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By Jason Wilford

How do you keep up momentum with your guitar playing while going through big life changes? It’s a great question. Big changes in your life can cause a lot of worry and stress, as well as the frustration and anxiety of how to keep up with your guitar playing. Whether you’re playing for fun, doing the occasional gig, trying to make it as a solo artist, or in a band, this is a great topic to think about because inevitably you’re going to be faced with one or more big changes at one point or another in your life.

So what are big life changes? There are a few that come to mind, but I’m sure that you can add to this list as well. Having a baby, moving to a new house, getting a new job (or losing a job), getting married, the death of a loved one – every one of these things has the ability to throw your life upside down, even if just temporarily. When things get busy and stressful, we tend to want to make things as simple as possible for ourselves, which can mean cutting things out of our lives in an effort to make things easy. The idea of getting rid of a commitment sounds nice in theory – it’s one less thing to worry about! This might mean deciding to cut out the guitar, usually as a temporary solution. But it’s a terrible feeling when the moment comes and you realize you are no longer are able to play what you used to be able to play on the guitar. 

In my years teaching I’ve come across many people who gave up guitar at some point in their life due to a big life change, but regretted it for years since they gave up something they loved so much. Common stories I’ve heard are quitting the guitar due to having a family, getting busy with work and life, moving to a different city, and more. I’m always very happy to see someone get back into playing the guitar after many years away from it, but wouldn’t it be great to continue to play the guitar at the same time as those other big life changes?

Many of these big life changes are just temporary shifts in your life that eventually balance out and allow you to get back to doing what you enjoy doing best. In the meantime, you may have to adjust and be creative with some solutions that allow you to adapt to your new (temporary) situation. I like to consider these as busy periods – we all have them, and learning how to work through them is just as important when learning an instrument as learning the instrument itself (after all, what good is all that effort if you end up losing your skills through lack of practice?). I often see students feeling helpless when they encounter these times, but it’s great to see the look on their face when everything eases up and things have balanced out for them. I’ve been told by many students that they’re happy they pushed through during busy periods and kept things moving, even when the natural instinct was to stop playing the guitar altogether. 

Here are some of my top tips to help you work through these busy periods in your life so that you can continue moving forward with your guitar playing goals. 

Don’t Let Yourself Get Frustrated, and Don’t Beat Yourself Up. Focus on just doing what you can right now and don’t let your expectations get in the way. If you usually practice for an hour a night, you might have to resign yourself to the fact that temporarily this will have to decrease. Focus on making the best use of the time you have available, and make sure you’re prioritizing what’s important when it comes to practice. Everyone goes through these busy periods, so you’re not alone!

Create Time For Yourself.  You might find that the best way to keep up your guitar playing is to create time in your schedule for it. This might mean getting up a bit early to practice in the morning, or fitting in a few minutes here and there throughout the day to practice when you can. If you work from home, can you practice as a short break to help refresh your mind? Can you use the guitar as a way to unwind just before you go to sleep? If you pencil it into your schedule you’ll be much more likely to make it happen, especially if you are really busy. Don’t feel bad about fitting in a number of short practice sessions (even if it’s just 5 minutes). These go a lot further than you may think!

Remember That This Is Only Temporary. The goal is to keep playing guitar, even if it means practicing less than you’d like to right now. Keep working towards the point in time where things will balance out for you (because they will). Even if you end up only practicing or playing one time a week (at your guitar lesson, for example), its much better than not practicing at all, so don’t give up! Any amount of practice is better than none, and this is what is connecting you to your instrument right now.

Make Adjustments For Your New Situation. Be creative and think of ways to continue practicing and playing guitar during your busy period. For example, if you have a new baby it might mean you have to practice your electric guitar unplugged and play very softly. If you just moved to a new house, it might mean that you don’t have a practice space set up and you need to be creative with where you set up. If you have young kids, can you learn songs that they would like to hear and be a part of? Make the best use of the cards you have and be consistent with the effort to push through!

Celebrate Even Small Gains. Incremental progress is a fact of learning to play an instrument, so keep that in mind here. Try your best to pick your instrument up as much as you can and focus on small goals that can keep you motivated. Even if you feel like you’re just maintaining your skills, it’s better than moving backwards, so keep practicing and do the best that you can!

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Super Simple. Keep your practice sessions simple and focused when you’re busy so that your effort doesn’t get wasted. Sometimes this might mean just focusing on one thing each time you pick up the guitar. These days it’s really easy to feel bogged down with the amount of content that’s available out there, so be aware of this and make sure you’re thoughtful with what you spend your time on. 

And to me, the biggest and most important: 

Continue Practicing and Playing The Guitar, Even If It’s Minimal.  I guarantee you won’t regret the decision to continue playing the guitar (even if it means a lot less practice in the short term), but you will definitely regret it if you stop playing altogether. Remember why you started to play the guitar in the first place — this is a good reminder of why it’s important to keep it in your life. And don’t forget: You can do it if you put your mind to it!