Here’s the scene. You sit down to practice, grab your guitar and proceed to play a lick or chord progression that makes you say, “Oh man, now I’ve played that a million and one times.” You feel stuck and firmly in a rut that is going to be hard to climb out of.
When you feel like this, remember to go over 3 questions. You may have to put some thought into them but you’ll soon realize that you’re not as lost as you think you are.
Question #1: Have You Set Clearly Defined Goals?
As a teacher, this is one of the most commonly found causes of a rut that I encounter.
Think about what you want to accomplish and set both long and short term goals. These must be measurable and should be obtainable in a specific amount of time.
If you can consistently set goals for yourself and reach them, then you virtually need no other technique for busting a rut.
Question #2: What is Your Why?
Asking yourself “Why?” serves a host of reasons. First, it will keep you motivated. When you constantly remind yourself why you are doing something and keep the end in mind, you are more likely to follow through.
“Why?” also stops you from going down the wrong path. It will keep you from spending time on things that are not directly related to your goal.
Lastly, when you get good at asking “Why?” it will be a skill that transfers to other activities in your life and will keep you laser focused.
“Why am I watching this shitty reality show? ” “Don’t know.” “Better get playing guitar.”
Question #3: You’re Trying to Focus on Too Many Things
The thing with music is that there simply IS a lot of areas that you need to dabble in. From theory and ear training, to lead and rhythm playing and beyond, the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming.
Just remember, stick to your goals above all else. As you set and achieve goals, everything else falls into place.
For example, let’s say you want to learn a blues lick. Simply by practicing the lick, your level of playing increases. However, as you analyze the lick (which you absolutely need to do), you begin to learn about note choice and which chords to play it over. Therefore your ear is being trained and your knowledge of chords and progressions is also increasing. This positively affects composition skills as well.
“Relax. Be Yourself. Play A Lot.”
– Joe Satriani
If you can consistently keep these questions in mind you will never find yourself in a rut. Set goals and stay on track to achieve them. That’s the bottom line.
What area has your playing been lacking in lately? Which of these questions will help the most in overcoming the problem?