by Corey Palmer

For the beginning guitarist, it’s all too easy to run into pitfalls and stumbling blocks — especially when you’re trying to learn guitar on your own with online video guitar lessons. Obstacles of all sorts can cause you to form bad playing habits or prevent you from progressing to a higher playing level. Wost of all, they can cause you to get so discouraged that you give up trying.

To help fight the frustration, we asked teacher Corey Palmer to offer some tips for first-timers.

1. Not practicing correctly.

When you pick up your guitar to practice, do you just play what you already know — or do you work on new riffs and techniques? Often the best way to progress it to find a balance between playing what you already know and working on something new. Divide up your practice time between mastering the techniques you already know and challenging yourself with new learning material.

2. Trying to play beyond one’s ability.

You cannot expect to be able to shred out Steve Vai licks if you haven’t mastered Mary Had A Little Lamb yet (the nursery version, not the Stevie Ray Vaughan song). Trying to play far outside of your current ability will only bring frustration. You have the entire rest of your life to build your guitar playing up to a level of mastery — take your time and find your own path.

3. Choosing the wrong gear.

When you’re first starting out, it is easy to get caught up in what a guitar looks like or how much it costs. These days, well-made instruments are available at virtually every price point. The best thing to do when going shopping for that first guitar is to bring someone who knows the ins and outs of guitar shopping. Let them help you choose the best guitar for your budget and the playing style you’d like to learn.

4. Playing an out of tune instrument.

Learning to tune is your first job as a budding guitarist, and you should tune your instrument every time you pick it up. If you are always playing a guitar that is out of tune, your ear never really gets to learn what each of the notes and chords should sound like. Plus, an out-of-tune instrument will always sound bad no matter how well you’re playing.

5. Learning in a vacuum.

These days there’s an abundance of online guitar lessons, videos, guitar books, DVD’s and other materials that allow you to learn at your own leisure. Given all the available tools, you could gain a ton of chops and know-how. But someone who spends all his time learning in isolation can be at a total loss when it comes to performing or to playing with other people. Once you get a little comfortable with the instrument, seize every opportunity to interact with other musicians and with teachers. You’re sure to benefit from any constructive feedback, and there’s no better way to learn the dynamics of making music in a group.

6. Not warming up before playing.

Ever wondered why there are times when you pick up your guitar and cannot play something that you have played with ease before? The main cause is not warming up first. Try going through various finger exercises, running through scales, or just riffing on some licks that you’re familiar with. You’ll be surprised what a five-minute warm up session before beginning your practice will do for your playing.

7. Memorizing, but not applying.

Sure, you can memorize a ton of various riffs from other guitarists and play them all flawlessly. But are you actually thinking about how to apply what you learn to your own playing? The next time you learn a lick or phrase created by another player, try twisting and turning it until it becomes something of your own. It can make the difference between regurgitating someone else’s music by rote and becoming an actual musician.

Corey Palmer is a guitarist and teacher in Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada. Now that you’re a smarter beginner, get started with some of Corey’s easy guitar songs to learn— and stay away from those seven points!