When I first started playing guitar, I was completely self-taught. I grabbed a guitar that looked as close to a Les Paul as possible for a cheap price and immediately jumped online to check out some tabs. Tabs are SO fantastic as they’re a quick way to be able to start playing without knowing how to read music, but they come at a price.
Building Muscle Memory – For Better or For Worse
I started ripping into some iconic licks that had me wanting to learn the guitar in the first place such as “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne and “Back in Black” by AC/DC. I was putting in regular practice time and I was making great progress… or so I thought. It turns out that I was actually setting my playing back even though I was putting in ~2 hours a day. I was so obsessed with guitar, I would play every second I could! I kept playing the same things over and over and over. This was part of my problem: I was repeatedly playing with poor technique which became my natural muscle memory.
Like I mentioned above, tabs really are a wonderful resource but rarely do tabs show which finger to use and they also rarely show how to properly alternate pick the notes. There is so much guess work that goes into playing the music along with the tabs and if you’re a beginner to intermediate player, the chances are you won’t naturally pick up good technique. This leads to so many players learning poor technique which then becomes habit which puts them at a disadvantage right from the get go. This is exactly how I was for the first two years of playing!
Advantages of Learning Guitar From A Seasoned Instructor
When I took my first guitar lesson, I was quite confident that I was already a good player. I was going to impress my first guitar teacher and show him that I could rock with the best of them. Boy oh boy was that a VERY humbling experience. He pointed out that I didn’t use my pinky at all (something that is VERY common with new guitar players) and that I didn’t know how to alternate pick. I could definitely play the licks note for note but it turns out I was actually working harder than I needed to! I could do the same licks note for note with much less effort by using alternate picking. We immediately jumped into alternate picking exercises and he showed me the correct way to alternate pick the licks I was working on.
Finding Your Motivation To Learn Guitar
I ran home immediately after and set to work. Unfortunately, I became discouraged when practicing the licks because I couldn’t play them at the same speed I was playing them at with incorrect technique. I told this to my teacher and he asked me what I wanted out of guitar. Did I want to play it for the rest of my life? Was I going to make a big commitment to the guitar?
I told him that there was nothing more I wanted than to commit myself to the guitar. He explained it very simply for me: put in the work now and in the future, your hard work will pay off and you will be able to reach a higher skill cap than people with poor technique. This got me extremely motivated because I wanted to be one of the best. I wanted to be the next Slash, the next Randy Rhoads or the next Angus Young.
Learning From Mistakes
It took a solid amount of work to backtrack my bad habits and form good ones. My alternate picking progress was slow but steady. I also made progress with my pinky as it slowly found its place with the rest of my fingers. Fast forward a bit and I’ve now been making a living off the guitar for 4 years and I am using my knowledge to teach students how to skip the risk of forming these bad habits. With my tips and advice, I have taken complete beginners and have skyrocketed their progress. I’ve done this by teaching them to form excellent muscle memory which will enable them to become better faster. I’ve taken many intermediate players as well and have helped them adjust habits that lead to poor technique and they are now so much more efficient players.
Importance of Good Technique
The difficulty of being self-taught is that you won’t know if you’re developing bad habits because you don’t have anyone there to show you otherwise. With proper technique, you can learn that song or lick you’ve wanted to in no time and it will come more naturally, be easier to play and sound great.
If you want to make guitar a constant part of the rest of your life, here are some basic techniques I really recommend working on to elevate your playing:
- Alternate Picking
- Finger Exercises for Strength and Dexterity
- Fretting Chords Cleanly
- Transitioning Chords Efficiently
- Counting Rhythm
- Naturally Playing Strumming Patterns
- Learning Shortcuts on the Fretboard
- Learning to Memorize and Use a Scale
It just so happens that I have a completely free 5-day course that addresses every single one of these techniques and I would love for you to check them out completely risk free! I’ll be sending you 5 great lessons over the course of 5 days and all you need is an email address! Follow this link and you’ll immediately get to dive into improving your technique to make you an overall better player.
Keep rockn’ and I’ll see you soon!