I've had a guitar for awhile now, but I've never really bunkered down and practiced, but I really want to start. Pretty much all I know how to do is hold the guitar :P My question is, what major bad habits do I need to really watch out for? Like I know pure downstrumming is a bad habit to get into, but what else?

Also, how do I make sure I don't finger poorly? Not sure if that's the best way to phrase that question, but I want my fingering to be fast, but above all, accurate. I know there's something called "flat fingering" I should watch out for, but I don't even know what that is.
Downstrumming? Downpicking is not a bad habit unless you can't alternate pick at all. Most heavy music making musicians use downpicking and prefer it for the tone it offers. As far as excersizes, chromatics, learn your major and minor scales and run them - thse will build the connection between your fret and pick hands. Try not to anchor - or keep you fingers (third or fourth) firmly planted on the body of the guitar - it creates undue stress on the wrist and can injure you.

The scales and chromatic drills will improve your fingering and hand strength/dexterity. Learn your basic chords and how to shift through them one to the next.

Oh - and a metronome is your friend. Your best friend - you could even go so far as to say that it's your BFF. Yes, it's true.
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Last edited by strat0blaster at Jan 29, 2009,
To avoid flat fingering, try to fret with the ends of your fingers by arching them a bit. Other than that, try to learn from the ground up. Start with scales and learning where notes are on the fretboard. Speed will come after you start getting the basics down, and accuracy is a by-product of practice. Also start alternate picking (up and downstrokes) anything that you possibly can.
SuperSpytotally sneaky
with the finger position, make sure you hit the string with the tip of your finger, not the underside of it. putting your thumb down the center of the neck can help with this.
Thanks guys! Great information and exactly what I needed.
As far as fingering goes, you want to use the rule 1 fret per finger (even the pinky). If you slide into a new position you still assign a fret to each finger. You want to make sure you start slowly, and the most important thing at this stage is playing everything cleanly.