12 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting to Learn Guitar

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By Guitar Pick Reviews

Learning to play the guitar can lead to unintentional bad habits that are tough to break and can slow your progress. Beginners and even those in the middle of their guitar journey can make these mistakes. 

It’s common when you’re new to something, especially without a teacher. However, you might notice these common mistakes if you’re a self-thought guitar player. But don’t worry! You can fix every mistake, and the first step is to identify them. 

In this article, I’ll discuss 12 common guitar mistakes beginners make and share tips on correcting them.

A beginner guitar player strums an acoustic guitar
A beginner guitar player strums an acoustic guitar

At A Glance: 12 Mistakes To Avoid For Guitar Learners

Let’s look at the top mistakes most learners commonly make during beginner guitar lessons!

  1. Implying too much force for playing
  2. Missing a proper guitar setup
  3. Playing too fast
  4. Not Changing Strings Often
  5. Going without a metronome
  6. Practicing With Wrong String Types
  7. Neglecting Finger Strength and Dexterity
  8. Poor Posture
  9. Skipping Music Theory
  10. Learning Too Much At Once
  11. Overlooking Ear Training
  12. Giving Up Too Easily

Detailed Discussion On Beginner Guitar Learning Mistakes [With Solutions]

1. Implying Too Much Force for Playing

One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is implying too much force for playing. The issue arises with pressing guitar strings too hard by the fretting hand or strumming intensely with the picking hand. 

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Solution: 

Try using the minimum amount of force necessary to produce a clear and clean sound. You should also relax your hands and arms and avoid tensing up. You can practice playing with a lighter touch by using a softer pick, lowering your string action, or using thinner strings.

2. Missing a Proper Guitar Setup

A poorly set-up guitar can be a major roadblock to your progress in your early guitar lessons. Issues like high action or uneven frets can make learning needlessly difficult. 

A setup involves adjusting different parts of the guitar, like the neck, bridge, frets, and pickups, to enhance playability and sound quality. 

Solution: 

Have your guitar professionally set up yearly or when issues arise. You can also learn how to set up your guitar by yourself. It’s a lot simpler than it seems.

3. Playing Too Fast

Beginners often make the mistake of playing too fast. It’s okay to play your favorite songs in your early lessons, but learning the basics is crucial before everything. 

Solution:

Resist the urge to speed ahead and focus on building a solid foundation. Speed will come with time and practice.

Play at a comfortable speed, use a metronome or backing track for rhythm, and start slow, gradually increasing your speed as you gain skill and confidence.

4. Not Changing Strings Often

You may forget to change guitar strings regularly, thinking it’s unnecessary or too hard. But not changing strings can make them sound dull, feel rough, break easily, and cause your guitar to go out of tune. Old, rusty strings can produce a dull and lifeless tone.

Solution:

Change your strings based on your playing frequency and intensity. Typically, every month or every 100 hours of play is a good rule. Also, change them if you see wear or corrosion.

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5. Going Without a Metronome

Timing is a crucial aspect of playing fine music. During practice sessions, a metronome will aid you in developing a strong sense of rhythm, making you a more precise and reliable player.

Solution:

Use a metronome when practicing or playing music. You can choose a physical metronome, an online version, or a mobile app. Drum machines, loop pedals, or backing tracks can also work as alternatives.

There are great mobile apps for that, and if you are like me and prefer an actual device, give Korg TM-60 a look.

6. Practicing With the Wrong Type of Strings

They are not really the “wrong” type of strings, but many beginners start to play with strings that are just too thick. This has to do with an old guitar myth saying that thick strings sound better.

Different styles of music and playing techniques call for different types of strings. Make sure you’re using strings that are appropriate for your chosen genre and playing style to achieve the desired tone in your beginner guitar lessons.

Solution: 

Select the right strings for your guitar and playing style.

Opt for softer, thinner strings if you’re a beginner (easier to play, less pain) and thicker only if you really find that you prefer their sound.

7. Neglecting Finger Strength and Dexterity

Another common mistake for beginners is ignoring finger strength and dexterity. It involves controlling and moving your fingers with speed, accuracy, and coordination. Many beginners overlook them, thinking they’ll develop naturally. 

Solution:

To avoid this, practice finger strength and dexterity exercises regularly. Some use tools like Gripmaster or Varigrip, but in most cases, finger stretches and finger warm-ups will do.

8. Poor Posture

Bad posture can lead to discomfort, fatigue, and even injury in your guitar lessons. Having a poor posture can cause several problems, such as:

  • It affects your breathing and vocal quality
  • Restricting your movement and flexibility
  • Causing pain or injury to your muscles, joints, or nerves
  • Reducing your concentration and confidence
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Solution: 

Maintain a relaxed, ergonomic playing position to ensure a more enjoyable and sustainable learning experience in your guitar lessons for beginners.

A guitar player plays a classical guitar standing up
A guitar player plays a classical guitar standing up

9. Skipping Music Theory

Music theory is about understanding how music works, including things like scales, chords, keys, rhythm, and notation. 

Some skip it as they think it’s tedious or complicated. But skipping music theory can limit your creativity, make it harder to learn songs, and hamper communication with other musicians.

Solution:

Learn music theory as part of your guitar learning. Here’s how:

  • Start with basics
  • Study scales and their modes. 
  • Master chords and variations. 
  • Understand chord progressions and their functions. 
  • Practice techniques like strumming and picking.

10. Learning Too Much At Once

The wealth of information out there for aspiring guitarists can be quite daunting. Attempting to grasp everything all at once can result in feelings of bewilderment and exasperation.

Solution: 

Focus on mastering one skill before heading towards the next. Also, follow these tips:

  • Set realistic and achievable goals
  • Focus on one thing at a time
  • Stick to one source

11. Overlooking Ear Training

Ear training is a vital skill that many beginners overlook. Developing your ear will enable you to recognize melodies, chords, and intervals by ear.

Solution

Practice ear training as part of your guitar learning process. Here’s some tips:

  • Learn the fundamentals of ear training
  • Use tools like [EarMaster] or [Perfect Ear] to learn the basics
  • Practice your ear training skills with various exercises
  • Apply to real music

12. Giving Up Too Easily

Learning to play the guitar is a journey that requires patience and perseverance. Many beginners quit learning guitar because they encounter some difficulties or challenges. 

Solution:

Follow these tips to overcome the difficulties or challenges that may make you want to quit:

  • Celebrate your achievements
  • Have fun and enjoyment
  • Make time and motivation
  • Seek support and guidance

Conclusion

Learning guitar brings joy and fulfillment, yet it does come with its fair share of challenges and moments of frustration. 

However, you can enhance your guitar learning adventure by steering clear of these common errors and maintaining dedication to your practice routine.

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