Many “wanna be” guitarists think it looks easy and they can learn it on their own and many do. But developing good “guitar technique” requires good instruction which can also cut the learning time.
Many guitarists who are self-taught often develop bad habits that have to later be unlearned. Once it’s a habit, any habit, it’s difficult to shake off or change.
A few years ago, you either learned on your own with the help of books and watching others play on movies or videos. But today is totally different. You now have your choice of online lessons and apps to help you learn.
Now, it’s a matter of choice. Who has the best lesson? Who has the best price? Where can you get the most help? I support TrueFire for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that they emphasize technique, first and foremost.
When dealing with any company, local or online, I go by their ratings. I started supporting another company, which I won’t name, but they made it very difficult to quit. One review I read stated that the information received in the first lesson was not helpful.
All of my purchases from TrueFire have met or exceeded my expectations. The beginning lesson in all learning paths, or playing style, is free.
I wasn’t sure when they said it was free. How many times have you gone to order something online that says it’s free, but you have to enter your credit card number or when you get to the bottom line there is shipping & handling.
I started to order something the other day that was touted as being free. When I got to the bottom line shipping & handling was around $40. What’s up with that?
Back to Guitar Lessons
One of the major problems people have with learning an instrument, but especially guitars, is patience. All of the books, videos, and online lessons emphasize taking it slow and thoroughly learn the basics to establish good guitar techniques.
No matter what you are trying to learn, be it an instrument, how to write, or anything else, learning the basics gives you the building blocks to continue and, possibly, be really good.
Many novice guitar players want to start shredding solos right from the start. Trust me, it won’t happen. Learn the basics.
Watch any really good guitarist. Style doesn’t matter. They all have really good guitar techniques. They have put in the time and effort to learn the basics.
Tips for Developing Good Guitar Techniques
How to toughen up your fingers.
Yes, your fingers and wrist are going to hurt when you start playing. The higher the action on the guitar, the more pressure it takes to press down the strings. Just about any guitar can have the action adjusted. Take your guitar to a local music shop and have them adjust it.
Adjust your grip on the neck of the guitar. Pressing the strings against the fretboard is hard work and it does make your fingers sore and your wrist ache. As you continue to play it will get better. But here are some tips:
- Most beginners press down on the strings too hard. Relax your fingers. Don’t press down so hard. Just make sure the string firmly contacts the fret.
- Don’t play with wet fingers.
- Hook your thumb over the top of the fretboard to get leverage. This causes you to press the strings more with the flat pad of your finger, rather than your fingertips.
- As your fingers toughen up, move your thumb to the back of the neck. This causes you to press the strings with your fingertips, which is more accurate, but harder at first.
- Keep your fingernails trimmed. It’s much easier to develop calluses with short nails. Long nails also make it more difficult to get good sound.
- Don’t bite, pick, or shave off your hard-earned calluses.
- Soak your fingertips in apple cider vinegar for about 30 seconds before and after
- Get the right strings. When you’re first learning, light gauge strings are easier to play than medium or heavy gauge. The light strings will cause less soreness. Lightly icing your fingertips before and after playing can also ease the soreness. Topical ointments containing benzocaine, such as toothache cream, can also be applied before and after playing.
Some guitarists use a spot of super glue on their fingertips as a makeshift callus, until they develop their own. If you develop a cut or split in your finger apply New-Skin or some other liquid bandage to seal up the cut until it heals.
Supposedly, Eric Clapton suggests “rubbing your fingertips with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol three times a day for a week or two for beginning guitarists or someone who hasn’t played for a while. Supposedly, this dries out the skins and helps the calluses to develop quicker.”
Your body position
Get a good strap and practice standing. Yes, it’s harder at first, but when you sit you tend to slouch over the guitar looking at your fingers. If you do this consistently, it will become one of those bad habits you have to break. Always practice standing.
Take it slow
As we mentioned earlier, take it slow. Learn the basics, good guitar techniques. Don’t focus on trying to play fast. Good technique requires accurate fingering, hitting the right notes every time. Be precise with your fingering. The speed will come when you have everything else in place. You won’t have to develop speed it will happen all by itself.
Always focus on correct fingering. Don’t try to develop new moves. Stick to the tried and true fingering methods, which will lead to good guitar techniques.
Use a metronome
From the beginning, your very first exercise, use a click track or metronome so you develop a good sense of rhythm and timing. When you first start, take it slow. You can adjust the speed on the metronome. The idea is to get used to playing with a steady tempo. Remember, good guitar technique comes first then tempo.
Make sure you practice some every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes. Pick up your guitar and practice the last lesson. The calluses won’t develop if your practice is haphazard. Set up a regular practice time. Develop a good practice habit.
not about how long or how hard you practice. The key is “how” you practice. TrueFire offers “Smart Practice” which is a step-by-step practice system just for guitarists. The system is designed so you get the biggest payoff for the time you invest in your practice.
It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to learn to play guitar, piano, or learn something totally different, such as baseball. We all know we have to practice. The problem is that we really don’t know how to practice correctly.
Many who try to learn guitar on their own think that just picking up the guitar and strumming, trying to pick out the melody of our favorite song is practice, or having friends over to jam is practice. Wrong!!!
TrueFire lessons use Soundslice interactive Tab, go to their site for a full demo. The video gives you three views which you can slow down or speed up to facilitate maximum learning. The video lessons make it much easier to see what you are to practice and follow the instructor.
K. Anders Ericsson has researched what it takes to reach a high level of expertise in a skill. He states that practice is deliberate and not inherently enjoyable.
To become a good guitarist or to develop any skill, you must do the work and realize that the enjoyment will follow.
Make up your mind that you will do whatever it takes to practice correctly. Quit just doodling around when it’s time to practice. Yes, at first your fingers are going to hurt, but keep in mind that it’s not going to last forever. Use some of the techniques above to ease the pain so you can work through it. Tips for Beginning Guitarists.
No matter what you are doing or attempting to do, setting goals, especially Smart Goals, will help you achieve your desired results quicker and in an organized fashion. Goals will help you do activities that are specifically designed to improve your performance.
Before going any further, look at where you want to go as a musician, and specifically, as a guitarist.
Many people, when they are attempting to learn something new, like playing the guitar, learn bits and pieces assuming that it will all magically come together at some future date.
How do you know what you should be studying and practicing if you don’t know where you want to go or what you want to do with it? If you don’t have a firm goal or path you will end up frustrated.
In any new endeavor, your goals must include both long term and short term goals. It’s best to set your long term goals first then work backward to include all the steps necessary to achieve your long term goal. This will give you the items that you need to work on NOW.
Included in setting goals you need to take an inventory of your skill set and where you are in the present.
Productivity guru David Allen in his “Getting Things Done” lectures states that you need to take an inventory, which he calls a “Brain Dump”, of everything you already know is required in order to achieve your goal.
What You Know
To start, create a list of everything you know, in this case, about playing the guitar. Divide this list into sections: scales, chords, arpeggios, songs, exercises, fingerpicking styles, licks, tuning your guitar, and bits and pieces. This list will include everything you’ve worked on or doodled around with or have a “some-what” knowledge of.
You need to be able to play all of the exercises listed above without looking at a tablature sheet or stopping to remember or starting over.
What You Are Learning
This list will change as you learn new skills. Enter everything that you are currently working on goes into this list. You will move these skills to “What You Know” and add more from “What You Need to Know.”
What You Need To Know
List all the things from your short-term goal list. As you come across things you want or need to learn add them to this list. This list will also continually change as you progress down your learning path.
One of the most important things is that you take the information out of your head and put it on paper so you have a better and more workable list.
Once your goals are on paper, proceed to develop an actual practice schedule.
Are you really motivated to do the work necessary to achieve your goals? Remember, as mentioned above, practice isn’t just doodling around and “playing” with your guitar. If you are serious about achieving your goals, about developing good guitar technique, you have to be motivated to practice correctly.
Remember, anyone you have ever admired for their skill at playing any musical instrument or any other skill, have “put in the time, effort, and discipline to learn and execute basic skills and then apply them to build their performance mastery.” Anything worth having is worth working for.
As you achieve each incremental goal, your confidence, and the sheer joy of making it happen will not only be personally rewarding but will also inspire greater accomplishments.
If you are motivated and really want to achieve your goals, you will set aside the time and disciple to do the work. Find a practice routine, such as Smart Practice from TrueFire or a practice routine from your teacher. Then, discipline yourself to do the work necessary to achieve your goals.
by Dena Warfield