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28 Sep Common Mistakes for Beginner Guitarists

When I first picked up a guitar, I was disappointed when I couldn’t make the sounds Jimi Hendrix was making. I was frustrated, I didn’t know what to focus on while learning, and I didn’t have much guidance as to how I could improve my playing. I realized there was a lot of work involved, and that if I was going to be a great guitarist someday I would need to devote time and energy to my craft. Over my many years of playing, I thought I’d share a few tips that have helped me when I was starting out.

When learning your basic chords, don’t neglect learning barre chords. Barre chords are chords where your pointer finger holds down most if not all the strings. Students tend to avoid these at first because they require more strength to play clearly then a lot of the other chords. If you like rock and roll or any type of heavier music, barre chords are your bread and butter. They allow for a powerful sound versus some of the more delicate sounding chords. Keep practicing them. There is no easy substitute for lots of practice to build up your wrist and finger muscles.

Playing too fast too soon might be the most common mistake. If you can’t play it perfectly at half tempo, how can you expect to play perfectly much faster? Always always always practice slowly and clearly. Even Mozart practiced very slow, making sure to play each note with the clarity and texture that he desired. I expected miracles when I tried to play like Hendrix, but I soon realized the key to the skill I craved was born in the hours of practice I put in.

It’s easy to play by yourself, no one cares if you mess up. What about in front of people? I wholeheartedly believe that practicing in front of people will improve your playing. Sometimes while practicing by yourself, you will neglect little mistakes and skip over certain places, but a live audience isn’t so forgiving. You might receive criticism, but that’s ok! What better way to learn and improve your skills then to hear the things others may not like so much. If you have troubles with gear and equipment, you might have neglected replacing a cable that cuts out, and now it won’t work on stage. Live music overall will help you keep yourself prepared.

And then, of course, is the thing that every guitarist needs to improve on, especially when first learning your instrument: music theory. Learning why and how notes work together the way they do is imperative to growth as a musician. Knowing music theory is like knowing all the answers to a math test. It will provide you with a solid foundation in crafting your own music. Plenty of times in my life I’ve heard a musician do something that made me stop everything I was doing to listen. I had to know how they did it, and music theory was the tool that allowed me to understand how they were doing the things that I was most interested in learning.

Above all else, keep practicing. Ultimately, for any advice to work, a guitar needs to be in your hands. With motivation and hard work, hopefully these few tips will help with the struggle of first learning to play guitar.

-Vince Meyer

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