It’s the easiest trap to fall into.
So what is it that most of us are missing?
If you’re studying with a guitar teacher right now, hopefully you are the exception. But for the rest of us, it is so easy to pick up the guitar, play the same old songs and licks and not learn anything.
Year after year.
Admittingly, at times I lack clear direction in my pursuit to become a better guitarist.
Don’t Make Resolutions, Make a Plan
Usually around this time of the year, I begin making my half-hearted resolutions to eat better, get fit and learn a new language. None of which happen.
This year was different. So far, I haven’t made the first resolution. I didn’t consciously swear off the process, I just didn’t do it. Now, a few days into the new year, I’m quite happy with my inaction to make resolutions.
You see, resolve is a strong word, and I never really followed my resolutions up with strong actions. So this year, I won’t resolve.
I will plan.
Identify Your Goals
I suppose when I was younger, my plan was clear. Become a guitar god. While maybe that’s a worthy pursuit, it’s certainly not a plan. Over the last few years, I have certainly practiced and sure, I’ve learned some things. But for all the minutes of real practice, there are hours and hours of distractions by the latest guitar craze on YouTube.
You know what I mean, right? It starts out innocently enough. But a few hundred clicks later, you find yourself watching a guy play some sweet guitar licks with his toes. You catch yourself wondering how you could work that into your repertoire.
Go ahead and check that video out. I know you want too…but please come back.
My new plan is to approach the instrument with focus. With a method. With intent. With purpose.
To do that, I must identify my goals. Maybe something a bit more specific than become a guitar god this time.
Here we go!
I’m a blues guy. OK, that’s a start. The best way to reach a goal is to make it specific. So, on which area of blues should I focus? I’m in love with fingerstyle acoustic blues, especially Delta Blues and Piedmont Blues. Now to write that as a goal:
Learn 20 Delta and Piedmont blues songs from my 5 favorite artists of the era by the end of the year.
Turn Your Goals Into a Plan
Now that I know my goal, it’s time to put together a plan that gets me there. You see the goal is great, but I have some questions to answer before I can even get started trying to reach my goal. Like…
- Who are my 5 favorite artists?
- What 20 songs should I learn?
- What skills am I going to need?
- When will I find the time to learn these songs?
For now, The answer to those questions is not as important as answering those questions.
Answer the question “How?” you will reach your goal, to turn goals into a plan.
Focus Your Efforts for Rapid Results
Having a plan will help keep you focused on what matters.
I have written about it before, those fruitless jam sessions in your room, rarely make you a better player. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against jamming. The right jam is the key. If you are playing the same old stuff over and over, you won’t learn. You won’t grow. But if you have a goal and a plan, for example, to play like Stevie Ray Vaughan, then your jam will need focus.
Focus breeds growth.
A great way to learn something new is to focus intensely on that one thing for as long as it takes to master the task. You have to remove all the distractions and simply focus. A well developed plan will take care of that for you.
There are nine-million ways to ‘improve on guitar’ you could focus on technique, an artist, writing – any number of things. A plan will help keep you from getting distracted by the next guitar trick that comes around. A plan will help you stay focused. A plan will give you direction. Even while clicking around on YouTube.
And let’s face it, if you’re plan is to play like SRV, you don’t have time for distractions!
Put Your Plan into Action
Making a plan can be fun in itself. It shouldn’t be a boring or grueling process. Think about what it is that you want from your guitar, then go get it!
The ‘go get it’ part, may be the most important part of the plan. A killer plan with no action is useless. Put your plan into action and a year from now, you could be playing more like SRV than you are today.
If one of the biggest problems facing guitarists is indeed lack of direction, then why not make a plan to destroy that obstacle. A plan will give you direction, focus and results.
If you’re just starting out, maybe your plan is to learn blues guitar. Maybe, like me, you’re already comfortable with blues and your plan will be to get better at a sub-genre. I will be putting my acoustic fingerstyle plan into action and sharing it here on the site.
I’d love to hear about your guitar goals for the new year. Leave a comment below about your goal.