A few years ago I took up playing acoustic guitar. Recently, however, I’ve become quite frustrated with my progress. I have got the basic chords and can easily go from one chord to another. The areas I am having trouble with are barre chords and varying my picking so that it’s less predictable. I want to be more creative and flexible with my playing.
Given that I’ve been playing for nearly five years now, I certainly feel I should be showing more signs of progress.
As the old adage goes, ‘practice makes perfect’. There is clearly a lot of truth in this statement, but when it comes to me and learning the guitar it has felt as though practice doesn’t always make a vaguely coherent, let alone perfect, sound. I’ve been trying to vary things up and pluck away at those areas which I struggle in, but I can’t see too much progress.
I’ve hit the proverbial brick wall, and the temptation is to succumb to defeat and give up playing altogether.
Before this thought settled, I recalled an evening many years back at a university social evening I attended as part of my Bible College course. There was a lady there with her guitar and I remember sitting with her briefly attempting to co-ordinate my fingers so that something resembling the C and G chords would sound. It was a struggle.
And then there were the many occasions where I would pick up my friends’ guitars and play it like I would a bass guitar, using the top four strings only. Sure, playing bass can help when learning to play the guitar, but there is far more you can do on a guitar than you can on a bass, and for me on these occasions playing anything other than a few bass riffs was as far I was willing to go.
These recollections encouraged me because I could suddenly see just how much progress I have already made. Back then, playing even the most basic chord was a mountain for me, and so to be in a place now where those mountains have been climbed and I can comfortably string a few chords together (and even play a song!) gives me hope that I can climb the mountain that confronts me now.
In some respects, I can’t help but relate this to many other aspects of life. Character formation. Developing skills. Gaining knowledge. Career progression. Overcoming struggles. Living through suffering. Resisting temptation. Gaining perspective. Building relationships. Setting the right priorities. Growing in my faith. And much more.
Often the progress we make in these areas goes unnoticed, which can cause us to become discouraged. Yet as I think about this in light of my experience learning to play guitar, sometimes it’s only when we sit back and reflect on where we once were that we begin to realise the minutes spent plucking away at a couple of chords, amidst the humdrum of our daily lives, were not as insignificant as they first seemed, for each one helped lead to the song that we can now play today.
And what is more, the song that is played today will sound even sweeter tomorrow. Hope brightly shining through.
We just need to keep plucking away.