Beginning Mistakes that Last a Lifetime

June 6th, 2011

Ever heard the saying “a moment of pleasure lasts a lifetime of pain”?

Okay, it may not be the most appropriate slogan for beginner mistakes on guitar, but with just enough practice of poor habits and you guessed it…they’ll last a lifetime. Unless, of course, you learn the guitar the right way in the first place.

If you played sports growing up you probably remember your coach stressing — fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Chances are you hated this term after awhile because it usually represented something that was boring, mundane and completely unnecessary. Consequently, you probably asked the question what’s the point of fundamentals?

Similar to sports, the best guitarists began with fundamentals and then eventually progressed to more complicated skills. You can’t dunk before you shoot and you can’t master the guitar before you learn the basics. Avoid the common beginner mistakes (below) and your possibility of playing with bad habits for a lifetime will cease to disappear.

I’m a Master Guitarist from Day One

Mastering the guitar will take a lot of time.

If the above statement is not obvious then perhaps you should reassess your goals. Regardless of your age, learning the guitar takes time. Some are a little quicker learners, but you need at least six months to a year to even begin to realize the potential of the guitar.

Stick with it, start small, start simple.

I’m too Impatient to Learn Guitar

Impatience has an awful lot to do with why some expect to master guitar from day one. Unfortunately, as technology becomes more sophisticated and quicker, humans are losing the virtue of patience. The guitar, however, has not progressed at the same rate and learning the instrument is much like it was ten, twenty and even a hundred years prior. Today, more information and guitar resources exist but the method for learning guitar is pretty much the exact same.

If you have the patience, exercise it fully. If not, you better learn to get some. Of course, having a natural desire to play guitar always helps as we naturally have a tendency to stick with a subject that we’re passionate about to begin with.

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One Chord at a Time

If you just started learning guitar you have probably already heard about how important chords are to mastering the guitar.

Unfortunately, a lot of beginners only want to master one chord before moving on to the next. Big mistake. It’s important to learn (and master) the major chords, but not practice them one by one. Instead, learn three to four different chords and experiment shifting between chords with a metronome. At first, this will be very frustrating but over time you will master fingerings much faster and strengthen fingers. The result is a better guitarist.

Forget the Pinky

Throughout the day, regardless of the activity, how often do you use your thumb? Index finger? Pinky?

We have ten fingers, five pairs of each, and humans almost always neglect the power of our pinkies until we understand how important they are to the hand. Pinkies are not only helpful with day-to-day chores but also playing the guitar.

Naturally, when you first start playing almost all guitarists will find that fretting with the index and middle finger are easiest while the ring and pinky finger lack the same strength. In order to solve this dilemma practicing every day will slowly built up finger strength on all four fingers of the left hand (assuming you’re right handed).

However, you can take things a step further by focusing on one simple practice technique. Whenever you play, your fingers should be hovering over the strings of your guitar ALL OF THE TIME. Therefore, when you form a D chord your pinky finger should be hovering somewhere over the high E string or B and likewise for all other chords.

Music Theory, Who needs it?

Music theory is a lot like fundamentals. Boring at first, but completely vital to fully learning (and understanding) the guitar.

Aside from the basics of What is a Scale? What are major and minor chords? What is rhythm? Harmony? — Beginners can also learn a lot by understanding the root note of a chord. The root note is the bass note. It determines which string you should start strumming or picking from and is important for not only learning chords but understanding the relationship between you and the bassist.

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