In this installment of ‘Schooled’ I will be taking a look at the reasons players consider quitting their instrument. I’ve decided to tackle three of the most common reasons I hear and suggested some solutions that have worked for my students. As a guitar tutor, I realize I have a slight bias in this matter so take these points with that in mind. I would also like to acknowledge it’s a massively personal decision, especially after sinking hours into learning, so only you know what’s right for you. That’s enough of a disclaimer, let’s dive in!
Reason #1 – “I don’t have the time to practice”
This is without a doubt the most common reason I’ve heard. This has to be broken down into school age students and adults as it means very different things.
For younger students it is often commitments to other activities and groups. If you’re struggling to fit in all of your activities then dropping something will allow you time to improve at the remaining. It is always better to commit to a handful of activities and excel at them, rather then doing lots of things averagely. If playing your instrument is an important and enjoyable activity then create time for it in your schedule.
Now for adults this usually comes down to workload. Working full-time leaves very little spare time and what you do have is often filled with more things to be completed. Add on top of this raising a family and the available time is in short supply. The best advice I can give to set aside regular time slots for practice. By creating time in your schedule exclusively for playing and getting some alone time to do it will yield faster results and stop you getting distracted by life.
Reason #2 – “Playing my instrument is too hard.”
Another common problem is overcoming the inherent challenges of playing. Sometimes the challenge is part of the joy but occasionally it feels overwhelming and defeating, especially over long periods of time. If you have a tutor always discuss these problems with him to find studies that are more suited to your skill level. As a tutor myself I can attest to not being psychic. Here is a few things you can try to help reinvigorate your practice.
- Play something you can already play well. Doing this will always helps your ego.
- Identify another element of your playing you previously found difficult. Try to give your progress some persepctive.
- Learn a piece with the skills you already have. This will allow you to achieve something quickly to give you more momentum.
- Pick a new goal. Take a break from this task and focus on something else, you can always circle back to it later.
Reason #3 – “I don’t feel inspired to play”
This is a really difficult one from a tutors perspective. I am lucky enough to work as a musician so I tend to live and breathe music. That said there are a number of things you can try to get yourself inspired.
- One piece of advice I took from an interview with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was to listen to considerably more hours of music then you play per day.
- If you haven’t bought any new music in a while seek some out. Ask friends, family and tutors for suggestions.
- Revisit those albums that inspired you to play in the first place. Try and get back to the mind set when you first wanted to play your instrument.
- Go to a live show. Nothing quite like seeing other people kicking ass to get your energy back.
- Listen to music that focuses on something other then your instrument. I always recommend guitarists listen to great vocalists and saxophone players to get new melodic ideas. Try some piano listening for new harmonic inspiration.
- Put the guitar away for a week or two but listen to lots of music. I always remember going on holiday as a teenager and being desperate to get back home and play again. I’d play non-stop when I finally got home.
This article only touches the tip of the iceberg and deals in generalizations. Everyone has a unique journey with their instrument and it’s one that lasts a lifetime. Finding the time to practice, the right things to play and keeping inspired will help keep the experience feeling light and rewarding.
Anything else you’d add to these points? Perhaps you have another area of you playing that is weighing you down? Let me know in the comment section below and I’ll address it in upcoming blogs. As always keep playing!