ENTERTAINMENT – 10 GUITAR TIPS FOR LEARNERS
Take a look at the greatest guitarists who ever lived: Masters like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Clapton, Hendrix, B.B. King, Jimmy Page… and almost anyone else you can think of…What do they all have in common?
NONE of them had access to thousands of websites, books, DVDS, software, and videos… nor did they need to. Your first job as a guitarist is to figure out how to properly “train your hands” to play the type of music you want to play. Practice a few things for short amounts of time and repeat enough times without exceeding your body’s ability.
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.
2. Practice Sitting Down & Standing Up
Things are hard enough as it is without expecting you to waltz around the room while you’re playing. The important thing is 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. Then, when you’re standing up, everything changes. 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 bad 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. 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.
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. 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. Pay careful attention to the correct fingering of a chord and your hand’s position on the fret board for scales.
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 Smartphone 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 beat generator soon in your career. However, 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.
7. Don’t Shy Away From Difficult Chords
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.
8. Be Disciplined With Your Practice
Nothing beats regularly putting your hands on the guitar and practicing. Even if it’s just for ten minutes 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.
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 practise creating a percussive rhythm with your right-hand strumming. Alternatively, choose an easy chord 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.
Good luck if you’re starting out and I hope these tips can help you be the next Clapton.