Tips for Beginning Guitarists
1. Make sure you’re guitar is in tune.
-This should go without saying but I’ve encountered students on many occasions that do not tune properly or simply ignore this step before playing. Learning to tune takes time and practice but is well worth it. The more thorough you are at tuning, the more quickly you be able to do so and the better you will sound when playing. If the guitar is out of tune even things played correctly will sound wrong and cause you to question if what you’re playing is right or even worse create discouragement.
2. Practice with a beat.
-Playing with a pulse or a beat is the heart of music, without it, it’s dead. Serious musicians practice with a metronome, a machine that produces a steady click to practice along with. These are critical to developing good time and feel. Beginners can start by play simple rhythms such as whole notes, half notes and quarter notes. Notes and chords are not important when practicing time. An open string can be played or even clapping. Once a sense of time is developed it will be much easier to connect notes or chords on the guitar.
3. Try not to look at your picking hand all the time
-When playing the guitar, we use two hands; a fretting hand and a picking hand. Typically we cannot keep an eye on both. When picking, the strings are always in the same position, but when fretting the guitar we may move quite frequently. If you can develop a feel for the strings with the picking hand and not have to look at it frequently, this will allow you to focus more on the fretting hand and allow you to connect your notes or chords more fluently.
4. Connecting Chords
-Many beginners struggle to move from chords smoothly. When moving to a chord, fingers must be placed simultaneously on the correct frets. This requires muscle memory. When learning a chord, try releasing the fingers from the strings but keeping them in the chord configuration above them. Place the fingers in the correct configuration simultaneously back on the strings and fret board and repeat this process many times. This will train your fingers to move precisely to where they need to go. When moving from chord to chord, be sure to play in time. If you are not able to get to the next chord cleanly, slow down or release the chord early, say on beat 2 or 3 of the measure, to allow more time for your fingers to reconfigure for the new chord.
5. Understand the task at hand
-Learning an instrument is like learning a new language AND learning how to ride a bike. You must be able to physically perform the tasks in order to produce the notes that make up the musical language. That being said, these things take time. The task of learning an instrument can be great but acknowledging that will allow you to set obtainable realistic goals for yourself. Learning an instrument requires a great deal of problem solving and patience. Resist the urge to attempt things that you are not ready for yet. By keeping things manageable for yourself, you will gain the skills to achieve whatever your musical desires are.