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Seven Mistakes Beginner Guitar Players Tend to Make

Seven Mistakes Beginner Guitar Players Tend to Make - The Twelfth Fret

Seven Mistakes Beginner Guitar Players Tend to Make – Max Moy

We’ve all been there before; a lot of us learned the hard way. Learning the guitar is tough! Especially in the beginning stages, and since we’re so focused on learning the instrument we tend to ignore certain things that could actually hinder our playing in the long run.

Here are seven mistakes beginner guitar players tend to make, and ways to avoid them.


  1. NOT Tuning Your Guitar Before You Start To Play.   When I was in elementary school, we used to enjoy school trips to the Symphony. We would get there early, check out the building and also watch as the musicians would play these random notes that would have no relation to anything they did in the performance. I was puzzled, I had no idea what they were doing or why. I turned to my teacher and asked, “Mrs. Teacher, what are they playing now? It sounds like nothing?” My teacher would respond, “They’re tuning their instruments before they perform with the conductor, they also don’t play or practice any of the music they’re about to perform right before the conductor shows up. And as soon as he does, they should be all tuned up and ready to play.” I not only remembered this for the rest of my life but also made a habit of this. This is one of the biggest differences between a seasoned musician and a beginner. Not only that, but as a beginner, you will start memorizing the pitch of each note and chord you learn, it’s a habitual learning process. And if you memorize the out of tune pitches, and then you hear someone else who plays in tune, you’re going to start wondering why you sound so bad compared to them and that’ll open a whole can of discouragement and self-doubt! Definitely, DEFINITELY, check you’re tuning EVERY TIME before you start playing!
  2. NOT Practice Barre Chords.  These are notoriously known as the most difficult type of chords for beginners, it’s nearly impossible to nail these chords down right away as they require a lot of finger strength to properly ring out. And a lot of the times, beginners that don’t get it the first few times end up giving up and avoiding barre chords all together. Trust me when I say, YOU NEED TO LEARN TO MASTER BARRE CHORDS AS SOON AS YOU CAN AND AVOIDING THEM UNTIL LATER WON’T MAKE IT EASIER! Barre chords require one finger to hold down multiple strings to make the chord ring out, and so this requires a lot of strength that needs to be developed. It is a special technique of it’s own, that has no ‘gateway’ to learning to do it, except of course, actually DOING IT. Put in extra time to develop this finger strength when first learning and you’ll see how far that practice will take you.
  3. NOT Factoring In Time and Tempo.  NOT MY TEMPO! For those who’ve seen the 2014 movie, “Whiplash. We are so focused on learning the guitar from the beginning that a lot of us forget to not only keep time, but fluctuate our tempo way too much. A lot of this has to do with playing on our own as well. When we play by ourselves in the beginning, we are just trying to nail down the chords and the song structure, we barely even think about how fast the song should be or when and where the changes should actually be. But this is SO KEY! Every song we learn will have a specific rhythm, a specific pace, a specific time signature and so on. So from now on, when learning your favorite songs, LISTEN to the original song, A LOT, as many times as humanly possible and listen ACTIVELY. Listen for the rhythm, listen for the changes, listen for any specific strumming or picking patterns, listen for the tempo! Nobody wants to hear a slow Ed Sheeran love song at 10 times the speed, right?
  4. NOT Playing Softly Enough!    This tends to happen a lot with beginners, as soon as they get the guitar there seems to be some sort of subconscious thing to strum as HARD AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE and also press on the strings as HARD AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. Neither of these is necessary! A decent beginner guitar does NOT require you to play so hard! This is one of the worst deterrents to learning the guitar for the very first time, it makes you think that guitar always needs to be played HARD and with a GORILLA GRIP! Not only is that terrible for your hands and wrists, it’ll burn you out EARLY, can increase the risk of sustained injuries, and also lead to annoying fret buzz that can never be remedied! Especially if you play for hours a day!
  5. NOT Playing Loud Enough!  This is the other extreme when it comes to beginner guitar players and is pretty much the exact opposite of reason no.4! Some players just don’t strum or press hard enough with their fretting hand. Playing the guitar does require SOME finger strength, and as one progresses that strength will develop and eventually become second nature. You need to press on the strings with enough strength for the note or chord to ring out clearly but you also need to strum or pick the strings with enough drive to make the notes heard and come out! Don’t be afraid of it! A lot of beginners tend to give up sooner than they should because they play so lightly and eventually end up thinking that playing guitar requires too much strength! So they tell themselves their fingers can’t handle it! This is 100% false!
  6. NOT Practicing Strumming UP!  Here’s another one! Due to our human anatomy in relation to the guitar, when strumming the guitar with or without a pick, downwards (away from your chest) is always natively easier and almost requires little to no practice to execute properly. The issue is of course strumming UP! As a beginner it’s always harder to get the right sound and execution strumming up as it is strumming down. You want strumming up to sound and feel as comfortable as strumming down. How? You ask? Practice! Focus more attentively on the strumming patterns of your favourite tunes and put extra effort into strumming up! Both are important and necessary for nearly every song with a guitar in it! 
  7. Researching and Pulling From Way Too Many Sources!  There are tons and tons of guitar lessons tutorials tips and advice out on the interweb these days! So much to the point it can exhaust you and demotivate you to even learn the guitar! Not even that, ask yourself, are these tips and tutorials coming from reliable sources? Or are you just trusting advice from somebody from YouTube or a forum that you have never and will never meet? Remember to stay focused on your goal of learning that song or that section of a song, try not to draw from too many different sources and/or videos, because in the end, if you have a teacher that you trust and like then you will learn the right thing, the right way. Especially because you’re learning from someone in person!

It’s always better to learn in person! 

~Max Moy – The Twelfth Fret


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