Friday, January 25, 2013

The Guitar - A Beginner's Thoughts

Over the past few weeks I've been continuously practicing with my guitar. It’s been a little over a month since I bought my own electric, but I’m glad I can actually see some progress.  I started practicing again so that I could have a more ideal emotional outlet and time sink, but I have to be careful about turning this newly found passion into an obsession.


It’s a good thing that this plan pushed through. I've been reconnected with my old playlist, rediscovering music by listening to the lead, rhythm, and bass guitar parts of the songs. Although I’m far from being good enough to play all my favorite songs, it’s still fun to be able to strum along or learn a few notes by ear. The thought of actually playing those songs perfectly is very enticing, which is good since I get extra motivation to practice.

There have been a few difficulties that I encountered since I started. These problems can be quite discouraging, and I've seen, read, and heard of beginners quitting because of them.

Barre Chords


Back in high school when I first tried (and failed) to learn how to play the guitar, this was the biggest obstacle. I tried repeatedly to press the strings but it still sounded pretty dead. It also hurt my wrists a lot.

I've only learned recently that applying a lot of pressure isn't necessary, but the proper application of pressure is. My wrist was strained by the somewhat semi-awkward hand position and the fact that I used my fingers to grip and squeeze the neck. When I tried pulling using my arm with my thumb and wrist controlling the application of force, I found it easier to do barre chords. They still sound dead sometimes, but that’s where practice and repetition come in.

On a related note, the B chord can go die in a fire.


So easy to misplace these things

I’m not really one to give advice for this problem since I still pretty much suck at it, I've noticed that a few changes in approach of technique make practicing and playing more enjoyable and pain-free. I now make it a point to keep my right index finger under my thumb when holding the pick to prevent it from snagging strings during upstrokes.

Pinky Anchor

This was recommended to me by a friend who has far more experience playing the guitar than me. It’s supposed to help guide the player as to where the pick or picking fingers are located. It helps develop a sense as to which string the pick or finger is close to and how much distance is needed for it to reach the corresponding string for the next note.
Using the pinky comes naturally for most people, but I find it kind of restrictive. I end up using it as a stand for my right hand, which applies unnecessary stress to the finger. I have to keep reminding myself that I should keep it relaxed and use it only as a pivot and not a hand rest.

Neck Pains

For those times that you need to crane your neck around to see if you’re not messing up the finger placement or planning for the next chord progression. I’ve been having these pains a lot recently and I suspect it’s because I have developed the bad habit of looking at the fret board at an odd angle. Sometimes this habit also causes wrist pain because “lookers” like me tend to hold the guitar at an angle to get a better view of things.

This problem can be prevented either by using a mirror, which would also help develop a great sense of inverted direction, or by being constantly aware of your playing position and making corrections when necessary.


There are a whole lot more obstacles one can encounter when trying to master the guitar. Most are a bit more minor and some are only encountered only when a certain amount of skill or knowledge is achieved. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell these problems to go suck it when the time comes.

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