Training tips for beginner guitarists.
As a guitar-teacher I teach a lot of beginner guitarists and I have noticed some similarities in the technical habits (bad habits) that these guitarists are forming if they are not careful. If you are considering picking up the guitar or in the beginning stages of your guitar development, you wanna watch out these things as well, in order for you to build a solid technical foundation from the get-go.
2 different techniques
The first major reason for forming bad habits I observe stems from not separating different techniques consciously enough. When you are starting out, strumming and riff/melody playing requires two different techniques and should be thought of as two totally different things. It is true, that some players pick and strum from their elbows, but for the vast majority af beginners this is not the best strategy to pursue. Instead you need to continuously isolate your wrist and train with this ONLY when playing arpeggiated chord, riffs, melodies and the like. On the other hand, when you strum chords the movement should originate from the elbow ONLY. You will be using you wrist as well, but you need to think of the movement as an “elbow-only” movement in order to develop the right technique. This does not mean that you will never move your wrist when strumming or never move your arm when playing a riff, but in the beginning it is important to make a clear distinction between the two techniques in order to build a solid foundation for good future guitartechnique. This clear distinction will naturally encourage the beginning guitarist to practice the techniques in isolation and this is where the real benefit comes in. A good analogy to this is like scratching a dog. When scratching a dog behind the ear and on the belly you will naturally use two different movements. Behind the ear you will use a small movement with you wrist and when scratching on the belly you will use big movements with you elbow. Think of you lead and rhythm playing in this light and you will develop better technique.
Practice each hand separately.
A very common reason for slow guitar progress is trying to learn everything with both hands at once. This often leads the guitarist to focus/look at the picking hand when picking and then shifting their focus to the fretting hand when trying to change chords for example. This often leaves a gab in the music when shifting focus leaving the player unable to keep time when playing. This might not be that bad in the beginning, but at some point this bad habit will need to be corrected in order to be able to play in time, so it’s better just to avoid forming the bad habit all together. This is done by practicing the two hands separately at first keeping the eyes and focus only on hand at a time until this hand can perform whatever needs to be played in time. Then the eyes and focus shifts to the other hand until it can perform it’s duties in time and then you put it all together.
Close your eyes when practicing.
We are use to rely our eyes all the time when performing tasks in our day to day lives. Therefore it’s seems natural to carry this over to learning the guitar. But being dependent on your eyes to execute every movement on the guitar can actually hurt your guitarplaying progress. This happens in two ways. Firstly, when playing we don’t have the time to rely on our eyes make the decisions. We wanna build muscle memory in order for our hands to be able to do the movements without having to think continuously about it. Secondly, a very common bad picking habit among beginning guitarist stems directly from always wanting to see what the pick is doing. This leads to a tilted wrist when picking. This is a very inefficient picking technique and once this habit is formed it is very hard to get rid of again. When practicing with your eyes closed the focus shifts from seeing what you are doing to feeling what you are doing and this is the key to building muscle memory. Identifying what it feels like when your hands are performing the right motions will get you to progress a lot faster.
About the author:
Janus Buch is the founder of Bredballe Guitarschool, where he is the head teacher, teaching guitar full time. If you are a beginner looking to improve on guitar, you will improve here.