Staying Motivated on Guitar

I think anyone involved with a long term activity, be it music, art, sport, or writing, eventually encounters periods of unmotivation and boredom. I think its only natural for something that you pursue for years at a time.

I know I have certainly run into over the years of playing the guitar. There are times when what you are playing is just not motivating or inspiring. You find yourself not practicing as much. Frustration sets in, playing the guitar should be fun, after all.

When this happens to me I always try to remember a quote I heard, I am pretty sure it was in Acoustic Guitar Magazine, though I forget who said it.

“Play whatever you need to keep yourself interested and always picking up the guitar”

Whenever I am bored with my playing I try to put this into action, and it usually helps. For me that means often exploring a related or perhaps totally different style from the solo fingerpicking material I usually play. Lately I have been learning a handful of flatpicked bluegrass and swing tunes in standard tuning. I wanted some more songs I can play with friends. I will probably never bill myself as a flatpicking guitarist, but I am having fun learning some different material and techniques, which will undoubtably influence the way I arrange celtic tunes. Its all music, and I think the most important thing is to keep playing.

  • If you play primarily 12 bar blues learn some early jazz tunes or basic jazz progressions, this can open up your ear to a whole new yet related world.
  • I consider bluegrass and irish music to be two branches on the same tree. If you play in one style try learning a handful of tunes in the other. Your ear will already be attuned to the traditional sound, yet the styles are still distinctly different, making it a fun challenge. Improvising on bluegrass fiddle tunes is a good workout.
  • Trying playing with a flatpick if you are primarily a fingerstyle player, or vice versa. Being able to play multiple parts at once with your fingers is nice. And I find a flatpick allows me to play faster and improvise easier.

This approach works for me, though it may not be ideal for everyone. You may do better knuckling down and sticking to a given style, even if its less than inspiring. I have trouble concentrating on one style at times, and want to play everything cool I come across.

In the end find a strategy that works for you, whether its exploring a different aspect of what you already play or doing something entirely new. After all, thats why they call it playing the guitar. I think for the most part it should be fun.



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