What’s Holding Your Guitar Playing Back? – Checking Which Thoughts Are Out of Tune

“What have I been thinking that has created my life the way that it is?”

– Phil Laut, Best-Selling Self-Help Author

Even with goals set and motivation established and pumped, you could still find that there’s something standing in your way. Negative beliefs that you have about yourself and your potential as a guitarist can be a big obstacle.

It doesn’t matter whether your aim is to be able to play certain guitar songs or parts of them more easily or faster, create great solos or just learn how to strum your first song. If you have a negative opinion of yourself as a musician or even an outlook that tends to focus more on what you see as your worst qualities, you need to overcome this. You may not think you have any negative beliefs which could be holding you back but beware because they can be lurking deep in your subconscious. The ironic thing is that they don’t even need to be true (and often they’re not), to be able to get in your way and prevent you from achieving your true potential.

Even if there is some truth in them the good news is that, if you spend a little time identifying these negative or limiting beliefs, you can turn them completely around and use them to your advantage.

This is actually very easy to do but you need to be totally honest with yourself. Nobody else needs to know about your negative thoughts but you do need to dig deep and face them head on. We’ll then use them to propel you to the level you really want to be at.

Breaking Down What You Believe

You’ll need something to write with. This is a very important step because we’re going to use what you uncover here, later – so do not attempt to skip it.

Firstly, let me just say that there’s no need to feel strange or stupid analyzing your own thinking. Most of us aren’t used to questioning the things we believe in – especially when these “beliefs” relate to ourselves. However, it’s how all successful people get ahead.

If you don’t think you are able to learn how to play or doubt you could ever be as good as that great lead guitarist you’ve seen – these are your negative beliefs in action. Even if you think you are free of any negative beliefs about yourself take a look at the questions below.

Answer as truthfully and fully as you can. Remember, write your answers down and keep them safe because we’ll use them again later.

What’s stopping you learning to play guitar?


What’s stopping you becoming an even better or truly great guitarist?

Try to really interrogate yourself. Here are some of the answers I came up with when I originally did this for myself:

“I’m too old.”

“I don’t have the time to devote to practicing.”

“I’ll never remember the songs.”

“I’m not good at learning.”

“My co-ordination isn’t good enough.”

Your answers may be very different. For example, you might feel (or ‘believe’) you’re slow around the fretboard or that you constantly make mistakes with what you’re supposed to be playing. You really need to get into this. Be as damming as you like. You’re looking for those thoughts that are holding you back so if you’re not brutally honest here it won’t work.

Maybe you feel you’re lousy at remembering chords, riffs or solos? Perhaps you get tense when you try to play, especially if others are listening? Maybe you just don’t have the willpower to practice as much as you know you should?

I had one 35-year-old guitarist who believed the biggest problem on his list was that his fingers were too fat and short to ever be a good guitarist! It doesn’t matter what it is you think, all you have to do at this stage is uncover any negative self-beliefs about your ability to play or progress as a guitarist and write them down. Maybe you think you can’t get any better, that you’ll only ever reach a certain level with your guitar playing or that any significant improvements will take too much time and effort.

Many older people who have always wanted to get into guitar playing tell me they feel ‘impostors’ when they start to try to learn later in life. They say that they often ask themselves “Who do you think you’re kidding?” whenever they think of themselves as a guitarist. Their list would include answers something similar to mine: “I’m too old to learn guitar now.”

Another common negative obstacle is giving up because of beliefs like: “I’d never be as good as guitarist X or Y.”

Really give this some thought and try to come up with a list of at least 10 of them.

This list is largely responsible for where you are now as a guitarist and for why you’re not at the level you want to be.

Now we’re going to transform this negativity into something unbelievably useful and positive.

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