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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,

Let me ask you a question: what type of music would you most like to be able to play on the guitar?

Let me know that, and then I'll see if I can help you come up with a plan.
Maybe some other AG folks will have some good suggestions for you as well.

Best wishes, Lisa

PS - You're definitely not the first to feel this kind of frustration!
Recently, I have been trying fingerstyle. I've worked my way through most of Blackbird and am trying to work on Fast Car. I would love to be able to play John Prine'sSouvenirs and some flatpicking simple blues.

Thanks for the help!

There's a lot out there for playing the blues!!!

Although, I do want some clarification. You mentioned learning Blackbird, working on Fast Car and Souvenirs. There are all fingerpicking songs but you mentioned flatpicking? I think you meant to say fingerpicking because flatpicking uses a pick.

What books do you have for blues guitar?

Acoustic Guitar puts out some good books one of which I'll mention
The Acoustic Guitar Fingerstyle Method: Starts with the basics like Travis picking and picks up as you work your way through

Henry mentioned finding someone else to practice with. A substitute for this (if you are interested in playing along with a acking track) is jam tracks. Jam tracks are basically everything but the guitar in most cases. You then have the ability to fill in with whatever guitar part you like. For some generic jam tracks including blues you can head on over to

I did forget to mention that one of the things you need to work on and pay attention to is having a really steady bass going with your thumb. Most fingerpicking pieces have an alternating bass that is played with the thumb. Sometimes, depends on the piece, its easier to learn the bass part first. Then fill in the finger parts.

No, you are not the first to feel this kind of frustration. I think you and I could have a competition on the number of books we have.

Can you post the titles of the books you have worked through? Show the percentage you actually worked on in the book. Cover to cover = 100%, 3 or 4 chapters = 30%, halfway = 50%, 1 or 2 songs only = 15%, etc. Also list some of the other books you have that you haven't worked on. This will give us a good idea what you have done and show what could be used.

This will be a good exercise for you to understand what you have actually worked on. Maybe out of the many books you have you've repeated doing the same thing 30 different ways? That's one way to feel like you're not getting anywhere.

In this day and age (how old does that make me sound?) people are more prone to information overload. This leads to exactly what you are describing. Take a step back, drop everything and concentrate on a single task. Don't forget to turn off the TV, computer, radio, cell phone, etc.

Lisa said it well - figure out what you want to play most on the guitar (rock, fingerstyle, classical, blues, etc...). Some suggestions can then be made especially with knowing what books you already have.

(not to be confused with, uh, John :-)
John , if you could find a buddie to practice with I,m sure you would learn a lot from each other . good luck .
It sounds like you need a plan and someone to hold you accountable to that plan, and you need to have some fun while you are working through that plan. We're here to help you; let us know (as Lisa suggested) what music you want to play, and we'll give it our best.

Susan Palmer
Guitar Instructor at Seattle University
Author of "The Guitar Lesson Companion"
YouTube Video Lessons
Thanks to all. This was great response (as well as the one about being accountable, very true) because it made me think of where I am and where I'm going...

I looked at my books, I made it though most of the way though the Hal Leonard book one and a part of the way through book two. I also have Fretboard Roadmaps which is a workbook. I'm going to start over with that, from page one, and spend 15 minutes/day learning the fretboard. I also had Fretboard Logic but that didn't work for me. Looked to complicated so it sat on the shelf.....I also have several more that I made it through the first 8-10 pages and many songbooks. Which are mostly useless to me as I can't read music well.

I ordered the Acoustic Guitar Fingerstyle method that Lisa suggested and will go slowly through that. Fingerstlye is what I would like to learn as well as a some flatpicking 12 bar blues but i think that will be later on. I also ordered Fingerpicking Acoustic: 15 Songs Arranged for Solo Guitar in Standard Notation and Tab.
I think that information overload is too true and turning off everything electric (it is a acoustic guitar after all!) while and obvious step is necessary.

Can't wait until Wednesday when the books come! I'll keep ya posted.

I agree with having someone to "push" you. I don't have a teacher, I have a "coach". We get together when I feel I'm ready for something new. When we do, we jam for an evening. I usually suck. He shows me how to improve on the stuff I don't do very well. Then, afterward I get into a comfort zone and practice that for a few weeks before we do it again. Left to my own devices, I'd not progress at all. He keeps it fun by working out songs/music we both like for us to jam on. Just KEEP IT FUN. Dean
Well it loosk as if you need to find yourself the right teacher and beyond that I ( we ) can't help you, if you are all over the place how do you expect to learn anyhting that you are doing right, because you are probably doing everything wrong learning like that. I will say it again get your self a teacher, hunt around until you find the right fit.Ship
All over the place is hitting the nail on the head!!

I think a teacher is the way to go but with two in college and one soon to start...true about learning bad habits; I've cornered the market?
I guess books won't solve your problem. They will be useful as reference, to clear a doubt, but they won't play for you, nor they will make you play better. The real thing is ... to play.
I suggest:
1: Hear the radio with a guitar in your lap. Any kind of music will do. As the song starts, try to play along. Try to play the melody, try to figure out what the chords are. By the end of the song you'll be frustrated because you couldn't get it right... but, if you switch off the radio and use your memory, probably you will learn something. Then, try another song, and so on. If you do this, say, eight days in a row, 15 minutes everyday, you'll find yourself playing better after that.
2: Find someone to play with. If you don't sing, find someone who does. Or find another musician, no matter what instrument that person plays. Chose some songs. One of you will play the melody, the other will play chords to it. And then, commit yourselves to meet again some days later, to play the same songs and one or two more that might come to your mind. Meanwhile, WORK on those songs. Search in the net for videos of those songs, see what the musicians are doing, try to do the same. The next time you meet your pal, you'll play better. After some "rehearsals", you'll discover your playing has improven.
Then you may bring the books and, on reading them, probably you'll find that they start to make sense...


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