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The One Mistake Every Beginner Guitarist Must Avoid!

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By Edited Nov 21, 2016 1 1

There is one thing that almost every beginner guitarist does and that almost every guitar teacher teaches that drastically increases the amount of time it takes to become a proficient guitarist. In fact, it may lead to habits that are counterproductive and require a prolonged period of unlearning. I learned this the hard way, and had to stop playing guitar entirely for a long period of time because of the bad habits I had formed and injuries that resulted. The good news is you have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. The biggest, and I believe, most costly mistake is that new guitar players start learning to play in the first position.

This is entirely logical if we are thinking in terms of the guitar. Playing down by the open strings serves as a consistent starting point, whether your guitar has 20, 22, or any number of frets. It is the "end" of the guitar, so why not start here? The problem becomes much more obvious if we think in terms of body mechanics. The first frets require the biggest stretches to reach, the most force to push down, and is the most demanding in terms of on arm and upper body position. Even for the most physically adept individual, this results in an increase in body tension that is undesirable, and completely unnecessary. It would be much easier to learn the instrument if we started by using an absolute minimum of tension and effort. Once the body learns to play in a relaxed manner, it will be easier to do so down at the first fret. We can accomplish this by learning much higher up on the neck, closer to the tent fret, though this will very from person to person.

Move your hand around between the 8th and 12th frets. See if you can find a spot where you feel no tension in in your fingers, hand, arm, shoulders and neck. This is the spot where you should start learning, which will depend upon your body and the shape of your guitar. If you want to play chords, get yourself a capo, which you should be able to find in the $10 range. Any tablature you read can be transferred by the treating the capo as the open string. Once you're comfortable playing here you can slowly make your way down the neck to the bigger frets, being sure that you are not increasing the amount of tension anywhere in your body when you do so. Do this, and you will find that you have developed a crucial habit for a lifetime of guitar playing, and that your progress will be expedient. Good luck!



Jul 28, 2010 4:23pm
Good article. You're right. The tension and pain is a deterrent. I found a Martin guitar recently at a second hand store and I definitely need to get a capo to play it.
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