Dealing with the Mental Challenge of Guitar.....Inspired or Quit

Let’s have a real & honest discussion about the challenge of playing guitar.

When I watch Troy or other players of his caliber play stuff on YouTube, I want to quit lol. Yes, it sounds pathetic, but how do you watch an awesome player like Guthrie and be inspired to practice more as opposed to just quitting because you will never get that good?

You could tell a guy who is 6’6 that he could be just as good as Jordan if he practices enough, but we all know that is not reality. Some people will be limited due to countless reasons other than the time that’s put in. How do you deal with that challenge of inspiration/quitting?

I wrestled with this feeling when I was younger, but found that I could find inspiration by setting smaller and more realistic goals than playing exactly like (fill in the blank guitarist). Each week I try to learn something new that moves me forward as a player and the process itself is enjoyable. Attaching our happiness as players to being able to play as well as a world class player should be a long-term goal at best, take it one step at a time and enjoy moving forward with the time/talent/resources that you have available.

There’s no such thing as quitting because you can never be sure you won’t just simply start up again. So your only real option is to move forward with a more intelligent strategy that results in the outcome you desire.

Everytime I play the guitar I really, really enjoy it.

That’s more than enough to never think of stop doing it.

And also the more you do it the better you get at it. Don’t compare yourself with others.


Echoing @petergrifindor, “Don’t compare yourself with others”. Players don’t sound like other players because they’re not them. I feel it’s more about your own self-expression. Sure, we can nitpick on technique all day, but at the end of the day if you’re playing the music that you want to play (not the exercises, but the music) then you’re succeeding. I beat myself up as well… “I don’t sound like Vai, I don’t sound like Satch, I don’t sound like Petrucci”. But when I sit down and play and improvise I listen to what I’m playing and I really listen for my own style… because that is what’s going to drive you and reward you. Speed exercises and the like are not the goal, merely the tools to help you along your path. The challenge for me is learning how to play what’s in my head and less about how to play what was in their head.

The person who’s 6’6’ may definitely not play like Jordan, but they may have their own style and technique that suit them better that Jordan can’t touch.

1 Like

I think the speed exercises are me trying to capture the feeling I had as a kid when I listened to those guys. I wonder if those guys ever captured it.

I’m not as far along as a lot of people around here. But I played a few different instruments as a kid, and always felt frustration - and ultimately gave up. I don’t think for a lot of folks there’s much hope without one thing in particular: really learning how to practice.

I don’t just mean how to operate a metronome, either. It’s a lot more complicated than that. Bob Duke, a music educator from Univ of Texas, is someone with good ideas whom I read from time to time, and he put it this way: the job of a music teacher is to teach his students how to practice. Period.

I for sure had no clue with clarinet, sax, upright bass. Now I hear that you could have a decent approach, be making some progress, and still feel stuck at times. But by and large, if you feel you’re getting better, as well as advancing towards your own personal goals, then what any of the greats are up to might not (ought not?) make that much of a difference.

I’ll grant this next bit is speculation, but… You hear all these stories of guys sitting for 7-10 hours or more a day as teenagers on their way to greatness. Just the nature of these people - often not too academic, free-spirited, creative - makes me doubt that they were some kind of junior pedagogues. I think if you sit that long, today, tomorrow, the next, etc., etc., and naturally you’re trying some of this, a little of that (cuz who could do one thing for 7 hours?) it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to stumble on some effective practices.

First one, then another - and after a while, you’re a decent practicer. Then things start to happen.

I’d be interested to hear from other people who actually walked this path, though, as to whether they agree with me.

1 Like

Throughout the years I’ve had several moments I’ve been incredibly close to just outright quitting.

Most of them were when I was in univeristy, having never been able to afford lessons. I was practicing technique daily, but without structure or a plan, without a clear idea of what my issues were, and how I could fix them before moving on to more advanced concepts.

A while after that, I was able to get a job, and afford actual lessons with a metal-oriented guitar teacher. He introduced me to the idea of structured goal-oriented practice, and most importantly, enjoyment of the process.

The reason I can watch a great player on youtube nowadays and get hella excited to practice, is that I can view their playing as a result of the directed effort and time that player has invested.

Then it’s just a matter of keeping at it, and remembering to pause every now and again to just enjoy playing guitar, regardless of how good I actually am. The good ole’ palm-muted 0-000-0-000-000.

Don’t look at a player as an unachievable ideal, look at them as a demonstration of what dedicated effort leads to.

“Oh wow, Rick Graham is amasing, if I spend some time deliberately practicing hybrid picking and legato, I could play things that sound somewhat similar, this is SO COOL

I think comparing ourselves to others is one of the fastest ways to become depressed.
I try not to look at to many other players.

Life is too short to spend hours practicing if you don’t enjoy the process. I quit due to health problems, but I got bored of it as well a long time ago. Practice is work. There’s no shame in quitting if its not for you. There are a lot of things to do in life besides guitar.

1 Like

I’m 36, and just started playing again after probably 15 years. I taught myself to play starting at 14 and learned picking technique very wrong. It made progressing impossible, and I quit when I stopped improving and realized I would never be able to play any songs from any of the genres I listened to.

So I totally understand how this feels. Now I’m going to try to fix my picking hand and start practicing new things I’ve learned on here again.

I don’t know, I think it’s like, why do we learn to talk or write?

There’s not really a “why” – the language surrounds us, so we jump in and communicate. It’s part for that, but it also provides an inner mental framework for thoughts and associations. So learning what makes music “tick” gives you a window into deconstructing one of the great mysteries. If that doesn’t make it worthwhile right there, it gets you pretty close, assuming music is your bag at all.

So the music thing…it’s such different things to different people. “Art is what the artist SAYS it is.”

For sure. But you’re here, and your post (O.P.) doesn’t sound like “sour grapes” or anything – I mean, I sense the frustration in your post, but I sense the wonderment, too. I’d say that it’s important to remember that the speed picking “shred zone” is by far not the only dimension of music or playing – it’s not even the only dimension of speed/flash playing. So just because you hit a wall doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment running straight into it.

I mean, let’s say you hit that 120/130 BPM sixteenth note picking wall, and you can do legato sixes at that speed no problem. Is there a groove that you’d run into that you couldn’t create a heck of a solo for, peaking out at that speed? Really, if you have everything else covered (that’s a pretty big “if,” of course), that’s essentially 99 out of 100 things you’d EVER encounter, and the shred thing is a bonus – in fact, I hate to say it, but sometimes it’s the LEAST interesting part of a solo, musically speaking.

So it’s a drag to see a “shred or bust” post when, 1) we all know the universe of music is SO much bigger than that, 2) improvements may be the unexpected “quantum leap” moreso than the gradual building of tempo, so, even if you are convinced that shred is your only destiny, it might take patience AND persistence, and 3) despite the fact that you are clearly intrigued by the music thing as a whole, the “tunnel vision” you might be forcing yourself into might hinder you from pivoting as you go – and there is the possibility of finding your musical self in things you run into along the way.

So what’s your profile? It looks like you’re an adult ("…capture the feeling I had as a kid…"). Do you see yourself recording? Performing? Writing? Do you dig creating by yourself, or are you itching to rock out with a rhythm section (when this whole thing is over)? Do you have your heart set on playing for an audience at some point, or are you a “basement legend” just trying to play with some cool sounds? Is your music pretty much for you alone, or do you feel compelled to share it? How does social media play into that – is the fact that there is a community around this stuff part of what makes it intriguing?

Or is it really that you just like playing and hearing those sounds that come out? If so, then next time these confusing feelings come up, strap on a guitar, play a nice big power chord…

1 Like

This is a great conversation, for me guitar playing has been a 35-year journey and I still totally understand the “this video inspired me to give up playing” sentiment, the latest one was an Angel Vivaldi, Andy James vid - the virtuosity and perfection, knowing that I’ll never play shizz as good as that… but I love playing guitar, I love all the gear, reading about playing, watching players, being able to pick up hot things with my left hand without caring (a little publicized bonus!) a few things have kept me going, having a few go to songs to rock out on when no one else is around, turn up that amp and be the bedroom guitar hero you know you are :slight_smile: (all right now, back in black, too much too young too fast - current favs)

Then every now and then I pick up on things like Troy’s pick slanting and in 3 months I’m a better player than I’ve ever been. Funnily enough, what led me to this was a stint learning sweep picking that ended up with getting tendonitis in my little finger - so I decided to work on my right-hand technique and yep I’m glad I did.

I guess for me being a guitarist is a hobby that I absolutely love, no illusions of being anything other than that, I’ve done live gigs but only for the fun of it, there’s so much about music, theory, practice, and instruments that give you an extra dimension to your life. Feeling fed up with picking, buy a kit and build your own guitar, fed up with not being able to solo, get a 7 string and get Djenty, fed up with being stuck in a rut, learn a new scale and only use that for 4 weeks. Never forget the optimum number of guitars is n+1

rock on!

Even better with the right hand if you play fingerstyle bass…