5 Common Mistakes All New Guitar Players Make and How to Overcome Them

All new guitar players run the risk of falling into one of the traps that the guitar can offer. If this sounds like you, don’t worry!

In this lesson you’re going to learn about 5 common guitar mistakes that all new players make and what you can do to overcome them. If you feel like you've been stalling in your progress recently, these exercises and tips will show you how to improve at guitar when you feel like your guitar progress has stalled.

Not Holding the Guitar Correctly/Bad Posture

Many new guitar players will perch themselves on the sofa or the edge of the bed to practise, and while this may work, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to sit.
If you plan on spending a long time playing guitar, it’s best to get into good posture habits early on. You should be sitting upright, with your shoulders relaxed and your thighs parallel to the floor with a 90 degree angle at the knee.
Sitting on a sofa or bed doesn’t allow for this. If you can, invest in a good stool with back support, or a good chair.
Hold the guitar up right, don’t be tempted to tilt it back to see the fretboard. This can cause problems for your wrist which will be bent at an unnatural angle. You could end up developing some nasty conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Not Warming Up Properly

Before you even consider launching into the fastest things you have learnt, it’s so important to warm up.

Many new players will learn something and a few days later find they can’t do it right away. This can be a source of frustration, but really it stems from not warming your hands up.

When your hands are properly warmed up, they are looser and more flexible. This means you are putting less strain on the muscles and joints.

Use this simple warmup exercise to help. Using all four fingers of your fretting hand, play the first four frets on the Low E string. First finger on the first fret, middle finger on the second fret, ring finger on the third fret and little finger on the fourth fret.

Repeat this on every string, whilst alternate picking the notes.

If the stretch between the first four frets is a little tricky, don’t worry. Move this up to a higher register like the 7th fret. The distance between the frets up here is a little easier and will make the stretching easier for you.

Guitar Warm Up Exercise
Guitar Warm Up Exercise continued

Not Practising With a Metronome

Not practising with a metronome is a cardinal sin. Many guitar players of all ability levels are guilty of this. If you start this early on, it will benefit you further down the line.

Get a metronome from your local PMT store, online or on your phone and set it to a comfortable tempo.

Do the above warm up exercise, playing one note on each beat. If you start at 60bpm, get the exercise sounding good then move up to 70bpm. Repeat this in 10bpm groups until you cannot go any faster. When you hit this point, write it down and stop.

The next day, go back to 60bpm and start over. After a few days of doing this, you will have gotten a little faster, but you will also have locked your mindset into working with the metronome.

You can also strum chords along to the metronome.

Fretting Too Hard

It’s easy to over exert your fingers when you start out. The temptation to push the strings down as hard as you can is always there. You only need to push down until the string makes connection with the fret.

A good exercise to train yourself in this is to pick any note you want. Rest your finger above that note and pick it continuously and steadily. You should hear a muted note because all you are doing is resting on the string.

Now, slowly apply more pressure until the string starts to sound the note. This is as hard as you need to press.

If you are pressing harder than this, you’re actually bending the string past the fret which in turn will make the pitch go sharp.

Having Bad Hand Coordination Habits

Coordination between your two hands is a huge part of being a great player. All the steps in this lesson will help you on the road to coordinating your hands, but always keep it in your mind that it’s something that can always be improved.

Use your metronome and strum some different chord rhythms along to help you coordinate.

Start with quarter notes between two chords. Here we have a G and an E, but you can use any chords you want. With the metronome on, you are strumming once on every beat. After 4 beats, change to the next chord.

Quarter Note Metronome Practice

Once you’re comfortable with one strum, keep the metronome going but double up to two. These are called eighth notes. You’re doing both a down and an up strum on every metronome click.

Eighth Note Metronome Practice

This PMT College lesson was brought to you in partnership with MusicTeacher.com, and written by experienced guitar teacher Leigh Fuge. Leigh works as part of a community of guitar teachers based across the UK. Click here to find a teacher near you.