Most Common Beginner Guitarist Questions
Whenever learning something new there are bound to be mistakes, confusion and questions. This article has been written based on some common guitar questions received from beginner guitar students over time
I understand there’s an encyclopaedia of guitar questions out there however I’ll be focusing on some common beginner ones that have been raised
I’d like to mention having a guitar teacher will help you overcome any guitar issues quickly but for those of you who don’t have one I’ve written some tips which can be used as a starting point and maybe solve some of the issues you’re having
The Most Common Beginner Guitarist Questions
Here are a selection of some of the most commonly asked beginner guitar questions and their answers
- Where to start – A lot of people have a guitar or want to learn guitar but have no idea where to start. A lot of people go through the self-taught method, start with some sort of song, chords, TAB or random video lesson and take it from there. Using this method works fine up to a point. Most students find using this method that they can learn some new things however they also find that they don’t progress to improve and get stuck in a rut of playing similar stuff or they get lost in which video lesson to watch next. The main reason for this is the lack of structure, feedback and motivation of these methods .
Solution: Your first point of call should really be to find a guitar teacher however if that’s not an option my recommendation is to learn the foundation of guitar by starting with online beginner guitar videos that are structured and find a beginner method book that covers both rhythm and lead guitar that also includes notes + tab. My reasoning for this is that by having the foundations covered you’ll be able to apply what’s learnt to any song and may be even able to compose your own. You’ll also be able to systematically progress from beginner to advanced in methodical way. If you’d like more information you can reference my article on teaching yourself music vs getting a teacher
- Acoustic, Classical or Electric Guitar: Students are often concerned over which guitar to initially get and sometimes can get stressed out as a result.
Solution: in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter what you get, at end of the day a guitar is a guitar and most general guitar method and techniques can be taught on any guitar (percussive techniques may be the exception however I’m sure you could adapt to electric). It’s my recommendation to purchase a guitar that relates to the style you want to play, and learn. For example if you want to learn classical guitar my recommendation is to purchase a classical/nylon string guitar, you could use an electric however as the strings are closer together and you may struggle a little with technique but it doesn’t mean it’s not achievable.
- I struggle with chord changes – Most beginner guitar students have issues changing chords. They finally learn to hold down a couple of chords and then realize they’ll need to change in between all of them to form a song. Not so easy is it?
Solution: Firstly build the muscle memory on how to form the desired chords by repeatedly forming them, this will take time so be patient, make sure you don’t take short cuts and focus on getting a quality sound by using your finger tips on each fret placing them as close to the fret as possible.With the chord changes, landing your fingers simultaneously for beginners on the first few attempts will be extremely difficult so in the first instance use anchor fingers which means place the fingers you can on the some of the chord frets and correct mid stream with the remainder fingers while keeping the timing. This will ensure whatever song your playing keeps flowing (providing your timing is good) after time you’ll be able to land your fingers simultaneously.
- How do I play guitar to Jam with other people: Learn to walk before you run. This is what a lot of beginner guitarists set out to do in order so they can join bands. There are some quick methods however nothing can substitute the time to learn the fret board
Solution: This question relates to improvisation. There are a few ways to achieve this however the main method is to learn the guitar neck (takes years) and to learn scales and patterns. If you’re after a quick win (this will take time too) my recommendation is to learn scales and the guitar modes. In order to apply them to a jam session (scales and modes) successfully you’ll need to understand key signatures
- I keep playing the wrong string or note: when you first start playing guitar you’ll be playing the wrong string or note unintentionally, you’ll either go to high or too low, over extend and under extend
Solution: In the early days you’ll find this frustrating. To resolve you’ll first need to identify the problem. You’ll then you need to consciously make an effort to over extend, under extend, over reach and under reach the note you’re trying to play. For example playing the D on the second string is often difficult for students without looking if you find you are over extending then consciously under extend when you play this note and you should hit it. Having said this, the more you practice, the more you’ll get used to the strings and notes. You’ll ultimately be able to play whichever note you want without even looking at them Practice makes perfect!
- Barre Chords – Lots of beginner guitarists struggle to hold down a barre chord. This is often related to technique and hand strengthening
Solution: Your hands need to be strong and coordinated to be able to play bar chords correctly. A common mistake made by students is to have a front part of the index finger barring the neck. This causes issues as the front part of your finger is fleshy therefore you can’t hold the bar firmly enough, try angling your finger to the side to get the bony part of the finger barring and you should see immediate improvement Once you know the correct form you’ll need to practice them a LOT to get them sounding right all, or at least most of the time.
- Which Song to Practice – This question comes mainly from students who like to skip between songs, without really learning them and thereby mastering the techniques taught in the song. What usually happens is that they start learning beginner guitar songs and run into a problem and decide to go for another song leaving the first one behind. But the new song is a bit hard as well, so they try something else, and so on. The result is that without having learned any of the songs and thereby not having improved at all, they feel like they’ve looked at every song, and don’t know what to do next.
Solution: If you’re a beginner make sure you chose songs that are at your level (the less notes, chords the better). Look at the TAB or chord chart and if things look familiar then start practicing, if things look totally unfamiliar then skip and don’t give up on learning a song when you run into the first sign of difficulties. Keep persevering and remember Rome wasn’t built in a day!
- Buzzing sounds: Sometimes students complain of buzzing sounds when they try to play a chord or a note
Solution: This can be due to a number of factors therefore I’ve created a list
- Old strings
- Fingers not pressing firmly enough on strings
- Fingers too far away from the Fret
- Issue with guitar
- Loose strings near Tuning pegs or something loose on guitar causing disruption
- How long does it take to learn guitar: This is a common question asked by a lot of guitarists and not only beginners
Solution: answering the question is like asking how long is a piece of string.
There are many factors that come into this equation such as how good do you want to be? What style are you aiming on playing; do you only want to play rhythm guitar, lead or both? Do you want to play classical guitar? Rock guitar? And so forth. Regardless here’s a rough estimate to master the instrument, this includes all styles + theory. Please note these time frames are and estimate
0 to 5 years to get average
5 years to 10 years to get good
10 years to 20 years to get advanced
20 years plus to really know what you’re doing
Remember, these time frames are estimates and even though you think you’ve mastered the guitar there will always be something new
- How Often and What Should I Practice – We live accelerated lives, which means that a lot of guitar students don’t have time to do practice and when they do it tends to be the same stuff over and over again
Solution: Try and practice every day for at least 15 minutes minimum. Start with warm up exercises and try to learn something new every month. Get a teacher that can give you weekly practice exercises so you can see progress or find structured online lessons, method books that are short and to the point and go through the exercises. Playing songs should be supplementary to learning basic foundation. Also have your guitar where you can see it, making it easily accessible will help encourage you to play even if while watching TV. Remember the more times you practice the better you’ll get
Most common beginner guitar questions relate to practice and structure. These things take time and should be built into daily life, you need to know where to start so you can move up the levels from beginner to advanced smoothly. All those advertisements, tools and applications that state you can “learn guitar overnight”, or “in 5 days”, or “in 5 weeks” programs are a bunch of rubbish so put in the hard work
The people who make it seem easy, the rock stars, the classical guitarists, the guitar teachers, they have all been playing for many years, even decades! The best guitarists have devoted their life to learning the guitar.
So the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t get discouraged when you’re not playing like your favorite rock star after a few weeks.
Learning the guitar is not an easy walk in the park, but playing the guitar is a skill that becomes easy with time. It takes a considerable amount of practice and is a wonderful pastime that will bring countless hours of happiness and who knows, you might even make your fame and fortune as a guitarist.