Hey guys, in this lesson I’m going to share with you seven mistakes that I see guitar players make. And this is both newer guitar players and people who’ve been at it for a while. If you’re just starting out on the guitar these tips are going to help you not develop bad practice habits, and they are going to help your practice times be more productive too. If you’ve been playing for a while, these tips are going to help you get some bad habits out of your practice routine and help you see a lot more productive practice too.
So out of these seven mistakes, some of them are conceptual and some of them are actual physical things on the guitar. We will cover both.
Set a goal to achieve
The number one mistake that I see guitar players make is not setting goals. I get emails from people all the time telling me “Man, I just don’t know what to practice next, I’m not getting any better. What am I doing wrong?” When I get an email like that I reply back. The first thing I ask them is, have you set goals for your guitar playing? And most of the time, the majority of the time, the answer that they give me is no.
Now if you don’t set goals, you are not going to be able to break those goals down into practice points that you fill your practice time with. And your goal shouldn’t be something like “I want to be a great guitar player.” That’s way too general. There’s no way that you can really break that down. Your goal should be something like “I want to be able to play this particular song” or ” I want to be able to play blues leads over a twelve bar blues progression.”
When you set realistic goals like that, what’s going to happen is you are going to be able to break them down into small practice steps to fill up your practice time. Let’s take that last one that I said. If you want to play, be able to play blues leads over a twelve bar blues progression, you can break that goal down into learning the blues scale, working on your left and right-hand technique, learning blues licks, learning blues theory, and playing along with blues jam tracks too.
Look at these goals you make a big steak dinner. You are not going to stick the fork in the entire steak and shove it in your mouth. You are never going to get it down and it’s not going to be good. You are going to cut that steak up into bite size pieces, or a practice routine, and it’s going to be really good that way. It’s going to be really effective.
The mistake that everyone is guilty of..
Now, failing to set goals for your guitar playing leads us to the second mistake that guitar players make. That’s noodling away your valuable practice time. Now, we all do this. I’m guilty of it, you’re guilty of it. We all do it no matter if you have twenty minutes to practice or if you have two hours. How many times have you sat down and just gone over stuff that you already know or that you are already good at? And you know, that’s fun, it’s very therapeutic. That’s one thing that’s awesome about the guitar, but you can’t let that get in the way of your time you’ve designated to reach your goals on the guitar.
So, one way around this is to actually schedule time just to noodle and have fun on the guitar. Take however many minutes you want per practice session or however many hours per week and set out a time just to noodle and have fun on the guitar. When you do that, you are going to keep that noodling time separate from your actual designated practice time that you use to reach your goals on the guitar.
Alright, let’s get into some physical, some actual physical mistakes that guitar players make when playing the guitar.
Can’t Play Upstrokes..?
The first one which is the third mistake on this list that I see a lot, especially in newer guitar players, is they tend to lock their wrist and just play from their elbow and only use downstrokes. Or if you’re doing it with power chords. That’s bad for a couple of reasons. The first reason is after a while that can kind of open the gateway to some injuries and some fatigue with your elbow, and that’s never good.
The second reason it’s bad is because it’s extremely inefficient and it makes you work a lot harder when you are picking or strumming. So, what you want to do is kind of free up your elbow a little bit and free up your wrist. And what you are going to do is use your actual wrist to make the motions. It’s a lot of small motion, it’s a lot more efficient. And what you want to start doing as well is start using upstrokes too if you are not already. Work on your upstrokes. A lot of newer guitar players completely ignore that for a long time. Once you get your upstrokes going, put your down and your upstrokes together and make sure to use small motions and use your wrist.
Why TIPS of fingers..?
Mistake number four that I see a lot of guitar players make is not using the very tips of their fingers to come down and make their chords. And I get emails all the time from people saying “My chords just sound buzzy and not clear, what am I doing wrong?”. Most of the time, they are not coming right down on the very tips of their fingers. And one way you can tell if you are doing this or not is to just make a regular C major chord.
When you just barely relax your fingers and don’t come down right down on the tips of them, most of the notes in that chord just disappeared just from this little tiny motion of not coming down right on the tips of your fingers. This is what happens to a lot of people. So keep an eye out for that and remember to implement that when you are learning chords and that will help a lot of the buzz get out of your chords.
The Golden Ear
Mistake number five that I see a lot of guitar players make is not learning how to tune your guitar by ear really well. We live in a time where there are tuners all around us more than ever before. Like traditional tuners or tuners on your smartphone or iPad or whatever. And we can kind of become a little over dependent on that because you can be in situations where you are not going to have a tuner or where it’s too noisy for you to use a tuner, right?
So, practicing, actually practicing, tuning your guitar and checking yourself against a tuner is a great way to kind of hone in your skills for that. This is a good exercise. Just throw your guitar out of tune here and there, try to get it back in tune, and then double check yourself with a tuner. It may take a while for you to get your ears trained, but it’s really good practice and you’ll thank yourself later.
Learn and Apply
Mistake number six that I see guitar players make is not applying what you’ve been practicing or learning. And by that, I mean not applying what you’ve been learning to actual real music. I can play a G major scale all day, and I can play a G major chord all day. But if I don’t apply it to real music then what good is it? I’m kind of just learning those shapes for the sake of learning them.
So, if you are working on a G major scale, pull up a jam track that’s in the key of G major and try to solo with it. Just try to improvise. If you are learning some chords, find a song that uses those chords, and apply those chords to some actual music. Now, one reason I think people don’t do this a lot is because it can be really intimidating.
You are not going to sound like Joe Satriani the first time you pull up a jam track and try to jam with your G major scale right. It’s just not going to happen, but actually sitting down and doing it is the first step to really taking a step toward some real progress. And every time you do it you’ll get better and better at it. So that does it for the seven mistakes guitar players make.
Set your guitar up..
One bonus one that I wanted to throw at you got your guitar set up by a professional. I get emails from people all the time asking me “Mate I don’t know what’s going on, my guitar is hard to play and my chords still sound terrible.” And most of the time the action on their guitar is really high, which makes their practice un-enjoyable and pretty unfruitful too.
So, get your guitar set up. It only takes about twenty or thirty bucks, and it’s going to play so much easier, and you are going to enjoy practicing so much more. Also when you are buying a guitar just refer the reviews about them, read buyer’s guide and choose the best guitar for you. That would make you enjoy playing your guitar so much.
I hope these tips really hit home with you. I know at least a couple of them apply to pretty much every guitar player on earth. Next time you’re practicing, think about these things and apply them in your practice time, and that way they will help you. Catch you guys later.. 🙂