Why Do I You Suck At Guitar? 35 Reasons You Don’t Improve!Devlon Jarrod Horne
I’ve been playing and practicing guitar for more than 20 years and honestly, there were patches where I never got better. I would have to say even a patch of about 2 or 3 years. I had to figure out what I was doing wrong and why I was continuing to suck at guitar. I realized a couple of things and I’m going to share them with you.
You suck at guitar because You either don’t spend enough time practicing, you are not consistent in your practice routine, or if you do practice then you are not pushing yourself forward, learning new techniques, songs, riffs, licks, scales, chords, building finger dexterity, independence along with rhythm and your knowledge of music theory.
The reasons why you suck at guitar actually could be attributed to a lot of various factors. They are all here for you so don’t be shy to come back and check them again from time to time. I have also thrown in a few cool curve balls that you might not have known or expected. Some of these tips may be obvious but guitar players fall into them all the time while practicing and playing live.
Why do I suck at the guitar?
Alright so here is the list of why you are not improving as a guitar player and you suck at guitar. Perhaps you’ve even been playing for years and years and you haven’t improved and you don’t know why. If you are a beginner then grab a pen or pencil and write these reasons down. Your lack of guitar playing skills can be directly attributed to at least 5 if not more of these factors, hindering your progress and keeping you in a guitar slump. If you go over these reasons and keep mindful of them then you’re sure to improve gradually and consistently.
You don’t practice guitar enough
You sit around watching the bachelor or the bachelorette on tv eating your Cheetos with your girlfriend enjoying life wishing you could play guitar better. Well, one of the main reasons you don’t get better is because you don’t play enough guitar. Put down your Cheetos and pick up the guitar. Zakk Wylde, he said he would play up to 12 hours a day when learning to play.
You don’t practice guitar for an extended period of time
So, you do practice guitar and your practice routine is ok. It could be better but you make do with a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday routine. However, you only practice for 30 minutes at a time. When I sit down to practice, my warmup routine is 2 hours, and then only do I get into it. You have to practice guitar for more than 30 minutes. I’m not saying you have to play 6 hours a day, but that’s how you get good.
You don’t practice guitar consistently
You should be proud, you busted out a 6-hour session and you learned a couple of new chords and a couple of licks. You put the guitar down and you feel good about life. Then, however, you only pick it up again 2 months down the line. Just like exercise you have to practice consistently in order for your fingers to develop muscle memory.
You spend to much time watching other guitar players
Stop watching Youtube videos of guitar players or the greatest guitar players of all time and pick up your guitar and practice. Of course, it’s fine to watch them and get inspiration and listen to their music. That’s probably why you picked up the guitar in the first place. But more time spent watching your idols is less time practicing.
You only ever play 5 songs on the guitar
You know exactly what I’m talking about. You learned a couple of songs on the guitar and those are the only bad boys you ever crack out in your room alone or at the campfire with your buddies. You need to diversify and learn more songs. It’s the only way to figure out exactly how other guitarists play and write their music
You only ever play 3 or 4 chords on the guitar
Yup Yup… G | D | C | Em… that’s them, or we could change keys and they could be others. But those 3 or 4 open chords you know and that’s all you play. Yeah, technically hundreds of songs use the 1 | 4 | 6 | 5 progression and I even teach it so people can learn their favorite songs easily. This is not the be-all and end-all of the guitar. You have to learn more chords.
You only ever play 1 style on the guitar
You know who you are. Every other style just can’t compete with the style you love and you play and that’s the end of the story. Trust me when I say if you broaden your horizon there are millions of things you would never have even thought of that you may love to play. A specific technique, a lick, a riff, anything. Then you can always incorporate it into your playing to find your own guitar voice.
You never learn anything new on the guitar
You think this was covered by only playing 5 songs but some guitarists only ever know 5 songs and then a couple of other things that they constantly play. Not to mention techniques, genres, licks, riffs, which we will mention because guitar players just always seem to forget these things. They are all different and need to be noted. Play something new!
You play the same old techniques on the guitar
“I got to get my vibrato and bending just right so I’ve been practicing it for 10 years”. That’s what you’ll hear or something along those lines. Or they say they don’t like the techniques of legato or hybrid picking or others. If you want to improve you have to learn or at least try to learn all the techniques. You get a different feel and understanding for the guitar and your favorite techniques actually improve by practicing newer more difficult techniques as well.
You think that other techniques are to difficult on the guitar
If you pigeon hole yourself and think you can only play a certain way and certain techniques then you are already a goner. Some techniques are difficult to learn but they can be and are learned by players every day. It just takes a little time, patience, and dedication. Nothing like throwing in a sweep arpeggio when you’ve just run a country lick. It works.
You give up too easily on the guitar
Nothing in life that is awesome, great, cool, and amazing comes free or cheap. Time is the currency that you have to give up if you want to play the guitar like a pro. Don’t give up just stick with it and you’ll see a difference I promise you. Don’t get demotivated and give up. Keep your chin up and practice that part you can’t play again for the 1000th time.
You don’t take guitar lessons
You don’t know it all even if you’ve watched 1000 instructional videos and you’ve been playing for 30 years. A guitar teacher could open up new avenues and turn you onto things you never knew before. Steve Vai took lessons from Satriani. Even Mark Tremonti after he found success as a guitar player took lessons to work on certain things. Other guitarists went to college and studied guitar. You have to take lessons if you want to improve.
You don’t experiment with the guitar
You always sit in your comfort zone and never leave it. Even if you can play you don’t take things and make them your own and develop your own voice. If you learn a lick or a riff try and throw your own vibe onto it. That’s how you grow as a guitar player.
You only ever play acoustic or electric guitar
Playing guitar does not mean you just play acoustic or electric. Playing guitar means you can play guitar and you practice on both acoustic and electric. They are the same instrument but are different in a psychological way. If you only have ever played the one then play the other. It will broaden your mind and you’ll come up with new ideas and different techniques that work for the one and not the other.
You worry about looking cool rather than playing guitar
This tip is for the beginners or intermediates who are in a band and worry about image rather than about their chops. Put down the eyeliner and hair comb. Put your tight spandex away and pick up the guitar. You want killer chops? Then looking cool and getting girls is not going to get you there.
Watch Justin Johnson give you some tips on fingerpicking. This guy can play guitar so well, he is cool no matter which way you want to look at it.
You do other things besides play guitar
It’s great to have other hobbies and do other things. But limit yourself to what you do. The guitar takes time, persistence, and patience and will eat up a major chunk of your time. You can’t expect to be the football captain, head of the chess team, and a guitar hero. Manage your hobbies and your time so you can practice more.
You practice things which are to difficult on the guitar
I’ve seen this a hundred times and a good friend of mine has been doing this for years and has never gotten any better. Yes, you have to practice things that are difficult and outside your comfort zone. However, take it in stages. If something is too difficult practice something of a lower level relating to what you want to be able to play. If you can’t pick fast across one string how are you going to be able to pick fast across 6?
You don’t even play songs on the guitar
From knowing only 5 songs to not knowing any. Learning and having a repertoire can do many things for your guitar skills. You learn dexterity, variation, song structure, rhythm, different techniques, and styles. You learn how other guitarists actually play because they all have a style and learning songs can teach you how they see and play the guitar.
You only ever play little riffs on the guitar
Enter Come As You Are, Enter The Sand Man, Blister In the Son, The mission impossible theme. Riffs are a main area of the guitar to focus on and an integral part of writing decent songs. However, if you only ever learn the most basic and common riffs you are never going to grow as a guitar player.
You don’t know any music theory for the guitar
Yes, I said it. How can you ever know what to do, where to go, understand what you are playing? The list goes on. Music theory is an integral part of understanding the guitar and know how to play it better. You do know that you can technically play a G chord which is a triad made of the notes G, B, and D anywhere on the guitar right? It’s not just your open chord and bare chord on the 3rd fret. The theory will open up all the possibilities you need in order to grow as a guitar player.
You don’t play with other musicians
Playing with other musicians even if they are not guitarists will improve your playing in so many ways. It will help with your rhythm and timing. Other musicians can teach you cool things even if they don’t play guitar. For instance. You could learn and awesome chord run from a piano player or a syncopation rhythm form a drummer. Don’t limit yourself and play alone.
You don’t care about other instruments influencing your guitar playing
Do you know how many cool licks you can learn by listening to Miles Davis? Time and time again guitarists don’t look to other players of different instruments to influence and improve their playing. It’s a great way to develop and improve your chops. You could learn so much just from listening to bass lines and incorporating some of that into your rhythm to improve your funk playing.
You don’t know any scales on the guitar
It’s all good and well-learning licks, solos, riffs, and songs. But if you don’t know what the scales are that they come from or the theory behind it you won’t be able to utilize it in your own songwriting or extend what you have learned into your own playing and guitar voice.
If you do know scales you only know the pentatonic scale
Yes, alright maybe like 70% of guitar music out there is based on the pentatonic. Even entire genres like the blues. However, learning other scales will help you with dexterity, finger independence, coordination. It will improve your ear. You might also learn and come up with a few cool intervals, licks, riffs that you never thought were possible.
You only know 10 licks on the guitar
The standard-issue 10 blues-rock licks that you hear every guy who says he can play lead guitar plays. You won’t hear any Harmonic minor or Phrygian dominant licks. How can you possibly ever better yourself as a guitar player if you only limit yourself to know a couple of licks?
Watch Darell Braun go over some standard-issue rock/blues licks that every guitar player under the sun knows. Do yourself a favor and move on once you know them.
You only ever play in 1 spot on the guitar
6th string 5th fret. That is where everyone in history goes when they pick up a guitar and play some licks or they improvise. How can you ever master your instrument or craft when there are 22 frets and you play in an area that encompasses only 4.
you only ever play things which are to easy on the guitar
We did cover this by only going over playing 3 or 4 chords and only playing simple riffs and 10 licks and such. However, it has to be emphasized and needs its own heading. If you learn to play things which are easy that’s fantastic but your chops will never improve. As I said take it in stages and try to broaden your horizons playing things incrementally more and more difficult.
you don’t try to improve your ear by playing guitar
One of the best ways to improve as a guitar player is to listen to music and then try to copy it. That’s how they did it back in the day. There was no YouTube and tablature. They did it all by ear. Improving your ear will help because you will think of more complex melodies and then you can play them or at least try to, on the guitar.
you try to play to fast on the guitar
Yeah, playing fast is great. But it’s not everything and spending all your time trying to play like Michael Angelo Batio will only get you so far if you haven’t laid the groundwork in order to play fast. He even says “you can’t play it fast if you can’t play it slow”. Practice your chops at a comfortable speed before trying to shred like a demon.
you never try to improve your speed on the guitar
So, it’s a catch 22 situation. You do have to try and increase your speed. But again, you need to do it incrementally. Increasing your speed helps with finger dexterity, precision, and finesse eventually. It’s better to take a Ferrari on a Sunday drive then try race a Beatle around a race track. That’s how you do it.
you don’t practice left and right-hand drills on the guitar
You need to put the time in your practice routing to work on only your left hand or only your right hand. Whether it is practicing just legato or just hybrid picking or anything else. You need to focus on one hand at a time sometimes, to determine where your weak points are. Then you need to iron them out.
you only ever play lead guitar
Lead guitarists usually have no rhythm. Yes, rhythm is very important in lead playing. Running scales won’t work your rhythm per se unless you specifically run your scales using different rhythmical values. Playing rhythm guitar help with your understanding and concept of rhythm. You’ll be able to create better solos and riffs because of it.
you only ever play rhythm guitar
There are two opposite ends to the spectrum. If you only ever play rhythm guitar you will never learn finger dexterity, finger independence, cool riffs, licks, solos, or songs. You will be limited to literally only half of what the guitar can offer. In today’s world of guitar players, there is no such thing as a rhythm or lead player, you need to learn and practice both in order to get better.
You are using the wrong pick to play guitar
If you want to play lead guitar you need to use a hard pick. You can not shred with a soft pick. the attention to detail and precision that is required when picking and playing at 160bpm can not be controlled with a soft pick. Similarly, if you want to play a nice relaxed rhythm you can use a soft pick. John Petrucci from dream theatre does this. You don’t have to use the same pick for everything. This will also help you get a better overall feel.
You don’t play any other instruments
Lastly, I know I said you have to devote a lot of time playing guitar and getting better, and you should manage your time wisely and choose your hobbies carefully. However, learning to play another instrument can improve your guitar skills dramatically. Learning piano will help your ear, finger independence, and dexterity. Not to mention theory. Then drums would help you improve your concept of rhythm. This doesn’t mean you have to go all out and learn these instruments to be a professional. It just means take aspects of these other instruments that you learn for fun and implement them into your guitar playing.
The conclusion we eventually arrive at is practice, practice, and practice. Oh yes did I mention practice? Obviously, with these tips I gave you, you need to sit down and figure out what out of these reasons are the reasons why you suck and why you are bad at guitar.
Then strategize and come up with a solid practice routine where you implement new ideas, practice new and more difficult things within reason, study your theory and grind away at your axe till you can shred like a monster.
I hope these reasons helped you understand your own shortcomings on why you suck at guitar. But don’t worry, you now know the reasons and you can correct them. I hope to see you shredding like a beast after this article.