6 Reasons To Quit Guitar... And How to Overcome Them

This post isn't for the faint of heart. I'm going to shoot straight with you because I think that's the only way to properly address these topics, and I might step on some toes in the process. I think it all comes down to one thing: How bad do you want to get good?

"I Don't Have the Time."

Let's be honest: It's not that you don't have the time, it's that you don't want to make the time. If your approach to practicing is just waiting for all of life's events to fall where they may and fill up any spare time with guitar practice, you're never going to have time. You need to make practicing a priority and you need to make time to practice.

How many TV shows did you watch this week? Movies? How much time did you spend on facebook? YouTube? Snapchat? Video games? Those things can wait. Do you think you could have woke up a little earlier? Gone to bed a little later? Plus, my guitar students hail from Minneapolis and St. Paul, do you think they're enjoying the great outdoors between December to February? Everybody has the same amount of time, it's how you use it.

"I Don't Want to Waste The Teacher's Time."

No offense if you've used this before, but this one is kind of weird. Have you broken down what it actually means?

Any teacher worth their salt should have determined a rate of compensation that they deem a valid exchange for their time, no matter how hard the student. So to say that you're wasting the teacher's time is to say either they don't charge enough, or you're not paying enough, or you've gotten worse since you started. Either way I don't think anyone really means any of the above when they use this, they're just saying something without thinking a whole lot about it. I've found it to mean, "I don't want to waste my (the student's) time."

So, how do you address this issue? Often times with this particular objection, people need to be brought down to earth. Figure out your goals and break them down to small, manageable pieces. Think about what kinds of music or songs are interesting to you and try to create or re-create what is so exciting about them to you.

"It's Too Hard."

Guitar is one of the easiest instruments to learn. Unfortunately a lot of books and even teachers don't give you the easy stuff first. So first, talk to your teacher about why what you're learning feels difficult and maybe talk about some easier material or topics. Sometimes different things are difficult for the same reasons and we don't realize it. For example, maybe there is a physical limitation. Talk to your teacher about it and show them-- maybe there are exercises that they can show you to get past this physical limitation.

Keep in mind, difficulty is always a precursor to learning and breakthroughs. Resistance is always part of the recipe to getting stronger.

"It's Not Interesting Anymore."

When's the last time you went out to see live music? I'll bet it's been awhile. There is certainly no shortage of live music for every taste and price range at any time of day, especially in the Twin Cities. Did you know that Minneapolis and St. Paul have the second highest number of performance seats per capita? New York is number one.

So, do you need to perform? Go to for a great way to find free and welcoming performance opportunities and a chance to put your guitar lessons to good use. Nothing makes it more interesting like applause from a crowd of people. Or think of some guitar players you like and google similar artists, you might find some inspiration. Talk to your teacher about doing a different topic for one lesson. Any teacher worth their salt is going to understand the place you're at and your need for diversity.

"The Kid Isn't Practicing Anymore."

First question: are you making practice a chore? It's a weird thing that I observe every day but kids just so often do exactly the opposite of whatever their parents tell them to do. The worst thing is that I know it will happen to me when I'm a parent! My recommendation is just let them foster a love and appreciation for the instrument on their own and they will hold onto it for a long time. If it's not for them, they'll tell you!

Don't get me wrong, guitar isn't for everyone. And there isn't anything wrong with asking about your kids guitar lessons every once in awhile, or negotiating practice time for something more epic like... ice cream!

This issue could also fall on the teacher. Make sure they're open and in tune to the music that you or your child are interested in. Sometimes simply changing songs will do the trick. Another thing that might work is getting your child involved with other kids that play music-- a "band" type situation.

Second question: how many other things is your kid doing??? I don't know if it's an american thing or a midwest thing or what, but I see kids with a billion things on their plate and no time to just be a bored kid left to their own devices. I'm all for getting kids to try a variety of things and find that thing that they are passionate about, but you don't need to stretch them too thin. Plus, I am a huge believer in the principle that desire reveals design and kids will find their own way no matter what the circumstances.

"We Need to Take A Break."

I've spent a lot of time studying music and guitar, and there have been many times where I just felt like I was going through a routine, saturated with information, and it seemed like I wasn't progressing at all. I realized that I had a solution to all of my guitar problems and an answer to all of my music questions, and it was just a matter of time and execution to integrate it. That was also boring to me-- the fact that I didn't have any unsolved mysteries that I was chasing. But I stuck with it and when I look back on it I realized too that even though I felt like I had enough, I was still learning like crazy. I think this is what Steve Vai calls "The Ultra Zone"-- it's a mental overload situation that can be stressful yet immensely effective.

I realize that not everyone wants the Ultra Zone for themselves-- that's cool too. Maybe you need to take more frequent rests when you practice. Try setting a mandatory break timer. For example, set a timer for every half hour and when it rings you must stop anything you're doing and do something completely different for  5 minutes.

You also might need more inspiration. Try getting out to see live music more. There are plenty of shows happening every day and even if your schedule or pocketbook is tight there are plenty of free shows during the day. Heck, go look at youtube.

Bottom line, if you've made up your mind that you absolutely don't want to play anymore no matter the circumstances, you shouldn't play. But I often find that people's reasons for stopping are exaggerated and dramatic. In other words, they would say of themselves, "If I could only ____ , then I would play all the time!" 

Fill in that blank, and make it a reality.

Why Do I Even Need A Teacher?

It's a valid question. The internet has revolutionized the way we access and have access to information. Transcriptions to your favorite music are available quicker and more efficiently. Tabs for just about anything musical exist. There are a plethora of videos out there that will show you how to play everything note for note. If you look hard enough, you can find method books or transcription books available for free or little cost.

But there is still a need for the live, one on one lesson in the basement of a church in St. Paul MN. If you find the right teacher, it can even be a more effective use of your money.

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

This is the biggest reason why you need a teacher: you don't know what you don't know, but a good teacher will be able to find out. There is considerable value in having an intelligent individual ask the right questions to figure out what the next step is for you, and develop a plan of approach to get you there. That is what a teacher does.

Entertainment Value

It might sound funny, but a good guitar lesson is half entertainment and half education. Many teachers laugh at the notion that half of it is entertainment, but I would bet that group also has terrible retention, frustrated students, and 'just teaches on the side' so they can pay the bills.

Why is entertainment value important in a guitar lesson? At every age level, attention is held & retained the best when it's funny, enthusiastic, and keeps you on your toes. The same goes for a guitar teacher! I have known some world-class teachers who went unrecognized because of their lack of these qualities in their teaching routine.

Experience Is The Best Teacher

Remember that hard place you were in where you were looking for your first job but they required 5 years experience to be considered? Well how do you get experience when you haven't even had a job yet? A teacher makes that easier. They have experience. It's their job to share it with you. Learn from their mistakes.


Let's Make Some Mistakes!

Our society stigmatizes mistakes. All the way through school and careers, kids are penalized for missing a question, forgetting something, misstepping, wrong answers, breaking rules, questioning the norm, and the list goes on. The next step is a retest, review, do over, redo, retake, etc etc.

Societal Programming

So when they first get into my St. Paul teaching studio and they make a mistake, like a human does, they stop. And start over. Every. Time.

In my room, this is a habit we have to unlearn. Think about if I let it continue: They would stop every time they made a mistake, just like they practiced, and their neurons and muscle memory would deem that the correct reaction every single time, including when they perform for people.

What Not to Practice

Guess what? You can't stop and start over when you're playing for people. Especially when you're playing with a band. The band isn't going to stop the music and wait for you to catch up, so that's an impractical method to practice. But so many (frustrated) people practice that way for the entirety of their musical experiences.

My approach to making mistakes is this: Make them and learn from them. Mistakes are going to happen, you're going to mess up, BUT practicing how to recover from mistakes is a far more practical approach than restarting so you can play it perfectly.

So practice recovery skills, not perfection.