Can it be a Mental Thing?

Discussion about guitar playing from a diverse group of people with different tastes and levels of experience.
Heavymetalhead7
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Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by Heavymetalhead7 » August 15th, 2014, 5:50 pm

As i continue to struggle with chords and perhaps doubting my abilities i think back to all the other things ive done sports for example and i never once thought could not do it just trained and made myself extremely good at the particular sport i trained for. Now with guitar i constantly doubt myself even to go as far as reading stories of people who have practiced for years and still could not do it. The Thing that lays in the back of my mind is natural talent is it real and am i good at football because i have natural talent for that but not guitar. Let me mind you i do have an ocd problem which sucks btw. My question is can anyone learn the guitar or do you need that special gift also is part of learning the guitar a mental aspect as well as physical.

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by Alan Green » August 15th, 2014, 10:09 pm

What I've found over the years is that when people talk about "Natural Talent" what they mean is "I can't be bothered to do that amount of work". Personally, I don't have a bottomless pit of natural talent - I spend hours in the Practise Room, every day. And I think the record so far to learn one four-and-a-bit minutes piece of music from start to finish is one year and five months. Everything else I play came right quicker.

There is a mental aspect to learning guitar, and it's based on how you learn. The comparison with sport is an interesting one, because we don't use the big physical movements that a sportsman does; we use very small, controlled movements, and the way to get better is to spend more time on the minutiae.

So, if you're struggling with a C7 chord (for example), then the way to practise it is not by putting your fingers in place as quickly as you can and playing it, but by watching your fingers very closely as you move them into position very slowly.
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Heavymetalhead7
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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by Heavymetalhead7 » August 15th, 2014, 10:39 pm

i put in hours of work and im still stuck on the dang d chord just cant switch quick enough i went on ultimate guitar and the people on there said they mastered all 8 open chords in 2 months =( yet im still stuck on d i dont plan on giving up anytime soon though im a trooper.

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by notes_norton » August 16th, 2014, 3:47 pm

I'm not a guitar teacher, and therefore might be way off base here.

Have you tried Barre chords instead? I'm one of those people who get along better with barre chords than open chords.

Now I play whichever is more appropriate for the song, but since I mostly play electric rock and blues, most of the time it's barre and other moveable chords anyway - and I like that.

I picked up the barre chords rather quickly, and then went back to work on the open ones.

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by abcxyz » August 17th, 2014, 1:30 am

It would take some time before you can play it right.

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by mileycyrus144 » August 21st, 2014, 3:32 am

Be passionate about learning all I can say, if you are passionate about something you do every possible thing to become superior. Keep practicing each day, surely you become very good at guitar. Of course some people got natural talent, but not all. So keep more and more practicing every day

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by hbriem » August 22nd, 2014, 6:03 am

I am only a fair bass player and a mediocre guitarist, but I can play all the chords and whatnot.

However I do clearly remember my struggles in the beginning. At times I thought I would never get it. My fingers would form a blob of spaghetti on the fretboard. My rhythm was nonexistent. I'd mute all the notes except the ones that were supposed to be muted.

Show perseverance. It will click eventually. Slow down, work methodically.
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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by Jagolsch » August 26th, 2014, 11:33 am

I had plenty of trouble with that chord myself. It can be frustrating! If you keep having trouble with it, don't just endlessly beat yourself up about it. Try learning a totally unrelated guitar skill for a while. Take on a solo you've always liked but never thought you could play, or try learning some complex metal riffs that give you a serious finger workout. Come back to these chords later and see if they're any easier.

One weird thing that's worked well for me when I absolutely can't figure out how to play something--I mean for months on end--is to just put the guitar away for a week or so. For some weird reason, half the time I can suddenly play that thing I'd been struggling with. I think it's because it makes you look at the guitar from a fresh perspective, so you're less likely to keep making the same mistakes.

Whatever you do, don't give up on guitar. It's tough, but I absolutely believe that anyone with medically normal motor control can figure it out. Natural talent only exists in a handful of people. 99.9% of us learn instruments through thousands of hours of practice.
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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by LanceGMusic » September 24th, 2014, 3:14 pm

My advice is always accept the fact that it will take you atleast a year to get started, before you can do much of anything. After that its just time. I do not believe in natural ability, as you learn after research that most prodigies were simply taught at young ages and forced into constant practice. As a child I practiced six hours a day every day after school, and flew by my friends who just picked up the guitar every once in a while. Its also how you practice, PAY ATTENTION, don't just play pay attention to what you are doing, and when you mess up, pay attention to why you messed up and what you did wrong. When that part comes up again, switch your focus and don't make the same mistake. There is no need to repeat the parts you can already play, they will come naturally after they become muscle memory. Also self doubt will come into play, so be patient, it all will come and things you once found difficult will be simple, what people consider advanced will flow. Also always challenge yourself. Also give different sessions for different types of practice. Time for repetition, scales, chords, finger placement, picking patterns. Then time with the Metronome for timing and fluidity. Then play along with the song to get the timing perfect and feel/listen to the aspects of their playing. Then finally just have fun with it, crank your guitar and enjoy your art and expression. If you can accomplish all these things and continue to do so you will excel in your writing and playing abilities =)

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by NoteBoat » September 27th, 2014, 2:29 pm

I firmly believe that music is a language. Can anyone learn to speak a new language? Yes, at least a bit. Can everyone become eloquent? No.

Learning anything - not just music - is really about problem solving. And solving a problem starts with making sure you're asking the right question.

You say you're struggling with chords... all chords? Some chords? Is there some common flaw - a string that always seems off? A finger that never seems to find its place? "I'm no good at chords" is a generalization, and you want a specific problem, like: every time I fret Am, the third string sounds dead.

Next you observe - watching your fingers closely, as Alan suggested. Are you landing on top of the fret instead of behind it? Is some other part of your hand getting in the way?

Then you have awareness of what's wrong, and you come up with a drill to work on it. Go SLOWLY - you're trying to do it right every time, so you form a habit of doing it right.

Then you move on to the next problem. And there's always a next problem - in one practice session this past week I spent 20 minutes playing just two measures of music, over and over. I probably played the same 8 beats a couple of hundred times. Habits don't form quickly, and problem habits take even longer to break.
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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by Cat » September 27th, 2014, 6:08 pm

Some guitars suit the hand differently from others, too. But the conundrum seems to be "if you are a beginner...how do you know"??? I can't answer that one...except (as NOTE said) be more aware of exactly what dynamics your fingers are experiencing. Me...even after five decades...there are times I have to concentrate on if the meat of a fingertip is messing up an adjacent note. Practice......
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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by Bruceye » December 11th, 2014, 6:22 pm

Much good advice given here, particularly "observe what your doing" and subsequently not doing. The movement to a chord is always led by a dominant finger identifiable as the one that gets to its place first. For me, this is rarely, if ever, the one that gives me the problem, unlike the one that gets there last. Practice inverting this movement. Force yourself into leading off with the problem finger and observe what's going on. It may be a simple solution like turning your wrist just a little more so that the thicker part of the finger is more parallel to the neck instead of across it. This exercise will not only help you to play cleaner chords but also change chords more quickly. Another common bad habit is, pressing down too hard. If you are doing this you are forcing more meat onto the field that will ultimately mute an adjacent string. If you really HAVE to muscle the strings then you have an action problem. Most new guitars come off the line with the nut set too high making open chords difficult to play and most players as well as techs, tweak the truss and bridge and don't even touch the nut.

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by jerrycasemusic » February 2nd, 2015, 11:26 am

For the most part I think MOST people can learn to play to a decent level. Most people give up because it isn't easy and many people don't realize how much time the greats actually spent at it. In my experience you are probably fine.

The one thing I think you do need... and i am really not sure how to fix it - or if it can be fixed is a bad sense of time. If your time is bad... not many people can overcome that. You can still play and enjoy the journey and all that. But as far as becoming a monster player, you may need to adjust the bar a bit.

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by notes_norton » February 6th, 2015, 4:53 pm

I think with enough practice, most people can learn the technique of playing an instrument. Some will take more hours than others, but as long as you aren't deformed in any way, you should be able to learn all the techniques.

Whether you become a talented player is something you won't find out until you get past the technical hurdles.

It takes a child a long time to learn how to write. But everyone who learns how to write doesn't have the talent to become a good author. Without learning how to write first, the rules, the grammar, the devices, you will never know if you have the talent to become a great author.

So my advice is to not worry about it, just practice, and see where it takes you. If you have the luxury of having a good teacher, you will probably learn much faster.

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Re: Can it be a Mental Thing?

Post by llamaslider » February 14th, 2015, 1:54 pm

Part of what you are doing when learning guitar is teaching yourself muscle memory. Other aspects are tempo and tone quality. With my day job we tell our knee patients not to limp after their surgeries. We tell them to walk as slow as it takes as not to limp. "Why?", they ask. "Because", we tell them, "that way you won't have to unlearn the limp when the pain that causes it goes away". Mind you, this doesn't work for everyone but the point here is that muscle memory is a big part of playing a guitar and making it appear effortless.

So playing chord change progressions and limping along will retard your progress. Try slowing down until it sounds correct and then while practicing, increase the tempo, working back and forth between slower and faster tempo. At some point, in order to play the chord progression at the correct tempo, you may want to practice it faster than the correct tempo and then eventually the correct tempo won't seem like it is too difficult anymore.

Another muscle memory trick is alternating the above technique with the closing your eyes technique and practicing blind. Slow down and listen to the pace where the sound quality is best, no matter how slow, and then repeat that pace for a pre-specified amount of time - say 2 minutes or whatever seems a little too long. Do it every day, at least once to as many times as you have time to practice with some rest time in between. As you get better and it gets easier, bump up the pace, and if it begins to sound not perfect, slow it back down. Repeat.

The next level of muscle memory training combines doing two things at the same time in preparation for playing and singing without actually playing and singing at the same time. I came across this technique decades ago when I first started listening to music while skiing. I found out rather quickly that it is incredibly easy to get going way-too-fast while skiing when you first begin listening to music at the same time. All the sound your skis make that correlates with going fast are gone and replaced with music. So, all the speed corrections you make in light of those fast skiing noises are missing too. After having several (painful) going way-too-fast crashes, I began paying more attention to the input coming from my legs to gauge how fast I was going. in other words, I was retraining my brain to do 2 things at once and improving the one that, without such remedial skill instruction, would be more painful. I had to learn to disassociate listening to the music from paying attention to my legs' input.

So, for this level of muscle memory training (that doesn't involve the falling pain of skiing) practice your chord progressions while watching TV (if you watch TV). It will teach your brain to pay just enough attention by letting your muscle memory be in charge of the chord changes while the brain can focus on the dialog of what you are watching on television. This form of cross training is not for everyone and it can be incredibly annoying if you are watching a program with someone else who is trying to listen to the TV while you are going through the same chord progression over and over.

If you don't watch TV (or even if you do and want a cross training change-up) you can also cross train by changing your body position, what ever you normally do, change it. If you normally sit while playing, stand up. If you normally sit on a chair while playing guitar, try sitting on a stool. When standing, vary your standing posture or how your guitar hangs on your torso. Change it while you are playing while trying to keep the chord progression at a constant quality and tempo. You will find that some things will just not work at all while others seem to have little effect on your playing quality and tempo. You'll also find that this cross-training activity can help prepare you for some aspects of stage craft - how to move around on stage and make it look ok while you are not feeling uncomfortable doing it.

These cross training methods will help you learn to actively disassociate what you are doing with your guitar while passively allowing your muscle memory to develop and take over some of the spatial control that doesn't really need our full attention after a certain degree of proficiency is achieved. A good analogy here is learning to drive a car. Over time, much of what initially seemed moderately overwhelming becomes increasingly less so. Also, I'd suggest this cross training being done in addition to, and not in in lieu of, regular practice time.

Good luck and best regards,
Steve

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