Is it normal to go through alternating periods of confidence and frustration?


I recently made a big stride in my picking. It’s something we are all familiar with - one of those magical times when you feel live you’ve “leveled up” after weeks or months of a new practice routine. Suddenly your fingers and pick are flying at new speeds, and more importantly, with much less tension. Everything just feels a notch easier.

This gave me a great feeling of confidence that maybe one day I will in fact reach a level of play that I am happy with.

But now, a week or so later, I am back to feeling frustrated again. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others, but I will watch some other players and realize I still have SO far to go. That confidence has gone away. I still have so many things to learn (which is exciting, but overwhelming too).

Does everyone go through this cycle? Is it normal and natural, and part of the journey? Or is it a character flaw I need to work on?


Well I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve heard it from different people, and experience it myself.

I think that as you progress, your “bad days” will be less frequent, and even then your playing won’t be bad, just not as good as your best days.

I would just roll with it and find a way to not be frustrated. On days I don’t feel my best, I’ll tend to focus more on tone chasing, or writing, or recording things that are relatively “easier”. It’s also totally fine to just not play guitar that day, and come back to it when you feel motivated.

Edit: Also, if you haven’t already, try to record a good amount of videos from different angles, take pictures, notes, etc on the days that you feel your best. That way you can hopefully hone in on what might be different from a technique standpoint on good days vs bad.


I get this all the time! Huge progress one week and then feeling like I’m back to zero the next. I’d assume it’s pretty common in all musicians tbh, we tend to be a self critical bunch :grin:

1 Like

I think the best way to avoid the troughs is to not get too excited about the peaks.

Those days you go “fucking yes I can finally do it” and spend 2 or 3 hours just ripping through everything you can think to play, and then the next day you pick up the guitar again and it feels like it isn’t quite there.

That’s in part because the most instructive period of your multi-hour session would have actually been the first few minutes when you figured out the motion or whatever, and you’d have been better served by putting the guitar down as soon as you could “do it” and then coming back half an hour later and seeing if you could get it going again, until over time you don’t have to work it out any more and it’s just ‘there’, or at least you can get it with a very brief warmup with a familiar phrase or riff or two.

The other thing to do, when you’re feeling down about technique, learn some vocabulary, whether that’s scales, chords, voicings, progressions, try and pick out a phrase or two from a player you like by ear (this gets easier the more you do it, even if the first time it takes like an hour to even be sure about the first two notes or whatever).


I’m reading all this over before I post thinking “hey this is good advice, maybe I should try and do some of it”


Absolutely in my opinion. Every few months if im playing consistently, ill experience a slump; which to me just feels like 2-3 days of playing sloppy and mentally getting aggravated. But everytime thats happened, ive come out of the slump a little better. Its wild. And i cant gauge when its going to happen; unless i dont play for a few days then i need a day or two to sharpen back up. But the slump happens on its own USUALLY when im trying new technique or learning new material im not familiar with. I bet it has something to do with ear fatigue as well.

Yes. Totally normal. Welcome to music practice, where you second guess everything! Do your best, rock on and make sure you are having fun.


I would say absolutely normal, but I’m just basing that on my own experience.
Just yesterday, my practice was woeful! I was a little more tired than usual, and my picking was shockingly bad. The week prior, it was feeling good.
So yeah, id say there will be good days and bad days, but hopefully in time, less of the bad days!

1 Like

Absolutely in everything I do, not just guitar. Working out, marking visual art, learning some new programming related concepts etc.

I always record my progress because frequently I’ll feel “stuck” and go back and watch something from a couple months ago I thought was good then, and realize it’s “terrible” - but I realized it’s “terrible” because I’ve grown so much in that timespan, and I use that to remind myself of that growth and keep myself in check.

On a shorter scale, you have to just push through and expect off days. If it’s been a few weeks and you actually go back to something you recorded and can’t play it as well anymore, then that could be cause for concern, but I bet you that almost never happens if you consult the recording, you just thought you were cleaner than you were.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on a piece and watched all these playthroughs of it on Youtube thinking they were perfect, then woodsheded a ton until I thought i’d never be as good as the playthroughs, then listened to them carefully again - and I can pick up on all these mistakes that were invisible to me prior to really working on the piece.

So it’s an uphill battle of both your skill growing, and your ability to pick up on subtle mistakes growing as well - so it’s easier to criticize yourself. This is the case with ever single skill you can pick up.


Might be normal, might not be. If it bugs you, might be a good idea to investigate. It used to happen to me. Now I don’t usually feel frustrated, even when I’m struggling, because I have a sense of confidence about how to practice and what I need to do in order to make progress. I know that that struggle is normal and I’m making relatively consistent progress. Previously, however, I would feel like I was making progress in one day, and then next day it felt like I was actually getting worse (and at some point I WAS getting worse!). I think once you know how the process is supposed to go you shouldn’t feel frustrated anymore. It is normal to suck, it is normal for things to take time. You become aware of that and realize there is little to be frustrated about.

Perhaps you should ask yourself what do you feel frustrated about, specifically. Only then we can know whether that frustration is normal or signals a deeper issue.

1 Like

Yes! That is a great point about the frequency of the bad days (and from what I’ve noticed, the severity).

I didn’t reflect on this until you mentioned it - but thinking back on my early days of guitar, these days of frustration were much more frequent and they also felt a lot worse then. Some of them even led me to put the guitar down for long periods of time.

But this recent period of frustration, while not fun, feels much more manageable. It’s more so of a feeling of being overwhelmed, but not a total loss of hope.

And as I progess more, as you mentioned, these will hopefully get even less frequent.

Also good idea about recording. I have some major procrastination when it comes to recording videos for some reason. But I really need to get over that. Thanks for the ideas

1 Like

It makes me feel a bit better that this is something that a certain percentage of us go through. And yes for sure, musicians can be perfectionists, which can certainly magnify these feelings. Thanks for sharing!

That is an interesting point you brought up about putting the guitar down once you have that “revelation” and coming back later. I’ll need to try that the next time a particular technique clicks for me.

Could those speed burst alternate picking exercises be a very micro version of this concept? (in other words, just a much smaller scale version of the idea of putting your guitar down for a longer period of time)

And yes, I need to constantly remind myself of what you mentioned in your last paragraph. I will sometimes move on to working on speed strumming, working on theory, or a different picking technique like economy picking etc.

For some reason I always forget that being tired (or sore, or overworked, etc), is a thing! Glad you brought that up, as it is very possible that I am just physically or mentally tired during these times. Overtraining used to happen to me when I was into weightlifting, so I am curious if this can happen with your hands. (I don’t feel any soreness, but they could just need a break)

Thanks for the iput!

Excellent info, thank you for this. And yeah, I used to go through it with weight lifting as well - so it must be a pretty universal thing for certain people.

And good point about going back to older recordings. I have a video of myself playing JP’s solo for The Best of Times from last year, and if I compare that against where I am now, there definitely is a big difference. I do feel like I have improved substantially, but as you mentioned I just need to expect and embrace these off times. Maybe these times exist to push us further as well!

Also, nice graph! Both very true and funny :laughing:

Thanks for the input - and yes, I am definitely at a point where these frustrating days are nowhere near as intense and frequent as they used to be when I was younger. And it is really nice to hear that you have reached a point of understanding where you don’t feel frustrated.

In this current phase, I am actually excited about the progress I have made with my picking. While I still have a ways to go, I have reached a point of comfort and relaxation with both hands that is pretty liberating. Even when not warmed up.

However, my current frustations are more of an overwhelming feeling that there are so many other things that need attention - and I don’t really know where to begin because these particular things are more difficult to “measure” and practice. For instance, things like my vibrato, blues phrasing, my knowledge of the fretboard, rhythm guitar playing, speed strumming, etc need so much work. And while I do work on them, they are not improving as predicatably as things like picking and legato.

So then I will watch a player like Guthrie (or even a much younger player like Max Ostro) who have so much knowledge about every single aspect of the guitar, and I feel like a half-trick pony.

For me this comes from wanting to make a living playing guitar, and thats where the realization of how much work it takes to acually achieve competence in music. I started very late in guitar and music so have a lot to learn, but I enjoy it.

I don’t think the overwhelming feeling will ever go away as long as thats a desire of mine.

It sounds like we are both in a similar situation. I too want to eventually earn a living playing guitar (not for performance, but rather getting to a point where I feel comfortable enough to give lessons), and that enhances my drive and that sense of being overwhelmed.

And while I started relatively young, I gave up guitar for a good 15 years duing my 20’s + 30’s, and I am now 38. So like you, I feel like I have so much left to learn too and am starting to feel intimidated by father time.

Someone has probably already answered with this, but: yep, it’s called a “plateau” and it sucks, but it’s part of it. We shed, feeling like we’re getting nowhere, then out of the blue we level-up… feels great… then it feels like the bottom drops out and we suck again. I’ve been on plateaus that lasted a few years before. It SUCKS. Sometimes I take a break for a few days and come back shedding different things, but still addressing the necessary elements.

1 Like

Yeah I get that. I feel way behind with my skills, I feel like I couls be way ahead if I practiced more / practiced better / practiced the right things. It frustrates me that my technique is so weak even after 13 years of playing, and I spend so much time working on it that musicality and writing new songs are staying behind. But that is another kind of frustration, yes. At least now I’m actually getting somewhere. I always felt like I made 1 step forward and 2 steps behind. It got so bad I actually found myself unable to play some songs I used to play! (It ultimately turned out to be a good thing, though, because I was playing them with bad technique in the first place) Now THAT was frustrating!


Absolutely, I can relate to this so much. I think it may be a necessary cycle for maintaining focus and motivation, but this cycle can also cause the opposite - frustration and a drop in confidence.

What I am going through now is more of a sense of being overwhelmed (I feel like there are SO many more things that need improvment), but the plateu idea is real and I too have plateau’d out for extremely long periods awhile back.