So there it is – sitting in the corner of your room – a guitar! You’ve always wanted to be able to play, but you quickly realize that you have to face the challenges of learning guitar as a complete beginner.
Several troubling questions might come to mind…
- What if I’m no good at learning guitar?
- How much do I need to practice to get good?
- What’s the best way for me to learn how to play guitar?
- How long before I can play something more inspiring than Three Blind Mice?
Learning any new skill can be difficult, but if you get a sense of the challenges before you begin, you can set yourself up for success and avoid some of the pitfalls that slow down many beginners.
Challenge 1: Figuring out how to learn guitar
At the very beginning of your guitar journey, there’s a relatively straightforward path to learning. Even so, if you’re fumbling around on YouTube learning beginner chords, it can be difficult to know what to work on.
Fundamental beginner skills you should learn on:
- How to hold the guitar
- Basic right- and left-hand technique
- Understanding frets, strings, and note names
- Learning how to strum simple rhythm patterns
- Playing your first chords
- Playing single notes
- Learning how to tune your guitar
You have a few different options available when you're looking to learn how to play guitar on your own.
Youtube – This is a great option for anyone on a budget. Plenty of skilled guitar teachers upload free video lessons that you can use to start learning guitar. The only hard part is finding them! It can be tough to make steady progress when you’re jumping around YouTube.
Private lessons – Want the personal touch of a live instructor? Check if there’s a guitar teacher near you that offers in-person classes! Costs for private classes range from $30 to $100 per session. To see real progress in your playing, you’ll want to take four lessons per month.
Online learning – If you’re looking for a structured approach to learning guitar but don’t want to pay a premium, feel free to check out our Beginner Learning Pathway with a 14-day free trial. In this 3-month long course you’ll learn the basics of guitar playing and be ready to play your favorite songs for just $14.99/month.
Challenge 2: Consistently practicing guitar
One of the biggest challenges of learning guitar is trying to maintain a consistent practice schedule that works for you. The most common excuse for poor performance is “I didn’t have enough time to practice.”
It’s not always easy to squeeze in those precious practice minutes, but there are a couple of ways to make sure you hit your practice goals.
How to fit practice into your daily routine:
- Find a time when you do at the same thing every day
- Getting home school or work
- Just before or after you eat dinner
- Immediately after you brush your teeth.
- Link your practice time to one of these daily habits will help to remind you, and your practicing will soon become another daily ritual.
- Try putting a specific time in your calendar, to highlight the importance of practicing.
Consistent practice will always get you the best results – even if it’s only 10 minutes per day.
Challenge 3: Building stamina
A big challenge in learning guitar is adapting your hands to the demands of guitar playing. In a sense, you’re taking your hands to the gym, and it’ll take some time before you can play for extended periods of time without fingertip pain or fatigue.
At a zoomed-in level, guitar playing involves forcefully pressing your fingertips into thin metal strings as you drag them up and down your guitar neck. Youch! For this reason, beginners will suffer from painful fingertips on the fretting hand.
Feel the burn:
- That “friction burn” feeling of stinging fingers can take a few days to recede.
- Once your fingers start to toughen up, you can increase the amount of time you play.
- Over time, you’ll develop tough calluses on your fingertips – the proud battle scar of a true guitarist!
- Bear in mind that if you do not play for a while, those calluses disappear, and you will have to build them up again.
When you start playing, we recommend taking it slow to start by playing around 5-15 minutes per day for a couple of weeks. Before the calluses form, it’s so easy to overdo it.
It’s important to know that you should never feel acute pain in your hands while playing guitar. While you’ll need to develop some of your forearm and hand muscles, any sharp pain should be addressed immediately. When in doubt, take a break and check with an instructor.
Challenge 4: Getting over the beginner learning curve
A lot of new students will be fighting the urge to quit:
- My fingers are killing me!
- I thought this would be easier!
- My fingers just will not go where I want them to!
When learning the guitar, it’s natural to hit a plateau. You’ll feel stuck. You’re practicing consistently and playing a lot, but you can’t seem to get past a particularly gnarly set of exercises.
When this happens, it’s a good idea to work on something completely different for a while, and then come back to those seemingly impossible exercises.
- Take a break, and then revisit what’s troubling you with a fresh perspective.
- Replay difficult things that you conquered in the past – it’ll remind you that you can achieve almost anything with perseverance.
If there’s one takeaway from all of this: don’t give up! Guitar is a lifelong journey, and “future you” will be thankful that “present you” took the time to develop such a wonderful skill.
As you can see learning guitar comes with some challenges. Sometimes the road gets bumpy but don't give up and soon you will be able to play your favorite songs by yourself!
If you need some assistance on your way to become a guitarist, we’ve developed an ultra-guided Learning Pathway to learn guitar so you know exactly what to work on at every step of the way. The less you have to think about what to work on when you’re starting out, the better.
Beginner Learning Pathway
Learn the fundamentals of guitar playing.Learn more
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Your six-string journey begins here. Jamey Arent is a pro touring and session guitarist who specializes in helping students take their first steps into the world of guitar.Explore Lessons