Hobbyists - how do you improve your playing?

Rosewoodtele

TDPRI Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2021
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61
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33
Location
Midwest
Hey all,

I am in my early 30s, have a great job, and play guitar (and bass… and drums) as a hobby.

Like many people I’ve seen online, I love to shop for new gear (belated NGD x3 coming soon). I have decent equipment, work from home next to all the aforementioned gear, and pick up a guitar multiple times a day.

My problem is I just don’t get any better. I’ve probably not improved in years. I know I need to practice, but I’ve found it difficult to make a goal, practice new things, etc. I basically just play stuff I already know and mess around.

I want to improve. How have you all that don’t get paid to make music improved? Stay motivated?
 

bactrian666

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late 60's here, for 40 years on & off I'd pick up a guitar and learn a new song but then always fall back on my old catalogue of 10 songs (CCR, Stones, Beatles and so on) A friend of mine I've know for 15 years, and knew he was a decent guitar player (he gigs occasionally) and I started getting together to play for an hour or two every other weekend. That, playing with another and some youtube videos have improved my playing more than anything else I've tried over the years.
 

Buell

Tele-Meister
Joined
Jul 27, 2020
Posts
389
Location
Bagley, mn
One thing that helped me was creating my own stuff. It's fun to learn other's music, and while it helps you learn, it also can stifle that creative excitement to play. Same old crap everyday gets boring pretty quick. Find or make some drum tracks to play to and go from there. Best of luck!
 

chulaivet1966

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Nov 17, 2011
Posts
2,063
Location
The Heartland.....Kansas
Hey all,

I am in my early 30s, have a great job, and play guitar (and bass… and drums) as a hobby.

Like many people I’ve seen online, I love to shop for new gear (belated NGD x3 coming soon). I have decent equipment, work from home next to all the aforementioned gear, and pick up a guitar multiple times a day.

My problem is I just don’t get any better. I’ve probably not improved in years. I know I need to practice, but I’ve found it difficult to make a goal, practice new things, etc. I basically just play stuff I already know and mess around.

I want to improve. How have you all that don’t get paid to make music improved? Stay motivated?

Well....if I were asked:

I'd suggest concentrate on solid rhythm playing.
Pick a cover song you like, buckle down and learn it until you're comfortable with it.
No quitting because it has some chords that aren't familiar or you've told yourself....'it's too hard'...that's self-defeating.
To improve our musicianship skills one must exit their comfort zone, increase our chord knowledge and finger fret board dexterity.

Yes....that's the process I've employed for decades to become a better musician overall.
I've selected several difficult songs of bands I like and stuck with it.
Currently, about 23 songs on my personal practice playlist.

We've all been where you are at on time or another.
Good luck on your quest to improve.

But...that's just me.....carry on.
 

Chiogtr4x

Doctor of Teleocity
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Joined
Mar 29, 2007
Posts
13,978
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Manassas Park, VA
I will be the first to say that my playing has plateaued in the last few years, or longer( I'm 63, but play a lot of gigs, still- thankfully!)

So now, my 'practicing' anymore ( not that I don't teach myself 'new' old songs I want to try out) is just constantly bringing back/recalling all I have learned before, in various kinds of groups I used to play in.
I need to constantly do this, partly for fun ( remembering cool songs) but also, so I don't forget- for good! Gotta work the brain, ears, fingers. Plus cool songs ( for current gigs) will resurface.

So I'm constantly playing something at home ( songs, licks, a LOT of blues forms), just to play+ gigs...

As for the way I learned to play as a HS kid>forward, hold my interest. 2 simple things:
- I LOVE to play the guitar!
Kind of on my mind 24/7

- I always had some kind of a band or duo gig ( varied music, R&R, blues, Country, bluegrass) where I needed to learn music, quickly- be prepared.
That keeps you on your toes!
 

JustABluesGuy

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
3,887
Location
Somewhere
Hey all,

I am in my early 30s, have a great job, and play guitar (and bass… and drums) as a hobby.

Like many people I’ve seen online, I love to shop for new gear (belated NGD x3 coming soon). I have decent equipment, work from home next to all the aforementioned gear, and pick up a guitar multiple times a day.

My problem is I just don’t get any better. I’ve probably not improved in years. I know I need to practice, but I’ve found it difficult to make a goal, practice new things, etc. I basically just play stuff I already know and mess around.

I want to improve. How have you all that don’t get paid to make music improved? Stay motivated?

Playing with other people has helped me. Playing with people who are better than me has helped me a lot. Goals and deadlines also help prevent excessive random noodling.

The “band” (we’re really just a few old guys who like to have a few brews and play) I am in had always done our best right before and at a performance. I treat every jam like a performance and try to have new skills or songs. Knowing what to work on helps a lot as well.

I have been playing for over 20 years now, and I have gotten better over time, but not as much as I would like. I’m looking into taking some lessons after avoiding them for years, since I had some bad lesson experiences as a child.
 

bumnote

Tele-Afflicted
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Joined
Aug 10, 2018
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53
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Northern Virginia
My problem is I just don’t get any better. I’ve probably not improved in years. I know I need to practice, but I’ve found it difficult to make a goal, practice new things, etc. I basically just play stuff I already know and mess around.
None of what I'm saying is meant as an insult....because I'm also talking to myself. You've also described me perfectly with your post.

It's laziness. It's not difficult to make a goal...it's difficult to make yourself stick to it. The mundane aspects of practicing, scales, ear training, boring repetitive exercises...are pretty much essential for 9 out of 10 players to improve. I'm guilty of this, because how you described yourself...is also a description of me. But they're also boring as hell.

Learning a new song is helpful, it's one area where I've gotten consistently better with over the years and I can now learn a new song pretty quickly. But I'm still going to make the same mistakes playing it that I did with other songs years ago. Why, because I've never really done anything to correct it. Sitting there and playing the same passage over and over and over and over until it becomes an instinct is something I'm frequently too lazy to do. I'll learn a new song...then play it to death. The more I play something alone, the more likely I am to either take shortcuts or just ignore parts I'm doing wrong and work around it. I've got books, lessons bookmarked, and playlists created of useful learning techniques and methods...but I have to force myself to do them.
One problem, after work...I'm not really in the mood for it. On weekends, I get distracted and have other things. Playing alone also doesn't help. I'm a fairly competitive person and if placed with someone better than me...I get competitive, practice and learn quick.

I hate to use the word laziness because it's generally insulting, but it's the overwhelming reason most of us don't get any better. Doesn't mean that we are lazy people in life, just in this one area.
If you didn't have the ability, you'd know by now...and by asking you're obviously someone who is aware of shortcomings.

The answer, for me anyway, is to force myself to do the boring and mundane things I don't like. For me scales....I freakin' hate practicing them but I've never been consistent with them. It's too easy for me to forget that I almost always see instant improvement when I've forced myself to really practice and not just screw around without any goal or structure. Last weekend I started doing that...again...then started screwing around and taught myself a couple of Tom Petty songs. Great, I learned some songs but my technique really didn't improve.
 

JustABluesGuy

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
3,887
Location
Somewhere
I will be the first to say that my playing has plateaued in the last few years, or longer( I'm 63, but play a lot of gigs, still- thankfully!)

So now, my 'practicing' anymore ( not that I don't teach myself 'new' old songs I want to try out) is just constantly bringing back/recalling all I have learned before, in various kinds of groups I used to play in.
I need to constantly do this, partly for fun ( remembering cool songs) but also, so I don't forget- for good! Gotta work the brain, ears, fingers. Plus cool songs ( for current gigs) will resurface.

So I'm constantly playing something at home ( songs, licks, a LOT of blues forms), just to play+ gigs...

As for the way I learned to play as a HS kid>forward, hold my interest. 2 simple things:
- I LOVE to play the guitar!
Kind of on my mind 24/7

- I always had some kind of a band or duo gig ( varied music, R&R, blues, Country, bluegrass) where I needed to learn music, quickly- be prepared.
That keeps you on your toes!

That reminds me of my cousin! He’s been playing forever, and his band even opened for a national act in Atlanta back in the early 70s.

He’s forgotten more songs
than I have learned. Watching him try and drag an old tune back up is funny. He’ll ask me “where does it go?” and I just respond with a blank stare.

He lost, then retrieved Georgia on My Mind several time. For a year or more we didn’t play it, then he drug it back up again. It’s like he can hold a limited number of songs in his memory at one time.

One in, one out! 😜
 

moosie

Doctor of Teleocity
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Posts
19,770
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65
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Western Connecticut
One thing that has helped me recently was to decide to stop noodling, and to learn one good song, and then another.

One of my practice habits is to work on my triads. This year, as I practice, I am realizing that I'm a LOT better than I was a few years ago. I would have said that no, I'm not progressing. But something's working. I don't recall getting better, I just intuitively connect lots of ideas now that I couldn't a while ago. There may be better ways, but this is what I got, and it's not nuthin'.
 

JustABluesGuy

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
3,887
Location
Somewhere
None of what I'm saying is meant as an insult....because I'm also talking to myself. You've also described me perfectly with your post.

It's laziness. It's not difficult to make a goal...it's difficult to make yourself stick to it. The mundane aspects of practicing, scales, ear training, boring repetitive exercises...are pretty much essential for 9 out of 10 players to improve. I'm guilty of this, because how you described yourself...is also a description of me. But they're also boring as hell.

Learning a new song is helpful, it's one area where I've gotten consistently better with over the years and I can now learn a new song pretty quickly. But I'm still going to make the same mistakes playing it that I did with other songs years ago. Why, because I've never really done anything to correct it. Sitting there and playing the same passage over and over and over and over until it becomes an instinct is something I'm frequently too lazy to do. I'll learn a new song...then play it to death. The more I play something alone, the more likely I am to either take shortcuts or just ignore parts I'm doing wrong and work around it. I've got books, lessons bookmarked, and playlists created of useful learning techniques and methods...but I have to force myself to do them.
One problem, after work...I'm not really in the mood for it. On weekends, I get distracted and have other things. Playing alone also doesn't help. I'm a fairly competitive person and if placed with someone better than me...I get competitive, practice and learn quick.

I hate to use the word laziness because it's generally insulting, but it's the overwhelming reason most of us don't get any better. Doesn't mean that we are lazy people in life, just in this one area.
If you didn't have the ability, you'd know by now...and by asking you're obviously someone who is aware of shortcomings.

The answer, for me anyway, is to force myself to do the boring and mundane things I don't like. For me scales....I freakin' hate practicing them but I've never been consistent with them. It's too easy for me to forget that I almost always see instant improvement when I've forced myself to really practice and not just screw around without any goal or structure.

I recognize a theme here about goals and discipline. Much of the reason I plan to take lessons is because I want to progress faster. I need some direction, more discipline, and immediate goals.

I think many players are in a similar situation and the solution is likely similar as well.
 

chulaivet1966

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Nov 17, 2011
Posts
2,063
Location
The Heartland.....Kansas
Playing with other people has helped me. Playing with people who are better than me has helped me a lot. Goals and deadlines also help prevent excessive random noodling.

Absolutely!

Unfortunately, that isn't an easy thing to find to surround oneself with.
Better players frequently prefer to play with those that have similar skill sets....which is understandable.

I'd also throw this out....learning some basic theory is incumbent of all of us.
Knowing some music language helps us communicate more effectively with those that are better than we are that may be willing to guide and mentor us.

Back to it....
 
Last edited:

JustABluesGuy

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
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Location
Somewhere
One thing that has helped me recently was to decide to stop noodling, and to learn one good song, and then another.

One of my practice habits is to work on my triads. This year, as I practice, I am realizing that I'm a LOT better than I was a few years ago. I would have said that no, I'm not progressing. But something's working. I don't recall getting better, I just intuitively connect lots of ideas now that I couldn't a while ago. There may be better ways, but this is what I got, and it's not nuthin'.

Triads are great. I’ve been working on triad and intervals lately. As far as not noticing one’s own progress that has happened with me. I play with some buddies and have done so for years, and I have been able to judge my progress against theirs. In isolation it can be hard to tell how much one has improved.

My guitar buddies started playing 10 years before me, but I have been giving them lessons for a while now, so apparently I am progressing though I have often felt myself to be at a constant plateau.
 

Whatizitman

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Feb 18, 2018
Posts
5,922
Location
WV
Hey all,

I am in my early 30s, have a great job, and play guitar (and bass… and drums) as a hobby.

Like many people I’ve seen online, I love to shop for new gear (belated NGD x3 coming soon). I have decent equipment, work from home next to all the aforementioned gear, and pick up a guitar multiple times a day.

My problem is I just don’t get any better. I’ve probably not improved in years. I know I need to practice, but I’ve found it difficult to make a goal, practice new things, etc. I basically just play stuff I already know and mess around.

I want to improve. How have you all that don’t get paid to make music improved? Stay motivated?

Play harder stuff you'd like to learn.

Youtube is a hobbyist's dream. I'm finally to learn my heroes' solos. Gives me challenging things to work on with a goal. I do throw in some theory and scales, techniques, etc... But ultimately it's to serve the fun goal of figuring out stuff I've never been able to conquer for decades. I've improved more in the last three years, than I had in the previous 30 or so.

I'll never be great. But I can be better. I will say that for decades I kinda hid my mediocre guitar skills behind other skills, giving me the benefit of being useful and versatile in the songwriting and band space. Still kinda do with bass. And I'm certainly not very good at bass. It's just that I really only play guitar now at home alone. It's not a chore now, though. I pick up the guitar for anywhere from 30 mins to a hour or so just to noodle and work on solos and licks I can't nail down well enough on my own without the help of Lord Youtube. Maybe not the most productive from an overall musician frame of reference. But certainly ok from a hobbyist guitarist perspective.

When it's no longer fun, it's no longer a hobby.
 




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