Getting Frustrated with Guitar? How to End The Struggle and Turbo-Charge Your Motivation

  • by Tom Boddison
  • 11 Sep, 2017
Eliminate frustration forever and punch through plateaus in your playing...
There isn't a single guitar player on the planet who doesn't get frustrated.

It's a natural human emotion; if we don't get what we want, we get annoyed and, if it happens enough, we start to feel helpless.

Everyone goes through peaks and troughs in their development and motivation, but it's  how we deal with them that makes the biggest difference.

After all, if you're frustrated and annoyed all the time then there's no point in playing! The guitar is a toy that's there to be enjoyed, not something that should cause extra stress and annoyance.

In this article we're going to get to the root of frustration, find out what causes it, and find out how to get rid of it so you can get better results (and have more fun) every time you play.

Frustration is The No.1 Killer Of Guitar Skills

Frustration is the no.1 enemy when it comes to learning guitar. It puts your mind into a state that's counterproductive for learning, and makes your motivation crumble.

This means that we need to conquer it as soon as possible if we want to move forward from a plateau.

You see, the main reason people "fail" when learning guitar is that they give up/move on before getting significant results. They start with something that excites them, and within a few days - before they've made any good progress - they move on!

They haven't got the results they expected, so they get frustrated/bored and decide to learn something else.

To get good at something you  need to stick at it for an extended period of time. If you're learning something that takes a lot of repetition (like shred picking for example), this is even more important.
On guitar, if you repeat something cleanly and clearly, and stick to it for enough repetitions, you WILL master it. It's how the brain works. If you keep at it, you WILL get good results and make great progress.

So why can't everyone play like their heroes? Why isn't everyone a master of the guitar?

Because they either quit or move on too soon, never really mastering anything. They follow the cycle of excitement/practice/frustration/quit indefinitely, never reaching their goals or making any significant progress.

To eliminate this problem, we have to attack it at the source. Why do humans, seemingly logical animals, get caught in this trap?

Killing The Roots of Frustration

It all comes down to your expectations. If you get better results than you were expecting, you feel happy. If you get worse results than you were expecting, though, then you get frustrated.

That's all it is. If you expect something and don't get it, you feel frustrated. It'd be like being a kid and waking up on Christmas morning to find that there aren't any presents!
Every time your expectations are exceeded (no matter how low they were), you feel good, and every time something falls short of what you expected (even if it's still pretty good) you get annoyed.

This is how the human mind works; it helps us to evaluate what has happened and make better choices in the future.

However, when it comes to guitar, the brain isn't particularly good at estimating results. We often predict (subconsciously, without even realising) that we'll get better results than we actually get, which makes us frustrated and makes us feel helpless.

This means that it probably takes more effort to get results than most people realise.  This doesn't mean that the results aren't worth the practice you have to put in - they really, really are! It just means that you have to take control of your expectations.
You have to tell yourself what you are expecting, rather than letting your subconscious brain do it for you.

Expect less. In fact, expect nothing! Practice purely for the pleasure of doing so, and enjoy the process of racking up the hours.

Then, any result you get makes you feel like a kid on Christmas morning - but instead of getting no presents like before, you've got hundreds!

If you expect massive results every time you practice, you're gonna be one frustrated guitar player. However, if you practice and expect nothing then you'll get more excited by your progress, stick to one topic for long enough to get results, and break through the guitar learning barrier so you can achieve your goals.

You'll break free of the "excitement/practice/frustration/quit" cycle and become someone who doesn't just learn stuff, but really  masters ´╗┐it. This is the key to being a great player.

The "4x Rule" To Defeat Frustration Forever

Here's a good rule to follow when you start learning a new guitar skill:

Estimate how long it'll take. Then, multiply that result by four.

Think it'll take a week to master string bends? Commit to at least a month focusing on them, and don't expect any results.

Film yourself before you start the month, and then don't watch the video or re-measure until the end of the month. Then, film yourself again and notice how much better you are!

This little trick is great for avoiding frustration and making sure you stay committed to your goals. It stops you from continually flitting between different challenges, meaning you'll learn more and become a better player in the long run.

For Really Tough Skills, Use x10

For stuff that's  really challenging (like shred stuff, or advanced classical/flamenco pieces), use the 10x rule! Multiply it by ten, and go for it.

Think it'll take a week to get fast at a small alternate picking lick? Try ten weeks, and see what happens.

You  can master it. Just hit it with everything you've got.

Don't just use however much time you think you'll need - use way more, and smash through the obstacle like it's not even there. If you were gonna knock down a wall, what would you rather use - a toy hammer, or a 20-tonne excavator?
Don't take the chance of failure.

The "10x rule" is really useful because the bigger a skill, the more we tend to underestimate how long it'll take to learn it.

Sometimes we over-estimate how much time it takes (like saying "you need to do 10 hours a day for twenty years to do that" when looking at a "guitar hero"), but underestimation is way more common.

It's all about mentally preparing yourself for the challenge ahead. The more prepared you are, and the more work you're prepared to do, the more likely you are to succeed.

Final Thoughts

Do this now. Set a small goal, estimate how long it'll take to achieve, and them multiply that estimate by 4 or 10 times.

Commit to it for the whole length of time, and don't move on until you've completed it.  Then measure how much progress you've made, and you'll see how powerful altering your expectations can be.

You can make massive breakthroughs this way, and all by adjusting the way you look at the challenge!

If you're already frustrated with guitar, then  take 1-3 days off (yes, completely off) and then set yourself a mini challenge like this. See what it does to your playing.

Have fun, and keep rocking!

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