Why Guitarists Get Stuck and What to Do About It

(Image: © Courtesy of Ben Higgins)

We all know what it feels like to get stuck with our guitar playing. It can be demoralizing and leave us unsure of what to do to dig ourselves out of the slump.
Awareness of the causes of these plateaus is the first step to climbing out of these periods of inertia. Being stuck is usually down to an emotional or a physical cause. Many times it’s actually both.

I go into more detail in the accompanying video but, to cut a long story short, the emotional cause of being stuck is down to our goals being vague and undefined. Let’s say that you’ve joined a new band and you’ve got several songs to learn. That’s a real reason to get your butt in gear and practice. Or maybe there’s a solo that you’ve always wanted to learn. That’s a real, tangible goal that has an obvious direction. You know why you’re picking up the guitar every time you go to it. A guitar player with a real tangible reason to practice is a more motivated guitarist.

A lot of the time, though, people have the nebulous goal of just wanting to ‘get better.' Whilst this may seem like a very reasonable goal to aim at, it’s also very fuzzy and vague. A generalized goal like this offers no real route to travel. It’s also hard to gauge one’s progress when the metric is undefined.

When you don’t have a clear reason of why you’re cycling a long list of exercises apart from a general sense of ‘I’m not where I want to be yet,' it’s all too easy to give up, as there’s no sense of reward or achievement due to a goal that has no end in sight. It’s no wonder we burn out and lose interest.

The physical factors that keep us stuck is a longer and more detailed subject so I’ll just highlight the first subject from the video, which is the way you hold the pick. Just this aspect alone can really mess you up without you realizing it. 

Holding the pick with too much tension can be overlooked when you’re playing slow but as soon as you try to push the tempo and do anything more complex, that iron grip is going to count against you. No matter how many hours of metronome work you do, that one small aspect of guitar playing is sabotaging you right from the start.

I go through the remaining factors in the video and in way more detail but the main thing to know is that the cause of you being stuck will either have an emotional cause or a physical one. Uncovering this is your first step to getting free of the slump and enjoying your guitar playing again.

Ben Higgins started playing guitar at age 10. He’s released five solo albums and continues to teach guitarists from around the world. In 2012, he released the YouTube video “30 Shredders in One Solo,” in which he emulated the style of 30 of the world’s greatest guitarists. He topped this in 2017 with “101 Shredders in One Solo.” In 2016, Ben developed his “Badass…” online courses, which are aimed at improving people’s technique in picking, sweeping and hand synchronization.

To find out more about Ben and his courses, visit benhigginsofficial.com and keep up with him on Facebook.