Whether it’s a brand new guitar or a hand-me-down, getting your very first guitar is a very exciting time in your life. As soon as you pick up your new guitar and start to play around with it you’ll want to learn everything–notes, chords, scales, and slides–as fast as you can. In your excitement to learn everything you can, many beginner guitarists encounter potential roadblocks that, if not addressed quickly, can hinder your development. Regardless of your skill level, it’s important to evaluate your playing style from time to time, as bad habits that are ignored for too long can become very difficult to break. From neglecting to tune your guitar before every practice session to teaching yourself to play guitar, here are a few of the most common mistakes made by new guitar players.
Teaching Yourself to Play
It’s not uncommon for people to try to teach themselves to play the guitar. Although there are plenty of decent players who are self-taught, going it alone is one of the most frustrating, time-consuming, and stressful ways to learn anything and is a mistake you should avoid at all costs. Not only does teaching yourself the guitar set you up for poor form and playing habits, but you won’t learn how to clean your instrument, change the strings, or otherwise take care of it from someone who has “been there, done that.” A guitar teacher is more than just someone who teaches you to play the guitar, they’re your go-to source for everything related to the guitar, your support system, and your mentor.
Neglecting to Tune Before Practice
Many beginners don’t know how to tune their guitar properly, and some don’t even notice when it’s out of tune! There are a couple reasons why a properly tuned guitar is so important: 1) every time you play something your brain is going to remember it and learn to do it again, so if you’re playing with an untuned guitar your brain will learn to remember (and like!) the untuned notes, and 2) playing out of tune and being called out by someone who is playing in tune can lead to self-doubt and frustration with your guitar. For these reasons, always make sure your guitar is in tune before playing. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell when your guitar is out of tune, but until then there’s no harm in checking every time.
Avoiding Barre Chords
Learning barre chords is pretty much essential to progressing at the guitar. It’s also something that most beginners shy away from for as long as possible. Barre chords involve using one finger to hold down multiple strings, making it easier for guitar players to form chords. They are also very hard to learn to play at first, so a lot of beginner guitarists avoid playing songs that require them. If you want to advance at the guitar, you must devote a portion of each practice session to working on them, and make it a point to learn songs that have barre chords in them. They’ll only get easier as your fretting hand gets stronger, and after playing barre chords for a few months you’ll wonder why they were such a big deal in the first place.
Taking Lessons from the Wrong Teacher
Unfortunately, many guitar teachers receive zero training on how to teach the guitar. What’s worse is that many of them do little or nothing to improve their guitar teaching skills once they’re in an established teaching position. For this reason, it’s important to do your research when finding a guitar teacher. Opt for a teacher who is certified, and has plenty of positive reviews. If you know friends or family members who are also learning the guitar, ask them for a recommendation. If you have questions for the teacher, set up a brief meeting or phone call with them. If they’re hesitant to answer your questions or avoid your phone calls, they’re probably trying to hide something and it would be in your best interest to keep looking. For more tips on finding a qualified teacher, check out this article.
Some beginner guitar students expect to see progress right away, and become frustrated if they don’t. It’s important to realize that there is no way to speed up the rate of your progress to a level that is faster than what is natural–as long as you are practicing and listening to the advice and guidance of your guitar teacher, you’re on the path to success. Patience is essential to learning the guitar, and if it’s not currently a strong trait for you, it will become one in time. Clear your mind of any self-imposed deadlines, and check in with your teacher on your progress. Chances are they’ve been teaching the guitar for years and will be able to provide you with some insight on whether or not you’re advancing at a good pace.
Similar to avoiding barre chords, many beginner guitar students also avoid learning music theory. Whether they incorrectly assume that theory will kill their creativity or are overwhelmed by its complexity, learning music theory is essential to becoming a well-rounded guitar player. After all, you can only get so far without at least a basic understanding of theory. Knowing a little bit about chord structures, scales, tonality, and understanding how they all work together is a critical part of being a complete musician. Music theory should never be thought of as a set of rules that must be followed, rather as a tool to aid you in your playing. If you haven’t started to learn theory, talk to your teacher about incorporating it into your weekly lessons.
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