Last updated: May 2019
Sometimes learning the guitar can feel overwhelming. That cheesy Yousician ad comes to mind (“the beginning was so slow and difficult”). Often though, it’s that we don’t know what we need to know. Where do you get started, and when is cutting corners detrimental to your learning?
Here are a couple of examples that should help you breathe a little easier when it comes to the massive amount of information we face when learning guitar.
Most everything is shift-able
Whether it’s a chord, scale pattern, or bit of theory, the good thing is that most of these things are movable around the guitar neck. Heck, we only have 7 notes and their sharps and flats, so there’s only so much we have to learn.
If you learn a major barre chord on the low E String 3rd fret, you can move that anywhere else on the low E string to make a Major barre chord. There are 4 shapes for barre chords - one for major and minor on the low E and A strings. If you learn those, you can play the majority of songs you hear.
Pentatonic patterns, Modes, and other scales are the same. Once you learn the theory and box shapes of these scales, all you have to do is move pattern one’s starting point to your root note, and readjust. It’s important to learn the theory behind your scales and chords, because most can be based on the previous scale.
For example, the difference between the Ionian mode and many other modes is one or two notes that are raised or lowered. Don’t put in extra work by overwhelming yourself, but DO put in the work to see how you can get containers of knowledge and use them for multiple purposes.
Stop bad habits early
One of the most challenging things I had to deal with when I was first learning guitar, was how to take a sloppy picking pattern, and turn it into all alternate picking. I hadn’t paid attention to what my pick hand was doing, and then I had to put in the work to get my picking hand accustomed to picking that way.
Whether it be picking, playing sloppy while playing fast, left hand adjustments or more, paying attention to mistakes is important.
What I suggest is taking phrases slowly, and making sure that they’re clean. Once they are, then you can get them up to speed. The more you practice those phrases at a speed you’re uncomfortable with, the more likely you are to make mistakes, and have that deep into your muscle memory.
One way to hear mistakes you’re making is to record yourself. Not only is this great for seeing how far you’ve progressed on the guitar, but it’s also a great place to come back to when you’re writing riffs and songs.
The other thing you might want to do is film yourself with your phone. Audio is great, but being able to see your hands, posture and more really helps. This also doubles as a great way to remember where you played riffs that you really like.
Practice every day
This one is huge. If you’re trying to remember a lot of theory or even a song, you should try to stick with it each and every day. It’s been said time and time again, but 7 days of 1 hours practice is way better than 1 day with 7 hours of practice.
By getting some time in every day, you’ll notice yourself getting better faster, being able to remember what you’re learning more, and ultimately be a better guitar player.
And if you’re still stuck on how to get better at guitar, here’s another post I wrote with 16 ways you can get better at guitar right now.
What’s your #1 tip for learning guitar?
The best part about a post like this is, is that we can share our journey together. What’s been your favorite thing you’ve done that’s made you a better guitar player?