As a guitar enthusiasts, we most definitely understand the passion and interest that we experience when we first pick up the guitar to play. We want to learn everything about guitar playing in the shortest amount of time, in order to serenade our significant other, dazzle our friends and family members, or even perform on stage to a live audience!
However, in many cases, beginner guitarists will encounter a myriad of mistakes that they will not notice, and if these are not corrected or addressed, they will hinder or even halt your learning progress! It is vital to have these mistakes corrected before they become long-term bad habits when playing.
Here are 6 common mistakes that beginner guitarists may be making:
1) Not Learning Music Theory
It is rather common that when we first start wanting to learn to play the guitar, we are inspired by songs that we heard on Spotify or YouTube, and our only desire is to play that song as quickly as possible!
So, we memorize how to place our fingers for each chord for that song, and also how to strum the chords in sequence for that particular song. However, this means that we only learn how to play that ONE song, and we cannot really apply what we have learnt to other songs.
There are more than a million songs out there, and if we just go to YouTube and learn how to play each song by rote learning without understanding how chords are formed or what notes we are playing, then this will make it tougher for us if we wish to progress to higher levels of playing, or being able to play songs that are slightly more challenging in terms of chords or playing patterns.
And yes, many music schools do have express workshops where you learn how to play the guitar quickly and easily. However, these do not really help you very much in the long run, and you would still need to think of learning more about music theory in order to be able to progress to playing more challenging songs.
Music theory has a bad reputation for being tedious, frustrating and also time consuming. However, if you are able to recognize chord progressions and notes via music theory, you can certainly play many songs just by using a few chords! Check out the video below:
2) Not Getting A Professional To Set Up Your Gear
One of the first few things we notice in most beginner guitar students is that they will experience a lot of soreness or tiredness in their fingers and hands when playing the guitar. This causes them to have difficulty practising for longer periods of time, and also slows down their pace of improvement.
One reason for this soreness is because when a guitar is set up by a professional, the string action of the guitar will usually be much lower as compared to those guitars that are not set up professionally or that are just bought off the rack. Hence, the playing experience will be much improved, and the beginner player will not experience that much soreness in their fingers and hands when playing!
And so, what is this string action that we are referring to? It is the distance between the guitar strings and the fretboard, and this distance directly relates to how much finger pressure you need to press down on the strings, in order to create a good playing sound. This is one of the main reasons that beginner students feel ache in their fingers and get tired more easily when playing.
More often than not, new guitars, especially the lower-end models, will have high string-action. Therefore, we would highly advise all beginner guitars to have a professional or seasoned guitarist or guitar instructor to help you with your guitar setup so that you can have a better playing experience!
3) Being Impatient With Progress
Whenever we first start out as a beginner guitarist, we almost always want to learn how to play songs as quickly as we can!
But as the saying goes, “Perfect practice is what gets a perfect technique.”
So, if we are impatient and rush to play a song that we are unsure of, chances are, our technique will also be sloppy because we do not take the time to really play the chords and notes properly on the guitar.
At Intune Music, our instructors will break down songs into bite-sized sections and have our students play at half the speed of the songs’ original tempo so that our students will get their basic playing techniques correct, instead of rushing off at full speed with incorrect playing technique that can eventually develop into bad habits in the future.
4) Not Practicing With A Metronome
The humble metronome is a very important tool for guitar practice as it allows beginner players to build up a natural and steady sense of rhythm, and is also a good check that players can use whenever they are unsure whether they are playing to tempo or not. Free metronome apps are also readily available as downloads for mobile phones in either Apple Store or Google Play Store.
The importance of having a metronome is so that we are forced to slow down when practising, and it is this slow and mindful practice that gives us the fastest improvement. A metronome also provides us with a clear indication of our progress, as it has been observed that when beginner guitarists start playing a song on their own without metronome, they often times speed up very much towards the end of the song without even being aware of it.
With the guidance of a metronome, we can increase our playing speed gradually for the song, so that we can focus on the crispness and accuracy in our guitar playing, and not play with sloppy and messy techniques.
5) Inconsistent practice
It is always recommended for beginner guitarists to practise with consistency. A stable and regular practice plan can help in improving one’s guitar playing skills in a short period of time. As instructors, we usually recommend students to practice around 15 minutes a day, rather than practising 5 hours in a single day per week!
Consistent and regular practice will train our muscle memory so that playing the guitar begins to feel like second nature to us, and we begin to also develop the neural connections in the brain for our playing muscles each time we practise.
Here at Intune Music, we strongly encourage our students to practise regularly after attending their weekly lessons with us, so that our students can achieve a stable and regular lesson progression. Intune Music students are also able to book our studios for free, as long as they are available, so that they can keep working on their regular practice, and also have a suitable venue for self-practice.
6) Too many sources
You may be reading this article because you were finding more tips to improve your guitar playing skills, and this is what we do most of the time; read up many articles and go on hunt for useful and relevant YouTube video tutorials.
However, there is just too much information online, and all the different techniques that are presented online will certainly overwhelm most beginner guitarists. And when we get stuck on a particular segment of a certain playing technique, we may start to search for another online source for an easier explanation, without realizing that the new source of information may be teaching us in a totally different way compared to the previous source. It all then gets really confusing!
And so, this is when we have information overload, and worse still, we begin to doubt ourselves as to whether we are even practising correctly, as there is no one to correct us instantly – be it our playing posture, our chord switching, or how we hold our guitar pick when playing – when we learn from videos available on the internet.
Like what was mentioned in point 3, “Perfect Practice is what gets a Perfect Technique.” If we start off with incorrect playing posture and handling of the instrument, and there is no one to correct us right from the start, that will in turn grow into a long-term habit, and it will be a bad one that we will need to correct later on, affecting all the songs that we play in the future.
“Travis knows his student’s strengths and weaknesses. He is creative and able to execute different style to suit the student’s capabilities in learning.” – Wee Khee Khoon, Guitar Student
At Intune Music, our instructors are dedicated to their students’ success, and with our years of teaching experience, our instructors know every potential bad habit or mistake that a beginner student will have or commit. This definitely beats learning online, when nobody is available to give you live feedback, and to correct your playing habits before they become permanent and hard to change!