7 Problems Only Beginner Guitarists Understand
by: B. Phillips
When learning any new skill, you're bound to hit a few roadblocks that will leave you frustrated and demoralized. Learning to play the guitar is no exception and it comes with its own set of unique problems. Veteran players know them all too well but they'd also be the first to tell you that once you overcome them, it only gets better. Those beginning to learn to play the guitar will certainly experience these 7 problems, but with some practice, they thankfully won't last long.
1. Developing Calluses
If you're new to learning guitar or even just someone who's picked one up to try it out, you'll know that holding down a single note or chord on a six string isn't the breezy feat that pros make it out to be--in fact, it downright hurts. Actually, this is to be expected but certainly not something that lasts long. As you play and practice more, your fingertips actually build up calluses that will protect them from this irritation and allow you to play longer. Many guitarists work hard to maintain them and unfortunately, it involves this temporary pain. If you're playing with a fresh pair of hands, there's no doubt that pressing down the metal strings will hurt a bit, but as they say, "no pain, no gain".
2. Underdeveloped Pinky
You've had one on each hand for your whole life, so you think you would have mastered them by now, right? When first learning to play guitar, it becomes glaringly obvious this is not so. If you're someone who's delving into the world of fingerstyle or lead guitar, you know the struggle of employing the use of your pinky. It seems to have a mind of its own and when just starting out there is a definite disconnect between your brain and hands when making stretches and chord shapes that require this little finger. Thankfully, there are many exercises and techniques to improve the dexterity of not only your pinky but all other fingers too.
3. Barre Chords
So you've learned a few basic chords and can even play a few songs in full. But when you read the sheet music to something you really want to play and find it requires a Bm chord or worse, F#m, you discard it--barre chords are just too difficult! This is a common problem many beginner guitarists face, but it's also one of the more important to overcome. Barre chords are apart of some of the greatest songs ever written and you can't avoid them forever if you don't want to severely limit your repertoire. The solution: good old fashioned practice. Practicing barre chords will build up the strength in your hands, fingers and improve your grip of the neck, especially on the lower, heavier gauge strings. Once you put in the time, you'll definitely be rewarded.
4. Your Pick Fell Into the Soundhole
If you're beginning to learn to play on an acoustic guitar, you've likely already faced this problem already--even seasoned pros still face it from time to time. When developing your strumming style and learning how to hold your guitar pick in the most comfortable way, it's bound to come loose a couple times, but when it falls into the sound hole, it's seemingly impossible to retrieve. Many guitarists have been put in the position of tipping their guitar upside down and shaking it to hopefully get their pick back and just like learning chords and riffs, you'll probably develop your own technique for getting yours back, too.
5. Chord Changes
Though you may have learned a handful of guitar chord shapes, integrating them into seamless transitions is a battle of its own. As a beginner, it's incredibly tempting to want to play a song at full speed or even play along to a studio recording. If you've tried this, you know it sometimes comes out sounding sloppy and out of time. With practice, chord changes become smoother and almost second nature. But until then, playing chord changes slowly helps build up muscle memory and using a metronome can help things along. As you begin to get it down pat, you can increase the tempo until you've reached your desired speed.
6. Singing & Playing
Trying to sing and play simultaneously as a beginner can prove to be pretty difficult--to put it in simple terms, it's like learning to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. Those who began playing with the intention of performing both guitar and vocal duties know that it's a challenge unlike any other, but far from impossible. You've got to walk before you can run, though, and learning chord changes is the foundation of this skill. Once you learn them, you'll be able to start humming along to your playing and eventually full-on sing, playing the changes without having to think twice. Especially for common chord progressions, singing over them will begin to feel quite natural.
7. Staying Motivated
One of the biggest hurdles many face when beginning guitar or any other new skill is staying motivated. We've all been there--excited to begin, but the passion slowly fizzles out when we're faced with difficulties. In these moments, it's important to remember why you're doing it. Maybe it's purely for the love of music or maybe you want to join a band--whatever the reason, now would be the time to remember. Understand that it doesn't happen overnight, and it didn't for even the best guitarists. Take things slow and play music that makes you happy--that's what it's all about, after all, right?