As a beginner guitarist, the process of learning can feel painstakingly slow when you’re first starting out. This is a totally normal experience that all beginner guitarists go through.

Luckily, we have some proven tips to help you get ahead of the curve and moving in the right direction.

What’s even better is that these tips can be applied today – so what are you waiting for?!

Practice super slow!

Imagine that you’re teaching someone their very first words in English. How difficult would it be for them to immediately jump into a conversation with a fluent speaker?

If you’re a beginner guitarist, chances are that you haven’t developed a whole lot of muscle memory yet.

  • Muscle memory is created and reinforced when the hands learn the specific movements that form chords, scales, and other patterns.
  • Practicing slowly lets our brain digest these complex movements and eventually allows us to play them almost instinctually.

Fun fact: When you go to sleep at night, your brain speeds up the learning patterns that you worked on during the day by up to 300x!

  • The slower you practice, the more detail you provide to your brain to recall the patterns when you’re dreaming of sheep hopping fences.
  • The next time you sit down to practice guitar, you might notice your memory recall becoming faster after a good night’s sleep!

Learning to build a good guitar technique is about making small adjustments. Slow practice allows you to see each of your fingers moving in slow motion and gives you time to process whether it is the most comfortable action.

Keep it tickin’ along!

One of the most effective ways to ensure that you’re still progressing at a steady pace is to develop an awareness of what you find particularly difficult.

This may seem like an obvious point to make, but practicing with a metronome is a surefire way to reveal weak spots in your playing.

  • If you struggle to hit notes or grab chord shapes in time with the click of a metronome, it can be a sign that you’re not totally confident in those areas yet.
  • Being able to stay in time with the metronome is an indication that you’ve learned something the right way and have control over the technique, chord, or scale.
  • Identify the most difficult parts. Part of becoming a great guitarist is learning to identify your weaknesses. At first, a teacher will help you with this but eventually, you should become more comfortable with self-analyzing.

Need a metronome to get you started? Check out Pickup’s free metronome!

Keep track of your progress

Consistency is a huge element in building your confidence and skill level as a guitarist. Consistency will always lead to progress.

A great way to keep track of your progress is by creating a practice journal.

It’s okay if your journal isn’t super detailed, sometimes just a couple of sentences to remind you of what you worked on is enough to jolt your memory the next time you sit down to play.

  • Practice journals are a useful reminder of what you’ve spent the last week working on so that you aren’t lost the next time you sit down to practice.
  • Repeating the same exercises throughout the week strengthens your knowledge base by reinforcing technique, visualization, and the sound of each new chord, scale, or lick.
  • Journals can be a great place to document the moments that you can’t conquer too!
  • The next time you’re with a teacher or have a chance to speak to a guitar guru, your practice journal can work as a reference for where your struggles are.

Learn from the best

It’s easy to be in awe of all the great guitar players that the music world has to offer, but don’t just wish to be like them – emulate them!

Attending a gig or watching videos of your favorite players on youtube may give you tips or realizations about your playing that can inspire you to get to the next level.

  • The next time you go to YouTube to watch your favorite guitarist, try to notice particular details about how they hold the instrument, how their fretting hand looks, how their vibrato sounds, or what is their bending technique like.
  • Perhaps you have the basic grip chords down already, but you’re looking for a way to decorate them with cool ornamentation.

Listening to great guitarists can be a huge motivating factor to keep you practicing, but it can also lead you toward new techniques such as fingerpicking, flat-picking, power chord riffs, or palm muting.

Video record or watch yourself in the mirror

One of the positive benefits of learning an instrument is that you will start to become more self-aware of your hands and body. Developing this awareness is like leveling up and unlocking a new superpower!

By focusing the mind on a single task and paying attention to what works, you will become a more efficient learner in all aspects of your life and you will notice an increase in your ability to problem-solve.

Record yourself playing to help you get a good look at how your hands and body look as you play.

  • Ask yourself whether your hands look comfortable as you practice a song, chord progression, or scale.
  • This ability to see yourself play from an outside perspective is a key awareness skill that can take you far.
  • Videoing your practice sessions can also act like a vlog for your future self to enjoy!
  • Video journals can be a great way to assess your progress over a week, month, or year.
  • Sometimes playing in front of people can feel a little too much to handle, especially when you’re just starting out.
  • Think of playing in front of a mirror as a small concert to yourself.
  • Listen carefully to your playing and try to compliment and critique yourself.

Write and draw it out!

Everyone has their own favored way of learning. Some people need to take endless notes to solidify a new concept, others need to see it and mimic themselves for it to make sense.

Finding out what kind of learner you are can often help speed up your learning journey dramatically!

If you’re trying to learn new chord shapes but struggle to see them on the fretboard, see if you can draw a chord diagram that helps you memorize the shape – better yet, come up with your own diagram or design!

You don’t always need a guitar in your hands to build your fretboard knowledge. Visualization can be a great way to build your skills anytime, anywhere.

  • Athletes use positive visualization to reinforce their skills and help manifest a desired outcome.
  • As you pack the dishwasher or walk down the street, try to imagine in your mind that you’re putting your hands on the guitar fretboard.

A great way to lock in something you’ve just learned is by verbalizing or teaching it to someone else.

  • You might be someone who benefits from sharing information with others – this can really help solidify your understanding of new concepts.
  • If you’ve just learned how to play a chord change, why not try to teach it to a friend, better yet – an attentive pet? 🐶🐱

Create a warm-up routine

Trust us! We know that warm-up routines can feel like a drag. But they are one of the most crucial elements of our practice session. If your hands and mind are properly warmed up, it will make everything you play feel and sound better!

Comfort is king!

  • Having a small collection of warm-up routines for your sitting position, finger flexibility, and mindset before you sit down can put you in a great position to take on a new challenge with ease.
  • A proper warm-up routine will help you establish a consistent and healthy start to all your practice sessions.
  • This will help you avoid injury and make sure that you’re in the best possible condition to receive any musical challenges thrown your way!
  • Finger warm-ups can deepen your connection to the body and help increase your flexibility and strength for those nasty bar chords!

Plan a structure for your learning

Whether you choose to study with a teacher, teach yourself, or enroll with an online guitar learning platform, a major step towards faster learning is having a structure in place to help you make the right steps.

Think big, start small.

  • Spend some time thinking about the kind of guitar player that you want to become.
  • Having a clear idea of how you’d like to play is a great starting point for building mini steps toward making your dreams a reality.
  • A good teacher or online guitar course can help you put those dreams into action by creating a step-by-step pathway to show you exactly where you need to go.
  • A learning plan with small, achievable goals will help you feel more motivated in the long run, and fuel your desire to practice!

Here at Pickup, we have just what you need!

Our Learning Pathways are designed to help you keep up steady and consistent progress whether you are a beginner, late beginner, or intermediate guitarist looking for more structure.

Author: Jack Handyside