When you start out learning how to play the guitar, most of the students do not know, what they have to focus on in order to get maximum results in the shortest amount of time. One simply does not know what the consequences of bad habits are. After time, we develop more experience and most of us think: „If I had learned this properly right from the beginning, that would have saved me a lot of work and frustrations“. In order to avoid such an scenario, I am going to show you the 3 major mistakes you have to be aware of, if you are newly learning how to play the guitar.
As a beginner we are highly motivated and like to play as fast as we can right away. But let me tell you, that such a habit comes with a high price. If you try to play as fast as possible straight from the beginning, your technique will suffer very badly. Little mistakes are going to sneak into your playing and that is what is going to hold your progression back in the future. Once those mistakes are integrated into your playing, it will be very hard and frustrating to resolve those problems.
My suggestion is: start playing slowly from the beginning, even if it is boring. Trust me, you are going to benefit from this massively in the future. Always try to execute the exercises with a perfect technique. Once the technique is settled, you can gradually add some speed to the metronome. Take your time at the beginning to get faster with your playing more quickly in the long run.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is absolutely crucial to play with a proper technique from the beginning. It can be overwhelming to concentrate on all different aspects that have to be considered. That is why it is very important to take one element at the time and focus only on that single one. See a short selection of questions you might ask yourself below while practicing, and focus on one element at the time:
Do I have the right posture?
Am I holding my pick right?
Are my fingers flying away from the guitar?
Do I have any tension in my fingers? Forearms? Shoulders?
Make sure that you are going through that list the next time when you practice. Concentrate on one specific element for three to five minutes. After you have done that, repeat this cycle with another element. Try to spend at least ten minutes on each area to develop a solid technique.
No Warm Up
You may ask: do I really need to warm myself up? I don’t want to lift weights, I just want to practice guitar. The answer is DO IT ANYWAY. In order to practice more efficiently you have to warm up your fingers first. Even if practicing guitar is not as injury-prone as lifting weights, it is still very important to warm your fingers up properly so as to avoid injuries. Moreover is it going to be very hard to practice at your maximum guitar speed and a very high level of precision if you do not warm up your fingers. Htis is because your fingers need a certain temperature and high blood perfusion of your veins to move faster. You can feel that during the winter months. Your fingers are cold and stiff and move slowly. After you have warmed up your fingers properly, you are going to feel a huge difference in their motions and precision. Take at least five to ten minutes of your practice routine to warm up your fingers.I would suggest to practice some scales or arpeggios at a slow pace with full concentration. If you have fully memorized a scale or arpeggio, make it more challengeing for your brain and change the order of the notes or even inverse the complete scale or arpeggio.
IMPORTANT: It is absolutely essential to practice something that is challenging for your brain AND fingers. Do not practice something you can play without thinking. That would be just a waste of precious practice time. You will only get better if your brain is involved in your playing 100% of the time. Try to avoid all three mistakes I mentioned above and get your guitar playing to the next level!
About the Author: Matthias Hornstein is the owner of gitarrenunterricht-ffb.de, a guitar school in the greater Munich area in Germany. His school provides guitar lessons in Fürstenfeldbruck, Emmering and Eichenau.