Before I designed the Strumstick, I taught guitar for many years. I had a first hand appreciation of the difficulties beginning guitar players suffer. I took what I knew was difficult about guitar, plus what seemed to frustrate people the most, and tried to eliminate those things when I designed the Strumstick, in order to make the Strumstick far less frustrating to learn. The Strumstick has proved to be very successful at giving beginning musicians an easy entry into playing music, and its simplicity has also made it a valuable tool for experienced musicians looking for a “low tech” path back to the inspirational beauties of simple music. That was as I planned and hoped as I designed it.
But the Strumstick has another useful aspect that I did not think about at the beginning. The Strumstick makes a terrific trainer for people learning guitar, or getting ready to learn. This document will explain why that is so, and show you how you can learn guitar faster and with less frustration using a strumstick before or during your guitar learning period.
• We will look at how many people learn guitar, and where they find frustration.
• We will look at how the Strumstick can help with those areas that are frustrating.
• We will consider why having fun is so important to learning, and how the strumstick can help keep a smile on your face even while you are wrestling with some of guitar’s thornier learning obstacles.
• We will look at some guitar techniques that can really help, even without the Strumstick.
I will bring to bear my experience teaching hundreds of people to play guitar, and thousands how to play strumstick. I hope you will find this information helpful in learning guitar, whether you use a strumstick for assistance or not. Playing music for yourself and your friends is one of the most healthy things one can do, and the world is literally a better place when more people make their own music. Enjoy the noise!
There are different ways to learn guitar, and many different styles you can play guitar in, so it is tricky to speak of a typical learning scenario. However, many, many people do seem to encounter similar difficulties, on their way to becoming accomplished players. We will look at some of those difficulties as though there were a typical learner. Whether you are taking lessons or are teaching yourself, are learning rock, folk, or classical, what we will talk about should be helpful to your learning process.
Why is Guitar so hard?
The Guitar is an amazingly versatile instrument. It has a great pitch range (more than three octaves), it has the possibility of sounding 6 different notes at the same time. Guitar has the useful ability to get the same note several different ways, with a different flavor to the sound each way....very useful, but complicated. And that is why guitar is hard at the beginning. It is not designed to be simple, to make life easy for beginners; it is designed to be complex, to be a really versatile tool in the hands of an expert. When you learn guitar, you are learning on the same instrument that Eric Clapton, BB King, and Bonnie Raitt perform on.
So when you pick up a guitar, half the battle is avoiding notes you do not need now, but will need later when you are jamming with Eric and BB and Bonnie on stage. By the way, they encountered the same difficulties learning that you will encounter, and were just as frustrated.
Most people start Guitar learning chords; you laboriously study the chord diagram, translate them into finger locations, and precariously maneuver each finger into place. Then you squeeze hard with you chord hand, and strum all the strings on the guitar. You are rewarded with a collection of bumps and buzzes and muffled notes that does not sound very good. You check the diagram again, replace your fingers, squeeze hard again, etc. I am sorry to say, this will not sound by any means good for at least a couple days. Your mental and physical energy output is high, your success rate is low, your frustration factor is high. You are developing strength and dexterity and co ordination, but slowly, and at a high level of frustration and effort expended. It takes months for this situation to really improve to the point where you start to like what you are playing, and start to say “hey, I think this is starting to work.” Many people get frustrated with their seeming lack of ability, and after a month or two, quit, thinking “I do just not have what it takes”
The first months of guitar are spent doing two kinds of things.
The first thing has to do with your hands. You are trying to get them to do things they have never done before. They may not be strong enough, coordinated enough, and flexible enough to do the things you are asking them to do. That is why you get muffled notes, buzzes, missed strings, and you feel rather helpless and hopeless when you start on the guitar. .
The second thing has to do with your brain. You are trying to memorize a whole series of chord fingerings, all of which rather blur together as you try to learn them. You are also learning things to do with the right hand....strumming rhythms, or fingerpicking patterns, or lead lines of one note after the other. All of this takes mental concentration, mental energy. Many people feel it all seems too confusing at the beginning. Well, it is!
There just is not enough brain power to go around, it seems. To make matters worse, the two kinds of things you are doing interfere with each other. The mental attention you have, which is barely sufficient for remembering which finger goes where, it being distracted by the need to actually move your fingers to the places you dimly remember they have to go to.
How Can the Strumstick Help?
The Strumstick can help with both hands and brain. The basic things that you are doing with your fingers are very similar on guitar and on Strumstick. Positioning your fingers, squeezing the strings to hold them against the frets, using different fingers, and strumming are all common activities on both guitar and on Strumstick. The actual positions may be different, but you are still positioning.
The big difference is that with the Strumstick, you are doing these things in little amounts, and are getting a good sound in reward for doing them. Youa re able to engage your brain, think about and control what you are doing more easily, because you are not overloaded with just trying to make your hands work. That leads to satisfaction and progress with both hands and brain. Learning Guitar, you are doing almost more than you can manage, and you are getting unsatisfying sounds as your reward. That leads to frustration on guitar, and all too often, to quitting.
The combination of not enough brain power, coupled with clumsy fingers, and the frustration of making sounds that do not resemble AT ALL the beautiful chords you hear your friends play, or the soaring lead lines on your favorite CD, is enough to make perhaps 1/2 of all players quit after 3 or 4 months. I have not done a formal study, but I have asked many many people who started guitar and quit, when did you quit, and why did you quit?
Almost always, people say they quit because it was too frustrating, and because they became convinced that they never would succeed. They also say that they quit around 2-4 months into learning. Some people quit sooner, and some last a year. Some quit at 3 months, start up a year later, quit at 3 months, start up a year later, and quit yet again at 3 months.
The terrible irony of all this is: the people who continue on with guitar, and become competent enough players to actually enjoy playing from then on, are not doing any better at 2-4 months than the people who quit! They are just less frustrated about how they are doing. The people with the highest expectations, the most lofty desires for their playing, are those that quit first! You could really say that the people with the best taste are likely to quit sooner. That is not fair...the people who want it the most are the most at risk of quitting!
Help, Frustration, and Realistic Goals
Fortunately, there are a number of very useful things that can be done to reduce your frustration while learning guitar. Some of them involve just you and your guitar, and some of them involve using the Strumstick. Some of these things are things that good guitar teachers know, and communicate, but many teachers do not concentrate on reducing frustration, rather they concentrate on improving playing itself....that can be exactly the worst thing for an already frustrated player. The best teachers know that motivating their students to continue is a key part of their job. Not all students have the best teachers, and many do not have any teacher! And even the best teachers have not usually studied the sources of frustration and worked out methods to deal with them.
The single most important thing is that you keep playing. If you keep playing, you can’t help but learn to play well eventually. If you stop playing, the contest is over. BUT: many people will not persist with an effort that gives them no reward after 3 or 4 months. So anything that makes playing more fun, less frustrating, and more rewarding is a big plus towards learning guitar. That is where the Strumstick comes in. Not only does it give you a non-frustrating training ground on which to “build up your guitar muscles”, it also gives you a lot of musical satisfaction and accomplishment all by itself. That can make a huge difference in your outlook when guitar gets tough. The fact that you can already play some nice stuff on Strumstick can keep you from saying “ I am just not cut out for this”. Playing Strumstick not only makes it easier to learn guitar physically, but it also reduces your frustration, and even makes you more patient with the various difficulties you will encounter with guitar. Frustration is a key element in succeeding or quitting Guitar, let’s take a look at it.
The Frustration Factor
Frustration happens when your expectations run into reality that is quite different from your expectations. If it took you a year to learn to play guitar at a basic level, but you loved every minute of it, you would not care that it took you a year. Most people start learning guitar at a pace that will make them play at the basic level in about 8 months, but half of them get frustrated at three months, and quit. That illustrates how poisonous frustration can be.
Think about Frustration as if it were a toxic substance. You are trying to reduce your exposure to it.
Measure your progress toward guitar playing by just two factors: how much time you have spent playing, and how much are you enjoying it/ how little are you frustrated. Do NOT measure your progress by how fast you are playing, or how good you sound, or even by how much fun you are having ( more about that later).
You will NOT play guitar fast, and you will not sound good, in the first months, and unless you shift your expectations, you will not have much fun either. So those measures will only make you frustrated. If you are steadily playing your way forward, week after week, and are keeping your enjoyment high (or at least your frustration low), it is virtually a certainty that you will succeed in learning Guitar.
The Strumstick can reduce Guitar Frustration several ways. First of all, your fingers get stronger and more nimble on the strumstick so you are preparing for guitar without exposing yourself to so much toxic frustration. When you do work on the guitar, your fingers are more ready so you actually play less poorly than you would have, so you do not get as frustrated. And lastly, when you play the Strumstick you are having fun. Fun is very important because it is the antidote to toxic frustration. Fun dissolves frustration like salt melts ice. So the fun you have playing the Strumstick makes you in effect more tolerant of the difficulties you face on guitar, even as it makes those difficulties less. Good deal! The fact that you can sound good on the Strumstick is a huge morale booster, it helps you recognize that it is a matter of time with guitar, not a matter of “some people got it and some people don’t, and I don’t!”
To repeat: Frustration happens when your expectations are not met; Frustration is the biggest difficulty you are going to meet playing guitar; Measure your progress ONLY by how much time you have spent playing, and by how well you are doing keeping frustration at bay. That is all you need to do to succeed. The Strumstick helps both your actual guitar performance in the early stages, and your tolerance for frustration.
Realistic Guitar Learning goals:
It helps to have some realistic incremental goals to measure your progress against. By incremental I mean small, baby step kind of goals, that you can see happening over a small span of time (like a week or two). You may be thinking in terms of playing Stairway to Heaven or Purple Haze as starting goals, but I am thinking a lot smaller than that. It would be nice if guitar sounded good right from the start, but the fact is, it does not (that is why I designed the strumstick!) If you accept that guitar is not going to sound good, and make realistic goals for progress, you will be happier, feel more accomplishment, be pleasantly surprised when something does sound good, and you will ultimately be more successful. If you quit guitar in frustration, you will not have fun, and will not be successful. Yearning for Stairway to Heaven too hard right at the start will greatly increase your chances of quitting. Hold that desire, but don’t let it create frustrating expectations. Remember frustration is a toxic substance, reduce your exposure.
The first months of guitar are really Pre-Guitar. You are learning your way around the first 3 frets on 6 strings. You are learning to tune. You are learning some chord fingerings. You are strengthening your fingers. You are beginning to learn to control your fingers. You are not really playing guitar, you are doing Pre-guitar exercises. As you get stronger, more dexterous, and as you become mentally more familiar with chords and strumming and fingerings, then you will start to play guitar. It takes most people about 3 months to move out of the pre-guitar stage. Ironically, as we saw, that is when a lot of people quit. They are now ready to start to learn guitar, but they have lost interest and/or desire, they have lost stamina and the will to persevere in the the face of obstacles; they are frustrated with having been working for 3 months and seeming to have gotten nowhere. That is not a really good setup for motivating people to learn, but that is how guitar is. They just can’t see where they have progressed, and it is really sad, because when you quit at 3 months, you are actually right on the edge of guitar playing. Another couple of months would do the trick . Bear in mind that I am using three months as a rough average (I do not mean literally 3 months for each and every person.) Let me repeat that the people who do not quit at three months are not substantially better guitar players than you are, for the most part. The person who started a month before you seems so much better when they are at 4 months and you are at 3 months, because they are over the hump and are actually starting to play some things. It is like you have to charge the battery for three months before you start to get any sound out of the thing, and then after 3 months you start to get some pay back for ALL the work you have put in previously. Paying your dues, priming the pump, charging the battery, watering the garden... call it whatever you want, it is a real phenomena that happens. It is territory you have to cover sooner or later of you want to play guitar,
So the question is, can I cover that pre-guitar territory in style, having fun, sounding kinda cool? Or do I cover that territory crawling on my belly like a reptile, frustrated, struggling. That is where the Strumstick comes in.
There are a lot of advantages to doing your Pre-Guitar work on the Strumstick instead of on the guitar. You are still charging the battery for a few months, but! you are having fun for your work. You are hearing some nice sounds, that become music rather quickly, and you are really feeling like you are accomplishing something. When you turn to the more complex challenge of guitar, you will still have some difficulties, but you will face them having already succeeded on one instrument.
You are not likely to say “ I just don’t have it;” you are probably going to say “hmm, this is harder than Strumstick” There is all the difference in the world between those two comments. One is a (permanent) limitation on what you can accomplish. “I don’t have it” is absolute, final, no point in continuing. The other comment is a challenge to rise to the occasion. Harder is just harder, you can do harder. And harder is less hard since you have done your pre-guitar work already on Strumstick. If you played strumstick for a month or two before starting guitar, you would find several improvements. You would see that your fingers were stronger, and that they were much more “at home” on the neck of an instrument. Even though the Strumstick has fewer strings, and a different fret spacing than guitar, you would feel the guitar neck to be more familiar, and your fingers would move with some certainty and control. You would still have to expend the mental energy to learn where your fingers were supposed to go, but you would not have to work as hard to actually move your fingers around.
Easing the physical part of the mental and physical difficulties in learning guitar makes a big difference in your progress, and reducing your frustration. So I have said in about three different ways that the strumstick can really help you through the frustrating early months of guitar. Let’s look at exactly what you should do with it.
How to Use The Strumstick as a Pre-Guitar Trainer
You start playing the strumstick by fingering just the first string, with just one finger, and strumming all three. A really nice sound happens, and it is a full kind of sound, because the other two strings are sounding too, but you are not having to finger them. Your right hand is strumming all three strings, which is easier than trying to play just one string, which takes fairly precise attention and control. The amount of mental energy and concentration you are expending is low, and the amount of physical effort you are expending is minimal ( squeezing with your left hand, and strumming all three with your right. Your right hand strumming actually improves when you you do it with a certain abandon, as opposed to trying to make it too precise and tight. So you are getting a good sound, with a low outlay of both mental and physical energy. Your Frustration factor is very low, and your success rate is high. Your finger (just one of them) is going to get stronger as you continue playing. Over some time, you can try using a different finger, so that can get some exercise and strengthening. You are developing strength and co ordination in a non frustrating environment, and you are very likely to continue because you are having fun doing it.
You should should start with both the instruction manual and the Instruction CD that comes with your Strumstick. They have detailed information on how to hold the Strumstick, how to strum, how to finger it, how to adjust the strap, hold the pick, all that stuff. Rather than repeat that information here, open up the instruction book and take a look at it. The skills you will want to develop on Strumstick preparing for guitar are the same as for just starting Strumstick, at first. The CD explains and demonstrates almost all the material in the booklet, so use that to help also. I would suggest this order; (please read the specific topic in the instruction book before you try these).
1. Fingering one string at a time but strumming all three, while making random changes of fret position with the left hand.
2. Working with down strums only;
3. Adding upstrums;
4. Developing free strumming (that is making up changing rhythms as you go along),
5. Tuning the strumstick
6. Starting to play songs ( See the instructions for this at the back of the instruction book). Notice that this will be the first time we are really getting specific about which note gets fingered when. We have saved the mental organization step until you have some physical “chops” well underway.
7. Working different rhythms into the songs.
8. Looking at fancy techniques, like hammering on, pulling off, and sliding.
9. Accents added to strumming.
10. At some point along the way, you will want to start to use different fingers for fingering songs or for making up melodies, if you have not started doing that yet. That is a topic NOT covered in the manual, so I will say a few things about it here.
10 A. It does not matter which finger fingers which note on which string EXCEPT: you are usually coming from some note before this one, and usually going to some note after this one. Experiment with different finger combinations that make it easier rather than harder to play the notes in a row. In general, you can handle three adjacent frets with three adjacent fingers, without moving your hand up or down the neck very much. For example, if you were going to finger, on the first string, frets # 1, #2 , and then #3, you could just use your first finger and move it from fret top fret. That would require moving your whole hand. OR you could finger fret #1 with the first finger, #2 with the second finger, and #3 with the third finger. You would never have to relocate your hand. Start to incorporate your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and even your 4th fingers into your playing, so you will start to develop strength and dexterity in all of them. You can use the 4th (pinky) finger as an alternate for the 3rd if you like.
Note: This is the place where basic Strumstick learning begins to depart from Strumstick-for-guitar learning. It is more complicated to have to control several fingers than just one, even if it is slower physically trying to hop around with just one. You may feel clumsy again at first, as you employ previously un used fingers. Be patient and take your time. All this would be harder on guitar. Notice that I have said nothing about CHORDS yet. It is really good to get used to playing melodies using all three fingers BEFORE you do much with chords.
10 B. Now look at and try out the various chord fingerings in the back of the booklet (and on the web site or in the back of the songbook). We do not say which finger you should use for which chord for a reason. I want you to experiment with what combination of fingers feels most comfortable to you. take your time and try each chord out using different finger patterns to make it. see what feels comfortable, and what feels uncomfortable. After you have started to work with the strumstick chords 9 which are easier than guitar chords) you can start to be thinking about working with guitar.
When should you start working with Guitar?
You have two choices; either work on Strumstick alone before you start working on guitar, or work on them both together. I think your best results will come from working on strumstick alone, at least for a few weeks. IT might be good if you did just strumstick for a month or two, but that depends on you. Remember what you are trying to accomplish by using the Strumstick to help you learn Guitar. You are using the fingers of your left hand, getting them strong and accustomed to fretting, and moving around a fretboard. The Strumstick gets a lot of mileage out of one finger, but guitar really needs three or even four most of the time. So you will get the most benefit from strumstick if you play it long enough to get up to where you are using at least three fingers without too much difficulty. Keep in mind that part of the plan is to avoid and reduce frustration...it will not help your guitar playing if you just transfer frustration with guitar to frustration with Strumstick. The Strumstick is inherently easy, and non-frustrating, but you can still try too much too soon and feel frustrated. So it will take some time to get all three fingers working. That would be a benchmark for when it would make the most sense to shift to Guitar, or to add guitar in while still playing Strumstick.
You are also getting used to Strumming with your right hand. That skill will develop faster than the left hand skills, but you should work through the information on strumming and especially on free strumming in the instruction materials. One big difference with guitar is the extra three strings on guitar. With the Strumstick you are strumming across about one inch, and the total movement of the pick is about 3 or 4 inches. On guitar, you have to cover 2 plus inches, and the real movement of the pick should be 6- 8 inches. ( it....You ideally strum a broader distance than just the strings, so your pick is moving fast and smoothly when it crosses the strings. If you only want to move 1 inch, you have to start slowing down as soon as you start, making a jerky, stilted sounding strum. You need distance to “follow through” with your strum, for the same reason you do in various sports... you need distance to speed up and slow down so those things are not interfering with throwing or jumping or hitting or strumming.) So Guitar is a step up in terms of how large a motion your strumming hand has to cover. This is worth paying attention to, and working on when you move to Guitar.
The third major thing you are getting out of the Strumstick is satisfaction, enjoyment, and pleasure at the sounds you are making. When you shift to guitar, the sounds will not be as rewarding for your efforts as playing the Strumstick was. You will be doing better on guitar than you would have without the strumstick, but you are still going to have “some dues to pay” It is very important that you expect that, and don’t let that throw you. You have gotten a lot of satisfaction (I hope!) out of playing the Strumstick; you have built up a reservoir of “ hey, I can do musical stuff”. Now when you work on guitar, let that confidence and enjoyment reassure you... you will get better at guitar, just like you got better at Strumstick. It will take longer, and it will be more work making progress on guitar, but you can do much more on guitar that is possible on Strumstick, so be patient, and don’t be hard on yourself. Self criticism is the single biggest source of frustration ( toxic frustration!) when learning guitar. The Strumstick has gotten you several steps ahead as you move to guitar, but you still have to beware of over-expectations and over criticism. Remember: you can always put the guitar down for a minute or an hour or a day or two, and “refresh” yourself with some fun music on the Strumstick. That is why I recommend strumstick alone for a while, and then guitar, while still fooling around with the strumstick as you go along, especially when it gets frustrating.
The only way you should measure your progress on guitar is by “ miles in the saddle”... you play, you will learn, after that it is just time and repetitions. A good teacher can help a lot. A good teacher is not the best guitar player you know; a good teacher is someone who understands what it is like to be learning, who knows how destructive frustration can be, and who can say things to you in a way that makes sense to you. all teachers are not for all students. Look for a teacher who feels like fun, who will teach you the kind of guitar you are interested in playing , and who seems to have a knack for pointing out little things that you overlook ( like subtle positioning of your hand) that can make learning easier. This covers the basic concepts and techniques for using the Strumstick to help you learn Guitar. If you have done this, you will never really know how much the Strumstick has helped you; guitar will still present difficulties, and you will still approach frustration. Please be assured that the strength, coordination, and satisfaction you developed using the Strumstick are a tremendous boost towards your goal of becoming an accomplished guitar player. Best of Luck!
As a final section, here are a series of ideas that will really help in the early stages of guitar whether you use Strumstick for your pre-guitar work, or jump right in with guitar by itself.
1. No Quitting for 6 months
When you start, make a promise to yourself, that you will not allow yourself to quit until 6 months are past. No matter how bad you think you sound. That gives you a lot of time to get past the 3 month dropout hump, and into the time when you are starting to like what you are playing. Making this promise frees you from worrying about “Should I stop? Am I doing well enough to continue?”. You are not allowed to quit for 6 months, so just keep plugging away at it until you prison term is up, and you can quit then ( but by then, you won’t want to!)
2. Fire your guitar critic.
By this I mean, you are going to sound lousy, sucky, stupid, awkward,...you are going to sound like a rank beginner for months and months! That is just the honest truth. So what do you need a critic for? Every time you tell yourself that you are not doing good enough, you are undermining your will to continue. But you already know, going in, you are not going to sound good! Accept it!. Accept that you are going to sound lousy for quite some time, everybody does, it is part of the job, just let it go. The phrase I use on strumstick to help with this is, “Enjoy The Noise”. That means that you should just get into the sheer noises you are making. Now the Strumstick only makes nice sounds, so it is easier to Enjoy The Noise, but the point is the same for guitar. If you were playing drums, none of the sounds would be anything but noise. Every once in a while, your guitar is going to sound at least somewhat like something prettier than noise. That is Gravy! Expect ( and enjoy) noise, and be pleasantly surprised when something besides noise shows up!
3. Practice Less
Practice a lot less than you think you should. Make sure that you are practicing on a regular basis, but make sure it is less than you think you should do. Here's the deal. Everybody knows you should practice a half hour, or an hour a day. So who actually does that? Guitar fanatic high school students who come home from school and go to their room and do nothing but play guitar, that's who. And that is 1 in a thousand High School students. Everybody else who starts to learn guitar practice once a week, which is the only time they can actually get a half hour together to play, and goes to their next lesson (or their next week, if they are teaching themselves) guilty that they did not practice more. The answer is, Practice less. Play for 5 (FIVE) count them 1 2 3 4 5 minutes a day, no more! Five minutes is invisible time, you blow off 5 minutes a dozen times in a day. You are 5 minutes late 5 times in a week. So play guitar for just five minutes, BUT DO THAT EVERY DAY, OR AS CLOSE TO THAT AS POSSIBLE! It is the repetition, daily, that builds up your strength, and your co ordination. Six 5 minutes sessions are so much better for you than a single 30 minute session that it is ridiculous.
PLUS, when you try to do 30 minutes a day, the rest of your life steals from your guitar playing time. You will decide you just do not have enough time to do 30, and blow off the whole practice. If you pick up your guitar for just five measly rotten little minutes, guess what.. you are going to steal a few more minutes of guitar playing from the rest of your life. Guaranteed. You will play for 6 minutes or 8 minutes, or just imagine, 15 minutes! Well you are cheating, because I said 5 minutes and no more, but what the heck, you might as well feel guilty about playing too much as about playing not enough, right? So play less, not more, and you will get the miles in the saddle that are the only way to learn guitar. Yes, each minute you play equals one mile in the saddle on a horse. If you want to ride, you have to put ina lot of miles in the saddle. If you want to play guitar, you have to put in lots of minutes. But it is minutes, not hours. Nobody has hours for guitar (except fanatic high school....), but minutes you have.
4. Leave your guitar out of its case.
Buy a guitar stand, or hang it on the wall away from little fingers that like to twist tuners and break strings, but leave it out of its case. Use some common sense, and do not hang it over a radiator, or in the direct sun, or in the shower. I know there are voices out there that insist that your guitar will self-destruct if it is not put to bed in its little cage every night, but for 6 months you can leave it out, otherwise it will spend the rest of its life in that little cage, and how much fun is that. If it is out, you will play it. If it is in the case, you will play it 1/2 as much! The little clips that hold the case closed are the single biggest barrier to learning guitar, I promise I promise I promise!
5. Divide and Conquer
Divide every activity on guitar into two parts, a mental part, and a fingers part. Do not do not do not ever do a fingers part without doing the mental part first. Here is why. To finger a certain chord, you have to know where to put your fingers right? That is the mental part. First finger goes on the 5th string, at the second fret, etc., etc. Most people do not get clear where to put their fingers when they learn chords. Instead what they do is call up a hazy mental picture of what the chord seems to look like ( and to the beginner brain, they all look more or less alike), and then they hoist there fingers into a blob that looks more or less like the blob image in their head. They cram the whole thing onto the neck, and then wonder why guitar is so hard to do. They just wasted a whole mile in the saddle. First of all, their fingers are probably not in the right spots. Secondly, they can’t teach their fingers where to go, and how to get there, if they do not really KNOW where to go. They just created a blast of confusion fog, which is the mental state that most people learn guitar in. It takes a little patience and discipline to say” First finger goes on fifth string at the second fret” and then put that finger there, then say “second finger goes on the fourth string at the second fret” That takes, like, a whole minute! I am trying to learn guitar here, I can’t waste a minute on figuring out where my fingers go! But you waste many minutes when you place your fingers in hazy half remembered forms that are not the same twice in a row, and you wind up placing them three times to get it right, instead of taking the time to see where they go in the first place. YOU ARE A BEGINNER! YOU DO NOT KNOW< THAT IS WHY YOU ARE LEARNING! SURRENDER TO NOT KNOWING, IT IS OK! There, that is off my chest. The point is, if you skip the mental step, and jump to the fingers step, you are often wasting the fingers step. If you spell out each finger of each chord ( finger, string, fret), and say the name of the chord out loud, you will memorize the chord in a very short time. If you use the "throw-the-blob-of-fingers-on-the-neck" approach, I guarantee you will be adding significantly to your eventual frustration load, and wasting miles in the saddle.
Clearing the mental step, then doing the fingers step applies to each thing you do on guitar. Hmm, I am going to strum down, down, down up down with my pick, and the rhythm is 1 2 3 and 4. OK, I’ll count that rhythm out loud, and then give it a try.
6. Talk to Yourself (Out Loud)
Say the names of what you are doing out loud when you are doing them ( “This is a G-major chord”. This is an E-minor chord). Out loud because you are doing four active things to help remember it....You are thinking it, you are speaking it (using muscles in mouth and throat), you are hearing it, with your ears, and you are feeling a little silly for saying it out loud (which actually helps you remember it).
7. Frustration is Toxic
Frustration is a much bigger enemy than boredom. When you pay attention to what you are doing, when you get clear mentally what you are about to do with your fingers, when you allow yourself to simply do each thing, without worrying about how good it is, or how fast or slow it is, you will not get bored as a beginner. However, if you press ahead with some confusion, lack of clarity and attention to what you are doing, you will get frustrated, and then you will really get bored. People do not quit guitar because they are bored with it, they quit because they are frustrated. Boredom can be a useful sign that you are ready for the next challenge,and there are a limitless number of them on guitar. But not when it is caused by frustration. Everything you can to to reduce frustration will help you learn guitar.
8. Play Slower
You have heard it a thousand times, “take your time until you get it right”. But nobody does that. We go sort of slow, but faster than we are able; we are trying (with some desperation) to play it as fast as we would like it to sound, so we push the speed, and it winds up sounding worse. Your toxic frustration factor rises the faster you go. Slow down a little (accept that you are a beginner!) and let your fingers and brain work without the pressure of speed...let your level of ability set the speed, not your desire. There is nothing wrong with pressing for speed once you clearly have something down when played slowly...in that case speed is what you are practicing, not learning how to do the thing in the first place.