How to Deal With Discouragement | Hub Guitar

How to Deal With Discouragement

Jose AS Reyes/

Learning guitar is a very long journey, and you need to be patient and consistent. If you give up, you’ll never know what it feels like to reach that elusive next level of proficiency.

That’s why discouraging thoughts are the enemy. Let’s try to put our demotivating thoughts to rest.

Common Discouraging Thoughts

Talent Myth

  • Example: “I don’t have any musical talent.”
    Source: Media, story-telling and movie hype.
    Solution: Learn the truth about practice and be confident in your knowledge that practice time is the only useful indicator of skill level. Don’t waste your time worrying about anything outside of your control, and get back to practicing.

Child Prodigy Myth

  • Example: “I started too late; I’ll never be really good.”
    Source: Hype
    Solution: Stop comparing yourself to freaks of nature. Read biographies of your favorite musicians; some of them may have started later than you did, and most probably weren’t “child prodigies”. Meet some skilled local musicians; you might be surprised how late some of them started. Most average people can, in time, develop a level of guitar proficiency worthy of pride and respect.

Discouraging Comments

  • Example: “My friends say I don’t sound good.”
    Source: Comparing ourselves to world-class players.
    Solution: Comparing ourselves to the top players in the world is like comparing our dinner to a meal in a 3-star Michelin restaurant. Music is one of the few skills where the experts can come in to our living room and show us what they sound like. We live in a world with a huge number of humans, and some of them are very talented, lucky, or rich enough to spend all of their time doing what they want. Then there’s the rest of us.

    Remember that all people have vulnerabilities. The world’s greatest rock guitar player might feel like a fraud if he can’t read music. And the world’s best classical player might see a popular musician half his age surrounded by fans and go green with envy. That’s life.

Negative Self-Talk

  • Example: “I suck.”
    Common source: Discouraging experiences.
    Solution: Reach outside of your comfort zone, but don’t put yourself into a situation where you might crash and burn. Seek supportive environments. Stay away from friends who don’t support you. Find the fun in music.

Expectation Mismatch

  • Example: “I can’t play x chord or y song.”
    Source: Expectations are too high.
    Solution: Adjust your expectations realistically, and make sure your practice time is enough to meet your goal.

    A year from now (or two, or three) that same challenge that once seemed impossible might seem easy.

Memorization problem

  • Memorization problem: “I always forget what I learn.”
    Source: Poor memorization skills
    Solution: Change your Approach to Memorizing Music on Guitar. Pledge to make memorization a bigger priority. And make sure that you practice a bit every day, no matter what happens.

    While this is frustrating, you actually are not really forgetting what you’ve learned; you’re just having trouble remembering it sometimes. There is a difference.

Plateau Problem

  • Plateau Problem: “I don’t feel like I’m getting any better.”
    Source: Period where progress seems slow
    Solution: Practice more, or dramatically shift your practice routine. Keep practicing every day until the feeling goes away. (And then keep practicing every day after that, too.)

Comparing Yourself To Others

  • Example: “I’ll never be as good as...”
    Source: Confusion about goals and specializations.
    Solution: Clarify your goals, admit that you’ll never be the best at everything, and accept that comparing yourself to the world’s elite is a fool’s game. Most professional players can think of somebody who completely blows them away. Master-level players orbit outwards, and are often just as far from each other as they are from the Earth below.

The List Goes On

As you can see. most of these causes of discouragement are founded in myth, misconception, or a real, solvable problems. The first step is to know what the discouraging thought is. Then you’ll want to find out what triggers it.

The truth is, one of your jobs is to try to practice every day forever, and another one of your jobs is to manage your feelings and expectations about learning the guitar. These are separate but related tasks.

It takes time to build confidence in yourself and clarity for your future as a guitar player, and to develop the humility to accept where you are today. Everybody has an egotistical side. But mature players can manage their ego. Immature players (no matter what their level) want to show you how much better they are than you, and that can only be the product of a mind riddled with insecurity. But mature players can be comfortable with themselves, at least most of the time.

Reading Material

If you’re still looking for some encouragement, try reading something inspirational. Or taking a lesson from someone who inspires you.


Playing guitar is fun and rewarding, and it’s enjoyed by players of many different skill levels. It’s also a personal journey. And it’s not a competition. Buddhist monks meditate to achieve a peaceful state of mind, which is another act of personal growth. Imagine if they started holding competitions to see who meditates the best? By the time you’ve gotten preoccupied with self-doubt, you’ve started to step off of the path to personal growth. So figure out where your doubt comes from, put it to rest, and get back to work at practicing guitar, improving yourself, and finding your own meaning in music.

As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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