Even playing easy guitar songs can prove to be frustrating if you are unable to avoid recurring mistakes and find it difficult to find ways to overcome them. We all want to be able to run before we can walk, but it is essential the basics are “nailed” to avoid the frustrations and demotivation that will occur if you do not achieve this. It can be off-putting to think you have to be able to master some basics and rectify common mistakes, because, like any beginner, you want to be able to play that song now!!! Let’s have a look at some of the best ways to make the early parts of your guitar-playing journey as pain-free as possible. Just one thing to bear in mind, whatever your ability and whatever you are learning, practice makes perfect.
The Way You Think
Manage Your Expectations – Do not rush anything.
One sure way to demotivate yourself is to believe you can learn and perfect something really quickly – but this is not the case. Try and be realistic by setting a modest expectation based on your current abilities by finding a pace you are comfortable with. If, for example, you want to learn to play Nowhere Man by The Beatles and have not yet mastered a barre chord (that is required for this song) think about putting in extra time to practice the barre chord required and giving yourself “space” to do this. That way you will make quicker progress when you actually come to learn the full song and its component parts.
This routine can be applied to anything you decide to learn.
String buzzing, clicking sounds, and muted notes are commonplace, so make sure you place your fretting finger(s) as close to the fret as possible, not directly on top of it. Experiment with both individual notes and then chords. When playing chords it may not be possible to have all your fingers adjacent to the fret, so keeping practicing and play each note of the chord individually to make sure they ring out and have an element of longevity. If you struggle, you can experiment by making subtle changes in the way you play a chord so that it comes out as clean as possible
Set Yourself Realistic Goals
Although you may be in the throes of learning a song, you should also set yourself other smaller targetable goals that go hand in hand with your song learning. Think of, for example, a technique or riff or set of chords that you have always wanted to master and then list down the chunks of learning you will need to go through. If it is the riff you may want to do something like:
Day 1 – listen and really get to know the riff
Day 2 – watch different versions on Youtube
Day 3 & 4 – learn the notes and techniques and perfect them slowly by playing along with a metronome at, say, 50% of the original speed
Day 5 – Increase the speed of the metronome by 25% and play several times until perfect
Day 6 – Play along with the track
Day 7 – Play along with the metronome at the speed of the recording
This is only an example, but you will hopefully have an idea of how this “system” works.
Have a “mess around” on your guitar.
As well as concentrating on your goals and objectives, it is really important to experiment and make up your own little tunes and riffs. I would, therefore, recommend keeping your guitar in an easily accessible place, such as on a guitar stand in your living room, so if you’re in the mood for a non-serious twiddle, just pick it up and play; even if it’s for only a minute or so.
You can try and emulate some melodies or tunes or maybe “feel” your way around the guitar when watching a movie or even try a new technique such as a bend, without worrying too much (at this stage) of the outcome.
If you find it difficult to put down and your motivation high, it presents a good opportunity to run through some of the new stuff you are learning. You will find this a great environment in which to improve and really nail something you may be struggling with. You will be surprised how much improvement you can make.
Make sure you have the correct posture
The last thing you need to be is uncomfortable. Make sure you are either sitting or standing in a way that is comfortable for you, but also taking into account the dos and don’ts of having the correct posture. Without even thinking about it, this will help you strum and pick more accurately as, in theory, you will not be tense. Believe you me, this works.
No need to embellish this one. Do not force yourself to play if you are clearly not in the mood. Try using our tips, chill and have fun.
About the Author
As a well-respected player, teacher and coach, Andy Partridge is the lead instructor for Guitar Coach Magazine. Andy’s gentle step by step approach and detailed note by note lessons will give you the confidence, reassurance, and motivation you need to really achieve your guitar playing goals sooner than you thought possible. His relaxed and engaging teaching style (complete with sometimes questionable jokes) make learning easier, faster, and so much more fun.