How Our Expectations of Progress Match Reality

If you are reading this, then it is safe to assume that you are looking to improve your guitar playing. You want to make progress. You want to better. You probably have expectations with how you should be progressing… and frustrations with how you actually progress.

In a perfect world, we would sit down and practice for our practice time each day, and make some progress.

And while that sometimes does happen… more often that not it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, we quickly feel frustrated with ourselves.

Today, we’ll take a look at how we make progress with our guitar playing.

The Weight Lifting Analogy

The best analogy I’ve come across for making progress on guitar, is weight lifting.

Being a frequent gym user and former cross-fitter, the analogy makes a lot of sense for me.

You goto the gym every day. You train your weight lifting. Ideally, you would get a bit better with every gym session.

But… that rarely happens. Sometimes you improve every week… but most of the time you don’t.

More often than not, you make 0 progress on your 1 rep max for weeks… sometimes months.

Then… all of a sudden… and with no apparent rhyme or reason… you put several kg on your 1 rep max in one sessions.

I’ve had my max increase by 10kg - 20kg, completely out of the blue. It’s bizarre… but that’s how it works.

And quite often, that is exactly how it works with guitar too.

Progress Is Not Linear

The thing with making progress is, it is not linear.

Some skills we can increase bit by bit each week, but others, other skills will make no apparent progress for long stretches of time and then suddenly increase, almost overnight.

And this is what makes learning a skill like playing guitar so frustrating.

Sometimes we practice and practice… and practice more… but we do not feel like we are progressing. And there are times where, for maybe several weeks, we won’t make any significant progress.

But… our body and our brain is figuring it out. It takes time. With each practice session you are slowly re-enforcing muscle memory and neural pathways in your brain.

And when you stick at it, you will find that you make a jump in progress when you least expect it.

This Is Why Consistent Practice Is So Important

It is impossible to pin-point a precise amount of practice required to achieve a specific result. For example, it is ridiculous to say something like “It takes 200 hours of practice to play 6 notes per second”.

However, what we can say, is that in order to progress, we do have to practice. There are factors that affect how effective our guitar practice is, which we will look at another day, but we have to practice.

If you are struggling to find daily time to practice guitar, then try some of these 6 ways you find more time to practice guitar.

How To Deal With Our Expectations

Our expectations of ourselves have no grounding in reality…

Whenever we say something like “I should be able to play this or that”… we have to realise that it is a nonsensical statement.

Our body is capable of doing only what it is capable of doing.

You are only capable of playing… what you are capable of playing. And beating yourself up over it makes no sense at all.

Instead, you have to change how you are approaching the situation.

Pressure Yourself With The Things In Your Control

You can’t control the rate at which you progress.

But… you can control:

  • How much time you practice
  • How focussed you are when you practice
  • How consistently you practice
  • What time of day you practice

So, setting something like a specific speed, or being able to play a certain piece is awesome to have as a target, as something you are moving towards, but,

it is something that keeps you pointing in the right direction, that helps you figure out your time commitments.

It is the time commitment that you need to focus on.

Set yourself a certain amount of time each day that you will practice, and pressure yourself to hit those daily numbers.

I’ll write about practicing commitment and consistency tomorrow, but I hope this helps.