Last week, I asked everyone in my Fingerstyle 101 Facebook group a question…
“If you could go back to when you first started and give yourself one guitar tip, what would it be?”
I love to see all the members interacting and sharing really useful tips.
Below, I’ve summed up some of the most common answers the members gave and added a few of my own thoughts to them.
I hope you find them useful…
“Play the guitar – don’t just dust it”
A few people talked about this, and I’ve had a decent number of students mention this over the years.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to practise.
Life can get in the way, people can be really busy, and sometimes motivation can drain out of you.
There are loads of reasons why we don’t practise as much as we should.
If you ever feel like this, the key is to get to the root of the issue, of course.
…And if it is truly a lack of time, you will either have to move things around a little to fit 10-15 minutes in each day…
Or you can try what I call the “one-strum” technique.
This is where you promise yourself you will strum one chord on your guitar, every day, no matter what.
This can be a sneaky way to trick yourself into practising more, as one chord can often turn into a lot more practice than just that!
Either way, do what it takes to pick up that guitar and play something fun each day!
“Avoid the ‘Death Grip’ at all costs”
There’s nothing worse than squeezing the life out of the guitar.
A lot of guitarists press the strings with way more pressure than they need to.
This is what I call the “Death Grip”.
A few of the members talked about this too.
The “Death Grip” can cause all sorts of issues with tension, terrible habits, and painful and unnecessary calluses.
I don’t think I can say this enough, but you must always keep working on playing with the lightest touch you can.
Every day, try to play a few random notes or a simple scale or chord…
Then add and remove pressure until you’re pressing the strings with the lightest touch possible.
Do that for a few minutes each day to form good habits.
And, when you play your songs, be conscious of using this “light touch” then too.
It’s always an ongoing thing to do, but it’s 100% worth it.
“Ensure your guitar is highly playable”
This is a really simple tip, but it makes a big difference.
Making sure your guitar is highly playable means getting a guitar that suits you, with nice strings and a good setup.
The guitar you use makes a huge difference after all.
…And, as many members in the Facebook group talked about, playing a bad guitar is like fighting an uphill, losing battle.
If you get a good guitar, you’ll make life easier on yourself.
Get a bad guitar and everything, and I mean everything, becomes harder.
After all, you’re not going to win a Formula One Grand Prix with a Ford Cortina (a car we had when I was a kid).
But at the same time, a McLaren Formula one car might not be what you need.
You just need something that suits you.
There are so many brands out there to suit every budget.
People can get a bit too wrapped up in brand names.
For me though, I’d much rather have a $100 guitar that plays nicely than a $2000 guitar that doesn’t suit me.
“Get help when needed”
Over the years, I’ve found there is a direct correlation between people’s success and how willing they are to get help.
Most successful people realise going at it completely alone is not a good long-term strategy.
Either getting some tuition in terms of a teacher, a focused course (rather than random lessons) or help in terms of a support network is key.
For example, I sucked at guitar at first for a while.
That was because I was sitting on my own in my bedroom, trying to learn.
I thought asking for help was a “weak” thing to do.
It’s only when I got help from friends, guitar teachers, and other musicians that I started to see progress.
I didn’t realise at the time you don’t get any extra points for trying to learn guitar on your own!
If you can’t afford a teacher, try joining a support network, ask friends to jam, post videos of yourself playing (which you can do in my Fingerstyle 101 group) and put yourself out there a bit.
It’s well worth it!
Don’t make the common mistake of practising too fast.
A lot of guitarists do this, and it can be dangerous for multiple reasons.
I’ve always found students need lots of reminders to slow down.
When things are “flowing”, many of us naturally want to let the tempo creep up to normal speed.
Likewise, when things are not quite going right and we are making mistakes, we often want to rush.
Either way, you have to resist the temptation.
Keep the tempo slow most of the time.
This will allow you to spot and fix bad habits, reduce mistakes, and mentally process what you’re learning in real-time.
These are just a snippet of the pearls of wisdom shared by the members (with my own thoughts added).
I hope you found them useful.
For some of you, these may be new ideas.
For others, they’ll be useful little reminders of some very important fundamentals.
…And if you want more help with your playing, you may want to check out the Fingerstyle 101 book and course below.
Anyone who has the book or course gets to join the exclusive Facebook group too.
Have a great day of practice!
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.