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I have been playing for about 5 years and am in this terrible loop of trying everything (and often nothing), not getting any better, and becoming frustrated which leads to not want to practice which leads to no improvement which leads to not want to practice and it just snowballs. I have tried scales, (trying to) memorizing the fretboard, playing with a metronome, playing without a metronome, you tube lessons, real lessons, and I have more books than the library (wanna buy some?)

I'm sure I'm not the first to feel this frustration. I want to learn to play but my head and fingers are not on the same page!

I know there's no magic formula but what worked for you??? I love to play but it may be added to my list of things that I gave up on.

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Hi John:

Here's what worked for me. I reached a plateau in my 40s, where I seemed to be going around in circles. I played some melody and a lot of rhythm.

I decided to learn everything about fretboard theory. I especially liked Kirk Loranges Plane Talk as a start. Fred Sokolow's Fretboard Roadmaps also provides a number of exercises, licks and songs that can become part of your play list. There is also free materials available on the internet.

Once I had explored some of the basic theory of how music is organized and how the fretboard is organized, I began to see the patterns on the fretboar.

I then decide to narrow my specialty to playing melody and lead guitar.
I learned as much as I could about playing fingerstyle because it allowed me to play solo, without a band, both rhythm and melody.

And even went further to narrow my special interest to traditional Country and Western since this is the music I grew up with.

I think we get frustrated for several reasons. We don't know where to go from where we are. We don't know what we don't know.
And, our skills have not kept up with our understanding. I found that playing around is the best cure. Learn to play a song, and try it out in several popular keys and in different positions all over the fretboard.

My understanding of the fretboard patterns comes down to this.
1) The Fretboard is organized on the circle of fourths BEADGCF. (Counter to the circle of fifths).
2) The guitar is a chord-based instrument. So, you need to understand chords and chord formulas.
3) Music is scale based. There are only twelve notes to understand so how difficult can it be.
4) The positions of notes of the scale are related to the postions of the chords. Chord shapes are moveable.
5) Pentatonic scales are very useful for playing and guiding your position on the fretboard.

You do not need to understand all the scale shapes or all the chords or all the note names to play. The number system (also the called by some the Nashville Number system) is very easy to learn and applies to all scales once you understand the basics of any scale. In otherwords, once you understand the C scale, the major scale pattern and the chords within each scale, you understand it for all major and minor scales.

The thing about guitars is that you never stop learning. Understanding the fretboard patterns is just the beginning. There are some many different styles and rhythms that it will take a lifetime to learn. That is what makes music and guitar so interesting to me.

Good luck,
john your not the first to feel these blahs.i think when this happens get away from the technical and play what you like the most
for me what I get frustrated with is trying to figure out what to practice. so I put all my tabs/leads/solo/songs/scales in a binder, then I write the name of that song or whatever it is on a playing card. everyday I shuffle the deck and deal out 5 cards (sometimes less depending on time restraints) and thats what I practice that day. I learned this from one of my past instructors. It has been a really usefull tool for me. as I learn more new stuff it gets added to the deck.

Hmmm, I like this deal of the cards approach. Ever draw the Ace of Spades? :-)
There is a lot of very good advice here. One common theme I see is getting out and playing with others. I have been playing for about 35 years and have found that playing with others is the most satisfying way to learn and also to get inspiration. Books will teach you theory but cannot teach you feel or real timing or interaction with other musicians. I am not sure if you sing or just play solo instrumentals but getting out to an acoustic jam circle or open mic once in awhile will definitely help. It certainly can't hurt. Check you local online notice boards. We have two acoustic sessions in my city that I know of. One is strictly for fingerstyle players and the other is for people who like to strum, sing and swap tunes.

Best of luck!
I'll repeat what lots of others have said: find some people to play with! I picked up the guitar after a 20-year hiatus five years ago. What really got me going was joining an informal folksinging group. We don't perform or practice, we just play songs. It's safe and supportive and fun, and everyone plays and/or sings at whatever level they're at. I've learned a tremendous amount by watching the expert guitar players in the group, but also just by playing along, learning new chords on the fly, attempting a bit of lead...and spending three hours a week in continuous playing. For the kind of music you're wanting to do, a folk group would work fine--the trick is to find or start one. Good luck!


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