The worst kind of mistake is the one you don’t know you’re making.
So, today we’ll take on the role of a loving parent and list every mistake you’ve ever made!
Mistakes go hand in hand with learning to play the guitar and all guitarists make them.
- We often get stuck in a rut when aren’t able to identify the errors in our guitar practice.
- Beginner guitarists are most at risk of developing bad habits, but that’s entirely normal.
- Advanced players are not immune either – overconfidence can sometimes lead to overlooking important fundamentals.
What can we do to avoid common guitar learning mistakes?
The simple answer is to develop a practice toolkit that we can rely on.
- A practice toolkit comes in the form of questions that we can ask ourselves whenever we hit a moment of difficulty.
- Being able to ask the right questions will provide better answers.
- Once we have an answer, we can fix those bad habits and keep our progress bubbling along nicely.
Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an advanced guitar player, these upcoming tips will serve as your book of spells to cast the next time you fall into a practice rut.
This is the part where we open the chamber of secrets and transform you into a guitar wizard! 🧙
#1 – Playing guitar with bad posture
That’s right! You may be doing something wrong before you even play your first chord!
- Having a bad seating position can cause all kinds of long-term problems.
- It may be the reason why picking, strumming, or general guitar playing can feel uncomfortable.
- Poor posture can also make certain areas of the neck more difficult to reach.
Good posture when playing guitar allows your body to be prepared for whatever your mind throws at it.
How to improve your posture
Here are a few ways to improve your posture when playing guitar.
- Practice in front of a mirror to assess yourself in real time and spot any obvious posture problems that you’d want to avoid making a habit.
- No chair can hold me! Having a quality chair can make all the difference. We recommend a height-adjustable chair that allows you to sit up straight. Bonus points if your hips are above your knees as this position will naturally straighten your back.
- Use a footstool to elevate the guitar neck. Some guitarists prefer the guitar neck to be slightly elevated and find it easier to reach stretchy chords.
- Buy an adjustable guitar strap that holds your instrument in place. This stops the guitar from moving allowing you to keep a stable posture.
#2 – Practicing guitar too fast
Aesop, the Greek fabulist probably wasn’t referring to guitar practice when he wrote The Tortoise and The Hare.
One of the most common guitar practice misconceptions is that to play fast, you must practice fast – this is a lie!
The benefits of practicing slow
- You’ll begin to notice what each of your hands is doing in extreme detail.
- You can make micro-adjustments in your technique for macro results.
- Speed is a byproduct of familiarity – practicing slow trains muscle memory to be more reliable in the long term.
- Practice with our free online metronome to keep you in time!
Remember, if you want to be Mayer, don’t be the hare!
#3 – Practicing in pain
Have you ever felt pain when playing guitar?
Of course you have, but we’re not talking about the emotional pain of losing your favorite pick.
Guitarists can experience physical pain in a multitude of ways:
- Sore fingers
- Back/shoulder aches
- RSI’s – Repetitive strain injuries
Responding to these issues quickly is the most important thing you can do, whether that means learning some warm-up exercises or knowing when it’s time to take a break.
Top tips to deal pain from practicing guitar
- Pay attention to your body, where is the tension found when practicing?
- Playing for long periods of time can provoke repetitive strains or tendinitis issues, make sure to give yourself regular breaks and get up from the chair.
- Learn some body-specific warm-up exercises targeted at where aches and pain appear.
- Start your practice session with a classical guitar hand exercise to leave no finger un-stretched!
#4 – Setting unachievable guitar learning goals
Another common guitar practice error is setting goals that are too difficult to achieve.
Having ambitious guitar playing goals is awesome and a great long-term motivator.
But it’s important to have some smaller, more achievable goals in the short term, otherwise, it can feel like trying to hike up Mount Everest in flip flops!
How to make achievable practice goals
- Start small by learning some basic chord shapes. Can you remember them after a week? Ask yourself questions to test how well you’ve remembered what you’ve practiced.
- Be kind to yourself, learning the guitar is challenging and you’re doing your best! Celebrate the little things that you learn!
- Write down your goals and place them under ‘short term’ or ‘long term’ columns. These could be songs, chord progressions, or solos that you’re inspired to learn.
Remember: Climb molehills, not mountains!
#5 – Not practicing consistently
What do coffee shops and guitar practice have in common? The best ones embrace the daily grind!
- Many guitarists fall into a rut with their practice and feel like they aren’t getting better.
- Nine times out of ten, the problem is that they don’t have a regular and consistent practice routine.
- Consistency is the gift that keeps on giving!
How to create a good guitar practice routine
- Practice the same exercises every day for a week until it becomes second nature – consistent practice is the foundation for developing a reliable guitar technique.
- Keep track of your progress with a practice journal or video camera – being able to look back and see how much you’ve improved is great motivation.
- Figure out how often you’d like to practice, it might help to have a dedicated point in the day to stick to
#6 – Not listening to new music
Learning how to play music is an exciting and challenging journey. But forgetting to listen and check out new music is a huge guitar learning mistake!
Listening to music is a nutritious way of keeping your brain and ears fed with new inspirations and opens the floodgates to new ideas and goals to explore.
Keeping up with the guitardashians
- Explore active listening to open up a brand new dimension in how you perceive music.
- Ask yourself the following; Can you hear the guitar? How are the bass and drums interacting with each other?
- Fresh connections and realizations come from feeding your mind with new music.
Take a walk on the wild side and check out an artist you’ve never listened to before!
#7 – Not having fun when practicing guitar
There’s a misconception in guitar learning that it all has to be boring, difficult, and hard work. But the best way to create a positive practice habit is to make sure that you’re having fun.
This seems like an obvious point to make, but science backs this up!
How to let fun take the driver’s seat
- New research shows that the quality of your learning vastly improves if you are in a good mood.
- Perform in front of others! Let your friends, family, and pets appreciate all your hard work!
- Progress, consistency, and curiosity all grow from practicing with a positive and happy mindset.
- Make fun the center of your practice and the rest will follow.
Hopefully, after all that, you feel thoroughly lectured about all your terrible practice habits!
Key points to take away from todays lecture:
- Remember to utizile the practice toolkit to keep you on the right path!
- Be mindful of your body and posture while playing.
- Set reasonable goals for yourself and track/celebrate your achievements.
- Make sure you’re enjoying playing guitar – happy brain = faster progress.
In all seriousness, don’t worry too much. Every guitarist, regarless of their skill level, makes mistakes – the trick is to recognize them and nip them in the bud before they turn into bad habits.
Author: Jack Handyside
Intermediate Learning Pathway
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