5 Common Problems I See In New Guitar Students

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I’ve recently picked up a few new beginner students in my face to face teaching business (if you’re interested, I offer online lessons too). It’s exciting for a range of reasons. Firstly, being able to share guitar playing with someone who is enthusiastic about music is one of the perks of the job plus meeting new and exciting personalities which makes life fun! Plus I learn just as much as the student, while getting paid to play guitar.


However, I see five major problems in most students, especially new ones. Some of these issues will take a few minutes to solve, other could take a few weeks or months. If you teach, it’s likely that you encounter them all the time – luckily, you’ll now know how to over them!



#1 Lack of practice

Now I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t practice as much as I should. I do teach a fair amount and so I’m doing a bit of “playing” practice as the student and I will play together during the lesson. But I do try to counteract this by actively listening to quite a lot of music throughout the week.


With that said, the one key difference I see with people who make progress fast, isn’t age or natural ability – it’s the people who listen to my advice on what to practice and go away and practice. It’s that simple.


As a guide, you should be spending 30 minutes a day – 5 day weeks on guitar practice – even if you’re 16 or 60. If you’re professional, then you might spend 6 hours a day 6 days weeks (more if you’re preparing for run of shows or high profile event) but for the average guitarist, 30 minutes is more than enough.


Within this time you should be working on licks, tricks, chords, scales etc. that you CAN’T do. After this dedicated practice time then you can play what you can do, but practice is really working on stuff you can’t already play in the hope that you can learn how to do it – quickly, easily and make it sound like you’ve being playing it for years!



#2 Faster than fast

I talked about the art of slowly the other week. Please read it!


In short, if you can’t do something (a lick, song, chord change), then get your metronome out and go as slowly as you possibly can, until you feel confident that you can do it – then from there get faster while keep confident.


Don’t and I mean don’t – rush it, if you can’t do something, trying to do it even faster is certainly going to make you not be able to do. There’s only one way to go and that is SLOWLY!



#3 Great expectations

Having huge expectations is worth it. If you dream big and fail, you’ll still be far ahead of any small dream you might have had.


Whatever size dream you have, learning the guitar will take you a while to even become proficient – heck, I’ve been doing it for over 15 years and I’m still learning and evolving.


You might want to slow down on your time scales for becoming world guitar idol – but keep those goals and expectations! Its hard work but worth it.


Rome wasn’t built in a day – nor will you’re guitar playing be as great as your favourite playing in a day!



#4 Misunderstanding of the fundamentals

One of the things I firmly belief is if you get the foundations strong – you can literally sky rocket you’re playing in next to no time.


The sad fact is that building a strong foundation can take years and thousands of hours of practice.


I see all the time, people who come for lesson with a weak or shaky base, we then have to start again and spend months working on re-building their guitar playing on a firm grounding.


In short, the fundamentals are concepts like how to hold/use the left hand and right hand technique (both pick and fingers), chords and chord changes, scales, and rhythm and groove.



#5 Application – it’s all that matters!

By far the biggest problem I see is people getting bogged down in learning as many songs, chords, lick, tricks and theoretical concepts as possible – as the more you know the better for it! It’s crazy!


Learn with a purpose in mind. Learn a lick because it’s cool and you’ll use it. Then practice using it until it becomes part of your own vocabulary and doesn’t sound like someone else’s idea.


Figure out new chord voicings, in order to express what’s happening in your life in that neat song you’re writing.


Learn the bridge of that new pop hit because the chord pattern is cool – then try to write a song around that progression for yourself.


Don’t try to learn more because you think it will seep into your playing, it does but it’s a long way around – learn the part of the song you want to learn and practice it up – ready for use.



So that’s the five common problems I see all the time teaching. Did you see yourself in any of them? If so what are doing to overcome them?

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