Most people who decide to pick up guitar don’t end up making it to the intermediate stage. They buy a guitar, take a few lessons or watch a few videos, but the knowledge never really sticks and they lose motivation. People say they “aren’t cut out for it” or they “just don’t have the talent,” but it actually has very little to do with that. Learning guitar has much more to do with approach and mindset from the start. Here are the 5 fatal mistakes that beginner guitar players make:
Getting the wrong instrument
Obviously, you want to avoid really cheap instruments. That $50 department store guitar you found isn’t going to last more than a month if you’re really playing it. Craigslist and garage sale instruments can be great, but you might also end up buying a severely damaged guitar if you don’t know what to look for. It’s best to buy an instrument from a retailer that you trust. Ask your teacher or a guitarist friend for recommendations and advice. At the same time, don’t break the bank for an instrument you don’t know how to play yet, because you don’t really know what you want until you’ve had some playing experience. Too many bells and whistles can be distracting or even harmful to your playing. Pick something versatile and easy to play for your first beginner guitar, and aim to spend between $100 and $250.
Expecting too much too soon
When it comes to learning the guitar (especially if it’s the first instrument you’ve ever learned) it is important to manage your expectations. Start by accepting the fact that you will not be able to learn overnight. A few months of practice will open a lot of doors for you musically, but it takes years to truly master an instrument. If learning guitar is something you really want to accomplish, It will take a certain level of dedication to the long-term. Set realistic goals for yourself. If you don’t meet those goals, step back and try a different approach. Keep at it and remember that it takes time.
You’re not going to learn anything if your lesson is the only time when you play your guitar. That being said, set realistic goals for yourself. Obviously playing an hour every day is going to make you improve much faster, but the more you make practice feel like a giant, time-consuming chore, the less you’re going to want to do it. Practicing in short, 15 or 20-minute bursts will still help you improve, especially if that means that you’ll actually do it! Keep your guitar in your living room and pick it up whenever you have downtime. Just practicing scales or simple chord progressions during commercial breaks will help improve your hand strength and muscle memory. All practice is good practice!
Trying to go it alone
Plenty of people are able to teach themselves the basics of beginner guitar, but most people tend to get frustrated, discouraged, or just don’t have the discipline to go through it alone. And that’s okay! It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re doing something entirely for yourself. Taking lessons is always a great option because not only will your guitar teacher keep you accountable, but you’ll get tips, advice, and feedback. If you don’t have the money for lessons, make a pact with a friend to learn a new song each week and send them a video. Give them permission to hound you if you miss a week!
Not being flexible
Most beginner guitar players might be surprised to hear it, but physical flexibility isn’t nearly as important as mental flexibility. It’s good to have specific goals in mind, but you don’t want to put yourself into a box. Keep an open mind. Stay open to feedback and advice. Don’t get too fixated on learning a particular genre, song, or style right away. You’ll likely still need to start with the basics and work your way up to it. You’re going to hit roadblocks, plateaus, and frustrating obstacles on your journey as a guitarist, so you can’t just quit when things start to get hard. If you stay persistent and open to new ideas, you’ll be able to get past it.
Playing the guitar in itself isn’t incredibly difficult – it’s the process of learning to play where most beginners struggle. Staying positive, setting good goals, and asking for feedback when you need it will get you much further than talent alone.