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By Rhys Lett

Play Guitar Better – 5 Common Problems Solved

It is not easy to play guitar. Over the 20 plus years of teaching guitar, I find common errors students make that can be easily addressed. Often students book into guitar lessons after some self-learning through YouTube or tab sites that have hit a road block. As a result, lessons can quickly help them solves these problems. Here are a few tips to address those common faults I see when trying to learn guitar.

5 Ways to Play Guitar Better

1. Wrist Position – Play Guitar Better

Playing the guitar has nothing to do with the size of your hands. Firstly, to play guitar we need the correct positioning of the wrist. A student thinking their hands are too small/too big to play guitar is often down to poor wrist technique. Placing your wrist at a bad position or angle will limit movement and access to the notes. As you can see in the photo below, access to the strings is difficult with your wrist set in a position that is too high. Your thumb should also be at the centre of what you are playing at most times.

play guitar

Your wrist should help your hand move around the guitar to access the strings. If you have you wrist flat against or behind the neck it will limit string access. Once students move their wrist into a forward position they are amazed at how easy it is to move. As a result, chords or scale exercises become easy. See the U or C shape the hand is creating in the below picture. This will rotate around the instrument to access high and low strings.

play guitar

2. Finger angle – Play Guitar Better

After improving your wrist position check that your fingers are fairly straight. Often students have their fingers angled when having difficulty trying to play guitar. The hand in the correct position should comfortably be able to have one finger assigned to each fret. In the photo below the thumb angle is the cause of the problem. This thumb angle makes the palm of the hand face across the instrument. Consequently, this will cause the fingers to angle back.

play guitar

Bad technique. The angle of the fingers will limit and cramp access to the strings when you play guitar.

The next step is to keep your fingers close to the fretboard when playing riffs or chords. This allows you to string notes and chords together. Keeping the thumb straight and inline with the middle of where your fingers need to be placed will allow better movement. In summary, thumb straight and wrist positioned parallel to guitar will allow you to easily span across the frets.

play guitar

3. Material to learn – Play Guitar Better

Often students are trying to play songs with skills, in particular chords, that are beyond their skill level. Learning to play an instrument is much like training for an athletic event. Therefore, building up strength and skill over time is required. The help of a teacher that understands how to design a curriculum of songs and exercises will get you playing the songs you want in faster time.

This video will show you the kind of skills we recommend beginner students should try. For example, learning power chords is a great entry point for gaining hand strength to play more challenging chord techniques.

4. The Instrument – Play Guitar Better

Sometimes you can blame the tools of trade. Students may have guitars that are in disrepair.  In addition, they may have an inappropriate guitar for the size and age of student. Faults such as the strings being too far away from the neck or badly made cheap instruments contribute to the difficulty of playing the instrument. It is important that you purchase a guitar that feels comfortable. Don’t be afraid to sit in a shop and try 10+ guitars out. Read our article on buying electric guitars for some great tips. Even if you have no playing experience the guitar should sit easily in your lap and your hand easily accessing the neck. In short, go with your instincts.

This video also explains the differences between types of guitars. It is important you understand how an acoustic guitar is different to an electric guitar.

5. Attitude – Play Guitar Better

Guitar is not an instantly satisfying instrument. To play it requires strength development, coordination of left and right hand and music skills such as rhythm. Be patient and it will happen. For example, look back in 4 week cycles. How well could you play 4 weeks ago? Certainly seek advice from people who can play guitar.

I hope these tips help you play guitar with more ease. To get more tips like these why not book in for lessons with us at the Eastern Suburbs School of Music. Call 0421  705 150, reach out on our chat box on this site or fill out an enquiry form to book in today.

Need a guitar? Instruments can be purchased from KC’s Rock Shop for students attending the Boronia location, or Guitars and Things in Frankston for those attending the Carrum Downs premises.

We thank these businesses for being loyal supporters of the Eastern Suburbs School of Music.