Frustration: Your Friend On The Road To Improvement

Being a bit of an addict to the Internet, I'm constantly talking to other guitar players online; whether it is because they've emailed me for advice, or because of message boards I frequent. One thing I find common to many of these players is the frustration they feel in their development as players.

"I'm frustrated with my speed picking."

"I'm frustrated that I can't do legato like [insert great player here]".

"I'm frustrated with my sight reading".

As callous as this might appear at first, I'm glad. Yes, I'm glad they feel frustrated! In fact, I wouldn't have it any other way! You see, frustration is a vital step to evolving as a player in many cases. It's your craving to reach a new level; your refusal to accept the way things are now; your instincts telling you that you can do better! In my book, that healthy frustration is your friend on the road to improvement. Frustration has led to some of history's greatest achievements, and managed properly it can lead to yours!

Some of my best songs or solos have come just at that breaking point of calling it a day and giving up. When you cross that line, magic can occur that may not have come if you hadn't been forced to dig deep. Frustration can be the border between your comfort zone and your next plateau or breakthrough. Take it head on and perhaps you will surprise yourself.

Think of it as a wall. Those who keep climbing (with the right equipment) will conquer the wall, rewarded for their dedication, only to face a new set of walls (challenges), while those who were complacent, gave up or did not have the right tools get stuck behind the first wall. You can spend your life studying the guitar, and the walls will never stop appearing, but having a rational approach to getting over one puts you in good stead for the rest.

Making Frustration A Healthy Thing

Even Allan Holdsworth gets frustrated, despite the fact that some would kill to have the talent in his little finger alone! My point is that frustration itself will most likely always manifest itself in some areas of your playing if you are honest in your self-assessment, regardless of your ability.

My advice for using frustration in a healthy way is to realize where frustration ends and where the hard work begins. Consider these approaches to frustration:

  1. Use it as an indicator of where work is needed. To give it any more power over you than that is only going to hinder things. Realize that the frustration has a role, and confine it to that role.
  2. Seek out the tools you need. Talk to other players, read up on whatever it is you're having problems with, and make a commitment to work through it.
  3. Don't expect too much too soon. As long as you're trying, you're climbing that wall bit by bit.
  4. Be satisfied with your progress as you reach different stages. Avoid complacency, but give yourself credit where it's due and cut yourself some slack from time to time.
  5. Persevere beyond that point at which it would be easy to quit.

Stay positive when faced with the challenges, and who knows? Perhaps right at that point where you're about to toss your guitar out the window is when the magic will happen.

Happy Climbing. See you on the other side!

Chris Brooks is an amazing Australian guitarist setting the instrumental guitar world on fire with his unique brand of progressive metal and fusion.

His instrumental CD is entitled "The Master Plan".

Chris Brooks