Focusing on Playing Guitar - Strumtember

Aug 31, 2022 · 630 words · 3 minute read

Over the last few years I've been struggling to find the time to play guitar, now I'm slowly getting a little more free time, but I'm struggling to balance that with other hobbies. In September I want to see if focusing on one hobby will help me make progress, and that I feel like I'm getting somewhere again.

The last few years small children, a global pandemic and working, haven't left much time and energy for hobbies. Slowly we're getting into a bit more of a rhythm where I can find time to do a few things, but for some reason I've found getting back to playing guitar the hardest.

I suspect that's because perceived progress is slow. I've played guitar for over 20 years, and while I'm pretty bad at playing guitar (especially for the time I've been playing), I am past most of the fast initial topics, like learning a few basic chords and being able to play a simple song.

This reduces my motivation as progress is harder to see, unlike some of the other things I spend my time doing, the improvements are not as easy to track. If I'm trying to write some code, or get something working on a Linux server, you can see the progress step by step. You build a bit more, add new features, new lines of code, solve one problem and encounter the next. It's not all plain sailing, and can be frustrating, or require more learning something new, but the progress is more visible and measurable.

With playing guitar the progress feels less obvious. If you spend half an hour a day practising scales I don't experience a discrete jump to "now I can instantly play any position in any key instinctively" suddenly. Each time it becomes fractionally easier, but because I can't invest that much dedicated time, those improvements are almost imperceptible. If you mix together different topics, as "learning to play guitar" is a vast and ultimately limitless pursuit, the effect becomes even worse. If the next few times, instead of practising scales, I practise rhythms, chord building or transcribing, by the time I return to practising scales, I'm really only managing to stop myself from getting worse, and not making a step forward. And that's in a good week where I manage about 2 hours of practice total.

What also doesn't help is switching topics frequently. It's not as bad as trying to multitask during a working day, changing focus every 10 minutes, if there's almost 24 hours between each session of playing guitar, but hopefully having the consistency will help, and thoughts from last time will still be relatively fresh.

A realistic target is probably about 6 hours in total in the week, with the hope of getting more when the chance arises. That's about an hour a day, plus a mental "cheat day", where I don't have to play guitar and I can try and clear any admin tasks that have appeared during the week, and avoid me getting anxious if too much of it piles up over a whole month.

Within the cosmos of "learning to play the guitar", to try and see visible progress I'm going to focus on transcribing songs. One advantage of any guitar practise is that you're always practising more than one thing - listening, intervals, rhythm, scales, fingering technique - you can't really separate them, but with transcribing I should have a concrete set of transcriptions at the end, and not just a check list of routines completed.

The only thing his endeavour needs is a catchy name, but I couldn't think of one, so I'm calling it "Strumtember" instead. Alternatives could be "Plucktober" or "Notevember", but they sound even worse. Whatever month it is, wish me luck.