Stuck in a rut? Sophie Burrell offers her top tips to get your guitar playing back on track

It doesn't matter if you play electric guitar or acoustic, or if you have been playing for six months or six years, at some stage you will find yourself in a rut, with your guitar playing going nowhere.

This is when we find ourself falling back on our tried and tested licks, replaying our favourite riffs ad nauseam, and ultimately learning nothing. 

Falling in a rut is all too easy, but as Sophie Burrell explains, in a new instructional video shot as part of Positive Grid's Ignite Sessions, getting out is kind of easy, too. It just requires a little discipline, maybe a little routine, and some fresh thinking. 

How to make your guitar practice more effective

The first step is recognising that you are in the rut, says Burrell, who cautions us against the familiar trap of noodling instead of practice. 

This might be symptomatic of our time-pressured lifestyles, and when there’s only half-an-hour in a day to play guitar, it might not be so appetising to spend that valuable time on that economy exercise that you’ve been putting off for months. 

“It’s really natural to want to play the things you are already good at because you are going to enjoy playing them, it’s that personal sense of satisfaction,” says Burrell. “You kind of feel accomplished at what you are already playing, but the real progress is when you sound bad. Sounding bad gives you a lot of direction and focus to become better at that thing that you sound bad at, which is going to result in progress.”

Positive Grid Spark Pearl

(Image credit: Positive Grid)

On a similar theme, Burrell is a big advocate of getting out of your comfort zone when it comes to genre, too. 

The old public health campaign that said, ‘You are what you eat’ could be transposed to playing an instrument; the more musical styles you master, the larger your musical vocabulary, and it is amazing how many techniques that are inherent to, say, jazz can be appropriated and used in a rock context. 

“This particular point was a big deal for me,” says Burrell. “I started making way more progress when I went to music college and I was faced with a lot more styles and genres that I hadn’t played before, and it really helped me to progress.”

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Burrell’s tone comes via her PRS Custom 24 and custom presets using Positive Grid’s Bias FX 2 amp and effects modelling software. 

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Of course, once you are out of a rut and find yourself progressing, you can then cut loose and just play, and see where your newfound skills will take you. 

This is the approach viral influencer, session guitarist, and producer Nicholas Veinoglou advocates in his Ignite Session, titled  "Don't Practice, Just Play: Get Better While Having Fun Playing Guitar".

To sign-up for news alerts on when the next Ignite Sessions are released, head over to Positive Grid.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.