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Taking a Break

As with any activity or task, as humans we are prone to frustration if we cannot immediately achieve our goals. Applying ourselves with intense concentration for long periods of time can be physically and mentally draining, so I always advocate students and other professionals take a break when possible.

The last thing anyone wants to do is burn out. I would define a burnout as a feeling of resentment towards the task you were attempting, or in extreme cases the guitar as a whole. Sometimes you just want to give up and that there is no point in trying to complete a task. Today I want to discuss a few ideas that you might want to consider if you are getting frustrated with the guitar for any reason - the less stress, the better.


Being versatile is one of the most important traits any musician could have, unless of course you are solely a classical musician. Being versatile provides you with many different ways of taking a break, without stopping playing the guitar. There is a fine line between the desire to push through that barrier and getting stuck behind an impenetrable wall.

For example, I love jazz guitar. However, if I sit too long and try to learn a whole George Benson solo, there is a chance I would begin to get angry with my progress and start to have negative feelings towards what I am playing - a testament to Benson’s godly playing for sure. In that instance, I might decide to let off some steam by playing some really heavy, angry metal riffs on my seven string guitar. If you find that you don’t really have another genre you can play, or something different to work on, then you can use this as a chance to develop that area of your playing. 

If playing another genre doesn’t interest you, then try to look into the mechanics of your playing by analyzing your fine motor skills and improving where you can. Alternate picking is easy to learn and difficult to master; moving the pick up and down repeatedly is not hard, doing so with minimal effort and movement is. 

You could also look at improving your chords, scales or understanding of music theory that connects it all. There is no one right answer here, so by all means look to me, your teacher or your peers for advice but, ultimately, you must be the one to figure out what is best for you.

Helping Others

Assisting someone else with understanding something is a great way to really appreciate what you already know - it is one of the many reasons that I love teaching. It is difficult to compare our skills to anyone else when you don’t share those skills in the first place. If you’ve been playing for a few months, and a friend has just started, helping them grasp the fundamentals will not only solidify your own playing and understanding, but also inspire you to further your own skill set. 

I like to avoid terms such as ‘better’ or ‘worse’ and instead opt for suggesting certain people are further through their journey of playing the guitar. There is no shame in asking for directions along the way! Try to be the one that gives directions and understand that lessons can come from anywhere - I have had many young students teach me a thing or two in the past. 

Sharing Your Talent

Recording audio or video of your own playing is a great way to share your progress with others. This is something I rarely do myself in a solo situation, though.You don’t have to make a polished product - the main thing is that you created something and not everyone can do that! Most people have a smartphone, or access to an iPad or computer of some sort, that will have a rudimentary recording function. 

I have recorded many short videos and snippets of audio to act as a sort of diary. I mentioned earlier about it being difficult to compare your skills to others when you only play by yourself. It is even harder to recognise your own progress as you are always exposed to your own playing. Teachers tend to only see their students once a week, so the results of practice, or lack thereof, over that period of time are more obvious to them. Having a recorded diary of your own playing is a great way to really notice your progress - this can help with those negative feelings. 

If you are hoping to one day play with a band, I recommend you check out my blog posts on preparing to play with a band as a starting point. Working towards this, and eventually your first live show, is a great way to focus your energy. You don’t have time to get frustrated when the deadline for learning a piece of music is fast approaching!

Alternative Options

There are many other activities that you could engage in, some more demanding of brain power than others. Whilst not always recommended, their usefulness depends on the person. Below I discuss a few things that I personally like to do - try and apply this to your own needs.

I have always enjoyed playing video games, and in many different forms. The big drawback of playing video games, unless you are playing Elden Ring on legendary difficulty, is that you can often be rewarded for relatively little output. My advice here is to set aside an entirely different time for playing a game that is an ‘open world’ type game. As much as I love playing Skyrim, there is always the thought “I’ll just do this thing quickly”... it never truly ends. Try something that has clear cut levels, or at least an absence of distractions and diversions - I recommend Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros for some light-hearted fun.

I like to read a bit too much, in the sense that when I start I will not stop. Other people are different, but for me I would recommend comic books or short stories. Similar to video games, something that has a definitive end. 

Cooking is also something enjoyable for me to distract myself with. Whilst still having an element of creativity, there is something therapeutic about producing a meal that then sustains you and others around you. Rewarding yourself with a favorite snack is also a good way to place a checkpoint in your work, creating steps for you to reach. It goes without saying, you should probably wash your hands afterwards - no one likes a greasy guitar!

Final Thoughts

There is no shame in simply leaving something with the intention of returning to it. Being honest and realistic with yourself is an important skill - if you have just started playing the guitar, it is safe to assume that you will not be playing ‘Building the Church’ by Steve Vai within a couple of weeks. Realistic goals with appropriate challenges are the way to go! This is something the experienced teachers at The American Guitar Academy can help you with, and they also have many fun activities they can use to help you get there.

The core of why we start playing the guitar is the desire to have fun. Take some of the topics we have discussed here, and develop them in a way that works for you and then apply them the second you stop having fun. Keep in mind that you might need to put in the work to get to the fun stage, though that is all part of the process! Remember, the guitar is an instrument that requires your fingers to move in an unnatural way, it is a challenging thing to learn and an impossible one to master. The fact that you can make any progress at all is nothing short of amazing!

Keep plucking away at those strings! Keep working hard! Keep having fun!



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