroes were not formally educated. With very few exceptions, most work within a single style and with a basic sound. That sound came from somewhere, of course, and they might know that territory deeply. But there is a difference between a player that develops a personal sound and a player that develops the skills of a working freelance musician.

If your interests are broad, there’s nothing wrong with being diverse. But having a musical home base to explore will keep you focused on the skills and knowledge you need to play that style. If that home base is the music that moves you most, there’s always more inspiration to be found.


Photo by Lyn Stevens Photography

2. Simple is satisfying.

I learned a very valuable lesson one summer, when I went from an intensive jazz camp to a folk music retreat. I was about to start a masters degree in music, and saw myself as an advanced, sophisticated musician. But jamming with the folkies, I realized that all my musical knowledge still didn’t prepare me to play with people that knew a style intimately. These were very skilled players that left me in the dust with their confidence and authority. My chops and vocabulary were irrelevant without a mature listener’s sense of when NOT to play.

Of course there’s a place for virtuosity, and great skill is satisfying in itself. But strumming a simple groove as well as it can be played is equally rewarding – especially if you can get a room full of people dancing in the process. If your practice is not giving you the skills to do something simple well, you’re not practicing the right skills.


Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash.

3. Move the needle.

The goal of every single practice session is to finish it knowing something better than you did when you started. In other words, any improvement counts. It might be that you were just a little bit more familiar with something than you were the day before. It might be that you committed a single lick to memory. Progress isn’t measured in leaps and bounds, but in tiny steps. It’s important to enjoy the process, and for your practicing to be an ongoing series of small, measurable goals. If you can’t find something that lets you take a small win, look more closely.


Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash


Above all, maintain your perspective.

If you’re struggling to the point that it’s frustrating and not enjoyable, shift gears. Feeding the love is the most important part, and remember, there’s a growth opportunity in everything.


Interested in more guitar lessons and courses? Check out JamPlay.com. JamPlay has over 450 guitar courses from 120+ instructors, and online guitar lessons tailored to every skill level, music genre, and playing style. Click here to learn more.

Dave Isaacs Avatar

Dave Isaacs has established himself as a guitar teacher extraordinaire, having built a strong set of educational curriculums for beginner, intermediate, and advanced guitar players alike. Dave shares his expertise largely through video platforms, but also through his thoughtful writing. You can take guitar lessons from Dave Isaacs via his comprehensive video guitar courses on JamPlay.com.

Share this

Become a JamPlay member for unlimited access to 7000+ guitar lessons and 120+ artists and instructors. View membership plans ›

Related Posts