Every new endeavor is challenging, there’s no doubt about that. However, everything gets easier with time. Just think how hard it would be to learn a new language, and then take stock of how much you have mastered your native tongue.
By the same token, if you put your work in – in the form of small digestible chunks – you will get much better at playing guitar in no time.
All of the efforts come back with compound interest, there’s also no secret about that, also. As always, our mission here is to make the hard things easier.
So, if you want to learn how to achieve the heavenly heights of guitar playing without unnecessary struggles, make sure to read on!
Here’s why learning to play guitar is so hard and what to do about it:
1. The guitar is a rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic instrument
Look at it from this angle… When you play the drums, you are mostly just playing rhythmically. In most scenarios, the notes that you are playing are not that important harmonically and melodically, but rather rhythmically.
In another example, when playing classical bass, you are almost always playing chord progressions, in other words – it is mainly focused on harmony and rhythm.
Guitar demands a high level of rhythmic components. Besides that, most of the time you are providing the harmonic background for the song. And finally, the guitar takes a lion’s share of melodies and solos in modern music.
If you zoom out and take a more holistic view, the guitar gives you an advantage over most other non-guitar-playing musicians. It gives you the greatest possible perspective and insight into the magical world of music.
That should be the main motivating factor when conquering all of its demanding aspects.
Now, let’s focus on the part of making this easy. Make light of the fact that you are dealing with three different avenues of music. Get your goals straight and develop a reasonable practice routine that covers all of these three avenues.
You should not make it too ambitious, but don’t make it all too easy for yourself. Make it so your daily, weekly, and monthly aims are just outside of your reach. Repeat this practice on a regular basis and you will be a force to behold sooner than you think!
2. Playing guitar is physically painful in the beginning
Just imagining pressing hard with your soft fingertips on a steel or nylon string can be pain-inducing. However, the real situation is even more painful.
Also, certain chord shapes demand your hand and fingers to be stretched in an unnatural way which causes a very unpleasant dull sort of pain.
Finally, some hard strumming styles can create a great deal of pain in your strumming hands and wrist.
So, what can you do about this? Well, if your technique is right, the pain will subside as you build stamina and toughen up your fingers or hands.
If the pain continues after that, you may need to change your technique. If not, you will injure yourself and therefore hinder your guitar-playing journey. Even worse, it can diminish your interest in playing this wonderful instrument.
3. Music theory is complex and boring
Yep. We all know this one. When learning music theory, you are literally accessing the knowledge that has been accumulated throughout the whole history of mankind. So, it is no surprise that this the vastness of the field can be a bit fear-inducing.
To make things worse, a lot of music teaching systems as well as influencers have very aggressive campaigns emphasizing the importance of music theory in which they portray that knowledge as something that you should master as soon as possible.
Our suggestion would be the following… Find what you like in music. The songs that you like, the artists that you like, etc. Then start delving into those pieces of work learning how to play them. Once you have done that, start analyzing the theory of the said pieces.
If you make that a practice, you will be fiercely adept at music theory at the level that you need to be. In other words, have fun first and foremost. Then you can follow the tempo of your own desire to learn while stretching yourself optimally.
4. Constant comparison with your guitar idols
This one can be really tricky. On one hand, it is the very sentiment that has inspired you to pick up the guitar. On the other hand, it can make you so frightened that you give up altogether.
Every idol is an ideal, hence the word. Make it your distant spark in the dark; something worth striving for. However, don’t compare yourself to someone who has been professionally playing for 30-odd years. Rather, compare yourself to your level of playing yesterday, or the past week, or month.
If you do it that way, your motivation levels should not drop and your longevity in this pursuit will be significantly more probable!
Further reading: The 10 greatest guitarists of all time
5. Remembering the notes of different scales
Getting to understand a single guitar scale in all of its positions is hard, let alone all the others.
This problem can be mitigated by understanding the similarities between the fingering patterns. This will drastically simplify the fretboard.
Another cool trick is to learn the box positions. Once you have learned all the positions, you can use them shape-wise to access many other scales of the same harmonic structure.
6. Chord trouble
Traditionally, chords can be troublesome in two different ways. One would be fretting the chords when playing barre chords. And the other one would be the mere chord changes that you perform.
Let’s get real; both of those are difficult in the beginning. However, if you set your expectations reasonably and keep at it, you can become really good in a much smaller time frame.
The best advice here is to start with the small chunks of the chord when it comes to playing barre chords.
As far as chord changing goes, the trick is to see if there is a fingering overlap between the two chords that you ought to play one after the other. If there is an overlap, don’t move that finger. Keep that one fretted, and move the ones around it.
7. Access to tutors and learning materials can be expensive
In the world of guitar playing, the same rule applies as in many other walks of life. If you want a great teacher, the chances are you will have to spend a lot of hard-earned cash.
However, in these days of widely available information, you can achieve the same effect by buying affordable online courses, as well as a lot of the content that you have available for free.
Although person-to-person interaction has some priceless advantages, you can avoid all of those costs and become a tremendous guitar player while spending much less cash. The internet is a treasure chest of information, so go for it!
Further reading: The 3 best ways to learn how to play guitar
Frequently asked questions
It depends on your expected level of playing ability. Some genres can make it pretty ease, some more difficult.
You can get to an acceptable level pretty fast, but for some advanced stuff you will have to put in the hours.
Well, the short answer would be – definitely.
Sure, especially nowadays with the internet widely available.
The best age is the one in which you find yourself inspired to grind it through and don’t give up.
Not as quickly as a 10-year-old. But you may be even better than a 10-year-old.
Not as quickly as a 10-year-old. But you may be even better than a 30-year-old.
Neurologically, yes. But as you get older you learn how to learn better, so in that sense, you are at advantage.
Without a doubt, yes. Anything that enlightens your soul and inspires you is worth its weight in gold. Strap on a guitar and don’t look back!
All in all, learning guitar can be a wonderful experience for all. Whether you just want to play for fun or aspire to be a pro.
The key is to bite the reasonable chunks and prevent overwhelming amounts of new info and skills you are about to digest. On the other hand, you should stick to it as often as possible, and you will become a really good guitar player really quickly.
Now go and pick up that guitar!