The 7 Most Common Beginner Mistakes on Guitar - Riff NInja Guitar

The 7 Most Common Beginner Mistakes on Guitar

Here are a number of mistakes I’ve observed beginner guitar players making over the years. Stay away from these, and you’ll be ahead of the pack!

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Mistake #1 – Thinking you can learn everything right away.

The first common mistake is that beginners want to learn everything, all at once, in one easy lesson. You have to be patient with yourself.

Mistake #2 – The way you sit won’t have an affect on your playing.

This is wrong – the way you sit does impact your playing. When you are practicing your guitar, you should sit on a fairly firm chair. Stay away from cushy surfaces like your bed or couch. The most general rule is you should have an easy time of reaching your fretboard. Don’t sit slouching or with the neck of your guitar so far down that your wrist has trouble making chords.

It’s also important to have your guitar set up properly. I covered that in more details in the Ultimate Guide for Buying an Acoustic Guitar, also checkout the Ultimate Electric Guitar Buyers Guide. These videos will tell you all about the action of a guitar. The action is the string height. There’s a lot to go into about this, but the bottom line is that the string height will affect whether you can get some chords better than others. It also has an affect on whether you’ll be able to do certain moves or not on your guitar. So check those two videos out!

Mistake #3 – Thinking that the shape and size of the guitar don’t matter.

The shape and size of your guitar will have an affect on the way that you play. When it comes to the shape and size of your guitar, these do have an affect on your playing. The flying V shape sucks for sitting down – you’d have to practice your guitar standing. If your guitar is too low when you’re standing, there are things in the end that will cause you grief.

Your physical size is important as well. The general rule is you should have your guitar height the same when you’re sitting as when you are standing. Most of the good guitar players wear their guitars higher. If your hand stresses too much, especially your wrist and forearm, you could be at a risk for tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Mistake #4 – Practicing a lot isn’t necessary.

Don’t expect too much too soon. If you’re an older person, it’ll take a lot longer to learn than when you’re younger. What you put into it is what you get out of it.

Practicing issues are also another problem. Consistency is important. You should try and put in an hour a day. You don’t have to play your guitar a straight two hours – just pick it up when you’re in the mood. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there – it’s booking time on the guitar.

Mistake #5 – Not listening or paying attention to how you sound.

Be careful that you listen to how you sound – pay attention to it. When you’re practicing, use a recording device. Record yourself playing chords and when you play it back to yourself, listen to how your guitar sounds. If it’s not sounding good, change what you’re doing. If you record yourself, you can hear how clear your chords sound and how steady your rhythm is. Those are important things. It’ll also show you if you’re hitting some strings louder than the others. You need to play the strings equally in a chord. Sometimes if you play the wrong string, you can cancel out all the other notes of the chord and it sounds awful.

Mistake #6 – Thinking that pressing on the strings really hard produces a better sound.

Use just enough pressure to get the chord clear. If you push too hard, it will probably sound out of tune. The harder you press, you’ll notice it doesn’t sound quite right. If you think that you’ve tuned your guitar wrong, check out the Ultimate Guitar Guide. You’ll learn how to properly tune your guitar from that video. Keep your guitar in tune. Your guitar is wood – this mean that it shifts, which puts it out of tune.

Mistake #7 – Learning theory isn’t necessary.

A lot of beginners have certain songs they want to learn. Having someone teach you exactly what to do is one thing. Learning some basic theory so you can teach yourself as many songs as you like is much more beneficial.

There’s a misconception about music theory. It does not always have be notation reading, or even tablature reading. Theory is the mechanics of the guitar finger board. One of the best things you can do as a beginner is to learn the notes the guitar. Take a look at the lesson on tones and semitones.

Bonus Mistake #8 – Electric guitar is harder to play than the acoustic guitar, or vice versa.

It is not true that one is harder than the other. Also, you don’t benefit more from starting on one or the other. The only difference is what type of music you want to play. For instance, if you want to play music by Stevie Ray Vaughan, get an electric guitar. All these mistakes and rules apply for anyone wanting to learn the acoustic or the electric guitar.

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Leave a Reply 6 comments

Geneva Steele Reply

Best free advice I have seen on the computer about playing the guitar. Looking forward to seeing this website a lot

Gosia Reply


jstin Darosa Reply

It’s very well plan and laid out perfect I enjoy listening to you because you do have 40 years in as playing learning and teaching so yes you pass the test and I love It. Thanks big C.

norman Reply

great advice. I saw myself in a few of those senarios.

Rebecca Snyder Reply

Thanks for great advice. Question: I find I want to cross my right leg over left in sitting position to support the guitar at a good height. Ultimately I am sure leg crossing is not great cuz it jacks up the hip/sacrum. Would a strap help in supporting the guitar at a better height? Thanks. I look forward to doing your beginners course.

    Jonathan Reply

    Hi Rebecca, it would definitely be worth trying a strap to see. Ultimately, every guitar player has a different body, and so the specifics are going to vary a little from person to person. That means experimentation is always a key part -- to find exactly what works best for you.

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