Seven Dos and Don’ts for Beginner Classical Guitarists

These tips can apply really to us all, not just beginners – let’s launch right into it:

(1) Do get yourself as reasonable an instrument as the budget will allow. Buying a cheap-as-chips “orange box” is really a false economy – it’ll sound and feel horrible,quite possibly to the point that it will limit your progress and you’ll soon outgrow it. You don’t have to spend bucketload a but getting yourself set up with a reasonable guitar will make learning, practicing and playing a much more enjoyable experience.

(2) Don’t underestimate the value of a good teacher. Someone to help guide you as learn is worth their weight in gold – they’ve trodden the path themselves and will have experience in leading others with their learning, so will bring all that experience together to help you. A decent teacher will also be able to tailor their teaching to the style most appropriate to you – speeding up when needing to, slowing down when needing to, re-explaining, re-wording, demonstrating. You’ll accelerate much quicker in your learning than just using a book, online guide or YouTube video.

(3) Do realise that you’re learning a new skill that is quite alien to your brain and your body. As such, it will take time for things to feel natural and for movements to happen without using every single ounce of your concentration. Also know that it will happen, and it will creep up on you without you realizing it, but only if you…..

(4) Do practice 6 (at the very least 5) out of every 7 days. You don’t need to sit down for hours on end each day (and this I wouldn’t really recommend anyway if you’re just starting out), but it’s amazing what you can achieve in just 15, 10 or even just 5 minutes provided you do it on a very regular (more or less) daily basis. But you’re just starting out something new and exciting so why wouldn’t you want to get stuck in regularly?!

(5) Don’t panic at the sight of a new piece of sheet music, sight reading or new notes – it’s just notes! Just take a moment to breathe, and break everything down – what’s the time signature? What key are you playing in? How many sharps or flats are there in the key signature and where do you play them? Are there any accidentals (any sharp or flat or natural notes not in the key signature)? What notes do you see in the piece? Where do you play those? Do you need to move positions on the fretboard? Can you clap out the rhythm of the main theme or first few bars of the piece?

(6) Don’t forget to count! When you’re learning a brand spanking new piece (or even playing something you’ve been playing for a few weeks or more) don’t panic at the sight of what looks like a whole bunch of complicated notes in some in fathomable rhythm! Firstly, breathe.  Secondly, know that it won’t be unfathomable. Thirdly, break the rhythm down – subdivide into the lowest common denominator (for example quavers or semiquavers) and count out each of the semiquaver or quaver beats in the bar. I highly recommend pencilling it in – this is something I still do even to this day.

(7) Do enjoy the journey of learning and appreciate every step in your journey – easy, challenging or otherwise. We can get obsessed with being “good” or playing such and such piece or taking such and such exam or whatever other goals we may have that we can lose sight of what we’re doing, seeing, learning and becoming along the way. So remember to sit back and enjoy the ride!



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