10 mistakes rookie guitarists make
When you’re learning the guitar, particularly if you’re self-taught, it’s easy to make mistakes without realising it, but here are 10 clangers that you should try and avoid from the start…
Rock ’n’ roll doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and neither should your practice regime. If you haven’t been playing along with a backing track, a metronome or, better still, a flesh-and blood fellow guitarist, you’ll be sniffed out at your first audition as having the timing of a myopic pensioner playing bat-the-rat at a village fête. In other words: stop playing with yourself.
Playing too fast
We all want to be the hare, not the tortoise, but from sex to homework, excess speed breeds sloppiness, and learning riffs is the same.
Sure, Mr Brownstone might lose a bit of lecherous swagger at 20bpm, but you’ll soon be able to crack it off with surgical accuracy.
Bending too slow
The calling card of the debutant, taking too long to bend up to a note is the world’s second-most irritating sound (after a toddler with a recorder).
Decide which note you’re trying to hit, and for Christ’s sake, get there faster…
Hiding behind FX
If you’re serious about polishing your chops, ditch the white noise, hold the pedalboard exotica and work on first principles with nothing stronger than a pinch of reverb.
Innate human egotism means we all gravitate towards tapping licks and legato over barre chords and strumming patterns.
Bad move. All the great widdlers are also groove masters, and your leads will always be stilted and sexless until you make your rhythm work swing.
Some novices discount entire genres and vast swathes of technique by nailing their colours to the ‘rock’ or ‘metal’ masts.
Nobody’s asking you to wear a polo neck or use a thumb pick, but you’ll be a far more rounded player if you’re aware of Wes Montgomery’s chord solos and James Burton’s hybrid picking.
Twanging your Tele on the sofa in front of Hollyoaks might sound decent, but that’s only because you can’t hear the fluffed notes over the theme tune.
If you don’t want a nasty surprise, plug in to practise and assess your performance, warts and all.
Not tuning up
A genuine no-brainer, this, but if you’re not in pitch, your guitar is doomed to sound like Ian Brown at the 1996 Reading Festival.
We’re not pretending that a tuner is the most erotic item to get into your gigbag, but if you’re still training your ear, then it might just be the most vital.
Not warming up
When you first take up the guitar, your plump, pampered hands may wonder: “What the hell is going on here?”
Give them a fighting chance and avoid inflamed tendons by stretching before you even touch the guitar, taking regular breaks and maintaining a supple wrist on the fretboard.
Crotchets. Quavers. Dotted minims. Kill me now, right?
Actually, a bit of practical theory can speed up your journey to Wembley, letting you transpose songs for your singer’s hopeless bark, locate chord substitutions anywhere on the neck, and understand which notes sound good under which progressions. If you find yourself shouting “moderato!” at the drummer, you may have taken this too far.