10 Guitar Learning Tips To Help You Learn How to Play the Guitar
Author: Graeme Hague
Learn How to Play the Guitar with Good Technique From the Start, With These 10 Important Guitar Learning Tips
I taught myself how to play the guitar and I’ll admit this resulted in learning some very bad habits that are proving difficult to shake off, especially after all the random guitar learning tips I got. I didn’t have awesome apps like Uberchord (click for free download) to guide me. The common problem with novice guitar players is impatience — those how-to books and websites insist that you take things slowly, focus on the basics and get things right from the start, whereas you want to begin shredding solos and be leaping from a stack of Marshalls with every power chord within… oh, a few weeks would be nice.
If you watch any of the best players in the world, regardless of whether they play classical tunes or heavy rock, they all have one thing in common — good technique, meaning they’re properly applying all those basic guitar learning tips for playing great guitar. Have a look at someone like John Petrucci (Dream Theater). Sure, on first impressions he’s going to frighten the hell out of your grandmother, but check out his left hand as he performs. Those blistering solos and chord progressions are achieved with what seems effortless ease and minimal movement, all because Petrucci mastered how to play the guitar with good technique from the start. Good technique, in the final analysis, is the proven best and most proficient way to play, putting your hands and fingers in the right place at the right time.
Here are my best 10 guitar learning tips for how to play the guitar with good technique. Some of them are kind of obvious, while others are the result of long experience. I hope they help. By the way, let’s assume you’re right-handed player. Lefties can make the obvious adjustment.
1. Avoid The Left-Hand Death Grip
When you first start playing, straight away you’ll discover that pressing the strings against the fret board is hard work, hurts your fingers and makes your wrist ache. The natural way to combat this is by hooking your thumb over the top of the fret board to get leverage, which inadvertently causes you to press the strings more with the flat pad of your finger (where your fingerprint is) rather than the actual fingertip.
This is sometimes called the “death grip”, because you do end up with a fairly fierce grip on your neck and it restricts the reach of your fingers. The proper technique is to have your thumb on the back of the guitar’s neck. This forces your hand to use the fingertips, which is far better and more accurate when it comes to playing just the notes you want without accidentally muting adjacent strings. The trouble is — it feels kind of weird and difficult at first, and your wrist will lack strength. Stick with it and you’ll appreciate the benefits further down the track. Remember these guitar learning tips, and that the thumb should only be on the back of the neck.
2. Rehearse Standing Up And Sitting Down
Okay, things are hard enough as it is without expecting you to waltz around the room while you’re playing. The important thing is, if you’re going to take this dream all the way, one day you’ll be standing up in front of crowd. Playing with your guitar slung across your shoulder is a very different posture to sitting down.
On a chair, you tend to hunch over and try to see what your hands are doing (another bad habit you want to avoid). Then, when you’re standing up, everything changes. Try it and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll find it much harder to see your left hand, for a start. Make sure you have a good guitar strap, adjust it to a comfortable length (forget slinging it down around your knees — looks cool, but it’s a crap playing position) and regularly practice playing while you’re standing up.
3. No Need For Speed
Don’t ever bother trying to learn how to play fast. Really, don’t do it. This is one of the most important guitar learning tips you can take away from anyone! Good technique is about accurate fingering and hitting the right notes every time, especially when it comes to scales and playing tricky bar chords. Concentrate on precise fingering. The truth is, learn to play properly and speed will happen all by itself. The biggest obstacle to fast playing is poor technique. Learn good technique and fast fingering will be a chucked-in-for-free bonus. Always take your time and play slowly. Use Uberchord Guitar App, it is a free app that listens to you while you practice the guitar and corrects when you play wrong.
4. Always Use Correct Fingering
Over the centuries of guitar playing the experts have long figured out the best way to play certain chords and scales, meaning which fingers should be playing certain notes on the fret board.
Occasionally, you might discover an easier way of playing these — you’re a musical genius and never knew it. Don’t be tempted. Correct fingering isn’t just about playing that chord or scale properly. Adding variations is considered too, such as sevenths and ninths, and your custom style of fingering a chord might prove that those variations can’t be played (yep, this is one of the things I learned the hard way). Pay careful attention to the correct fingering of a chord and your hand’s position on the fret board for scales. Uberchord will show you exactly how to do it.
Another article filled with guitar learning tips that will help you with your fret hand fingerings is this article on 4 note guitar scales inspired by Allan Holdsworth. Holdsworth is one of the most celebrated masters of legato, which is a technique that’ll test how well you can fret notes using just your fret hand. Allan Holdsworth was so great at this technique that he could pick just a few notes at a time but sound out many more after. We mention this because there are some ideas in there that can help you practice correct left hand fingering no matter how high or low a level of player you are.
5. Silent Rehearsing
You want to watch your favourite TV show when you’re supposed to be rehearsing? Don’t panic, a lot can be achieved by holding your guitar and constantly swapping from one chord to another or playing scales without plucking the strings with your right hand. What you’re doing is still training your left hand to play — it’s all solid practice. Good technique is locked-in habits when you’re playing. With your thumb on the back of the neck, remember?
6. Use A Metronome!
Playing to a click track is really hard at first, but the advantages later on are immeasurable. Your sense of rhythm and timing will get an early boost, if you try using a metronome soon in your career. However, don’t stress about it too much and make sure you set the beats-per-minute (BPM) to something very slow. The idea is to get used to playing in time and at a steady tempo, but don’t rush this at the expense of learning technique. By the way, you’ll find heaps of metronome apps on the internet. And, here are some guitar learning tips about the 5 ways you can use a metronome to improve your guitar playing.
7. Don’t Shy Away From Difficult Chords
A few weeks ago in my studio, I was recording a friend called Mary, a singer-guitarist, who would move heaven and earth to avoid playing a B minor chord. She found the fingering too difficult and used capos and all manner of transpositions to dodge the dreaded bar chord. If anything, you should seek out these difficult bits and spend more time and energy on perfecting tricky chords, otherwise, you’ll find them a mental barrier to your playing for the rest of your days.
8. Be Disciplined With Your Practice
Nothing beats regularly putting your hands on the guitar and practicing the latest lessons. Even if it’s just for ten minutes on a day when you’re otherwise too busy. Good technique comes from your mind and your fingers remembering how it’s all supposed to work, particularly when it comes to those tricky fingerings. Try to set aside some time every day and develop good playing habits. It’ll also help to build up those calluses on your fingertips.
With the latest version of the Uberchord App you can create your profile and set daily or weekly goals. It tracks your progress and sends you reminders, if you are becoming lazy and losing focus.
9. Give Yourself A Break and Listen to Music
The other side of the equation is not to push yourself too hard in the beginning. When your muscles start to creak and the fingertips are stinging, take a break and relax for a while. You can easily strain something and do damage to tendons and ligaments if you ignore the danger signs that you need a rest.
10. Don’t Forget Your Right Hand Practice
Sometimes it’s good to simply mute the strings with your left hand and practice creating a percussive rhythm with your right-hand strumming. Uberchord app also features a strummer trainer to improve your rhythm and timings.
Alternatively, choose an easy chord (or no chord at all) and focus for a while on any finger-picking and plectrum style that you’re learning. The point is that your right-hand technique is often ignored in the effort to get those fingers on your left hand doing the correct thing. Don’t forget that learning how to play the guitar is a two-handed deal.
There you have it. Like I said earlier, a lot of these tips are obvious and common sense, but many new players still make simple mistakes in their enthusiasm to begin playing exciting stuff. Get the basics right, the proper technique happening from the very beginning when learning how to play the guitar, and you can be a great player rather than just a good one.
If you’re wanting to learn such things as the notes in f chords, the ins and outs of the key of am guitar, or how to figure out why the thunder imagine dragon chords work so well together….then you should read more of the free lessons we have available on our blog here at Uberchord. We not only cover lots of stuff about chords, but also some very common chord progressions and theory concepts too. Starting to learn music theory will only accelerate your learning speed. Hope these articles will help!
Good advise, a lot of the time I find myself getting frustrated and wanting to learn and move along faster. Well like anything else practice makes perfect, and there are no short cuts. And anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Very Helpful … Thanks …!
Thanks man. Now I want to practice
u just assumed their gender
Wow. This was very helpful. I’m buying my second guitar, and all the buying guides I found out there were for beginners. This was the only site that has been helpful to me.
Great blog for the beginners. Great tips!
Also, one thing I caught myself doing from time to time when I was learning the fundamentals, was tensing my body up. My shoulders would tense up and make barre chords almost impossible to voice correctly.
Great tips. Very helpful for beginners when start playing guitar.
Bro who are u? u are incredible! First i was little confused about death grip but when i place my thumb in the back of its neck the tune became clear also i close my eyes and then practise my speed also increase.
Thanks to u..
A little while ago my friends asked me if i wanted to join a band of theirs, because they know i was into guitar. But what they didnt know is that I only knew five chords. Hopefully these tips can help me learn faster so i can join before they replace me. The deadline’s catching up fast….
Have you tried our app Uberchord? It’s interactive and teaches you any chord you want in no-time. If you have an iPhone 5 and up or an iPod 6G, give it a shot, it’s free: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id952669753
can you give me the advise for the best app just like yours for an android operator just like me i have no iPhone or iPad
Both my husband and I are trying to pick up the guitar, but neither of us have any musical talent. We are looking to take lessons so that we are taught the correct way to play instead of trying to teach ourselves. That’s why I like your tip about always using the correct fingering because I bet it’s easy to make up your own way of fingering, but it’s not the correct way. http://www.guitarbygeorge.com/
How do you play to a metronome?? I dont get it really…
On every click, just play a note.
Finally decided to take the leap and try the electric side of things. Giving it a try and renting this guitar (fatlama.com/item/aria-pro-2-fullerton-guitar-near-mint-88084466) for my first proper live gig. Any tips with the electric vs accoustic. I usually play acoustic pop with my Fender, how much of a change is this going to be. Wanted to get used to it before buying.
these tips are really helpful with learning guitar
Here’s a tip… if you say ‘fret hand’ and ‘strum hand’ it would apply to left-handers such as myself as well as right-handers. Yes, I know there are more of you but everyone knows which hand they use for fret vs strum. Using these terms makes all guitar related advice universal.
I’m not of of those people that is able to learn how to play an instrument fast, I am indeed very slow. On the other hand, my son is pretty good at learning how to play new instruments. He’s been dying to know how to play the guitar, so I’ll have to find a professional to teach him a few lessons.
Thanks a lot! As a beginner guitarist, I am very much thankful for your blog post. I also should mention to other new guitarist that, I have read some other awesome blog about guitar tips for the beginner. And I am sure you will love to read joe’s blog here at https://www.guitarreviewed.com/
Thanks a lot for the tips! I am learning to play guitar and this tips will definitely help me!
I was curious if you ever considered changing the layout of your site?Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with itbetter. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two pictures.Maybe you could space it out better?
Great tips. Always love learning more concerning guitar related stuff everyday.
The point about slowing down and being mindful of your speed is spot on. This is an often overlooked necessary skill every guitar needs. I’ve been playing for 4 months now and find these online articles uber helpful. For all you other guys I found this on Facebook and found it helpful: https://yourguitarbrain.com/4-steps-improve-your-guitar-playing/
Happy strumming dudes!
Great Article! I love to refer my beginner guitar students to this piece as it reinforces good technique all round from the get go. Although they can be quite pricy, I also recomend my students get a guitar stool so that they can set it up in a way that will achieve good posture when playing. From good posture will come the ability to play and practice for much longer and under a lot less physical stress.
I have been playing on and off (mostly off) for many years, and from my perspective the tips you provide are the best I’ve ever seen. Other people give the same tips, of course, just not ALL of them. Excellent job. BTW, I would love an Android version of Uberchord – and I would happily pay for it.
it’s barre not bar chord…..just sayin
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Nice advice Now i m looking for a band members🤘
personally I don’t agree with the ”death grip” as it helps me muting ringing strings whenever i want to play single notes. Of course i don’t use it all the time but sometimes it’s very useful
Thank you so much for the tips,i found them so helpful.
Whats left is to do the right thing.
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It’s so helpful I can’t believe I had to learn these wonderful techniques about the guitar
HeyThanks very interestingnice blog!
In left handed and… in my 50s, where do I start? If tried classes at a local community college and found out that the teacher was teaching from the basement of his house and on the first day he went so far ahead that I was list and discouraged. So here I am still wanting to learn while my guitar gently sits in the corner all alone
This article nails so many key points, and every guitarist has these feelings or questions at some point during our life. I especially agree with 3. No Need For Speed.
I really enjoyed heavy metal/hardcore bands like (Born of Osiris, The Faceless, August Burns Red, As I Lay Dying, etc. and played lead in a few Hardcore Bands of my own. The athleticism of guitarists is this genre is staggering, and of course I wanted to mimic them. I spent many hours overcompensating with intense practice and fretboard exercises, but really didn’t achieve the speed I wanted.
Years later, I’ve learned that every guitar player is unique in their own strengths and style. I’m not ever going to be as fast as Synyster Gates, and thats ok. There are things I can play that Synyster Gates probably couldn’t replicate exactly. My takeaway is that its great if you can play fast, but speed is only one aspect of guitar. You should concentrate on developing your style and be comfortable in your own skin.
It’s only available through iphone store , need to make it for android!!!
l was even thinking about giving up before
but thanks to your advise it really help alot
l now know what to do now
have realize where my mistake is now
thank you very much
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Very helpful tips here
Great article! However, I do not fully agree with the first tip. I LOVE the blues! I have been heavily influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Tbone Walker, Freddie King, and so many other blues legends. Bends and vibrato are a huge part of the blues style. By obsessively watching countless videos of Stevie Ray Vaughan 10 years ago when I was just headed to middle school, it made sense that the thumb behind the fretboard was okay. I would come across articles every now and then saying not to play like that, but I was getting the sound I wanted, which is the point of technique in the first place! When I started playing jazz guitar, captivated by players such as Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass, my thumb naturally went behind the fretboard, thus making it a lot easier to play more vertically across the fretboard. I alternate without even thinking about it. As long as the sound is the number 1 priority, and the technique used to obtain that sound is healthy, natural, and efficient, it really does not matter.
I cannot do the “left hand death grip” since I have a very short thumb, but every single pro guitarist I have ever seen DOES use it-and uses the thumb to mute or play the E/A strings.
For tip #1, I have an important tidbit to add.
The steering does not need to touch the fretboard, only the fret. There is no need to push down hard enough for the string to hit to the wood, the metal fret is what makes the note. Also, your finger should be just behind the fret for the cleanest sounding note
GREAT CONTENT.HERE IS A HUMBLE REQUEST.
KINDLY CREATE THE APP UBERCHORD FOR ANDROID TOO.
Thanks a lot.Really helpful
Every beginner guitar learner should make a mistake to hold a guitar in a proper way like chords position, armrest position, etc. and this article helps a lot for me Read More
Thank you, Graeme! It stands as a very helpful list of tips for me to quickly recollect the main principles of playing guitar which are so often forgotten. We all tend to sit back and play something that doesn’t make us uncomfortable while the only way to have progress is to stick to discipline and rules that you decribed in your article, and to play regularly! It’s better to play 1 hour per day 6 days a week than playing 4 hours per day 2 days a week.
Also I have recently written a new article about choosing a guitar amp for Stratocaster, if you don’t mind I will share it here: https://guitar-amp.com/stratocaster/
Maybe I’ll be able to play someday with these tips
Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a thirty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is completely off topic but I had to share it with someone!
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Hello Graeme. Interesting post around guitar tips. Definitely some of the better tips I have come across. Particularly your section on playing in different positions. It is certainly important to learn how to play whilst standing up. Infact, many performers may not experience this until it becomes an issue, but some production managers may ask for positions that the aspiring guitarist is not used to. Therefore, tackling different positions and movements early, may be extremely encouraging for novice musicians.
I agree when you said that the biggest obstacle to fast playing guitar is poor technique. I really want to go to guitar classes because I have been interested in playing the guitar since I was young. Thanks for the information on guitar lessons tips and I hope that I can find a great guitar center soon. http://sparkschoolofmusic.com/private-lessons/guitar-lessons/
Nice tips, thanks.
Would be nice if the Uberchord App was available to us Android types, though, a significant portion of the population.
This is an interesting post on guitar tips. Definitely some of the best advice I’ve ever received. Your section on playing in diverse positions, in particular. It is crucial to learn how to play while standing up.
We have a similar blog post, we’d love it if you took a look :)