5 Things About Guitar I Wish I Learned (But Didn't)

Today, I will give you not one but 5 important things I wish I knew during my first years of playing guitar. Those mistakes occurred because nobody, knowledgeable enough, was around at the time to pinpoint these things to me. It is also likely that someone might have pointed out a couple of those mistakes to me but I chose, because of the infinite wisdom of youth, to ignore the advice! Having said that, let us begin with number 1:

1. How to hold the guitar properly and why?

There are several aspects to doing that but I will, probably, say something that is not very intuitive. The first thing I would make sure of is to be able to balance the guitar WITHOUT any help from the fretting hand.

How to test if you are holding the guitar with your fretting hand?

Play for a few seconds then stop and remove your fretting hand from the neck. Chances are that your guitar is going to move a little bit. Many people are supporting the guitar with their fretting hand, because they never learned how to balance it properly when starting out with the instrument. This usually remains a problem throughout their years of playing.

2. Proper Left hand position

There are several reasons why you should NOT have your fretting hand crooked on the neck. I know, many great guitarists often play like this but you have to understand that just because someone is a really good guitar player does not mean he/she is doing everything perfectly. There are many cases with talented guitarists who are good in spite of the mistakes they make in their technique. Now, the question is:

What constitutes a good fretting hand technique?

I will keep it very simple and clear. This has to do with HOW your hand falls on the neck. When you are playing be sure to follow these two rules:

Your fingers should be almost 90 degrees to the neck and the finger movement should be minimum. It is all about the economy of motion. It does not look as cool as if you are just flying all over the place, but if you are going to perform a movement for the rest of your guitar playing career, you better make sure this movement is as mechanically optimum as it can be. If it is not, then it is going to wear down on your muscles, little bit at a time (and we are talking over billions of times, literally, over a lifetime).

3. Thumb position

No matter the style you are playing, the thumb on the electric guitar should be right behind the neck, not on top of the neck. Are there any exceptions to this rule? Sure, they are. The most important exception is when you are bending a string or if you are using a technique that involves bending a note as a prerequisite, like vibrato. For just about everything else, you should be using the thumb behind the neck fretting hand position.

4. Music theory

Number four has to do with the importance of theory. Knowing the basics of Music theory is of utmost importance. This does not mean that you have to be an amazing music theory ninja master! You do not necessarily need to know all the different ways to compose music or to orchestrate for all different combinations of instruments. All you have to do is to get the basics down. You need to understand your scales, your arpeggios, and how they connect to each other. You have to know the basics of the modal system and the basic building blocks of music, in general. If you do not learn the above you will end up with a very small musical vocabulary that is going to severely limit your artistic output. Think about it as a language. If you do not know the basics of the language and its structure, you will try to communicate with a very limited vocabulary. So, get your theory basics down!

5. How to practice properly

There is a method to efficient practice. The optimum practice method follows a very specific pattern: (using a music phrase as an example)

  1. Memorize the phrase without a metronome. Just the mechanical movement.
  2. Play slowly, without a specific tempo.
  3. Start using the metronome to find the baseline and slowly start speeding up.

This is a massively over-simplified snapshot of the process used by the most amazing musicians. I know, it sounds too simple, however many people have no idea about it! Even after 10–15 years of playing, many players are not sure how to learn a new thing on the guitar in the most efficient way possible.

I hope this was helpful. You can watch the video below, where I explain this topic in more detail. If you're interested in developing your guitar skills and reaching your music goals, please check the different Elite Guitar Coaching Academy packages and how you can get private coaching from me.

Ioannis Anastassakis is a guitarist from Greece who has produced recordings in a variety of moods and styles, including flamenco and fusion.

His CD is entitled "Suspension Of Disbelief", his long-awaited rock/fusion instrumental album.

Ioannis Anastassakis