by Allen Hopgood
When you begin learning to play guitar, it's often a struggle to change chords. Your strumming hand can let you down with sloppy rhythms and a lack of control. Even playing a simple melody, the notes you fret may not sound clean, rich and full. They can sound short and cut-off.
Like most guitarists, who have progressed past the beginning stages in their guitar playing, I remember how frustrating this can feel. It feels like hard work. It seems like a long time before you'll make anything you play, sound like music.
Starting out learning the guitar, all I had was my Beatles influence and many frustrated attempts of making my way through a guitar method book (pre-internet days). Looking back, I know now, what I didn't know then...
There was nothing really happening to encourage my progress. I was just plodding along. Not knowing any better. Hoping and diligently trying to make the next chord I learnt, sound connected to the previous one.
Apart from that, there was one huge mistake I was making though. A mistake I see, many beginning and intermediate guitar playing hopefuls make. I was not getting regular guitar lessons with a guitar teacher. From when I first picked up the guitar, it was nearly two years before I decided to find a guitar teacher.
If you have just begun to play or have been playing for some months already, I urge you not to go it alone. Do not do this to yourself. Get the best start possible. When you begin guitar lessons with a guitar teacher, you'll be guided and taught by someone who has gone before you - doing exactly what you want to accomplish. Along with learning some great stuff musically, you'll notice your guitar playing will advance in leaps and bounds. Your learning curve will be dramatically shortened.
“But I learn from videos online' I hear you say. Well yes, videos can be great, but is that video you're 'trying' to learn from exactly what you need to be learning right now? Is it assisting you towards the goal you have of becoming the guitar player you want to be? Can the video correct your bad habits?
A major downside to learning guitar on your own is that you pick up many bad habits. Habits you don't even know you're making. Technique, posture, playing and practising habits, that seriously impede, your guitar playing improvement.
The problem lies in the fact that, the longer you wait, before studying with a guitar teacher, the longer and harder those bad habits take to undo. It's these deep ingrained habits you have to 'unlearn' before you get better.
Simple, foundational things like, improper thumb position on the guitar neck; strumming hand/arm tension all slow down your ability, to have fun and create music with your guitar. Fortunately, these and many other aspects that go into letting you play your guitar with confidence can be quickly brought to your attention and easily fixed, with an experienced guitar teacher sitting at your side. Plus with their encouragement and feedback along the way, you'll see fast improvements in your guitar playing progress, fun and results.
Yes online guitar videos, DVDs and method books can be great. However, they simply cannot instruct you on the smaller, major items that aid you in becoming a great guitar player. Learning how to play your guitar correctly from the start, with a guitar teacher, will help you end the pain and frustration you're currently experiencing learning and playing guitar on your own. There are many other valuable bonuses awaiting you too. You being able to have more fun with your instrument is just one of them!
Playing the guitar is very rewarding, challenging and heaps of fun. You have started to learn to play guitar because it means something important to you. Something you want to do. You owe it to yourself to do it correctly. Find a guitar teacher today. Start learning exactly what you need to. Don't waste precious time thinking you can learn it yourself like I did.
Allen Hopgood has over 30 years of guitar playing and guitar teaching experience. In that time he has shared the stage with some of Australia's top musicians and has built a large guitar school on Queensland's Gold Coast, Australia. If you’re ever in the area and would like some guitar tuition you can contact him through the Gold Coast School of Guitar website.