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Tips for Beginner Guitar Players

Tips for Beginner Guitar Players

Posted by Gabriel Gilbert on Dec 4th 2020

I know, I know. How to play your favorite song or your favorite band is what got you down this road. But the key right now is to build upon a few techniques. And what may seem, at first, some uber-unnatural motor skills. Physical pain may be on the horizon. Sore hands. Calloused fingers.

Welcome to guitar for beginners. Or welcome back, to those returning to the 6-stringed beast.


The Goal.

Getting these skills down and learning a few basics sounds totally boring, awful or even expensive, like...going to school. Let's be honest. It does sound like going to school. Or getting a part-time job. 

"Honey, did you take the garbage out? Honey, are you going to practice today?" Uh-huh. 

Learning songs is the goal. Let's just keep that in mind. How quickly can we get you playing three or four basic chords, so you can play a song and get that insanely chill feeling? You'll be sitting there, the chords roll along in a ridiculously coordinated fashion. Your sister or roommate or whatever peek out. "Yo, that is, like, 'Insert Song Name Here'? Seriously, are you just playing that on guitar now?"

And you are. And you will glance at them with world-weary ennui, and just continue strumming. Because you are, of course, a guitar god(ess).


Patience.

Everyone wants to learn guitar yesterday. No one learned yesterday. No. One. Learned. Yesterday.

You want to rip off a solo and play by ear. Nope. That ain't happening either. That is a process, and you may be gifted, but probably not. More likely, you will learn bad habits watching bad YouTube videos, grow frustrated, and stop playing your $300 guitar. Later, it will be sold on LetGo or something for $75 to a guy who knows he can get $180, and you will just "let it go."

Don't be that person.


You will not be Jimi Hendrix. Or Taylor Swift. Not tomorrow. Not ever. You be you. The best you. And you enjoy playing that guitar.


I started playing in high school, self-taught. And I started before this thing called the internet with nothing more than a chord chart. Then I walked to school on my hands in the snow, backwards, in a Speedo.

Some of that is true.

But I practiced a lot, and I practiced consistently, often several hours a day, to become a decent, reasonably average player. Done properly, practice 20 minutes about 3 days a week, and you will become a really good player in less than a year.

A decent, reasonably average player is someone who can pick up a song book or YouTube videos, watch a song or read the chords and lyrics, then play that song start to finish with a couple run-through's. 

That is enjoying the instrument. You'll be fluid, able to entertain yourself and others, and playing the guitar in a nice, breezy way within one year.


Total Immersion Method or TIM.

Guitar books are guitar books. Sitting alone in your room is comforting. No one sees your millions of mistakes. Combine the visual aides with self-imposed solitary confinement? Add expert instructors in high def videos? You get privacy, an ability to rewind endlessly, and visual plus auditory inputs. That's how you really learn when you're not with a tutor. That's the iVideosongs Total Immersion Method (TIM) using virtual tools. The videos are free. F-r-e-e.


Expectations.
So, what we've just said is about what 12 months of really playing for 20 minutes solid, 3+ days per week, gets you. And that's a good thing. It really, truly is. 

Now, if you come back in 12 months, and you call me a liar, here's what will happen. I will know you played about 10 minutes twice a week. I will know you are lying. 

I will reply, "You are a dirty, grimy, prairie dog digging-a-hole liar. You practiced nine minutes at best, twice a week, and stopped practicing seven months into it. Take up playing a harmonica on a deserted island, pal."

That is precisely what I will reply if you call me a liar. So don't even go there.


Stop comparing yourself to others.

I remember that whenever I heard a good guitarist play I always enjoyed listening, but I also was a bit jealous because I wasn’t just as good. I constantly got the feeling that I have to run home and practice. Ego was getting in the way, especially when I played with others.

Stop comparing yourself to others right now. Compare yourself to yourself! Listen to recordings of you playing a month before. Making recordings of yourself playing is a great way to track your progress.

There will always be better guitar players than you, even if you become the next John Petrucci. Get over it.


Start practicing scales early.

The thing with chords is that you always have to synchronize multiple fingers at once, which can be difficult especially if you are just about to start. If you start with scales, you have to think of only one finger at a time. Later, when you do chords, your brain already knows the specific positions because chords are just snippets of scales. As a result, you will be able to learn and execute chords much faster if you know some scales before.


Learn guitar with A minor pentatonic scale
Look, ma! The A minor pentatonic scale.

One very common scale is the minor pentatonic scale. Massive swaths of the modern rock library use the minor pentatonic scale. As you learn classic rock solos, you will be amazed how many employ the same few moves, if only in different order, speeds and styles. 


Practice, rinse, repeat.

The pleasure, my friends, is repeating and hearing yourself absolutely killing that chord change, that strumming pattern or that new lick.

Learning to play the guitar by playing cover songs helps. But this will not make you a great guitar player long term. It builds invaluable techniques and fine motor skills that create muscle memory. And a repertoire that help you return to the instrument more days than not.

Using a metronome to help with timing? I cannot say enough. The tick-tock-tick-tock gives you a sense of time and space. Or use some beats on your phone as backing tracks. Either way, this is essential to really get good at guitar. No one wants to hear you meandering, muttering, "No wait...no wait," a million times with your do-over's.

Practice what you learn. Try our @ivideosongs channel. You'll find a ton of lessons and songs. All the songs have a play-along portion. You can fast forward toward the end. There, you can visually watch the instructor, play along with him or her, and have the entire band going in the background. There is nothing like playing with a band and visually watching another skilled player at the same time. It is the total physical, aural experience of learning and doing at the same time.

Doing this is 100% certain to improve your knowledge of chords, scales, tone, and rhythm.

Learning to play songs and strum patterns is a key strategy to your development, too. Learning new rhythms and new strum patterns will occur naturally as you master new lessons and songs. Slow down, then speed up the metronome to an uncomfortable level as you go. Make a lot of mistakes and push it. 

That is how you learn new rhythms and to change chords in time with real songs and other players in a group. That is how you prepare to be in a band or perform publicly. It demands that you get mentally strong and impervious to messing up, at the same time that you loosen up and stop sweating the small stuff. 

Once you get how to shift from a regular chord into a barre chord, for example, really celebrate that moment. It is a big moment. Then, do that over and over quite a few times to get the muscle memory. 

That is a huge moment. Don't sell yourself short.


Don't be a quitter.

If you are not where you want to be, look back and see how far you have come. Every guitar player will hit the wall at some point. If you feel like you are not progressing at all despite daily practice, the best thing to do is relax and play something fun you like. Play new things for a week, try to work something out on your own, then come back to the place you were before and give it another try.

These little walls that pop up during your ascent to guitar greatness usually happen just before you reach your next level. Keep at it.


Playing guitar is about the experience.

Look, this is about the experience and the process. There is a sound and feeling. That guitar against your body. The sounds it makes. The ache of your hands. Just enjoy that process. When you feel frustration rising in your chest and neck, take a deep breath. You think the bros in Kings of Leon or ever-iconic Sheryl Crow never, ever felt that? Wrong.

Welcome to the guitar. Welcome to music. Welcome to the creative process. Own it.

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