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My biggest mistakes while learning guitar (learn from my mistakes)

[DELETED]

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Nov 11, 2019
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I've been wanting to make a thread like this for a while so that others can learn from my mistakes. I've been playing for almost a decade and a half, and as a seasoned player, I wanted to share some things that those early in their playing can keep in mind to avoid certain mistakes. That's why I joined this site. This almost feels like I'm writing a cheesy article for Ultimate Guitar or something. This is a also a good lesson in accountability for me, to identify my guitar shortcomings. If you don't know your weaknesses, you can't fix them. I also encourage others to share their guitar mistakes as well. If Syn or PG sees this thread, I'm sure we'd all love to know theirs.


1. Not using my pinky when I played.

For the first 6 or so years I started playing, I would hardly ever use my pinky when riffing or "shredding". Naturally, our pinky is weak so it felt uncomfortable to use it. My entire playing style was built around my index finger, middle finger, and ring finger which left me at a large disadvantage. If the riff was 5-7-8, I'd use my index on 5, middle on 7, and ring on 8. I didn't know that not using my pinky was an issue until I took separate lessons with Kevin Thrasher (from Escape The Fate) and Jacky Vincent (Falling In Reverse) and they both told me I had to start using my pinky, especially if I wanted to develop more speed. Since then, I started using my pinky BUT my pinky still isn't fully caught up and as synchronized as my other fingers. I can still "shred" but I know I would be better if I had used my pinky during the years that formed my playing.

2. Keeping my fingers closer to the fretboard. Less movement = faster speed.

This is something subconscious that I see a lot of players do. Whenever we're done using a finger on a note, we lift it in the air and move it away from the fretboard. The more we go up, the more it takes to come back down, which takes more time out of the equation. Try to be mindful of where your fingers are and how close they are and you will get better at it. There are exercises to learn this restraint as well. It is an awkward thing at first. Something I was taught in college was the do the normal chromatic exercise (1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4), but keep the fingers on the fretboard until that finger has to be used again on another note. It feels weird at first, but you get used to it and learn to keep them closer.

3. Applying theory and using it on the guitar.

Every time I learned theory I learned it in a class, or in a book, or on a video. And that’s all it was to me. Theory. All in my mind. A lot of times, people teach theory with a piano to give a reference, but when your main instrument is guitar, it might not always translate the same. What I’m trying to say is, when you learn a new piece of theory, try to apply it to the guitar so you can make some sense out of it. You'll understand it much better. Theory isn’t much without application.

4. Synchronization between my picking hand and fretting hand.

You ever see those guitarists that go to shred, but it’s all just sloppy noise? That’s where this comes into play. And this issue still affects me to this day. Sort of like how my mouth works faster than my brain, my picking hand works faster than my fretting hand. This can cause my licks to sound sloppy or hit those clunker notes. In order to be fluent, both hands need to be at the same pace and have the same timing. This is why timing and playing with a metronome is important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played a show and didn’t hit that solo the way I wanted to because the timing between my hands was a little off. Scale runs and chromatic exercises can greatly improve this, as well as evaluating your picking technique.

5. Being a bit more fluent in different keys.

I know my way around a fretboard, but I was I had spent some more time exploring more keys. I usually always play in D minor (thank Syn! :rolleyes:) or if I'm in Drop C, C minor. Drop B, B minor. You get the point. That's where I'm most fluent and well versed, but I wish I knew some other keys the way I know D minor. I don't have trouble finding the notes I need or anything like that, it's just something that I know would make me a more well rounded and versatile player.


Keep these things in mind and address your own playing and weaknesses. Knowledge = power. I find it's easier to learn it right the first time than to relearn/retrain. I'm sure there's more things I could list, but these are bigger things that came to mind right away.

As stated, I would love to hear what other players wish they knew/would've done earlier on.
 

TheTroller

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I've had rather awkward encounters when deliberating between the usage of my pinky or ring finger, especially when I tried to learn Eugene's Trickbag (Steve Vai's rendition of Paganini's Fifth Caprice) where there was this awkward section where you have to play 17, 15, and then 13 on the high e-string and it feels so awkward not to use my ring finger, as it disharmonizes the pattern of having parallel fingers on every other fret.

I definitely have synchronization issues, so I usually tremolo the amount of notes in the lick, and then I fret the notes with the speed of the tremolo until both hands are in sync, which seems to work (that's well after I've spent the time learning the lick slowly).

I have no theory knowledge, which obviously hinders me from songwriting, when I'm desiring a specific or precise sound. I probably won't really look into it until I clean up my playing.

I actually think that my weakest area is the hammer-on. I've been told before, that my hammer-ons sound akin to a beginner attempting to learn Thunderstruck, which is pretty embarrassing, so I just pick everything.

The final huge issue, is that I try to learn songs/solos too fast lol.
 
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[DELETED]

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I've had rather awkward encounters when deliberating between the usage of my pinky or ring finger, especially when I tried to learn Eugene's Trickbag (Steve Vai's rendition of Paganini's Fifth Caprice) where there was this awkward section where you have to play 17, 15, and then 13 on the high e-string and it feels so awkward not to use my ring finger, as it disharmonizes the pattern of having parallel fingers on every other fret.
I definitely feel you there, a lot of times it's still a tad more comfortable to use my ring finger over my pinky. You just gotta get it to a point where it's 2nd nature.

I have no theory knowledge, which obviously hinders me from songwriting, when I'm desiring a specific or precise sound. I probably won't really look into it until I clean up my playing.
You can still write songs without theory knowledge, that Kurt Cobain fella did alright for himself ;). I would say theory is just a way of communication. It's a way that you can understand and make sense of things to yourself, and also use it to communicate things to fellow musicians and producers more effectively. I advocate for theory knowledge, but there are some artists that prove it isn't always neccessary.
I actually think that my weakest area is the hammer-on. I've been told before, that my hammer-ons sound akin to a beginner attempting to learn Thunderstruck, which is pretty embarrassing, so I just pick everything.
I can't lie, the beginner attempting Thunderstruck part was pretty funny lol. But you can't just pick everything. You're avoiding the issue instead or working on it. Guitar is all about subtleties, and you're losing the subtlety that hammer-ons can bring if you don't use them. You really just gotta sit down and practice them.

The final huge issue, is that I try to learn songs/solos too fast lol.
A deep understanding of a song, it's arrangement, its structure, and its guitar parts will make you a better guitar player AND a better songwriter. I'd recommend putting a little more focus into songs and solos so that you can discover the layers its hiding.


I appreciate you being open with your guitar shortcomings on here
 

TheTroller

Active Member
Nov 16, 2020
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I definitely feel you there, a lot of times it's still a tad more comfortable to use my ring finger over my pinky. You just gotta get it to a point where it's 2nd nature.

Kurt Cobain
;). I would say theory is just a way of communication. It's a way that you can understand and make sense of things to yourself, and also use it to communicate things to fellow musicians and producers more effectively. I advocate for theory knowledge, but there are some artists that prove it isn't always neccessary.

I can't lie, the beginner attempting Thunderstruck part was pretty funny lol. But you can't just pick everything. You're avoiding the issue instead or working on it. Guitar is all about subtleties, and you're losing the subtlety that hammer-ons can bring if you don't use them. You really just gotta sit down and practice them.


A deep understanding of a song, it's arrangement, its structure, and its guitar parts will make you a better guitar player AND a better songwriter. I'd recommend putting a little more focus into songs and solos so that you can discover the layers its hiding.


I appreciate you being open with your guitar shortcomings on here
> and you're losing the subtlety that hammer-ons can bring if you don't use them.

I'm actually quite fine with that lol. Just as I'm fine with not tapping, unless I really have to.



> You can still write songs without theory knowledge, that Kurt Cobain fella did alright for himself

I've come up with some licks, but that's about it.

> A deep understanding of a song, it's arrangement, its structure, and its guitar parts will make you a better guitar player AND a better songwriter

Yeah, you can see obvious patterns in Syn's playing, for example, even through tabs.
 

[DELETED]

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Nov 11, 2019
154
372
> and you're losing the subtlety that hammer-ons can bring if you don't use them.

I'm actually quite fine with that lol. Just as I'm fine with not tapping, unless I really have to.



> You can still write songs without theory knowledge, that Kurt Cobain fella did alright for himself

I've come up with some licks, but that's about it.

> A deep understanding of a song, it's arrangement, its structure, and its guitar parts will make you a better guitar player AND a better songwriter

Yeah, you can see obvious patterns in Syn's playing, for example, even through tabs.
As long as you’re fine with it, that’s all that matters!
 

[DELETED]

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Nov 11, 2019
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I think it’s worth noting that there are pro guitarists with shortcomings in some aspects. They usually embrace that and compensate for it in other areas and develop their style around that. If it works, it works
 
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John Robinson

Active Member
Nov 11, 2019
322
447
Nashville tn.
I've been wanting to make a thread like this for a while so that others can learn from my mistakes. I've been playing for almost a decade and a half, and as a seasoned player, I wanted to share some things that those early in their playing can keep in mind to avoid certain mistakes. That's why I joined this site. This almost feels like I'm writing a cheesy article for Ultimate Guitar or something. This is a also a good lesson in accountability for me, to identify my guitar shortcomings. If you don't know your weaknesses, you can't fix them. I also encourage others to share their guitar mistakes as well. If Syn or PG sees this thread, I'm sure we'd all love to know theirs.


1. Not using my pinky when I played.

For the first 6 or so years I started playing, I would hardly ever use my pinky when riffing or "shredding". Naturally, our pinky is weak so it felt uncomfortable to use it. My entire playing style was built around my index finger, middle finger, and ring finger which left me at a large disadvantage. If the riff was 5-7-8, I'd use my index on 5, middle on 7, and ring on 8. I didn't know that not using my pinky was an issue until I took separate lessons with Kevin Thrasher (from Escape The Fate) and Jacky Vincent (Falling In Reverse) and they both told me I had to start using my pinky, especially if I wanted to develop more speed. Since then, I started using my pinky BUT my pinky still isn't fully caught up and as synchronized as my other fingers. I can still "shred" but I know I would be better if I had used my pinky during the years that formed my playing.

2. Keeping my fingers closer to the fretboard. Less movement = faster speed.

This is something subconscious that I see a lot of players do. Whenever we're done using a finger on a note, we lift it in the air and move it away from the fretboard. The more we go up, the more it takes to come back down, which takes more time out of the equation. Try to be mindful of where your fingers are and how close they are and you will get better at it. There are exercises to learn this restraint as well. It is an awkward thing at first. Something I was taught in college was the do the normal chromatic exercise (1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4), but keep the fingers on the fretboard until that finger has to be used again on another note. It feels weird at first, but you get used to it and learn to keep them closer.

3. Applying theory and using it on the guitar.

Every time I learned theory I learned it in a class, or in a book, or on a video. And that’s all it was to me. Theory. All in my mind. A lot of times, people teach theory with a piano to give a reference, but when your main instrument is guitar, it might not always translate the same. What I’m trying to say is, when you learn a new piece of theory, try to apply it to the guitar so you can make some sense out of it. You'll understand it much better. Theory isn’t much without application.

4. Synchronization between my picking hand and fretting hand.

You ever see those guitarists that go to shred, but it’s all just sloppy noise? That’s where this comes into play. And this issue still affects me to this day. Sort of like how my mouth works faster than my brain, my picking hand works faster than my fretting hand. This can cause my licks to sound sloppy or hit those clunker notes. In order to be fluent, both hands need to be at the same pace and have the same timing. This is why timing and playing with a metronome is important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played a show and didn’t hit that solo the way I wanted to because the timing between my hands was a little off. Scale runs and chromatic exercises can greatly improve this, as well as evaluating your picking technique.

5. Being a bit more fluent in different keys.

I know my way around a fretboard, but I was I had spent some more time exploring more keys. I usually always play in D minor (thank Syn! :rolleyes:) or if I'm in Drop C, C minor. Drop B, B minor. You get the point. That's where I'm most fluent and well versed, but I wish I knew some other keys the way I know D minor. I don't have trouble finding the notes I need or anything like that, it's just something that I know would make me a more well rounded and versatile player.


Keep these things in mind and address your own playing and weaknesses. Knowledge = power. I find it's easier to learn it right the first time than to relearn/retrain. I'm sure there's more things I could list, but these are bigger things that came to mind right away.

As stated, I would love to hear what other players wish they knew/would've done earlier on.
First off i have heard you play and youre great!...i have been playing for a few years but i started with tab then i found this school and was excited to learn..pappa gates explains things great but some things he talks about is over my head,i got to the caged system and i got stuck..no matter how much i practice i never improve..i have almost decided that guitar is not for me but quitting just isnt in my nature so i keep plugging..i have moved on to other lessons and come back to the caged system and hit it again...we have a guy that does theory and even beginner theory seems like its over my head so i wind up doing tab and not getting alot out of my practice time..i try to break it down in small sections but i still feel overwhelmed at times..thank you for letting me bend your ear for this
 
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[DELETED]

Active Member
Nov 11, 2019
154
372
First off i have heard you play and youre great!...i have been playing for a few years but i started with tab then i found this school and was excited to learn..pappa gates explains things great but some things he talks about is over my head,i got to the caged system and i got stuck..no matter how much i practice i never improve..i have almost decided that guitar is not for me but quitting just isnt in my nature so i keep plugging..i have moved on to other lessons and come back to the caged system and hit it again...we have a guy that does theory and even beginner theory seems like its over my head so i wind up doing tab and not getting alot out of my practice time..i try to break it down in small sections but i still feel overwhelmed at times..thank you for letting me bend your ear for this
Thank you! I would say maybe move past the CAGED system and work on other areas of theory or put it on the backburner all together until your technique improves, then it might make more sense. Sometimes people need to be taught things in a different way that makes more sense to them, or sometimes things connect after time. Don’t forget to have fun, that’s what it’s all about.
 
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Chris Johnston

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    Thanks for starting this Alex! One of my biggest weaknesses in my playing has been my tendency to ignore learning 'Classic' Guitar songs/solos. This tends to make my job as a Guitar Tutor harder at times, as students will want to learn these things. I find I spend most of my time with Improv concepts, which although is fun & interesting to me, it isn't useful at a party, or in a paid gig :ROFLMAO: This is something I've been working to improve my knowledge on this year by learning the popular solos that people want to learn (Sweet Child 'O' mine, Highway to hell, Wish You Were Here etc)

    On the flipside of that though - one of the things I wish I'd done earlier in my Guitar playing was to commit to learning & using Theory properly. I was a religious 'ears' guy and I was just straight up lazy & close minded about any Fretboard knowledge - This made college jazz Guitar classes a nightmare. But the minute It clicked that Theory was just creating a reference for everything I could already hear, my Guitar opened up and made so much more sense, but I only really got to grips of it after college, when I had time to experiment and understand it. It's made me a complete 'Learn Theory' preacher now though, just because I know how much Guitarists tend to over-complicate it online to make themselves look lofty and intelligent- when it's actually pretty straightforward!

    Another crucial thing I wish I'd done earlier is to not concentrate so much on playing fast/playing things that were out of my reach at the time. I still remember trying to play some of Syn's solos at age 16 and throwing my guitar down because my forearm was seized up - once again I didn't care about looking into things properly and patiently working on my technique, and it held me back for years!

    The 100% best thing I could advise for anyone looking to improve their playing/musicianship is to train themselves to recite all 12 Major Scales without their Guitar :love: Having that quick recall of the scales & thinking of them in their keys saves loads of fretboard fishing when looking for ideas 🤟