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  • Writer's pictureCam Bird

The Dip - The Secret to Breaking Through Barriers and Playing Guitar for Life.

Blog - The Dip - The Secret to Breaking Through Barriers and Playing Guitar for Life. I must admit I do feel incredibly lucky to be able to write this article. It makes me reflect on a 20+ year journey of playing guitar and now teaching professionally there’s a concept I explore with my students to ensure they break through their barriers and blocks with the guitar to make the guitar a part of their life long term.

Now this article is equally important for a beginner, as much as an intermediate or advanced guitarist. I want to introduce a concept by a guy named Seth Godin called “The Dip”. Funnily enough this book is about knowing when to quit…..geez Cam what a morbid topic, I came here wanting to get motivated and inspired with the guitar…..well stick with me here because if you master this, you’ll play for life. “The Dip” talks about the effect of a natural high and buzz occurring when you’re learning or committing to something new. I see this all the time with beginners, I even see it with later stage players when they seek a teacher out or initially commit to learning a new technique. This stage is awesome, there’s a natural buzz, you’re fired up naturally, all that dopamine means you will put in the effort and go for hours on end….but what happens when that “high” wears off?

Here’s the reality….it does wear off. That sugar kick of motivation to play isn’t there as much, the buzz you get from learning a riff disappears as you learn more and the perception of your progress actually slowing down kicks in, even though you aren’t slowing down, you’re probably actually learning more riffs, songs, techniques than ever, its just that it doesn’t FEEL like it.

This is the dip. Picture a rollercoaster….at the start of the journey you’re climbing up to that high point, its exciting, its exhilarating, there’s so much going on its AWESOME. Then you get shot down into the lowest part of the curve where things are hard suddenly, it feels like your stagnant or stuck or still.

This is make or break for so many guitarists and I’ve seen it happen so many times in my 20+ years of playing. I watch people enter into the dip, and because that initial excitement has worn off, that instant gratification is gone and they actually start facing their first real challenges on the guitar that require patience, resilience, commitment and discipline (all the fun stuff!!!), they give up.

Here’s the problem, if you quit in the dip, you’ll have an on and off relationship with the guitar. You failed to get through the dip and the challenges correctly and it means that there will be some emotional stuff in there sitting, lingering, waiting….and you have to wait until you build up enough of the positive motivation, momentum, inspiration or yearning, to pick up the guitar again. Then you go through the same cycle again….. but you’re going to hit the dip again….

This is my definition of being stuck as a guitarist. I see it with people who learn for a little while, then they put the guitar down and away out of frustration from the dip and not being emotionally or mentally prepared for it. They put the guitar away for weeks, months, sometimes years, to come back and have to undo a lot of the guilt and frustration from putting the guitar down, knowing they denied themselves something they actually truly wanted, they just didn’t know how to navigate the dip correctly.

So, this is something I am hyper vigilant of with my students, particularly my beginners. In the guitar journey you will go through the dip. The excitement, the love, the HIGH will wear off and then its about how you navigate your journey as a guitarist to ensure it sticks and it sticks for the right reasons.

So how do we do this:

  1. Commitment. Commit to the guitar. Commit to its challenges, commit to the bad days, good days, and everything in between. You’ll experience it all and this is the beauty of the journey.

  2. Set goals. Be clear on what you want. Set goals for yourself and your own playing. They will keep you focused and pull you through challenges, set backs and frustrations.

  3. Support. Find a supportive environment. Make sure your home is set up to have a space for music, make sure the people around you understand your passion, goals and desires with music and that its important to you. This is why I have a private group community for my students to interact, encourage and support each other.

  4. Invest in yourself. Finding a teacher who understands this side of guitar playing is important. Not just some grad out of music school who knows theory or technique. You need someone who understands psychology, motivation, and has incredible people skills and can help get the best out of you.

  5. Structure. Develop a structured practice routine. Commit to daily practice for at least 30 mins a day. Work on all areas of your musicianship and your instrument in accordance with your goals.

  6. Be prepared for the dip. Its going to happen. The musical journey isn’t all roses, but delayed gratification is an amazing thing and will make it all worth while.

Enjoy the dip! Enjoy the journey and keep the head up :)

Cam Bird is a Recording Artist, Producer, Composer and Guitar Instructor from Melbourne Australia.

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