Most Common Challenges In Learning Guitar
Why You Can Not Learn Guitar In 7 Days
During many years of guitar teaching, offline and online, I have identified common patterns and difficulties that students usually have.
In this article, I want to give you a list of possible struggles you're going to stumble upon in your guitar learning journey, hoping to help you avoid the typical discouragement that one can feel while learning a craft.
I think that knowing in advance potential problems can be beneficial to the learning process. I'll also try to give some suggestions to address all these issues, so let's begin!
Pro Tip: How To Make Your Teacher Feeling In Your Shoes
Before moving on, I want to give you a suggestion that hopefully will help improve your relationship with your guitar teacher (if you have one).
Unless you have a very good and empathetic teacher, it's easy for him/her to forget that you are at the beginning of your learning path.
Here's a quick tip that you can use when you suspect that your instructor is taking too many things for granted:
Ask him/her to reverse hands, so let him/her use the left hand to strum strings, and the right hand to press frets.
Reversing the hands is a challenging exercise for experienced guitar players, as it forces them to use their muscles in a new and different way.
This can help your teacher gain a better understanding of the physical challenges of playing the guitar and to develop a greater sense of empathy for students who are just starting out.
Your instructor can gain a deeper appreciation of the common struggles listed here below, which he/she might have forgotten after many years of playing.
Hands Coordination Difficulties
Many students struggle with coordinating their hands when they are first starting out.
The left hand has to press frets, while the right-hand moves the pick. Doing these two operations as a whole is certainly difficult at the beginning.
It's important to start slow, really slow, practicing using a metronome. With time and practice, your brain will develop new connections dedicated to this really particular action.
You find some great hands coordination exercises here.
Timing and Rhythm Issues
Another common problem is keeping the time and rhythm.
The most important skill for a musician is a strong sense of time.
A wrong note, in a certain context, could sound good, but an off-time note will be horrible in case. Don't worry if you have this kind of issue, it's perfectly normal at the beginning.
Focus on keeping your strumming hand relaxed, and try different strumming patterns to find what works best for you.
Try to practice always over a beat of a metronome, play along with songs that have a clear beat and rhythm, or use tracks with strumming patterns.
It's also really helpful to learn how to count beats.
Finger Strength and Dexterity
In the beginning, fingers are weak and not independent. String buzzes and dead notes are common.
You can't move the pinkie or the ring finger and keep the index and the middle steady. We all have been there, don't worry.
The one and only answer I can give you, is to keep practicing your exercises, by playing scales and arpeggios, using the one-finger-for-fret finger system, which forces you to use all the left-hand-fingers.
Also, a good posture is crucial for playing the guitar comfortably and avoiding injury. Make sure to sit up straight and keep your shoulders relaxed.
Some chord and scale fingerings are hard because they span 5 or even 6 frets.
They require a big stretch that your hands, in the beginning, can not reach. 3-notes-per-string scales are a classic example.
The suggestion I can give you is to exercise with those large shapes that you find hard on higher frets.
In fact, the more you are high on the neck, the less-wider the frets are. With time, your fretting hand will improve its elasticity, so you can go down by one fret little by little.
You might find useful our list about specific left hand challenges.
Pressing Frets with the Right Force
Beginners often don't know how to regulate the force to put when pressing frets. We all know that too much force will create an off-note sound, while not enough force will make strings ring not clearly.
It's a matter of practice, take your time.
Also, it's really important that your guitar is properly set up with the right action and intonation.
Once you know some chords, the next challenge is being able to switch them so that you can play progressions and songs.
There are specific exercise to help you develop this skills, as always, the secret is to not rush and try to have always a clean sound.
Check this list of chord transitions tips for more details.
Playing with dynamics
Playing the sequence of the right notes at right time is not enough. You should also learn how to control the volume and intensity of your playing to create the desired musical expression.
This is called playing with dynamics: to improve this skill, try playing musical fragments at different volumes and intensities.
Focus on creating a clear contrast between soft and loud sections.
Pay attention to the way your picking hand and strumming hand interact, and try to make sure that each stroke is as controlled as possible.
Controlling dynamics is more an art than science, but the answer is still the same: with time and practice you'll internalize the subtle nuances you can create on your instrument.
Many students found challenging to memorize songs, especially longer ones with many chords and changes.
To help with memorizing songs, try breaking the song down into smaller sections and practicing each section until you have it memorized. Pay close attention to the chord changes, and try to anticipate when they will happen.
It can also be helpful to play along with recordings of the song to help cement the chord progressions in your mind.
The more you play songs, the more you'll figure out that many tunes share the same chord progressions.
In Western music, there are some patterns that recur often, and having a good foundation of these schemes helps incredibly find the right chords throughout the song.
Facing Music Theory
Here's the big deal. If you want to advance your skills as a musician, first or later you should learn some music theory.
That basically is math, plus sound connected to those strange symbols. After some months, it's likely you have a set of particular hand movements or note combinations, that sound good to you.
Music theory will allow you give those things a name, manage them better, and create new effects starting from this foundation.
How to learn music theory? This website is all about this topic, jump to the guitar lessons page to get started.
Boredom, Lack of Motivation And Not Having Fun
Finally, after some time students may struggle with boredom and lack of motivation.
There are some strategies that help you keep motivation high and move forward with your improvements:
- Have a structured learning path, so everytime you pick up your guitar you exactly know what to do.
- Create a practice routine and stick to it. Be sure to track your progress to always being aware of where your are on your learning path.
- Congratulate yourself everytime you advance in your program.
- Try to play with other musicians, join a band, have a practice mate, join an online community
- Understand the differences between discipline and motivation. This mindset will help you in any aspect of your life.
This ends our list of the most common issues for beginner guitar players. Don't feel discouraged, you will learn how to play guitar eventually, but it takes a bit of dedication.
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