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What is the most important aspect in guitar playing? 

Is it technique? Speed? Arpeggios? Improvisation? Chords? Scales? Legato? Rhythm? Nope, none of those.

It is joy.

If we´re not doing it for the joy of it; what are we doing it for?

We don´t start playing with the intention to torture ourselves and to make our lives more miserable, right? We started, because we thought that it will be a joyous experience to play!

Ask yourself honestly where you are now in regard to that joy after a few years of playing?  Has the feeling of joy been replaced by seeing it as a chore, as something we dread or a source of frustration, because of our lack of progress?

I am telling you that, if you constantly feel miserable and you dread your guitar practice, the first thing you have to get right is your mindset. If you don´t get that into place, it´s not worth it.
Think about it: The reason we want anything in life is because we think it will bring us more joy and make our lives more beautiful right? Therefore it is really important to be able to enjoy our playing no matter what skill level we are currently at. That does not mean that we get delusional and don´t recognise areas that need work, but it also means that we don´t get delusional in the other direction – to a point where we can play a lot of things, but cannot enjoy anything that we play.

I am sure there are many among us who can´t remember the last time they really enjoyed something they have played, because their inner critic is so dominant in their head and there might even be some people who have never really enjoyed what they play.

Realise: If you cannot enjoy anything you play now, you will never be able to enjoy anything you play in the future, because you´ve trained yourself into the mindset of never appreciating what already is and therefore, when the future becomes the now, the same pattern will repeat and your playing will always feel “not good enough” – enjoying what you play will always remain in the distant future.

Funny thing is that this experience relates to all stages of players without regard to skill levels. The guitar can easily become an instrument of torture for all of us. Beginners can´t enjoy their playing, because they assume everything they play must sound bad, because they´re just starting out. Advanced players often can´t enjoy their playing because they constantly compare themselves to other players and so it continues…when will we start to enjoy your playing? In two years, in ten years? When?

So why not really sit down, listen to our playing and consciously look for things that we already play in a great way and really enjoy them? I´m sure we can find something! We really should develop the art of appreciation in our practice as musicians instead of constantly putting ourselves down. Find things you can appreciate in your playing on a regular basis and make lists of what is going great – it will make a massive difference in how you feel about your playing. 

About the author: Derk Stiepelmann teaches guitar to dedicated students at Songwriter´s Shed in Germany. If you are looking for guitar lessons in Dortmund, make sure to visit the website by clicking on the link.