Learning difficulty

vifer

Member
Messages
21
Hi. I have a problem over the last ten years where I can simply cannot concentrate enough to learn a lick or two consecutive bars.
I have short attention span and that has hindered me progressing to any sort of proficiant level.
I know open chords, basic rythmn and not much else. I've tried learning off youtube and guitar pro but after about 5 minutes i hit a brick wall when attention stops.

This only happens with learning guitar. I read technical articles and documents all the time. I can sit and read a journal or periodical from cover to cover in one sitting.
So I'm not sure whether It may be a matter of not obtaining gratification quick enough to keep me focused or something else.
Am I doing something wrong?

I love guitar - I love music. I have the will, I just cannot find the way.

Is anyone suffering or has anyone suffered from something similar ?
How did you overcome this ?
 

kidmo

Senior Member
Messages
1,150
Do you know theory? I have that problem but I think it's because I realize I'm just memorizing licks, not really knowing what I am doing. In the process now of learning scales and progressions. It's important to learn something and put it in practice quickly doing songs you really like. Not just some dry scales running up and down the fret board.
 

jeffmatz

Member
Messages
325
Have you tried learning guitar concepts away from the guitar and returning to the instrument later on to try them out?
 

ZeyerGTR

Member
Messages
3,936
Start small! When I was learning to sight read I actually timed myself to see how long I focused on the work before my fingers just started noodling. It was embarrassing and a little shocking how quickly my mind (or fingers) wandered off-track. Don't expect to go from 30 seconds to 30 minutes overnight. You might want to make the focus your goal rather than the lesson itself. Just keep getting a little better and over time you'll see the results.

Make sure whatever you're trying to learn is reasonable for you as well, especially while you're training yourself to focus. I'm more likely to wander off track if it starts to feel like I'm beating my head against the wall. Also, make sure you're setting yourself up for success - no cell phone in your pocket, no email beeping at you, no web browser running, no anything except what you're working on.

This only happens with learning guitar. I read technical articles and documents all the time
I think this bodes well for you - you just have to train yourself to focus w/ guitar.
 

Ihsen

Member
Messages
4
If you can get a teacher, do that. It's easier to motivate yourself with clear goals and a regular schedule, and a teacher can really help you with those.

What worked for me as well was find out the optimal way to study. I've noticed that starting with a piece of theory then finding applications in songs, learning solos that feature that particular piece and learning how it sounds was the way to go.

Of course, I'm a huge nerd, so this might not work for you. I know some people who start out with a bunch of songs and then start delving further into them to understand what they're doing. Either way, it's all about trying approaches and figuring out what works best. This is also easier with a teacher.

TL;DR: Get a good teacher.
 

JonnyQ

Member
Messages
2,030
As generalized as this may sound, perhaps you are trying to learn things that are beyond your present technique level and/or your understanding of theory. And so, you are trying to process too much information. If that's the case, try learning longer pieces (riffs, progressions, etc.) that are easier for you to play and comprehend in real time.

There are too many variables to know what barriers prevent your attention from being where you'd hope it to be in regards to music. Make sure you play/practice in an environment that allows you to hear, see and think about music devoid of outside distractions. Relax. Focus. Good luck.
 

Pitar

Member
Messages
1,858
I think people complicate simple things and do it often enough to convince themselves they have to build watches to get by in life. Or, in this case, play guitar.

Learning guitar is a very simple process. Look at the thing. It's finite. Nothing is left to guess. Six strings stretched across a length of wood divided into tones bars conventionally dubbed frets.

Onto these frets are certain finger placements for making sounds across the strings called chords. Chords have not changed for centuries. That's because they're as simple as they need to be for hands to adapt to.

Making the chord shapes is a motor skill. Switching from one to another is also a motor skill. Playing them each correctly is a combination of motor and ear skill (training). Playing them together to create a melody is also a combination of motor and ear skills (training).

None of that needs to be precipitated by even a mention of theory. When you start thinking theory will help you've lost the simple concept behind playing the instrument. If you haven't lost that concept yet you still can't develop the motor and ear skills you have something you're letting distract you from it. It's your math problem. Not all people are cut out to be math students.

It could be you're just not cut out to play the guitar.
 

vifer

Member
Messages
21
Don't expect to go from 30 seconds to 30 minutes overnight. You might want to make the focus your goal rather than the lesson itself. Just keep getting a little better and over time you'll see the results.
Good point. I think I need to focus on focusing first before I tackle the stuff I want to learn. I need to break down that barrier.

As generalized as this may sound, perhaps you are trying to learn things that are beyond your present technique level and/or your understanding of theory. And so, you are trying to process too much information. If that's the case, try learning longer pieces (riffs, progressions, etc.) that are easier for you to play and comprehend in real time.
Spot on. At times i think im biting off more than I can chew. In an attempt to sound melodic I skip notes - and it falls to pieces. I get frustrated and aggravation sets in causing me to fall into this cycle.


Making the chord shapes is a motor skill. Switching from one to another is also a motor skill. Playing them each correctly is a combination of motor and ear skill (training). Playing them together to create a melody is also a combination of motor and ear skills (training).
I dont think I have a physical impairment. More psychological at this stage.
Need to find a method that works for me. Theory is interesting but I willl not get the much needed gratification to fuel my interest unless I put it to practise very quickly.

I'm probably impatient and have been accustomed to learning new concepts by reading it once or twice at the most. I'm a very quick learner ad hence this is my biggest downfall in learning a creative art like guitar.

I probably need to motorize things more by playing them over and over and building up the memory muscle rather than over analyzing what my fingers are doing.

Swimmers have the ability to slow down their heart rate when called for. I think I need to do something similar with my mind. :)

It could be you're just not cut out to play the guitar.
I'm a pretty stubborn person and hence why I posted this even though I feel a little embarrassed. I'm not ready to give up guitar just yet.
But this could be a sad possibility I'll have to face.
 

GLB98

Member
Messages
395
Read this and practice it.
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe1-4.html
It might help your life in many ways.

FWIW I have experience with what you are talking about. I am one of the most focused people I know in most aspects of my life, the last person you would think of as having ADD. But after about 2 lessons with a singing teacher (my singing/voice skills were unimaginably bad) she asked me if I had ADD. I was like 'wha....'. But I realized that there was something to her observation. I have been able to be quite successful in life with all manner of technical, crafty, sporty things. But I realized that they only demanded concentration on a time scale of seconds. Within a 10 second period, I could spare some thought cycles on the old inner monologue, and still be a hell of a programmer or archery shot or woodworker or whatever.

But I realized that music requires concentration on a much finer (fractions of a second) and more continuous basis. I'm very much working on achieving that, and it's a big challenge.

Try 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation as per that link (and realize that you can approach it purely as an exercise with zero 'mystical' overtones) and you'll quickly see what a chaotic thing your mind is, and you can begin to practice reigning it in.
 

vifer

Member
Messages
21
What kind of stuff are you trying to learn?
Classic Led Zepplin songs like immigrant, tangerine, bring it home and custard pie.


Read this and practice it.
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe1-4.html
It might help your life in many ways.

FWIW I have experience with what you are talking about. I am one of the most focused people I know in most aspects of my life, the last person you would think of as having ADD. But after about 2 lessons with a singing teacher (my singing/voice skills were unimaginably bad) she asked me if I had ADD. I was like 'wha....'. But I realized that there was something to her observation. I have been able to be quite successful in life with all manner of technical, crafty, sporty things. But I realized that they only demanded concentration on a time scale of seconds. Within a 10 second period, I could spare some thought cycles on the old inner monologue, and still be a hell of a programmer or archery shot or woodworker or whatever.

But I realized that music requires concentration on a much finer (fractions of a second) and more continuous basis. I'm very much working on achieving that, and it's a big challenge.

Try 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation as per that link (and realize that you can approach it purely as an exercise with zero 'mystical' overtones) and you'll quickly see what a chaotic thing your mind is, and you can begin to practice reigning it in.
Exactly. My mind also works seems to work that way. I'm also a programmer by profession and things like learning new languages or debugging someone's code - comes naturally to me. My inputs are my visuals and can process things i find, at a fast rate. I process things in burst intervals. And if I dont get enough stimulus from the first 2 minutes - my attention wanes.

thanks for the link. I think meditation will prove useful at least to reset and slow things down a bit. :)
 

JonnyQ

Member
Messages
2,030
I think people complicate simple things and do it often enough to convince themselves they have to build watches to get by in life. Or, in this case, play guitar. Learning guitar is a very simple process. Look at the thing. It's finite. Nothing is left to guess. Six strings stretched across a length of wood divided into tones bars conventionally dubbed frets. Onto these frets are certain finger placements for making sounds across the strings called chords. Chords have not changed for centuries. That's because they're as simple as they need to be for hands to adapt to. Making the chord shapes is a motor skill. Switching from one to another is also a motor skill. Playing them each correctly is a combination of motor and ear skill (training). Playing them together to create a melody is also a combination of motor and ear skills (training). None of that needs to be precipitated by even a mention of theory. When you start thinking theory will help you've lost the simple concept behind playing the instrument. If you haven't lost that concept yet you still can't develop the motor and ear skills you have something you're letting distract you from it. It's your math problem. Not all people are cut out to be math students. It could be you're just not cut out to play the guitar.
Nothing personal, but I cannot find as many places to agree with your post than disagree with it.

Playing music on any instrument (especially a guitar( is NOT functionally finite by most reasonable measures. Those who make this literal "finite" argument often count strings and frets and then point out the interrelated number of available notes. If one were to buy into this, the mathematics alone would reveal the weakness of the argument--just start examining the combinations. Add rhythm, melodic and harmonic variations and the possibilities are "functionally infinite."

In addition, predominantly calling playing a guitar a motor skill is simplistic and reductive. Again, one's sense of rhythm, melody, harmony (not to mention tone, touch, dynamics and other expressive qualities) goes far beyond hand-eye coordination. Hearing, thinking, feeling may not be quantifiable but these functions involve the development of skills that move mechanics into the realm of artistry.

Finally, learning about theory (which at its most base level involves knowing the notes one is playing) liberates artistry, it does not suppress it. For example, knowing the key a song is in (and its implications and variations) helps one learn a song by organizing possibilities--in simple terms, "right" and "wrong" notes are given a context.

Theory whether one consciously knows it or not is truly a system that provides the design architecture upon which sound tones that become "music" are placed.
 

hobbyplayer

Member
Messages
1,525
It may be a matter of not obtaining gratification quick enough to keep me focused or something else.
Theory is interesting but I willl not get the much needed gratification to fuel my interest unless I put it to practise very quickly.
And if I dont get enough stimulus from the first 2 minutes - my attention wanes.
Guitar--particularly at the beginning--is all about delayed gratification.

It's not like a video game that is designed to let the average person play immediately. It's not like a technical manual that gives you useful information as soon as you start to read it.

It requires the incremental accumulation of skills, and this takes time and a certain tolerance for tedium in pursuit of a goal. You could have a Ph.D. in music theory, but if you had never picked up a guitar you still wouldn't be able to play Zep because you wouldn't have the necessary skills. Unless and until you are willing to do the drudge work and put in the miles, you're not going to get anywhere

FWIW, I think most beginners quit because they go in with unrealistic expectations of how much time and effort will be required to play their favorite songs, and when those expectations are not met they give up in frustration.

If the extent of your skills really is "open chords, basic rythmn[sic] and not much else," then I respectfully submit that trying to play classic Zep is probably premature and likely a recipe for frustration--after all, Jimmy Page didn't write (or steal :phones) a lot of beginner guitar songs.

It would probably better serve you to learn some simpler songs and acquire a broader skill set before attempting the others. This might alleviate some of the frustration you are feeling and consequently improve your ability to focus.

JMHO
 
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vifer

Member
Messages
21
This strikes me as not having enough patience and the delayed gratification factor.

It's quite bizzare that people i know that play instruments (including guitar) in my immediate and outer circle of friends are also very patient people. They can wait hours long in queues and they all love patient sports such as fishing.

Me otoh w.r.t to fishing - if it aint biting within 3 minutes - I pack up and go.
Maybe im not smoking what they're smoking. ;p
 
Messages
536
I had trouble learning pieces too. The breakthrough came for me when I stopped trying and just improvised over stuff on the radio or TV. I still can't learn other people's stuff but I can play over almost anything. I enjoy this a lot more.
 

vifer

Member
Messages
21
I had trouble learning pieces too. The breakthrough came for me when I stopped trying and just improvised over stuff on the radio or TV. I still can't learn other people's stuff but I can play over almost anything. I enjoy this a lot more.
how do you go about doing this?

do you just hold your guitar in front of the TV and wait for a commercial jingle to come along? Or do you keep flicking channels until you find an ad playing? do you record the tv and play back?
 

kimock

Member
Messages
12,520
Hi. I have a problem over the last ten years where I can simply cannot concentrate enough to learn a lick or two consecutive bars.
That's what we call a rut.
I have short attention span and that has hindered me progressing to any sort of proficiant level.
That's one theory.
So I'm not sure whether It may be a matter of not obtaining gratification quick enough to keep me focused or something else.
That's the nature of being in a rut, it's a non-gratifying lack of progress.
You do not obtain gratification from that state.

Am I doing something wrong?
Yeah, you've mis-diagnosed yourself into a corner.
Your problem is you think you have a problem. That's a problem.
I love guitar - I love music. I have the will, I just cannot find the way.
Love is a service done. Get to work.
Is anyone suffering or has anyone suffered from something similar ?
How did you overcome this ?
Everybody gets stuck.
Put your head down and play your way out.
 
Messages
536
how do you go about doing this?

do you just hold your guitar in front of the TV and wait for a commercial jingle to come along? Or do you keep flicking channels until you find an ad playing? do you record the tv and play back?
Play along with the backing music on TV shows, jingles, and best of all I have a music channel. Playing to ads and odd things is very good because of the variety of music, which can be quite unlike rock stuff. I usually just sit with the guitar unplugged.
 

windmill

Member
Messages
526
I have a similiar problem to the OP
I could only count 2 bars before "wandering off" and thinking about other things, the inner monologue as someone referred to it.

What did I do ?

I decided I was going to conquer it, so I have stuck at it.
Keeping it simple and slow, at a speed which I could manage, so I can gauge progress
and get some of that gratification :)

I have improved a bit but importantly I know I have improved.
 






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