7 Mistakes Students Make When Learning To Play Guitar And How To Avoid Them

7 Mistakes Students Make When Learning To Play Guitar And How To Avoid Them

Having taught guitar for more than 20 years, I have noticed common and critical mistakes students make when learning guitar. Some of these mistakes are made through sheer ignorance. However, some are the result of laziness, fear, and a general lack of confidence in ones own ability to become a musician.

Whatever the case may be, these mistakes generally leave the student falsely believing they don’t have what it takes to become a great guitar player.

This simply is not true!

Becoming a great guitar player is a result of doing certain things on a consistent basis. Just as NOT becoming a great guitar player is a result of doing certain things on a consistent basis, or perhaps we should say NOT doing certain things on a consistent basis.

This is why it is absolutely critical you find a great guitar instructor to help teach, train, and mentor you into the guitarist you want to become. There is no substitute. It will always take far longer, and involve a lot more frustration trying to teach yourself, if you even get there at all.

That aside, today I want to focus on 7 critical mistakes students make when learning to play guitar and how you can avoid them.

Mistake 1: Getting stuck in TAB and not memorising songs

Tablature can be great, but it is a means to an end. You must memorise whatever it is you are learning. By doing so you will play and perform music so much better.

If you don’t consider yourself to have a great memory, not to worry. The more you memorise the easier it becomes. Your memory is like a muscle. The more you use it, the better it will develop and the more you will find you can rely on it.

Furthermore, memorise whatever you are playing as you learn it, not after. It is much quicker this way. So break the piece of music/song up into small parts, and as you learn these small parts, memorise them too, by looking away from the music, and therefore training yourself to not have to rely on looking at a piece of paper every time you play whatever it is you are learning.

Mistake 2: Not playing to/listening to songs you are working on

I have had my fair share of students who would learn a song, but not listen to the song they are learning. Crazy, I know, but it happens. The song needs to be in your head, not just your fingers.

You must really listen to the song you are learning. By doing so you will develop a great ear for music.

A great thing to do is to listen the song you are learning from different perspectives. So listen to the song and really focus on the guitar part. Then listen to the song again and focus on the vocal. Then listen again and focus on the drums, then the bass etc.

This will do wonders for your awareness of what is going on in relation to the part you are playing/learning. You will find referencing the other instruments in a song will help you play your part in time. It’s a skill that will pay you back many times over as you jam in all sorts of different musical situations.

Mistake 3: Playing rather than practicing your guitar

This is a big one. It feels great when you can nail something on guitar. You’ll want to do it over and over, however practice time is for working on things you cannot do yet.

Most people practice mindlessly, and then play and think too much. It needs to be the other way around. When you practice have your mind engaged with what your fingers are doing. When you are playing, relax, get in the zone by not second guessing yourself and over thinking things.

Mistake 4: Playing too fast/taking on too much at once

This is another big and very common mistake. Perhaps the biggest of all.
You must play things SLOWLY at first. Don’t have your fingers trying to keep up with your mind, but rather your mind slow down to be in sync with your fingers.

Try commentating/talking through what your fingers are doing and you will find you will slow right down.

You also need to break things down into small manageable pieces for your brain to digest. It’s very much like memorising a page or more of writing. You wouldn’t do this by trying to memorise it all of it at once, but rather by breaking it down into small bite size manageable pieces. Learning music is no different.

Mistake 5: Using incorrect/inefficient fingering

There is a tendency for students to use whatever fingering feels easy to them when fretting something out on the guitar, be it a riff or melody of some sort.
Learning a riff and using only one finger might be easier to do up front, however it is extremely limiting.

Take the time to use correct, efficient fingering.

Yes, you will need to focus and engage your brain more in what fingers to use, however before too long, this correct, efficient fingering will become the natural way for you to fret things out on the guitar.

It will also enable you to do so much more than using a single finger, or some random approach as to what fingers you use.

Mistake 6: Delaying/avoiding jamming with other guitarists and musicians

When I first started learning guitar I had a teacher, however I also regularly jammed with a neighbour of mine who was also learning to play guitar. We did this because it was fun, and we wanted to play songs after all.

Many of the skills I developed in the early days was as much from jamming as it was from the lessons I had.

In the lesson I learned specific techniques for playing guitar. When jamming, I learned how to put these things together to create music with other guitarists and musicians.

I didn’t wait until I was at a particular level before jamming. Rather I got to a specific level of playing by jamming. Putting it off, believing I wasn’t good enough to jam, would have only delayed my progress.

Mistake 7: Trying to teach yourself via the internet or some other resource

Thankfully, I always had the guidance of a teacher learning guitar from the very beginning. I still have teachers and mentors today regarding my guitar playing.

However, I regularly see the effects of trying to go it alone learning to play guitar, through people that come to see me for lessons at my school.

These people have tried to teach themselves, some for many years, and have found it to be a very frustrating experience.

No wonder. Trying to teach yourself is at best a very slow and frustrating journey that often yields very little result.

These people that come to see me often learn more in a month regarding their guitar playing than they learned in the whole time they’ve been trying to teach themselves, in some cases many many years.

Find a great teacher and commit to having them teach, train, and mentor you in your guitar playing. There is an order in which to do things, and methods and strategies you won’t discover on your own, that a good experienced teacher can help you with.
Take the time to read through this article and take action in each area. Doing so will set you on the right path towards achieving your musical goals.

Remember becoming a great guitar player is the result of doing certain things, on a consistent daily basis.

Author Box:

Rock, blues, jazz, and fingerpicking are the cornerstone of Simon Candy’s guitar playing style. A highly sought after teacher in his home town of Melbourne Australia, Simon also provides highly effective and result driven acoustic guitar lessons online.