Over the years, I have met many guitar students who could not actually play anything even though they had taken lessons, perhaps for years. If they were asked to play something, the best they could do would be to offer some isolated pieces of songs or solos they had worked on.
Many guitar students are missing certain pieces of knowledge about the Art & Science of practicing and it creates a hurdle that stops their progress. Many do not know how to actually finish a song they are learning and then bring it up to performance level.
Do you have a repertoire? Answer these questions:
-Do you have a group of songs or pieces that you feel comfortable with, feel confident with, and that you enjoy playing?
-If someone asks you to play your guitar, do you have songs you can sit down (or stand up) and play?
-Do you have a group of songs or pieces that you can play all the way through?
-Have you tested and refined your repertoire by playing in front of people?
There are many reasons why having a repertoire is vital to developing properly as a guitarist, and I will go through them. But first, let me tell you the reasons many players don't have a repertoire.
#1- Nobody told them how important it is, and
#2- Nobody told them how to GET one, and
#3- It is EASIER to leave things half finished and in pieces than to put it all together. In fact, putting something together in tempo and bringing it up to performance level is often the hardest part of the whole process of learning a piece.
Play For Yourself First
Some people always practice, and never play. Others always play, and never practice. Each is bad, but the first is worse. You do not need to obsess about mistakes; just PLAY! Do not think about how well you "should" be playing this piece; just play, and enjoy it.
This is the beginning of developing a repertoire, by responding to the simple need of feeding yourself emotionally through playing music that you love. This gets back to the original point of it all, the thing that made you pick up the guitar in the first place!
Then Play for Others
If you do not start performing for others, you will not get any better on guitar. You will start to feel your motivation for practicing getting weaker; you will not having a REASON enough for practicing. Playing for yourself will only take you so far. If you do not learn HOW to give a finished form to the many things you are practicing every day, (a finished form that would hold together in front of others) you simply will not break through to the next level as a player.
Like it or not, you have to start performing and accept the fact that it will most likely be a shaky start. You may play with mistakes and various imperfections, but if you do not subject yourself to this, you will not learn how to make it all better. Create performance situations for yourself. Grab family members, and make them sit down and listen to you play a song, or two. Experience the pressure and nerves, and see where you fall apart, so that you can focus on that spot in the next day's practice.
Then, start planning a piece to perform for your teacher at the beginning of every lesson. Just would go in and say "Before we start, just let me play this song for you".
By setting these informal "performance goals" for yourself, you will begin to see that your practicing is taking on more structure and organization, and you will now have more of a reason to practice. The payoff, of course, is the satisfaction of having achieved the ability to play something for someone else, and receiving their gratitude (applause).
For those of you suffering from "lack of motivation" to practice, let me tell you that there is nothing like this experience for instant" motivation medicine"! As Beethoven said after playing for a group of people who were too moved emotionally to applaud him, "What's the matter with you people, a performer wants APPLAUSE!"
How to Get a Repertoire: Write it Down!
I have often written of the need for developing your Power of Intention, the ability to feel a desire consciously, and then put your actions behind it to bring it to a reality in your life. One of the important tools for doing this is to write your goals down and look at them often. Putting your desires in writing helps to marshal the inner resolve to put forth the effort to accomplish them. As you begin to discover your own power for doing what you say you will do, it gets easier, and in fact, becomes fun!
As a first step, write down 3 songs or pieces that you like, and that you feel are within your present level of playing ability. It doesn't matter what they are; it is just important to start somewhere. It will develop from there as time goes on.
After practicing them each day, record them, (use a cheap little hand held cassette player). LISTEN BACK; do not wince at the mistakes, but resolve to practice those parts the next day as correctly as you can.
When you are getting through things reasonably well, plan on who your first victim will be…the first person you will try playing your developing repertoire for. Try to pick someone who really likes you!
Record that, too. Later as you listen back, you can have the reassurance of knowing you are now hearing yourself at your worst! It won't get any worse than that! You will have undoubtedly fallen under the power of Murphy's Law, which was invented specifically for performing musicians: Everything that could possibly go wrong will have gone wrong.
Now that you have hit bottom, and faced your worst fears, there is nowhere to go but up. You will take that tape, and little by little, every day, you will improve it. In a month, you will have significantly raised your level as a guitar player. In fact, you may begin for the first time to feel like a guitar player, instead of a guitar student!
The next time you "perform" your songs, they will be better and will continue to improve. That’s because your songs have been tested and refined. All longtime players develop these "trusted friends". As time goes by, you will have a SOLID repertoire
Ask yourself how you measure up when it comes to having a repertoire (I'll bet you already have). Try out the ideas presented here, and you will have increased power to realize your goals as a guitar player.