4 Common Hurdles When Starting To Play Guitar and How To Overcome Them

You've invested in you're first Guitar, have been practicing for weeks, and it feels like you're getting nowhere...

...or you've successfully gotten a few basics down, but feel stuck and like you're no longer improving.

Learning Guitar can be difficult (especially at first), and I've experienced frustration with guitar as well when either trying to learn a new song, style of music, or specific technique.  Below are 4 common areas that people new to Guitar struggle with, and some suggestions on how to overcome these types of hurdles:

1)  Practice Routine:

There is an old adage that goes something like: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice...".

It's true that you won't see improvements in your guitar playing without putting in some effort and time into learning the instrument.  Practice is definitely critical, however it doesn't have to take over your life in order for you to see improvements in your playing.  Here are a few tricks when it comes to practicing:

  • Don't leave your Guitar in it's case.  It's much easier to pick up the Guitar when it's already out and ready to be played.
  • Commit to doing 10 minutes of practice per day.  It's better to practice a little every day than to cram it all into one day per week.
  • Remember your "Why" - what got you interested in playing Guitar in the first place?  Though practice can be boring, it helps to keep our long term goals and aspirations in mind when approaching a potentially boring practice session.


2)  Sore Fingers & Hands:

Starting to play Guitar can be tough on the fingers and hands.  The Guitar you're playing can make a big difference in playability - i.e. is it an Acoustic Guitar or Electric?  What thickness (gauge) strings does the guitar have?  How is the action (distance from the strings from the fretboard)?  All of these factors can make a big difference.  Still, some discomfort is normal when first learning guitar (especially when building up calluses on the fingertips).  Here are a few tips to help minimize any pain / discomfort from playing Guitar:

  • Make sure you have the right Guitar for your body size.  For example, children may want to start with a 3/4 scale Guitar.
  • Consider having your Guitar set up by a professional tech.  Adjustments to the neck, action, or lowering the string gauge can make a guitar much more playable and easier on the hands/fingers.
  • Take breaks - Guitar playing can be uncomfortable, but it should not be outright painful.  Start with shorter practice sessions and work up to longer ones.
  • Consider a private lesson so that an instructor can advise you on proper technique.

3)  Barre Chords

Ahhh the dreaded Barre Chords - these chords can be extremely frustrating for the beginner Guitarist.  A Barre Chord is essentially a chord in which your pointer finger presses down on all 6 strings, and the remaining 3 fingers can form a shape that can be moved up and down the neck.

(Example of a Barre Chord)

The tricky part with Barre Chords is that they require a combination of technique and hand strength to pull off.  So when a new Guitar player is working on developing both, it can be a real challenge to learn these chords or play any songs where these chords are required.  Here are a few tips to overcome any frustrations with Barre Chords:

  • Use "Partial Barre Chords" until you have developed enough strength and technique to play barre chords correctly.

  • To develop proper technique, play each string individually to ensure each note is ringing clearly.
  • If certain notes aren't ringing, watch your left hand angle and ensure there's enough clearance under each finger so that the adjacent strings can vibrate freely.
  • Start with Barre chords higher up the neck (i.e. on the 7th fret).  The hardest Barre Chord is an "F" (on the 1st fret), so gradually work your way back to it from the higher starting positions.

4)  Compare & Despair

Last but not least, it's so easy to compare & despair when it comes to learning Guitar.  "Compare and Despair" means to look at other peers learning guitars, or our "Guitar Heros" and feel discouraged around our progress of learning Guitar.  This can happen when we're learning anything new (I'm experiencing some now as I'm trying to learn to sing, which I'll have to write about in another post...), and there are a few strategies that can help us get past any compare & despair frustrations:

  • Remember learning is a lifelong activity, and is often non-linear.  Meaning that we will likely experience "growth spurts" and "plateaus" and that this is normal and all part of learning anything new.
  • Repeat the mantra "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly" - this means that it's OK to suck until we've learned the skills and put in the time necessary to improve.
  • Set some easy goals and knock them out - pick out a few songs that seem within your ability and focus on them for a while.
  • Listen to some music or go see a live show to re-ignite your enthusiasm for learning Guitar (or music in general).


I hope you found these tips helpful!  If you have any questions please don't hesitate to comment below or email me at Kevin@Kevin-Eldridge.com .  And if you're interested in Guitar Lessons, check out my Lessons page for more info.



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