When talking about guitar lessons for beginners, there is so much to learn. A beginning guitar player is like a blank slate. What kind of guitar lessons will establish a solid base for future success? We believe instruction that builds confidence, excitement, and helps to foster good habits pay the most dividends down the road.

Build confidence

A basic element of good guitar playing is confidence. Players who lack confidence seem to hope their way through their playing and listeners feel relieved when they’re done. Confidence, however, enables you to play with conviction. You know where you’re going and others trust you will get there.

Confidence compounds over time, which is why it is crucial to start building it early. If you grow in your confidence, not only will you enjoy playing, but you will also push yourself to tackle new techniques. The more accomplishments you can achieve, the more you will trust your ability to conquer the difficult obstacles you face right now.

How do lessons contribute to building confidence? Ideally, your teacher will supply you with repeatable drills that lead to real skills you can call upon at will. If you can master even one chord, it will boost your confidence. Learn another, and then another, and pretty soon you can put them together in a song. Reliably performing one simple song will do wonders for your confidence, but it all starts with drills you can take into your practice time.

Design a Practice Schedule

Developing an effective practice schedule means playing “a little, a lot.”

Improvement on the guitar has little to do with sheer volume. If you’re trying to play for three hours on a Saturday, but barely touching the guitar during the week, you won’t see the results you want.

Not to mention, your fingers will hurt like crazy! What to do when your fingers hurt..

Consistency, however, enables you to make serious gains in shorter time. When you are learning new chords, strumming patterns, picking techniques, etc., you are training your hands to perform new and seemingly unnatural motions. That is why you need to practice a little bit every day. The more consistently you practice, the more accurately you will play.

Keep this phrase in mind: “A little, a lot.” Practice a little bit–a particular chord progression or picking exercise–but practice it a lot over several days. That consistency will pay off more than hours of playing on an infrequent basis. We recommend practicing fifteen to twenty minutes every day if your schedule will allow it; on days when you can’t get that kind of time, even three minutes will help you avoid losing ground.

Develop good habits

One of the drawbacks to teaching yourself the guitar–whether by reading chord sheets or using free lessons online–is that it is very easy to form bad habits. Once you develop bad habits, you become dependent upon them to be able to play. If you depend on those bad habits long enough, you will severely limit yourself and not play to your full potential. What habits are essential to get right early in your development? As a guitar teacher, I’ve found that 3 bad habits tend to develop right away, and they all relate to posture…

Looking for a good practice routine? Try this one!.

The first area is separate from the guitar itself: holding the pick. Correctly holding the pick makes a world of difference in the sound you get. If you hold the pick by its edge, you have to hold it tightly to keep it in your hand. It’s an awful feeling to be playing songs for friends and then have the guitar pick tumble out of your hand mid-song. The greater the surface area of the pick you can cover with your fingers, the less tightly you’ll have to squeeze. (The pick will stay in your hand simply because it has nowhere to go.) So sink the pick deep into your hand, between your index finger and your thumb, and with your middle finger on the side of the pick. The tendency for newer players is to let the middle finger nudge the index finger off the pick. Make sure you keep the middle finger to the side; that way, you will be able to use your middle finger when you try hybrid picking down the road (hybrid picking is a technique usually introduced to advanced students, and one that can’t be done well if the middle finger is on the back of the pick).

Another bad habit has to do with where you actually play on the guitar. Many beginning students strum too close to the bridge/saddle area. But the sweet spot for most guitars is above the sound hole, and closer to the fretboard. That’s usually the warmest place on the guitar. If you play too close to the bridge, you’ll get a tinny, thin sound that doesn’t work for most types of music. Try to consistently play over the soundhole, near the neck of the guitar. In order to achieve this, you need to position your arm/elbow so it naturally and comfortably puts your hand in that spot.

Finally, a good teacher will help you avoid the bad habit of raising your arm out and bending your hand in to reach the strings. It seems that beginning students are almost hardwired to do this. But crooking your hand in this way sets you up for all kinds of problems. You want your knuckles farther away from the guitar than your wrists. Keep your hand and your strums close to the guitar. (Think of strumming “into” the guitar rather than strumming or sweeping outwardly.) This also sets you up to play more advanced techniques, like hybrid picking, and it helps your precision when picking individual notes.

So to sum up, lessons that help build confidence and excitement, supply you with short, daily exercises, and emphasize great habits will give you a solid foundation for future success!