I got an email yesterday from a YOUTUBE fan that prompted me to write him a response at 2 am. He’s actually in New York City as well and came to my house once for a private lesson.
He expressed his overwhelming frustration with trying to improve his guitar skills. The ups, the downs – one day it feels good, the next day it doesn’t, he feels “stuck” and so on. He feels that he has hit a wall.
While it may appear to the public that I am a streamlined pro guitar player, don’t be fooled. It’s like seeing a cute baby but NOT seeing 26 hours of bloody labor 🙂
I have had many hours of frustration over the years, and put in hard work. One of the most encouraging moments during my teenage years was receiving a letter from Pepe Romero – basically assuring me that he too put in many hours of hard work and had his frustrations, his ups & downs.
I can remember back in my college years spending hours – pushing against myself as I practiced, always angry at myself for not being better, staring in disbelief at my own playing and feeling it was just not good enough.
There is a LOT of psychological stuff at play here. The more you see the cup half empty – it just gets emptier…so this is a terrible trap and it is in fact a psycho spiritual issue. It certainly helps to have a teacher who can guide you at this point.
But let’s say you have no teacher and your frustrated, what should you do? Here’s what I wrote at 2am yesterday:
Re: My Frustration Defies Description..!
Good to hear from you. I want you to feel good and get better!!!
Here’s what you need to do. Do one simple thing on guitar that you can do, no problem and let yourself do it and enjoy it. Forget about the idea of improving for a moment . Take a deep breath and step into the enjoyment. It sounds like you are grabbing tightly, so use the energy of appreciation and gratitude to get mellow! 🙂
Naturally, you guitar playing will expand and variations will come, but you may have to let it, rather than force it.
Also – get your guitar set up so that it is easy to play, so that you are not straining. Any virtuoso has an instrument that is easy to play, so it is not like wrestling or weight lifting. You’d be surprised to hear how guys play lighter than you think.
I am telling you this having gone through many many frustrating hours myself as a young guy studying classical. Everything seemed like a struggle on guitar.
You need to always look for the easiest most comforatble and reliable way to finger something, rather than force your idea of how it should be. It’s a spirit of discovery…
Find a simple piece that you can master, allow your touch to warm up when you practice. PLAY SLOW! Never put a microscope on yourself and be gentle with yourself if you make a mistake, give up the idea of perfection. I practiced one song all night tonight, and took the attitude “well it’s coming, let’s see where it is in one week”. I just kind of let it spill out over and over and found a new thing here and there, but with little clutching.
Easier said than done, I know. As I said – I know frustration well. Hang in there!!! You got the talent and passion – you just need guidance.
Doesn’t this echo life? It’s not just guitar – but when we allow things be be, and to see the fullness and beauty that we have, and are thankful for it – it expands naturally without effort or strain.
The guitar has taught me much of life – and life has taught me much guitar. I say thank you to the Universe, to Source, to God – for this incredible journey!
Until next time…keep pickin’