Top 5 Mistakes Guitarists Make

Counting down my top 5 mistakes guitarists make. Note that these mistakes are not entirely just guitarist mistakes but are still very important things to try and improve on:

5. Right Hand Organisation

I often see guitar students pay a lot of attention to their left hand but not enough to their right-hand work. It’s easy for this to happen when we are not feeling confident about what the left hand is supposed to be doing. In fact, the right-hand needs a lot of attention, and good habits need to be formed so that you can reliably depend on playing the correct strings and also playing with fluidity.

Common mistakes include the right hand fingers not walking or working together well. Very often I see lots of plucking with the index finger or the thumb. This type of string plucking will usually not be very smooth. Also when playing arpeggios the fingers should be usually given a string to pluck rather than the same finger over multiple strings.

How to fix:

Practice walking fingers a lot! Especially with scale work but you can also do some drills which require the fingers to be alternating over and over. If you are using a plectrum then it should be down-up picking rather than picking in just one direction. With arpeggio playing, I like to start at default position in which the index-middle-ring fingers sit on strings 3-2-1 respectively. This should be your neutral starting position which will calibrate your hand to the guitar and you will find it much easier to find the strings you need from that position. When learning music that is intermediate to advanced you will also need to plan which fingers are going to be plucking certain notes and strings. it can feel a bit tedious to do this but it is really necessary work that needs doing if you want to achieve an element of mystery over a piece.

4, Left Hand Pressure

A common source of fatigue and mistakes is putting too much tension or grip with your left hand. This is also coupled with not taking small breaks from gripping the guitar in between phrases or sections.

How to fix:

Play with fingers tucked up next to the fret. This is the easiest place press down as it requires less tension. It is also nearly impossible to get a buzz when you have your finger right near the fret. I also recommend utilising gravity to help you with the downward push. I do this by really leaning down on the fret board and relaxing my arm so that I can feel the weight of it on the fretboard.

3. Bad Playing Posture

Bad posture and sitting position will definitely contribute to bad technique. Following on form the previous point I would encourage you to have the neck of the guitar angled up and quite high in the air allowing you to get your arm under the fretboard, this will help with the gravity assistance. Also keeping a straighter back and neck will help yo avoid soreness and strain. I recently saw a YouTube where the great virtuoso Steve Vai ordered a new chair for sitting as his body had finally succumbed to stiffness from a less than adequate sitting position.

How to fix:

Videoing yourself or playing in front of the mirror can help you pick this up and correct it. Also, take some time to get into a comfortable position when you start playing and give yourself cues to check what your body is doing during your playing.

2. Practicing too fast

This is really common and it’s not always an easy one to spot as we all get used to practicing at a certain speed. This practice speed should be different to your performance speed not the same. It amazing how many students I ask “can you now play that at a slower ”practice” speed” and they play it again at the exact same speed. Our sense of speed is quite subjective so we need a more objective way of measuring it.

How to fix:

Use a metronome! The metronome is a very powerful tool and really needs to become your best friend during practice if you want to become a proficient player. There are many ways to use it but I would start with working out what a good practice tempo. Your goal should be to get through the entire piece at one exact tempo. The chosen tempo should be just a little bit challenging but not too fast so that you are stopping all the time. I will discuss metronome use more in further posts.

1. Performance Practice

Many times I have heard students say this after messing during a play through a piece “Well it sounded great in my bedroom”. Clearly, its easier to perform when no one is watching so we need to also practice performing or with some performance pressure.

How To Fix:

  • Practice performing in front of friends and family.
  • Practice recording or videoing yourself performing.
  • Try the 4 times rule during practice and any other pressure-building practice drill.