How to break out of a guitar rut

How to Break Out of a Guitar Rut

Get out of the Rut

If you focus your practice and playing on a specific style of music or a specific group of techniques, you have to be careful of getting stuck in a rut.

Your goal may be to become a shred master but eventually you will find yourself tiring of practicing scale runs and alternate picking.  It might feel like something is missing and you can lose your drive to continue.

The sheer amount of time required to master certain techniques practically guarantees that you will find yourself in a rut at some point or, worse still, even find yourself getting burned out.

Ruts can easily lead to burnout and burnout of something your passionate about tends to lead to giving up on your goals.  If you’re serious about your goals as a guitarist then it’s critical to prevent this from happening.

Basic Causes of a Guitar Rut include: 

  • lack of progress
  • too little variety in what you are playing/learning
  • forcing yourself to practice things that are too difficult for too long
  • lack of enjoyment in what you are playing/practicing
  • lack of emotional release in what you are playing

To put it simply, in order to ensure you don’t fall into a rut, you need to regularly inject variety and things that are easy and fun to play in your regular playing.

If all of your time on the guitar is practice time, you will eventually find yourself in a rut.

One of my favorite methods to spice things up and ensure I am having fun on the guitar is to experiment with other genres and techniques found in other genres.  I love to try blending elements of genres together.  This seems to open up interesting and more complex avenues of expression and it’s a great way to keep the guitar and your love of playing music fresh.

Guitar styles like Shred Metal and Neo-Classical have an incredible variety of techniques but they are surprisingly homogeneous when compared to techniques found in other genres.  This is most likely because those styles of music excel at very specific aesthetics and expression of a very specific set of feelings.

Wildly different genres seem to focus on very different aesthetics and are effective at expressing very different feelings.  The techniques that emerge in different genres come about as an extension of the style.  You might be amazed at some of the different types of guitar techniques that are out there that you are unfamiliar with.  Some of them are a blast to play and some are surprisingly easy to learn.

From the position of a Neo-Classical guitarist, it’s easy to think of Classical and Neo-Classical as being the main styles of music that focus on guitar virtuosity.  Obviously, this isn’t true.

Two of my favorite styles to play around with are Bluegrass and Gypsy Jazz.  These styles are completely different than one another but both have a keen focus on creative and advanced guitar techniques that each have their own distinct flavor.  They are also incredibly fun and satisfying to play.

The next time you’re feeling like you need a break from working on your shred and sweep techniques, try taking a week to learn some techniques from a completely different style.  Heck, they don’t even have to be advanced techniques.  Pick up some basic Country licks and just have fun with it.  You will be amazed at how it affects your interest in the guitar, your overall technical skill and your improvisation.


Dan Mumm is a Metal Method instructor and shred master.  Check out Dan’s lessons here.