Learning - Hints & Tips


From my experience here are some key factors and points to consider when learning the guitar.
Learning/having lessons is a two-sided contract 
If you have lessons this is not an automatic route to success as mastering the instrument depends on the work that YOU put in.  Do not think that having a 1 hour lesson a week is all the effort that is required.

These are absolutely key to me!

- PATIENCE - Remember it takes everybody time to learn to play an instrument. Be realistic in your expectations. Don't be annoyed with yourself if you feel you can't master the left hand fingering or right hand picking techniques at the outset.

- PRACTICE - As much as you can and enjoy it! This is the key factor that determines how quickly you develop your ability. A little and often is best. Don't play for hours and hours on end if you're tired. Don't view it as a chore.

- PERSEVERANCE - This is the key and the most difficult one of all. STICK at it and DON'T GIVE UP! When things seem difficult remember how far you've come and you can now do some things you found difficult earlier on. We have to "train" our fingers and hands to do what we want so battle on and you WILL get there. 

Buy a guitar stand and keep your guitar in view
Such a simple thing but having a guitar stand makes it so much easier just to pick up and play the instrument at a whim. If it's locked away in it's case you just won't bother to play it as often.

Learn to play the musical pieces in "bits"
Most musical pieces that you want to play will have some harder sections to play than others. Don't try to play the piece from start to finish at the outset. If you're daunted, pick out easier bits first and then slowly master the sections (measures/bars) that are most difficult at your own pace. Like a jigsaw, you'll then put all the sections together and find you can play the piece in its entirety.
Posture and the left hand
Make sure that the left hand is not supporting the neck of the guitar and is totally free to move up and down the fingerboard. The weight of the guitar should be taken by a shoulder strap or by adopting a "classical" seating posture where the weight of the guitar is taken on the inner thigh and chest.
Holding strings/chords down - sore fingers/rattles and buzzes/muffled notes
Remember it does take a while for the fingertips on the left hand to harden up and having sore fingers for a few weeks is "par for the course". Learners are often disappointed and frustrated that they cannot get clear notes/sounds when they hold down the strings and it also seems difficult sometimes to squash the fingers into the chord shapes or to stretch and reach a particular string/fret. Many of the musical pieces and exercises I give you to practice are specifically aimed at improving the dexterity of the hands and fingers and, over a short time, you'll find that you improve and what suddenly was a problem before is cleared but replaced by another challenge now! The key message here is to be patient and your fingers WILL do what you want if you stick at it.

Nails - left and right hands
To play your guitar properly the nails on the left hand MUST be as short as possible so as not to restrict you putting enough pressure on when you hold the strings down. Nails on the right hand, particularly the thumb, should be grown if possible but decent sounds can still be made by right hand fingers without long nails. Obviously, if you're left-handed the above is reversed.

Don't be too perfectionist early on
Whilst we all want to play beautifully with lovely clear notes this does take time. Don't stop your playing to try and make corrections all the time. Beginners can expend too much energy in trying unduly hard to achieve perfection from the outset which is both demotivating and unrealistic.
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