3 Things You Need To Focus On Instead Of The Sound When First Learning How To Play Guitar

by Maurice Richard

Learning how to play guitar is one of the coolest things you can do!

It’s everywhere in our society! Almost all of our music is centered around this awesome instrument.

It’s also a very popular at social events like kitchen parties and campfires. Learning how to play and being able to participate in these things is a worthy goal.

So, you bought a guitar and started to learn how to play. But progress seems slow. This is common. Why?

What I have noticed after years of teaching is that most people get stuck trying to get the perfect sound when they are just starting to learn.

They hear a professionally produced song they want to try and play and think they need to sound like that right out of the gate.

Unfortunately, this is a recipe for a lot of frustration and slow progress.

Here are 3 things you should focus on instead of the sound you are making when first learning how to play guitar so you progress the fastest.

1. Changing Between Chords Smoothly

Playing guitar is mostly about changing chords. They are the foundation that music and your guitar playing is based on.

If you do not learn to change chords smoothly and accurately the sound will never be good.

At the same time, if you focus too much on chord change perfection when you are first learning to play, you will not progress very quickly.

Most people I talk to want to play music as soon as possible. It is not fun to practice a bunch of very boring exercises focused on perfect chord changes every single day.

The best way to move forward and make the most progress overall is to blend the two together.

That way you to learn to play some chords and use them right away and can play actual songs. This is motivating and helps you see that you are progressing and is also fun.

Over time you can work on refining the smoothness, accuracy and the sound of each chord.

2. Playing The Correct Rhythm In Time

Playing rhythmic patterns, or strumming, is the next foundational skill you need to play guitar.

It’s surprising to find out how many people struggle with this. I get many people who come to me claiming they are not able to strum.

When I finally see them trying to play it becomes obvious why this is the case. They strum a little, then try to change chords and it falls apart immediately because they are so focused on getting the resulting chord perfect and sounding good that there is no fluidity to their playing.

They literally trained themselves to strum, stop, change chords, strum, stop, fix it, strum, then try the next chord change. It’s a mess.

When you ask them to just strum the pattern without changing chords, a small miracle happens. At first it is a bit choppy but then they can usually play the pattern without any problem smoothly and with speed.

The strumming problem is not a strumming problem. It’s a chord change problem created by focusing too much on making it sound good too soon.

3. Playing In Time While Strumming And Changing Chords Smoothly

Most people can strum ok but struggle quite a bit when they try to do it with chords and then when they try to keep the timing right. Things usually fall apart quickly and often.

The interesting thing is most people can usually strum fairly well and in time when you remove the chord changes.

What many people do is they are so focused on the sound that they stop strumming to change chords to make sure they get it perfect.

Another thing that is common is that they make the change in time but then fidget and try to fix the chord because the sound is not perfect. Or they stop playing period to try and fix it.

This is going to really slow down your progress and it will train you to play incorrectly. If you play like this for long periods of time you will create bad habits that will be hard to get rid of.

It is much more important to focus on changing chords quickly and smoothly and maintaining your strumming at the same time. Fixing the sound can happen later.

Don’t Let The Sound Paralyze You

Of course, wanting to sound good on guitar is definitely important and something that you need to work towards.

The point of this article is to make sure you do not sacrifice the sound for skills and progress which is mistake most people tend to make.

You can take some time while you are learning to play guitar to focus specifically on the sound but you should separate this from your other skills you are practicing.

If you are working on a song for example, and you notice a certain chord change is not sounding good on a consistent basis, make a note of it. Stop, write it down, and keep working on getting through that song and developing your rhythm, chord changes and timing.

Later, isolate that chord change and work on fixing it. The more repetitions you do correctly in isolation the better your chances at doing it right when you put it back into the song.

About The Author:

Maurice Richard is a professional guitar teacher that operates out of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He has been a member of an elite guitar teaching mentorship program since 2007 and has taught many people how to have success on guitar.

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