Beginners, Don't Fret the Fretboard

Many beginners struggle to learn the guitar. This article is addressing the main issues that almost every beginner goes through.

Ultimate Guitar
When a beginner starts playing guitar, they're filled with a sense of passion and excitement. They imagine themselves playing all the songs they love effortlessly. They can't wait to start and they can't wait to improve.

Many lose this fire early on. They struggle to play chords, they struggle to play basic melodies and the guitar is in general, uncomfortable to play.

They see their guitar hero's or other players playing seamlessly and they become disappointed. The Beginner, begins to slide down farther and farther until they get stuck in a pit of frustration and sadness. They begin to doubt whether they can play the guitar.

Some even begin to scream at their guitar or bite their hands out of sheer frustration. I did!

First, you need to realize that this frustration is natural. Every beginner goes through this phase. In fact, even the players you admire have gone through these phases.

This frustration causes most beginner guitar players to quit after the first six months. I'm not trying to intimidate you, just giving you the facts. Let's look at why the beginner's quit in more detail.

1) These beginners get intimidated by the physical difficulties of learning guitar

Guitar is one of the most physically demanding instruments. Beginners who take lessons or try to teach themselves assume they're going to be doing all the easy work first. This assumption couldn't be more wrong.

The problem with this train of thought, lies in the students past learning experiences. When we go through the educational system as children what do we start off learning? We learn the alphabet, the days of the week and the name of the months. All this really basic material. Then as we graduate from each grade level, the material we learn gets more difficult. We learn how to add, subtract and multiple then we move up to algebra, calculus and so on.

Beginner guitar students falsely assume that everything is going to be easy in the beginning. When a beginner starts to struggle, all these false assumptions and thoughts go through their head. They think, this is the beginning, the easy part. I can't handle this and it's only going to get harder.

Guitar is NOT like the standard educational system. Guitar becomes easier and easier the more you practice and the more you play.

As a beginner, you need to realize that the guitar is never going to get harder to play then it is right NOW. Today you may struggle, tomorrow you will struggle a little less, the next day it will get even easier. If you can make it past that 6 month barrier, it's going to get a lot easier!

2) Beginners make the deadly mistake of comparing themselves to their heroes

Many beginners are inspired to learn guitar by other artists or musicians. This can be beneficial to their growth because it gives them a goal to reach towards. However, it can also be very detrimental to their ability to progress as a guitar player. Beginner guitar players are very impressionable. This can really damage their resolve, especially when they begin to struggle.

The more a beginner struggles and the more they idolize certain players, the harder it will be for them to make progress. When they struggle, they compare themselves to the guitar players they look up to and come up with the assumption that they must have some god given talent. Their struggling so much right now, that they can't imagine playing on that persons level and they quickly stick this person on some god like pedestal.

Putting someone on a god like pedestal of unattainable skill is instantly limiting your own potential. A human can never reach the level of a god. So if you stick someone on the level of a god, then you will never reach them.

You need to realize that all players even the players you worship were beginners once. They are human and they struggled just as much as you in the beginning.

3) The final mistake many beginners make is trying to teach themselves

The majority of beginner guitar students who quit within the first 6 months are self-taught. Some people just can't afford a teacher. In fact, I taught myself out of a book for the first 8 months because as a high school student with a minimum wage paying job, I couldn't afford weekly lessons.

After those 8 months went by, I didn't know where to go, I hadn't made all that much progress and was overwhelmed. I went and found a teacher and I benefited enormously.

My progress skyrocketed, I was able to keep up with many of my friends who had already been playing for years. I could relax and learn, instead of wondering if what I was working on was helping me improve. After a while, I became addicted to the progress I was making and couldn't stop practicing.

With a teacher you can gain all the same benefits I received.

So remember, it only gets easier. You can accomplish your goals and with some guidance, your dreams can become a reality. The beginning is hard, but endure and you will develop a skill you can carry with you for the rest of your life.

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16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Saying that being self-taught is a mistake... no, thanks. This pretty much dooms this article right away.
    I agree, the first months of guitar are the hardest because you don't know where to start from or what to practice. Of course, having a teacher that can guide you is the easiest method to progress but those who can't find a teacher or can't afford one shouldn't get discouraged. There are lots of free sites (like Justin Sandercoe's) that take you from level 0 (naming the guitar parts) to a decent level, step by step.
    I've been teaching myself for about a year using Justin's site, it's really helped me come a long way. Being self taught isn't necessarily wrong, it's just that lots of people go about it all wrong
    Comparing yourself to your heroes is not wrong! You need to find inspiration and create your own style by knowing how others sound like. Every big one did this! Slash, Perry... everyone! You just have to take the most interesting parts for you out of every single style and make it your own...You can't just come up with a new style out of nowhere
    The best teachers i found were my friends! They showed me scales, modes, and chords. I always had trouble bonding with my teachers.
    I don't think that there is a disadvantage of not having a teacher. What beginners (well, basically everyone who wants to improve) need is someone to jam with. It's the same with the spoken language. As a baby you were allowed to "jam" with others and that's how you improved. The same applies for music. Just play and if you play enough, the practice will come with it just automatically.
    I'm self taught, and couldnt disagree more with that statement. I bought a really crappy guitar for 60 bucks and I had 1 hand-me-down guitar chords booklet, no internet, videos, teachers, except for maybe learning a bit of theory in highschool music class(as a sax player, cause guitar was taken haha), but i combined it all, learned the major/minor/blues scale all over the guitar because I wanted to and loved doing it. I developed my own style, made my own songs to remember and get better with the theory and just kept at it. I had no goal of being the best in town, or be like the greats, I just played because I liked doing it and wanted to do more and more all the time. It's when you put extra pressure on yourself to be good, that you will get frustrated with it and maybe end up disliking it.
    Rebel Scum
    How about start learning easy songs/riffs you like? And I agree with whats been said above about not having a teacher. That's not a bad thing as long as you have the determination to learn the instrument.
    I'm 64 with a lifelong desire to play guitar. I have absolutely no training formal in music. I've been trying to learn chords for about three weeks now and feel the frustration that your article describes. Nevertheless each day is a slight improvement on the previous. I'm determined to stick with it. Right now just trying to learn from teachers on the internet. I appreciate the insights of your article. Perhaps there is still hope for me.
    I've owned my guitar for 10 years, in those 10 years probably only put 3 months of solid time in. In the last 5 months I've played for 5 months lol and the improvement is amazing. I could never get into before because of frustration and thinking I'll never play like them (the ones I look up to) but after 5 months the progress I am making....Let's just say I'm kicking myself for not starting for real 10 years a go. Keep at it.
    Great article! My two cents about being self taught: with the internet, youtube and countless resources online with both audio and visual guidance, I think that learning on your own might be even better for some people. I learned piano with a teacher - I had an amazing teacher whom I LOVED (and who blew my mind and inspired me) and still I think self teaching is thus far a better experience. (though I would 110% go for lessons if I thought I could find someone as amazing as my piano teacher.) I've only been self teaching for a few weeks,so maybe I'm way out of line voicing such a confident opinion, but I can't believe how good I already sound and it seems like this could really work for some people.
    Agree, everyone starts out as a beginner, there is nothing wrong with a teacher and always be open minded
    I've been playing for two years now and I'm self taught. I can play some of my favorite songs but I have a problem jamming along with others and today I lost it I got really frustrated and I don't know where to go. I think I need a teacher and some guidance I just don't want to quit playing. This article helped me a lot to calm down.
    I n need, but financially unable, I read your article and agree with all of it, I am one of those self taught, people stuck at how to get better and learn more, I play a guitar from a garage sale and collect cans when I need new strings, so for the financially unable when it come to lessons, much less quality equipment, do you have any suggestions.
    The article isn't about downgrading self taught players, but it's more than obvious that most self taught guitar players have more holes in their playing than players who've had a great teacher. That being said there are plenty of teachers who are not so good, but it's much easier to deal with being a beginner when you have a teacher