How To Improve Your Playing As A Beginner Guitarist

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How To Improve Your Playing As A Beginner Guitarist

We all have to start somewhere with our guitar journey. Whether you’re dreaming of becoming the next Hendrix or Santana, you’re probably going to have to perfect your F chord until you get there. 

But as any guitar player will tell you, it’s easy to get started, harder to keep it going. Once you’re past the first few lessons, you might find yourself getting stuck in a rut. It’s a common occurrence and one that can feel inescapable at times. 

After all, improvement is a long-term goal. Shortcuts don’t really help, and you’re told to put the time in. But without having immediate results in front of you, it’s hard to know if you’re on the right path. 

So how do you break out of this feeling of being trapped and clueless? Well, it might seem impossible, but there is a way. In fact, there are several ways. And we’ll be exploring many of them down below. These will help you gain actionable tips on how to really improve your guitar skills. If you follow them closely, you can set your sights on going from a beginner to an absolute guitar champ soon enough. 

Record Yourself

By far, one of the hardest things about being a beginner is knowing If you’re making meaningful progress. If you’re a bedroom guitar player, you won’t get many chances to play in front of others. 

The best way to get around this problem is to start recording your playing. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Even a rough recording on your phone works well. The important part is keeping a record of all your playing sessions. 

Recordings will help you keep track of your playing progress over the course of months and years. When you go listen to previous recordings, it will make you appreciate your current skills. It ends up being a major morale boost and motivator to keep you going. 

As a bonus, it’s also a way for you to listen to your mistakes. Mishaps that might not jump at you when playing will become apparent once you listen to the recordings. 

Every time you sit down to play or practice, make sure you have something to record them handy. You’ll end up thanking yourself in the future.

Cement the Right Posture

Playing guitar is like any other physical activity; it demands the right posture. It doesn’t matter if you’re lifting dead weights in the gym or pressing down a barre chord; the wrong posture can lead to some severe consequences. 

Step one for your practice and play sessions should always be to play with the proper physical form. Everything from your shoulder down can have a cascading effect on how you place your fingers on the fretboard. 

All it takes is a little hunch in your back or a bend in your wrist to end up with poor form. Not only does that make playing uncomfortable, but it develops bad habits that affect your ability to reach for a specific fingering or play at a certain speed. 

You’ll be surprised how much you can benefit from sitting straight and avoiding a neck crane. Getting this habit in the early days will build you into a better player over time. And it will mitigate RSI injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Let Your Mind Guide Your Hand

Guitarists learn the importance of shapes on their instrument early. Every chord and scale can be broken down into a shape that you can move around the neck. But while it’s a helpful learning tool, it can also end up being a crutch. 

The problem with using shapes is that they can end up making you think in repetitive patterns. Any time you sit down to solo over a backing track, you’ll find yourself defaulting to the scale shapes. As a result, a lot of your playing can end up sounding the same. 

Instead, it helps to take a step back and avoid noodling on your instrument. Think about how your solo sounds in your mind. Once you can hear it in your mind’s ear, you can then use that sound to guide your fingers. 

This will help you break out of the habit of playing what feels comfortable. It’ll spark your creative side to start thinking more musically. And in the long run, that’s beneficial for skills like songwriting and improvising.  

Have a Structured Practice Routine

Practice, practice, practice. It’s the mantra that every beginner guitarist gets to hear. And for good reasons too. After all, practice is crucial to getting your skills up to par. But almost as important as practicing is just how you tackle your practice sessions in the first place.

It’s no secret that consistent practice is much better for upping your skills. Getting an hour of practice one day is no good if you skip it the next. On the flip side, keeping a couple of minutes of practice daily makes a world of difference. 

Structuring your practice routine is an excellent way to get in the right mindset. Instead of looking at it as one big practice session, you’ll be able to compartmentalize it as tick boxes to check off. 

What’s more, you’ll have organized practice sessions rather than having them be a chaotic mess. This will lead to concentrated practice where you’ll learn more in 10 minutes than you would be chipping away at it for hours.

Learn a Song from Start to Finish

When you first start learning guitar, the excitement of learning your favorite song riffs can be overwhelming. So much so that it makes learning the rest of the song a little boring in comparison. Unfortunately, this has the potential to hamper your potential for progress. 

That’s why it’s essential that you learn songs in their entirety. Not only do they help you keep up with the pace of a song, but they’re powerful contextualizing practices for learning. 

If you still feel like learning your favorite parts of the song, a nice compromise is to learn them first and then work on learning the rest of the song. That way, you have your cake and eat it too.

Feel free to head over and join our brand new private facebook group where we will be giving you weekly tips, tricks, feedback and answering all of your songwriting questions.

Take Care of Your Strings

Guitarists are only as good as their tools. It may be an understated part of playing an instrument but taking care of your strings can make a world of difference. And it can have surprising after-effects on your playability, too. 

Your first priority should be based on having your strings changed regularly. There’s no standard for how long a set of strings should last but expect them to stay fresh anywhere from 2 weeks to 5 months. After that, your strings will start to get corroded and sound dull. This will make it uncomfortable to play, and it can even kill the desire to want to pick up your guitar at all. 

You can increase the lifespan of your strings by exercising some basic care. Things like washing your hands before playing and wiping down your strings with a cloth can add several weeks to how long your strings last. 

Never underestimate how much you can benefit from playing on a good set of strings. You’ll actually find yourself enjoying your playing more, and it will drive you to keep on playing. 

Try to Keep Your Rhythm Polished

Time is one of the cornerstones of music. Just like a painting is laid out on canvas or words on a page, music is pressed on to time itself. That’s why your music-making abilities will hinge on the ability to keep time. 

Proper playing rhythm should be one of your primary goals when learning guitar. Polishing your internal clock takes only a short while. But it’s a skill that will last you a lifetime. 

A great place to start is keeping a metronome by your side every time you practice or play. These days, you can get away with a simple metronome app on your phone. Just make sure you set the volume of the ticks to be a smidge louder than your playing. 

It might seem a bit jarring and disorienting at first, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. Another alternative to using a metronome is to have a drum track to follow along to. It’ll help you ease into things if the beeps and clicks of a metronome catch you off guard. 

The great thing about using a metronome is that you’ll be aware of your own rhythm. It’s easy to assume you’re playing right, but timekeeping will definitely prove if you’re playing a bit early or late. 

Learn the CAGED System

CAGED is the holy grail of beginner resources for getting good at guitar. It’s one of the few tools that you can use to navigate the fretboard effortlessly. Learning this system can really open up your playing skills to a broad degree. 

The CAGED system gets its name from the five notes C, A, G, E, D. It represents the first few basic chord shapes you’ll start to learn. 

Start by learning how to finger each shape and where the root notes are placed. From there, you can move those shapes around based on your new root notes. This will help you find chord relations in entirely new keys. 

And, of course, the last piece of the puzzle is making them connect. Once you have all your shapes memorized, you can merge them to start mapping out your fretboard. This will help you identify scales at the drop of a hat. It’s a much better alternative to memorizing where all the notes for your scales are. 

Consult Different Learning Sources

One of the biggest pitfalls of learning guitar is knowing which learning resources you should trust. There’s an abundance of options out there to choose from. So, it’ll be up to you to pick the best ones for your progress and improvement. 

Learning resources can extend to things like books, online tutorials, videos, or even online courses. The trick is to never rely solely on one source. Even the best teachers can have a topic or two that someone else can explain just a little better.

That’s why it’s always wise to keep your options open. Are you struggling with bends? Look at different sources and how they explain the technique. One explanation might make more sense to you than the other. 

It’s especially useful if you’re struggling with a particular skill that is hard to grasp. You can refer to multiple areas and understand them from different angles. It will help you learn much faster and effectively than trying to stick to just one resource. 

Remember to Have Fun

Playing guitar can often turn into a competition. You might find yourself pushed to practice harder to be the best. That’s when it starts becoming about who can play the fastest or the most notes. But in doing so, you can often end up missing the point. 

The fact of the matter is, playing guitar is all about fun. Whether you want to play your favorite songs, perform on stage, or compose your songs, you should always keep those goals in mind. 

Think about it; if all you do is spend your days grinding out exercises, you won’t have a lot to show for it. People will want to hear you play songs, not a pentatonic shred exercise at 200 BPM.

Keeping a healthy balance of exercises and fun is as fundamental to your growth as anything else. It’ll keep you sane in the long run, and you’ll learn in a way that doesn’t burn you out.

Closing Thoughts

The journey of improving your guitar playing can be long and fraught with challenges. But that doesn’t mean it has to be hard. As long as you’re on the right path, you shouldn’t have to let pain be a part of your learning process. Hopefully, the pointers above will help you transition from a beginner guitarist to a maestro in no time. 

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