There are numerous reasons one might have to resort to mostly self-study - lack of good teachers in the vicinity, lack of good players to interact with face to face, lack of time/money to attend classes etc. Provided one can come up with a workable self study plan, it is not easy to maintain the levels of motivation needed to reach high levels of expertise through every single practice session. How do you keep yourself motivated? Your answer will help if you're in this or a similar situation, but answers on general motivational techniques for musicians are also welcome.

I cannot add tags yet (would have added self-study, motivation if I could), so have opted for learning.

  • Some people also just prefer self-study. Even in college I have always prefered reading books to listening to lectures. Exploring additional areas of personnal interest within a subject rather than strictly following something imposed on me. I have found it has been the same when learning guitar. I tried several teachers but just didn't like it.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Mar 4, 2011 at 19:55
  • I don't think this needs a motivation tag or similar - this should cover most of what is on-topic here, we don't need an entire category.
    – user28
    Commented May 28, 2011 at 22:57

4 Answers 4


I make sure, that at least 50% of my practice time I learn something new.

When there is nobody to control your practice routines and give you "homework" it is very easy to fall down to playing the same things you already know over and over again. This leads to the lack of any progress and, as a result, to the lack of motivation. When you are making yourself learn something new all the time, you see very good progress and it motivates you to go on. "Something new" can be new songs, styles, theory, anything. The only thing that matters - moving forward.


Discipline is very important and often ignored. Lots of beginners just want to have fun (you never here a veteran player saying they're bored!). In programming we say something like 'effortful learning'. Doing concentrated study sessions is critical. If you find yourself just watching TV and noodling about most often, you'll probably get bored and stagnate. The truth is if you put in the time and effort, you have 5 times the fun. My recipe is this:

1.) Pick a style and dig deep. Guitar/music is a huge landscape. You can't play all styles. Want to be a shredder? A Jazzer? A crazy-fast chicken-picker? JUST focus on that for 1-2 years. It will apply to everything.

2.) Set goals. I learn at least 1-2 new tunes a week. Have set practice times and set a minimum time block for how long you practice. 1 hour a day is a fair minimum.

3.) Think! Always think about what you're doing and why. Simple, but often ignored. What are the tones in your chord? Can you find those notes anywhere on the neck? How do you transition between two chords?

4.) Play along with recordings. Over and over. This is the best way for me to get new ideas. Plus, it's super fun to play with the greats.

5.) Have a 'kit' for your craft. I use a set of tools that works for me. Don't do this once and leave. Continual process improvement is the name of the game.


I found playing with other musicians to be very motivational.

I get together with a mate of mine who plays drums, and I always come away really motivated to learn and get better, so that next time we jam, i have something new to bring.

  • Yes, totally, I'm a drummer, and my main motivation was playing in a band so I could apply what I learned.
    – Petruza
    Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 17:48

I create a lot of "my own" riffs and just jam out with a drum-beat a few times a week and focus on having fun, as opposed to learning. I find this spikes my interest in applying myself later, since I want to integrate some cooler stuff into my next jam.

Also, I find it very important to seek new inspirations from musicians I haven't listened to yet. For instance, I began to listen to, and apply, things I heard played by Jack White a few months ago and it drastically impacted my mind-space around how I approach my guitar rhythm.

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