The dip diagram

Has Your Guitar Playing Hit A Roadblock? You’re Probably In ‘The Dip’

If you’ve been playing guitar for a few months or even years you may be stuck in a rut where no matter how much effort you put in, you just don’t seem to be making any progress.

Maybe your chord changes still aren’t smooth…

Maybe you struggle to play a certain technique and can’t nail that solo you’ve been working on for months now…

Maybe you’ve learned hundreds of licks, dozens of solos and all of your theory but can’t connect the dots and improvise with confidence…

whether you face these or one of countless problems and roadblocks which are leading to you feeling like quitting the guitar, then consider yourself lucky that you’ve found this article.

Today we’ll be talking about something called The Dip.

Too many guitarists quit at the first sign of adversity and lack the discipline and determination needed to push through to the point where the real results come. Hopefully after reading this article you won’t be one of these quitters who give up way too soon without every giving themselves the proper amount of time needed to play guitar. 

Instead you’ll be one of the lucky ones who knows that the dip is coming, that the dip can be overcome, and that the best rewards for your effort are to be found immediately after experiencing The Dip.

So What Is The Dip?

The dip is the point when guitar feels the hardest. Where you don’t feel like you’re making any progress and the initial experience of joy and excitement you felt when first starting the instrument has well worn off and been replaced with frustration and feeling like you want to quit.
The Dip is basically the point where you are most likely to give up because things are the hardest they’ve ever been, which occurs right before you have a breakthrough and finally start getting the hang of it.
It’s been called many things, the breakthrough point, the point at which it clicks, the bump, or the threshold, but if you can push through The Dip you are set up for your guitar playing to skyrocket.
When we first start playing guitar, we are able to make massive gains in our knowledge and giant leaps in our skill level because we’re starting from zero. We get a big reward for a little bit of effort, and massive rewards for lots of effort.
After a certain point however we experience something called the law of diminished returns where the rewards we get don’t appear to match the effort that we put in.
This is a very frustrating point for guitarists as no matter how hard we work, we don’t see our progress, and if we weren’t putting in much or any effort, our progress can stall or even go backwards.
It’s at this point that our motivation reaches an all time low and the fun we had playing guitar turns to frustration.
This is the point where you are most likely to quit.
This is also the worst time to quit
Eventually, you will push past the dip, and the rewards for your time and effort will again look more proportionate. The biggest results are gained after continuing to exert effort during a period of little or no return.
Guitar Lesson Diagram
Almost every guitar player experiences the dip at one point or another, and it occurs at different times for everybody.
Some people experience their dip in the first 3 months, others at some point later in the first year. Some people even take as long as 2-3 years before they hit the wall.
No matter when your dip is coming, the important thing is to realise that as long as you push through it you WILL have a breakthrough and your progress will skyrocket afterwards.
Every great guitarists has faced their dip and pushed through, that’s what allowed them to become great
And you can too.
As long as you stick with it, keep your eyes on your long term gutiar goals and continue to push through the dip.

Things You Can Do To Push Through The Dip

  • Focussing on working towards your long term goals
  • Get Guitar Lessons from a Great Guitar Teacher
  • Communicate to your teacher that you’re stuck, feeling frustrated and in need of help.
  • Being aware of the dip and what comes after it.
  • Watching videos of your playing from earlier on to see how much you’ve developed.
  • Asking other experienced players about their dips and how they got through them.
The other thing worth mentioning is that over the course of your guitar playing journey you are going to experience many dips. These micro-dips aren’t always as big of a roadblock as the first one, but are frustrating nonetheless, especially when they catch you off guard and you forget that dips are perfectly natural and are going to happen to you no matter what.
Experienced players are able to recognise when they are in a micro-dip and keep practicing despite a lack of apparent breakthroughs. They understand it’s just part of learning how to play guitar (or learning anything for that matter) and keep on persevering until their breakthrough moment eventually comes.

The Dip Is The Point Where Most People Quit Right Before Obtaining The Breakthrough That Would Otherwise Have Made Them An Expert

No-one is immune to dips in their playing and even the pros can be caught off guard. It’s how you are able to identify when you’re in a dip and push through that determines whether you will continue on the path to greatness. I want to take a moment to share with you my own dip and how it effected me for years.

I remember being at University learning jazz guitar and really struggling for the whole time I was there.

I practiced guitar 4-6 hours most days and still couldn’t improvise or play jazz to a standard I thought was good (this was also confirmed by the examiners because I was scraping by with P’s for my jazz improvisation and guitar exams).

It wasn’t that I didn’t put in the time or effort, because I practiced my ass off, it just seemed that nothing came out.

I graduated from uni and promptly proceeded to avoid playing and practicing jazz for almost 6 years before I came back to it.

But when I came back to it, I had all these amazing technical skills, and I had learned my fretboard a lot better, and I understood the theory concepts and how they related much better.

And without having played jazz for around 6 years I started working through some of my exam pieces and played them better than I ever did when I was working on them for hours and hours daily.

Now as excited as I was that jazz improvisation had just clicked for me, I was also really pissed…

Pissed that I had wasted 6 years of progress in my jazz guitar playing simply because I avoided working on it that entire time.

Had I just pushed with it for a few more months, or even a year, I would have had the same breakthrough and pushed beyond that even further.

I can only imagine how shitty it feels being someone who gave up guitar altogether right before overcoming their own dip simply to live a life of regret not know how wonderful life is when you can play guitar or have some other creative outlet.

Learn from my fail, and push through your dip!

This Too Shall Pass

So if you are currently finding yourself in a dip and are questioning whether to keep going or quit guitar altogether, just remember that it won’t last forever, and that you might literally be only a few days or weeks from a major breakthrough.
As long as you never stop playing, never stop taking lessons, and keep persevering through the challenging phase, it will only be a matter of time before you push through your dips and ride next up-cycle in your guitar playing progress. Don’t be one of the people who gives up at the worst possible time and then spends a lifetime wishing they had of stuck with it.

Remember, this too shall pass, and whatever frustrations and doubts you’re having right now will be but a distant memory a decade from now when you have the epic guitar skills you can only dream of having right now.

Michael Gumley is a guitar teacher from Melbourne, Australia. He is the founder of Melbourne Guitar Academy, Guitar Ninjas and Guitar Dojo Online and has the personal mission of raising the standard of guitar education worldwide.

If you’re finding yourself stuck in the dip and need help breaking through then look no further than Online Guitar Lessons with Michael so that he can help you overcome whatever obstacles are currently holding you back.

Visit the Melbourne Guitar Academy homepage to book a FREE trial lesson with Michael or a member for the MGA team either in person or via zoom.

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