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5 Common Mistakes Beginners Make When Learning Guitar

Updated: Jul 20, 2023


When making the choice to pursue guitar as a hobby or even a career, we all have to start somewhere and often on this journey, I can tell you from my experience as a teacher that there are common mistakes beginners make when they are first starting out.


This article is designed to inform you of what they are and what you can do to avoid them.


The topics that will be covered are as follows:


1. Gripping The Guitar Too Hard.

2. Not Spending Enough Time Per Day To Practice

3. Expecting Too Much Too Quickly

4. Setting Unreasonable Goals

5. Thinking You Can Do It All By Yourself


1. Gripping The Guitar Too Hard


The biggest and most often mistake I’ve seen beginners make is the tendency to over grip on the neck or apply too much pressure on notes.


This can cause a lot of frustration for newer players as they often think that gripping it harder equals a better sounding note. Its not really about gripping it too hard its about gripping the notes and fretboard correctly.


What do I mean when I say gripping the notes and fretboard correctly?


What I mean by that is there is a certain point that pressing any harder onto a note or over tightening your grip is just wasted energy and you will be surprised as to how little effort you need to get the fretted note to ring out.


Of course, this is different on an acoustic guitar where generally you need to press a little harder as the strings are thicker but surprisingly not by much.


The key concept is to understand is that you should be placing your finger as close as you can to the fret wire or the metal line on the fretboard and press down until you hear a clear note, no more no less. If you press more you will sharpen the note, if you don’t press the right amount, you will mute the note. Practice trying to find the right amount of pressure on the note so you aren’t expending needless energy.

As for gripping the fretboard to support holding the notes. Make sure your thumb is offering support to your fretting hand and hang your fingers on the fretboard like an anchor. This should ease the tension on your fretting hand.


2. Not Spending Enough Time Per Day To Practice


Often when I would be teaching students the biggest issue I’ve come across is that as a teacher you would set the task for the student to complete and then the student wouldn’t show they did the work for the following week. They then would be asking why they are not making much progress as they expected.


The simple solution to this issue is that when learning an instrument, you do have to set aside some time per day to practice a task or goal. When starting out you really don’t need to spend hours upon hours practicing as little as 10 to 30 minutes a day would suffice. It really isn’t that much if its something you really want to do. The key is to make it consistent and at the same time everyday to form a habit of practice.


A bad habit that a lot of new players do is binge practice right before they have another lesson or just set one time in the week to do a few hours. This isn’t a healthy way to practice as you will be spending that time catching up to your last binge practice. Whereas if you practiced regularly in short bursts your muscles will be expecting it to happen and be ready for the task ahead.


3. Expecting Too Much Too Quickly


I have found that students who pick up the guitar find a great deal of inspiration from people who have done amazing things on the instrument.


That in itself is an amazing reason to start playing and its great that they have an inspiration like that.


The only thing I will say is that the expectation of taking lessons and then becoming these people overnight is a very real thing that occurs with beginner guitarists.


So, I have to say that a lot of beginners should take this piece of advice in mind that you have to understand that you are not these people and you will develop your own path with the guitar.

Take inspiration from the people you admire definitely but be kind to yourself and understand that the people you look up to have probably got many decades on you in the experience department.


Take a look at where your currently at and focus on the next thing you want to achieve within reason. This should keep you grounded.


4. Setting Unreasonable Goals


Following on from the previous topic, leads into this one as what can often happen with beginners is that they like a particular song they want to emulate or play but the difficulty or skill level is well beyond what they can currently do. If you go into learning guitar thinking you can do something like a dream theatre song or a song by a virtuoso like Steve Vai after the first month then you will be severely disappointed and it may influence your desire to continue. Which is why you should always be honest with where your current ability is with the guitar. My advice is, look to just the next step or achievement and set yourself that goal that is reasonable.

Keeping a level head about progress is the key to moving forward with any instrument practice.


5. Thinking You Can Do It All By Yourself.

So, you picked up a guitar and want to give it a go! GREAT! That’s an amazing first step.


I encourage you to enjoy it to the max!


The only thing I will say, is that a lot of beginners hear stories of their favourite guitarists being self taught and not needing anyone or formal training to progress.


I can assure you this isn’t true because everyone has been taught by someone or something through being their journey as a musician with other musicians or learning from previous recordings and sheet music.


Its true we all develop differently but I would implore you to find a teacher local to you, who you respect, to give you an honest read of your skills as they have gone through all the mistakes and errors so you don’t have to. Their years of experience will be invaluable to guide you to a better path.


If you did it all on your own you are bound to make common mistakes that could be avoided with the slightest bit of guidance.


If you are to take it seriously always find a teacher to give you the correct hints and tips you need.


Hopefully by the end of this article you can use this as a good way to have the right attitude when approaching learning on the guitar as a beginner. Let me know if you struggle with anything as a beginner in the comments and ill do my best to help.


Happy strumming!


Written by GuitarGuyNick.



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