Top 10 Common Challenges for a Beginner Guitar Player

publication date: Nov 24, 2009

If you are an absolute beginner guitar player, then chances are you will face some challenges as you get started. It's important to know what to expect so that you can learn how to overcome anything in your way!

10. Equipment: Time after time, I get the question of which beginner guitar to buy. Most people who are just starting out what something so they can give guitar a shot without breaking the bank in case it "doesn't work out." If you're looking for your first guitar still, I recently blogged about what to look for here: Your First Guitar. Otherwise, I would suggest getting a handful of picks (since you'll lose some), a guitar stand (I'll tell you why in a minute), and a capo. You'll need a case that's more than a thin sheet of plastic if you plan to take it anywhere. For the picks, start with medium gauge and later adjust to taste. The heavier the pick, the heavier the sound.

9. Overcoming Ego: I've taught all ages and personality types, and there is definitely a trend of learning guitar that is pretty closely related to ego. The more you hold on to ego, the less you learn. When you learn something new, you've got to let go of your ego! This is why kids learn things so fast-because they intrinsically know that messing up is part of the process. Contrary to popular belief, nobody is born a rock star. Let go, and you'll learn more!

8. Belief: "I think I can. I think I can." Self-doubt is one of the most common reasons people quit way too early. First of all, I admit that there is an element of "ya got it or ya don't" when it comes to feeling and understanding music. However, this element is not at all the main component of learning. This element more so the motivator of learning. In other words, if you don't think that you can do it-create a different motivation for yourself, and then you will be able to do it! Tell yourself you are going to master 3 songs before you even think about quitting. I've even taught somebody in a cast how to play a few songs! You can do it. You can do it!

7. Finger Flexibility:
Sometimes, this gets overlooked. Finger flexibility usually is the main concern; however finger flexibility is very important. Your fingers are made up of muscles and tendons, just like the legs of a runner. As you begin to play, gently and slowly stretch your fingers, and they will become more nimble as time goes on. I used to put pin-pong balls between each of my fingers when I first started to play! 

6. Setting the Right Goals:
Before you set the right goals, you have to see the value of setting a goal. The whole idea of a goal is that you do not stop (no matter what) until you reach that goal. That being said, set 3 small goals and 1 far out goal. For instance you could say, "this week I'm going to learn 3 chords, and by the end of the month, I want to be able to know all 9 common chords by memory."

5. Being Patient: There's no rush. Remember this whole guitar thing is supposed to be a hobby. You're supposed to enjoy your hobby! Anything new takes a little bit of time to learn, so plan to be patient with yourself. If you are too hard on yourself at first, you'll lose all motivation to play. Set goals, give yourself time, and celebrate (in the fashion of your choosing) when you accomplish them.

4. Slowing Down: This is tied into patience, but it has more to do with actually practicing. When you slow down an action when you first learn it, you teach your brain the correct way it should be done. You should never go fast until you've done it very slowly many times.

3. Motivation: Everybody needs a little spark to light a fire. Find out what motivates you, and incorporate that into your practice routine. Play your favorite CD. Watch some videos of really good guitar players. Go to a concert. Remember your reason to learn. Guitar is an awesome instrument and is indeed very fun to play. 

2. Finger Strength:
Spoiler alert: your fingers are going to be sore and flow for a few weeks! Plan on it. That have to build calluses on the tips, and they need to gain strength to be able to press down on the strings. All of this takes time, and I bet you can guess the best way to build finger strength: You got it-practice, practice, practice!

1. Finding the Right Teacher: One of the first things I ask a brand new student is if he or she has taken lessons before. I follow with, well what do you remember from lessons. I am amazed at how bad most of the guitar teaching is in the world. No wonder many people quit. Many teachers will show a few riffs of their favorite tunes and collect a check. On the other hand, music nerd teachers will spend all of their time showing you theory and reading music that doesn't have anything to do with grabbing a guitar and actually playing through some songs. Teaching is hugely important to success. You need to be plugged into a method-a method that has goals built in-a method that has motivation built in-a method that is step by step instruction for any level. Beginners, I give you!