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11 Biggest Challenges That Beginner Guitarists Face and How to Deal With Them

September 16, 2021  
Posted by Ben Ash
11 Biggest Challenges That Beginner Guitarists Face and How to Deal With Them

The old saying still applies to the guitar – it's an instrument that's easy to learn but difficult to master. At the same time, it's an incredibly popular instrument. It seems that the guitar is still among the most popular instruments among beginners of all ages.

However, this comes with its pressures and challenges. If you're an absolute beginner just taking up guitar, it can get pretty rough. In fact, it's not even uncommon for beginners to consider giving up the instrument due to these hardships.

Seriously – even though the instrument it's relatively simple if you want to learn some basic stuff, there are certain factors that make the whole experience pretty challenging. This is why we decided to help you out.

In case you're starting out on the guitar but are finding it to be difficult, we sorted out some of the most common issues and how to deal with them. The whole point of this guide is for you to keep practicing and exploring the world of music through this awesome instrument.

1. The Progress Is Really Slow

One of the most common problems comes down to one's progress being really slow. But guess what? Almost every guitar player dealt with this. It just has to be slow in the beginning.

The only way to deal with this is just to keep playing. Although some goals seem so distant, keep on grinding. Things will eventually fall into place. There's no other solution to this issue.

2. It's Just Boring and You See No Point

The guitar initially seemed like a very exciting instrument. All of a sudden, you're learning how to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or any other random song that you don't care about. It's nothing like those crazy Zakk Wylde solos that you heard in Ozzy Osbourne's songs.

Once again, let's take a look at any other experienced guitar player. When they started out, they had to play simpler songs. They had to learn basic chords and scales. The virtuosic playing that you can hear them do is a byproduct of years and years of practice and hard work.

To put it simply, it just doesn't happen overnight. But if you're really having trouble finding anything fun about it, ask your teacher to show you a few riffs, licks, or tricks. Or find them yourself online. For instance, AD/DC's "Back to Black" is pretty simple for a beginner, but it will be way more interesting than the regular curriculum stuff for beginner players.

These things will keep you motivated to keep practicing. After all, you need some real motivation at this point.

3. The Pain in Fretting Hand Fingertips

Forming your calluses – probably the most painful part of every guitar player's journey. Honestly, those steel strings feel like a razor's edge cutting deep into your fingertips. After about 15 minutes of playing, you feel like you just can't go on.

But the thing is, the body does its thing over time. The fingertips hurt, and at some point, it feels like the pain is getting worse. But after about a few months (depending on how much you practice), your fingers slowly start getting used to it. The skin on your fretting hand fingertips slowly starts thickening and forming calluses.

Forming your calluses is a painful but necessary process. Everyone has to go through it. You simply cannot go without it. But if you're really having a hard time with them, there could be a few solutions.

Firstly, you can try playing a nylon-string guitar. It will take more time to form the calluses, but the process will be less painful. You can also try using lighter string gauges on steel-string guitars, even downtuning to D standard.

Aside from this, you can occasionally practice your fingertips while you're not playing. Rubbing them against a surface or even an edge of a desk could help as well.

But whatever you do, bear in mind that there's no going around this painful process. You'll just have to endure it for a while. But it gets easier over time.

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4. Barre Chords

Barre chords are a nightmare. No one likes them during their beginner phases. But again, it's something that you have to learn how to do.

There are two main issues with barre chords. First, you have to press all the strings and get a clear and resonant tone without any buzzing. And second – your hand gets tired really quick and hurts a lot. The F major chord in the 1st position is usually the biggest challenge.

Dealing with barre chords is all about gaining your hand strength and stamina. Well, that and knowing HOW to press the strings. Your fretting hand's index finger should get right behind the fret wire. And don't squeeze the neck too hard. Just hold the strings enough to get the good sound out of them.

Barre Chord Practice Tip

Additionally, you should also practice holding smaller barre chords. Start with the first two strings, high E and B. Then move on to three – E, B, and G.

Take it a step at a time. Don't move on to three strings until you've gotten two strings to sound clear. Finally, you should reach six strings as your hand gets used to it. But remember – the process may take weeks.

5. Your Guitar Isn't That Good

Maybe your guitar just isn't that good. Sure, the quality of beginner-friendly guitars has improved significantly over the last couple of decades. But there's still an abundance of instruments that just aren't good.

A poorly-made guitar will make your playing and practicing experience unbearable. Firstly, we advise that you ask your teacher or any other experienced guitar player what they think of your instrument. You can also read online reviews and see what people think of it, although that's something that you should do before buying the instrument in the first place.

If it turns out that it's a fluke, then make sure to check out any of these beginner-friendly guitars.

Great Beginner Acoustic Guitars

Great Beginner Electric Guitars

6. Your Guitar Is Poorly Set Up

Or, maybe your guitar is fine, but it's not set up properly. Both acoustic and electric guitars come with adjustable metal truss rods that go straight through their necks. The purpose of a truss rod is to keep the neck (almost) straight.

Electric guitars also come with a bridge with adjustable saddles and adjustable height. Both this and the truss rod affect the string action, as well as the instrument's proper intonation.

However, this is something that an experienced luthier should deal with. These setups are something that you should do on occasion. It's highly advisable that you get your guitar checked after purchasing it.

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7. You Have Really High Expectations

It's actually pretty common for beginners to have unrealistic expectations. And with today's social media trends, this is no surprise. However, just because there seems to be a bunch of young players shredding through very challenging pieces, it doesn't mean that you're a bad guitar player.

Bear two important things in mind:

  1. These players are a minority
  2. People excel at a different pace

Seriously – be patient and enjoy the ride. Sure, you should practice and have proper technique. But at the end of the day, music is an art form and it's to be enjoyed, no matter the genre.

8. Self-Doubt

These issues are also accompanied by feelings of self-doubt. You just think that you possess no talent and that you won't ever be able to play like any of your heroes.

But that simply isn't true. Sure, talent plays some role in one's progress. But it's far from being a key to becoming a phenomenal guitar player. It's all about learning, practice, and finding ways to be creative and unique.

The best way to deal with this is to focus on practice and keep track of your progress. We're lucky enough to live in a time where we have phones with tons of storage memory and great microphones. Record yourself playing a certain song once in a while and compare your progress.

Do this every month and you'll slowly start noticing results. You can even try and write your own songs now and then and compare the results. If you learn and practice, noticeable progress is guaranteed. You just need to hear it. And it's these things that keep you motivated in the long run.

9. You're Getting No Feedback

One of the weirdest feelings is not knowing whether you're good or bad. Maybe you're a self-taught player. Maybe you're taking group lessons and no one can dedicate their full attention to you.

But to progress, you need feedback. However, this feedback should come from veteran guitar players. 

So don't be afraid to share your guitar skills with the rest of the world. Sure, some may not like it, some will dismiss it. But that's nothing that should discourage you.

In the end, it's up to professionals to have the final say. Be it guitar teachers or performing musicians, find a way to ask them what they think of your playing. Then make sure to memorize all the things that they said you should work on.

Then just keep repeating this process as long as you can, even when you reach advanced levels of playing. There's no other way to progress without someone pointing out things that you're doing wrong.

10. Competition Is Rough

It's no secret that the guitar is an extremely popular instrument. It seems as if everyone is playing guitar these days. With so many people playing it, it's only obvious that the competition is pretty rough.

If you've taken up drums or a bass guitar, you'll find a band easily. Meanwhile, guitar players are all over the place and it gets hard for them to find a gig. Additionally, this also means that you'll often stumble upon so many players that you think are better than you.

Firstly, just keep on practicing and improving your musicianship. Secondly, try not to compare yourself too much to others. After all, there's a long way ahead of you. Be patient.

Besides, it's all about finding your unique voice and not about following already set patterns. Sure, you should always do your best to get better at it. But at the same time, try to develop your own style of playing and songwriting. In the end, this is what will make you stand out.

11. Music Theory

And finally, we get to the music theory. It seems that almost every beginner musician is baffled or confused by it. Most young guitar players have wondered whether they need music theory knowledge at all. There's also this stance that music theory kills creativity.

No, music theory won't kill your creativity. Yes, you'll feel somewhat confined while learning the basics. Now, look at it from this perspective: music theory is a set of guidelines and rules that will help you navigate in music and even help you express yourself better.

No, it's not a set of rigid rules that you HAVE to follow, but rather guidelines that will tell you how to pick the notes, chord progressions, and other elements to make the music sound the way you want it to sound. 

If it all feels confusing at first, just try to take it one step at a time. You should learn these things, but you'll realize their purpose after years of playing.

Consistency Is the Key!

At the end of the day, it all comes down to consistency. Some days, you just feel like not practicing or playing at all. Sometimes, you wonder whether you'll ever become good at it. But that's what every guitar player is dealing with on occasion.

The only way to get over this is to make practice sessions your routine. Yes, it will feel tedious. But this is the only way to become the guitar player that you always wanted to.  

Categories: Expert Advice
Tags: Guitar

About the Author

Ben Ash

Ben Ash is a member of the Sam Ash Music family, both literally and figuratively. He has worked on the sales floor in both the Huntington and Forest Hills location. As Social Media Coordinator, he was integral with bringing the social media of the company to new heights and relevancy. He was also a Manager of the Northeast region. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Manager for Sam Ash Music. He received a Bachelors Degree in Music Business at Berklee College Of Music in 2012. He’s a proficient guitar player and can also play bass and ukulele. Although he grew up as a fan of classic rock and alternative, he’s now opened his mind to being a fan of many genres of music. He regularly posts his music covers on his YouTube channel and has played multiple venues in Long Island, NYC, Philadelphia and Boston.