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Been learning guitar 3 years, still nowhere, please help?

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New Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1
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First of all thanks the creator of the site for such a terrific resource, I would definitely take full advantage of it if not... my clumsy fingers? Can everyone please share with me your thoughts and your experience to help me with first simply understanding the nature of my extremely slow progress?

I'm 38 years old amateur ehh (wish I could call myself a guitarist) ... guitar martyr.

After three years of at least 1 hour 5 days a week practice (here I'm talking about actually practicing with guitar - moving the fingers around, doing sclaes, chord changes, etc.) and learning the theory I know all the notes on the fretboard, handful of scales (major diatonic, modes, pentatonic, blues), all open chords, moveable bar chords, all most useable jazz chords on different strings and can construct many more because I now can see the fingerboard in terms of CAGED and intervals well, chord progressions, etc. (and mind you I've been applying all these 'patterns' to fretboard) but my problem is...

...every day I pick up a guitar it feels like my fingers don't remember anything. They feel clumsy and tell me they are not familiar with this instrument.
I tried to practice slow and it doesn't help. Well, I can walk a scale pattern maximum at 100 bpm but I will occasionally fail here and there and I doesn't feel like I do it with confidence. I can also switch chords with difficulty althouth I see them well on the fretboard. To find a good analogy (and sorry about this) I would say my fingers feel like drunk - I command them to go 'there' and they stumble.

Is there anyone out there with such a slow TECHNICAL progress as me? Or, more importantly - is there anyone who managed to figure out the reason of their slow TECHNICAL progress similar to mine and made a breakthrough?

Yes, I know, I read those articles - "do it slowly and you'll play fast in a week", "it will come, just don't give up", etc.

When I hear of people (and I met a few) who could decently play after 6 months I get really frustrated because I see their fingers flying over the fingerboard and mine are just crawling while I spent much more time with the guitar.

I took some lessons in the beginning of my return to guitar at 35 but gave up soon because I could not technically implement what the teacher showed me and I realized I was wasting money.

And, one another important thing to add to a confusion: I "played" guitar fairly easy when I was 18 up to about 30. I used it solely for singing accompaniment then and I didn't practice regularly. I knew a dozen of chords then and I could pick up a guitar after three months of not playing it at all and in 15 minutes would play all my favourite songs as if never parted with the guitar.

Since I turned 30 to up to my return to guitar at 35 I didn't touch it at all and when I realized I wanted to return and do it all properly I found myself in this strange situation with... these clumsy fingers? I could barely finger the chords I could play with the closed eyes before.
It feels like my fingers NOW have no memory and they are awkward and lazy. I want them move and they hit ... the space between two strings :(

I'm interested in a variety of fingerpicking styles ranging from simple arpeggiation of chord progressions to fingerpicking soloing (single note and simple and jazz chord melody).

If anyone could give me some valuable advice other then switching to playing tennis I would really appreciate this :)

Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4338

Welcome to Guitar Noise! We look forward to seeing you around the forums! :D

I'm sure there's enough going on around here to get your muscle memory running again. I had a 20 year 'sabbatical' and it took a little while, but once I got that muscle memory back there was no stopping me!


..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
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-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ -:¦:- Elecktrablue -:¦:-

"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"

Famed Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2241

Sounds like it may be something of a confidence problem mate. You said you played much better from age 18-30 and maybe there's a psychological reason for that. I know I feel clumsy when I'm tired or not in the mood, and I feel clumsier when I'm thinking about other things instead of being focussed on my practicing, or I'm working on something I feel is beyond my abilities. Sounds a bit like you've already decided you're gonna suck before you even pick up the guitar, in which case it's no wonder your fingers are getting that message and stumbling over stuff.

In many ways it is a lot easier to play music (and do lots of other things) when you're young, simply because you're less likely to have that "I can't do it" attitude ingrained, and you have less of a conception of your own limits and what success or failure constitutes.

Also, I'd offer the suggestion that you may not be as familiar with the material as you think you are. You've listed a pretty extensive bunch of stuff that you've learned in the last three years. It's not impossible to learn that much in that time, but I can say I've been playing (with a break of a few years) for around a decade now, and your list goes beyond what I know. It also goes beyond the knowledge of many other players on this site, and I'm talking about people who gig and enjoy it and think themselves pretty good. Having heard some of them, I'd agree that they are pretty good, too. But they tend to have worked on a smaller subset of information and learned it thoroughly enough to do it in their sleep.

As an example of what I mean about "thoroughly" - I still don't think I'm entirely comfortable with the good old major scale. I practice it, and I'm always looking for new ways to play it; starting on different strings, limiting myself to playing it on one string, playing it in groups of 3 or 4 or 5, harmonising it in 3rds, and 6ths, changing fingerings and being able to jump from one fingering to another. I play that scale so many different ways that I can't say I can play each variation in my sleep, or switch from one to another consistently. I do this with a few other scales too, but I honestly don't think I'll exhaust them fully for years.

Welcome to GN, hope this is of some help. I'm sure others will post more advice soon.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 794

Scales, chords, chord progressions. I see no mention of making music or learning songs. You've set some lofty goals for yourself in learning various fingerpicking styles. From what you said, it seems that you are working on the technical side a lot and maybe not having any fun with the guitar. Try learning some not too difficult songs just for the enjoyment. And the fingerstyle stuff is a good longer term goal, but maybe a bit hard at this point. Don't give up on that, but create your own positive reinforcement by mixing it up with some things that you can do well.


Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1221

Welcome to GN, SergeV.
If it's any consolation, I've been playing around the same amount of time and am far from a whiz kid either. :)
In addition to the great points made above, one thing I find very helpful is recording myself. I'll cringe at the initial playback, but usually when I listen to it a few weeks later the reaction is, 'Hey, that isn't that bad!'. And that will often lead me to go back to something (a technique or a piece) that I'd abandoned as hopeless. Plus, over time, you get to hear that you are making progress.
You're probably not 'still nowhere'. You're just not as far along as you'd like.
Keep at it and try to have some fun along the way.
All the best!


Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1089

Scales, chords, chord progressions. I see no mention of making music or learning songs. You've set some lofty goals for yourself in learning various fingerpicking styles. From what you said, it seems that you are working on the technical side a lot and maybe not having any fun with the guitar. Try learning some not too difficult songs just for the enjoyment.

x2 ^^ What he said.

I'm doing exactly what I thought I shouldn't be doing: learning songs and not doing what I thought I should be: learning technique and theory. But guess what... by learning songs, I'm seeing how things fit together, and I am learning technique and some theory. I'm not going to teach a class in music, so I'm not interested in learning theory now anyway. I want to play and have fun doing it, maybe even in front of other people.

Just have fun!

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.

Vic Lewis VL
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 10264

I'll go along with those who say you need to have more fun playing guitar; if you treat it like a chore, or something you MUST master, it'll feel like a chore - or even a bore - in short order. Relax, don't be too hard on yourself, learn some easy songs and have fun with it!

BTW, I'm 52 - started playing at 17, never really learned anything apart from a few major chords until I joined GN in 2004! Progress was slow at first, then rapid as I gained momentum. The difference between the last few years and the previous 30 or so? I've enjoyed it this time around - concentrated mostly on learning songs. Playing lead (and playing bass) kind of naturally followed on from there - I'm mainly a rhythm guitarist, but this site's taught me a lot. I think having a lot of like-minded people to ask questions , and to vent at during tough periods, has been the biggest help. Take heart, I'm the living embodiment of "huh, if HE can do it, ANYONE can do it!

:D :D :D


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 135

I took some lessons in the beginning of my return to guitar at 35 but gave up soon because I could not technically implement what the teacher showed me and I realized I was wasting money.

If anyone could give me some valuable advice other then switching to playing tennis I would really appreciate this :)


Try and find another teacher who's willing to teach what you want to learn - one size does not fit all.

"...I don't know - but whasomever I do, its gots ta be FUNKY!"

Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 147

Welcome to Guitarnoise!

You are in a very safe place among friends who can either offer guidance or companionship along the way. Like you, I am an adult learner with approximately 3 years under my belt. However, I have no prior musical background from which to draw. So I will offer this small bit of advise. When you describe your practice and relationship to the instrument, its all biology and no romance (keeping it family friendly :oops: ).

Stop practicing and start playing, preferably with others. One of my "breakthrough" moments came when I was sitting with my younger brother a couple of weeks ago. We are only able to get together for one week a year, and we typically strum through a few songs in his songbook because I really don't know any complete songs. This time I said, "Hey, I think that's in the key of G!" So I told my brother play through the chorus after he sang it and I ripped into a little improvised lead. Heads whipped around like Elvis, Jimmie Hendrix, & Janis Joplin all appeared riding naked on a unicorn.

We had several requests and I played lead for quite a while, just playing what came to me. Since we were sitting outside, it turned into a little event with a couple of the the neighbors coming over to listen. My point being, I've never done anything like that before and viewed my playing much like you. Remember: its called PLAYING your instrument, not BORING; TEDIOUS; REPETIOUS; BEING-DRIVEN-BY your instrument - you have a boss / job for that.

Once again, welcome aboard!

New Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1

Sounds like you need stop thinking so much.

I have started to play guitar a few times in my life and gave up because I did not see any real progress, it always seemed mechanical and chord changes seemed impossible.

For my 40th I decided I would give it another go and after roaming the web looking for some good instruction, I found this place. A few weeks ago I started with Beginner song #1 here and am now finishing up Beginner song # 5 (which is about playing at speed BTW).

I sound mechanical and slow when I am concentrating, usually while I am learning placement etc. To actually play a song at speed, I have to stop thinking and just start doing it. The first time it happen, I was learning beginner song #3, I was shocked and suddenly my wife looked up and said, "hey, you sound like you know how to play guitar". Now I can just sit down and play #3 without even thinking about it.

Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2801

I'd have to throw my guess in with those that are saying its kind of psychological. You seem very tense and uptight about it and your fingers arent going to move as well if you are tense and uptight. I bet when you were younger and playing like a mad man you werent so tense and focused, were you? These young 16 yos that come into Guitar Center and break into a creative master pieces.. they dont care how they sound.. how fast they play.. what anyone is thinking..

They just play..

Have fun, find some buds to play with.. play for yourself.. dont worry about speed and technical ability... play for life


“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5840

What do kids do when left to their own devices? They play.

What should you be doing with your guitar? Playing! Make it fun and don't get hung up with technicalities

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
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