The term “burnout” is typically associated with being over worked over a long period of time in a workplace environment. However, being overworked and experiencing burnout can just as easily be translated into other areas of our lives, including playing guitar! Whenever you excessively focus on whatever it is you’re working on, it is easy to get locked in tunnel vision and forget that being in the proper physical and mental state is crucial to making massive gains on the instrument.
The key to overcoming burnout is to first recognize when it is happening. Imagine each practice session graphically in terms of productivity over time. When you start your practice session, you might still be finding your bearings and getting blood to flow to the right parts of your hands and syncing up your fretting with your picking hand. The next phase is usually when your productivity starts to increase rapidly. This is the time to push yourself and work on stuff you wish to achieve but cannot pull off just yet. If you’re working on technique, over time your playing starts to feel more effortless, motions are tight and efficient, you are using just the right amount of pressure and you’re relaxed while practicing. This is good. It means that you warmed up the right way and are now having a productive practice session. You might feel as if you can just keep pushing yourself to new limits and be able to handle it mentally and physically. However, as you continue to push towards new limits, either in terms of speed or endurance, there will come a point where you feel as if everything is falling apart. You are unable to focus on the subtleties of your playing, your hands start to get out of sync and playing starts to feel and sound sloppy. This is an indication that you are starting to experience burnout! It is difficult to gauge how soon this might occur during your practice session. Note that depending on how long you’ve been playing guitar and having a consistent practice routine and what you’re working on, burnout can occur at different instances during your practice session, either early into or it or later.
When this starts to happen, stop playing! It is important to end your practice session on a high, rather than pushing yourself to the point of burnout and getting demotivated as your playing feels as if it’s falling apart (as hard as it is to put down your axe). This puts you in an overall better mood after practicing and motivated towards your next practice session. Reflect on how the session went and make notes for you to address in your next session. The more you do this, the more you condition yourself towards knowing what it feels like to be in that state of synchronicity or “the zone”. This will increase the overall consistency of your playing and ensure you don’t dial in wrong and inefficient muscle memory.
If you absolutely have to continue playing, (like most of us), take a longer break than your usual breaks within your practice session. Go for a walk, stretch or do something that has nothing to do with guitar for a few minutes. When you return, work on something different, preferably not technique related. Experimenting with new ideas, fretboard visualisation and improv are all good areas to resume your practice session to.
Remember, shorter and more frequent chunks of quality practice are far more beneficial than inefficient larger chunks of practice which are spread less frequent. The goal here is to program proper motions. Implement these ideas into your routine and you will soon notice more rapid progress!!!
Learning to play guitar on your own can be frustrating and challenging, especially if you don’t know what to do. Having a great teacher makes the whole process more fun, enjoyable and gets you real results fast.