If you recently started playing guitar, you probably have tons of questions and basic problems you can’t surpass on your own. Whether you’re studying the instrument with the thought of a professional career in mind or simply for fun, here’s some advice to help you progress faster and, eventually, sound better:
1. Learn to change your own strings: This way, you won’t have to wait around with worn-out strings on your guitar until someone takes the time to replace them for you.
2. Wash your hands before playing and clean the strings afterward: Particles of dust and tiny amounts of fat are invisible to the naked eye, but they’re right there on your fingertips and they are making strings wear out faster.
3. Keep your nails trim: Especially girls! Long nails (on your left hand / or right hand, if you’re left-handed) are a real pain in the… arpeggios if you’re playing guitar. You have to trim your nails, otherwise you’ll find it difficult to press down the strings and get the chords right.
4. Tune your guitar without help: It’s not as complicated as it seems! And nothing is more embarrassing than a guitarist playing with his instrument out of tune. Basically, you’ll only need a tuner or a trained ear to tune each string.
5. Your fingers hurt? Keep practicing! My students often complain that the pain is hard to bear throughout the first few lessons and home rehearsals, because the skin on their fingertips is not thick enough… yet. The only solution is to practice as much and as often as they can, to make it stronger. Pain is part of the process – and it will go away after the first few weeks of lessons and constant playing.
6. Get to know your instrument: Read as much as you can about the parts of your guitar, about the pickups (if it’s an electric one), about the wood it’s made of and the improvements you can bring to your instrument in time. Your guitar will define your sound, so it comes without saying that you should know it by heart. When you play, the instrument must be the extension of your soul and fingers.
7. Protect your fingers and keep them in shape: I’m not necessarily into standard warm-up exercises before playing – instead, I’ve come to see that accessories like the Grip Master can really help develop the flexibility and coordination of your hands. Also, I think it’s very important to keep your fingers protected from sudden temperature changes, especially harsh cold: if you feel you need to, wear your gloves even in September
8. Find a guitar teacher: No, I’m not advertising my own lessons, but it’s essential to get some guidance when you’re making your first steps towards learning to play an instrument. Books meant for self-taught musicians and free online lessons can only get you to a certain level – nothing compares to a real person who explains things in a proper way, proves you wrong and helps you to make it right, follows your fingers until you play the chords in the best positions and, more than anything, encourages you to be better.
9. Play with your fingers and with a pick, too: Learn and practice both ways and when you feel confident enough in your playing, alternate picking techniques and use all of your fingers for certain fragments of the song. This will make your playing more versatile and expressive.
10. Don’t fear theory: I agree, there are artists that play wonderfully and have huge careers without being able to read a single note, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the theory behind the music if you get the chance. The theoretical aspects are not as boring and difficult as they might seem: once you’ve learned the basics, further study will only become easier and more efficient for you.
11. Play with a metronome: Rhythm is an essential element in music, so you should “feel” it and master it as early in your career/study as possible. Your current manner of playing will shape your future style. If you don’t want to face rhythm and phrasing issues later on, always practice with your metronome.
Stay tuned, I’ll soon publish the second part of the Guitar Beginners Tips series, where you’ll find out what a guitar capo is, why you should cherish feeling more than technique and how to practice more efficiently.
Have fun learning, enjoy your guitar and don’t forget that in music there are no mistakes, only bad timings! Good luck 😉