Practicing Guitar – Keeping a Positive Mindset
Practicing guitar can be frustrating, and nobody knows that more than I do.
There are days where you hate everything you play.
All you hear are bum notes, nothing is flowing, and you ask yourself why you even try.
But this doesn’t have to be the case.
What if you could have a positive attitude towards your playing?
Sure, you need to be self-critical to move forward, but what if you did it in a positive way?
Sounds a lot more fun than beating yourself up and only focusing on negatives doesn’t it?
If that sounds like a good idea to you, keep reading.
All of us deal with negativity, but you don’t have to constantly be negative.
Below, you’ll learn how to use techniques and self-motivation to enjoy every minute in the practice room.
Even the frustrating hours, on those frustrating days, in a frustrating week.
Practicing Guitar Contents (Click to Skip Down)
- Practice Room Negativity
- Recording Practice Sessions
- Practicing Guitar – Lists
- Being Self Critical
- Always Look on the Bright Side
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Practice Room Negativity
Before you read any further you need to understand one thing.
We’ve all been there. Including myself, many times.
At one time or another, every guitarist has had negative thoughts about their playing.
It’s perfectly normal.
While it’s normal, and we’ve all been through it, that doesn’t mean you should settle for a negative practicing experience.
Or let it sideline your progress on the instrument.
You can use those negative feelings to push you forward by learning how to turn a negative into a positive response to practicing.
I know, easier said than done.
But it can be done.
Sometimes it seems like you aren’t moving forward. It’s as if you’re spinning your wheels and you’ll never be able to play jazz guitar.
But, you can do it.
Anyone can play jazz guitar with the right motivation, a good teacher, and enough time in the woodshed.
Learning jazz guitar is no different from any other skill.
There are ups and down, and sometimes it feels like only downs.
Keep at it and with time, and practicing, you’ll get there.
Now, after that pep talk, look at how you can turn negative experiences into a positive approach to jazz guitar practicing.
Recording Practice Sessions
The most important thing you can do today to build a positive practicing experience is this:
Record your practice sessions.
Sounds simple right? But if you’ve tried it, it’s not that easy.
Listening to yourself play guitar can be like hearing your voice on tape. Not fun.
But, if you record yourself on a regular basis, it helps big time with your outlook on practicing.
When you practice on a regular basis, you don’t see the incremental progress you make.
It seems like you’re getting nowhere. But you’re actually growing, just slowly.
By recording yourself, and listening back, you hear your progress on the instrument.
When you hear progress, you practice more. When you practice more, you progress more.
See how that works?
It’s a positive cycle of motivation in the woodshed.
Of course nobody likes to listen back to their playing.
Just do it.
You aren’t going to release the recordings ,they’re for your benefit only.
And, if you’re already unhappy with your playing, all you can be is surprised if you sound better than you think.
Which is cool, because more often than not, you sound better than you think.
Try this out in the practice room.
- Record yourself playing one exercise or one tune.
- Keep those recordings, but don’t listen to them.
- Then, when you’re ready to listen to them, move on to the next section on list making.
It just might be the best thing you’ve done for yourself in the practice room.
Practicing Guitar – Lists
Now that you have a group of recordings, about 4-5 is ideal, you’re ready to listen back.
It’s not about listening and cringing; you’re going to take it a step further.
Grab a pen and paper, or your favorite writing tech, and prepare to analyze.
You’re going to analyze your playing.
I know what you’re thinking.
“But that just makes it worse, I’ll only hear the bad parts in my playing.”
Not to worry, we’ll work around that.
- Make two columns on a page.
- One is a list of positive aspects of your playing.
- The other is a list of things you need to improve.
Notice I didn’t say negative aspects?
That’s key. Keep things positive, even the things you want to work on.
Things to listen for could include:
- Rhythmic Control
- Melody Lines
- Tonal Variation
- Different Textures
- Coherent Ideas
- Clear Notes and Chords
And those are just some of the things I want to work on in my playing…
Now it’s time to press play and listen to your recordings.
As you listen, jot down three items in each category.
After 10 to 15 minutes of listening you have three positive elements of your playing in front of you.
And, you have a list of three items to focus on in your practicing as you move forward.
List making accomplishes two very important goals.
- You see positives in your playing.
- You have defined goals to work on in your upcoming practicing.
Goals, that when achieved, eliminate aspects in your playing that you don’t enjoy.
How’s that for a turnaround?
You focus on positive elements in your playing, and you set goals to eliminate the negative ones.
That’s what I call a win-win in the woodshed.
The next step is to focus in on those areas you want to improve.
Pick one that you want to nail first and put a big target on that goal in your mind.
Then, come up with a few jazz guitar exercises to address that part of your playing.
Work those exercises every day until you’ve moved that item from the “need to improve” to the “I dig this” categories.
You don’t only practice this one goal.
Just make it a regular part of your practicing.
Can you imagine how much you’d enjoy playing if you took one thing you didn’t like about your and mastered it?
That’d be a huge deal in the woodshed, and on the bandstand.
Now that you know how you use recording and lists to turn a negative practice into a positive one, you’ll learn how being critical can be helpful.
But only in small doses.
Being Self Critical
While being negative in the practice room is a hindrance as a jazz guitarist, being self-critical is helpful.
To a point.
You probably know that if you hate everything you play, you never move forward.
The same is true if you love everything you play.
There’s no motivation to critique what’s going well and what’s not and improve your jazz guitar skills set where needed.
This is where self-critiquing pushes you forward as a player.
The key to developing and maintaining an effective jazz guitar practice routine,is balancing between the two.
You want to be happy with your progress, but you don’t want to settle for sloppy playing or practicing.
Self-criticism addresses target points in your playing, like the list building exercise, and is the most effective way to grow as a player.
Just make sure you also recognize achievements and pat yourself on the back when needed.
The last thing to keep in mind is the most important, especially if you jam with other people.
Nobody likes an overly critical musician.
Have you ever gone up to a musician after a gig and complimented them, only to have them give you a list of the reasons why they sucked?
If you haven’t, you’re lucky.
If you have, you can see why that’s not a person you want to be around.
Don’t be that person.
If you aren’t happy with a jam or gig, and someone compliments your playing, take the compliment.
Smile, be friendly, thank them, then go home and shed the hell out of what you weren’t happy with.
There’s nothing wrong with knowing what to work on in the woodshed.
Just keep it to yourself in public.
Taking compliments as a musician, even as a student from your teacher, is hard to do.
But it’s a skill you need to learn to make sure you keep getting called for gigs.
And, after a while, you believe those people who give you compliments.
“You know, I wasn’t happy with X tonight. But they were right, Y was pretty killer.”
That type of thinking translates into a positive experience.
If you can do that, you’re on your way to building a positive attitude as a jazz guitarist.
Always Look at the Bright Side
Keeping a positive outlook about your playing isn’t easy.
Hearing that one note you missed in a riff, or focusing on the chord you flubbed sticks in your memory for a good long time.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
The next time you make a mistake think to yourself:
So what if you missed that chord.
So what if you couldn’t play that scale perfectly in front of your teacher.
At the end of the day you’re playing guitar because you want to.
And you should have fun doing the things you do.
If not, why do it?
The next time you find yourself being negative, not self-critical, but beating yourself up over your playing, think:
Then think to yourself:
I’m doing something I love. I’m making music and that’s a cool thing. So what if I made a mistake. I’m not perfect, and I’ll get better.
Then you’re on your way to practicing guitar with positivity, permanently.
When that happens, every bad gig or every frustrating practicing session won’t get you down.
You just smile, give a chuckle, and go back at nailing that tough scale, difficult chord, or seemingly impossible transcription.
There’s no guarantee you’ll ever play like Wes Montgomery.
But so what?
Enjoy the ride, push yourself forward, and get better a little at a time.
A bad day of guitar beats a good day at work anytime.
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