Sometimes just subtle changes can make a huge difference between pain and no pain or getting a clear chord vs. a buzzing chord. Here are 3 things you can change today that can help a lot with your guitar playing skills.
1. Are Your Nails Short Enough For Holding Down The Guitar Strings?
This is a common mistake that’s easy to fix. Many guitar players don’t realize how short your nails need to be. I’m talking about the left hand nails, or for the hand the holds down the guitar strings. As you can see the picture, you should be able to see finger padding right above the nails. A caution for those with a nail quick that is right at the edge of your finger. Don’t trim past the quick.
You can trim your nails with nails scissors or clippers, then use a nail file to even it out and trim a bit more.
My nails grow pretty fast and need to be trimmed every week. Once they start to grow, it’s harder to get the notes on the guitar clear. Your nails can get in the way. That make it difficult to hold down the notes without buzzing because the nail instead of your finger padding can be touching the strings.
This also makes it more difficult to get clean slides or hit on and pull offs when your nails are too long. I do like short nails for plucking the strings of the guitar, but no nails for holding down strings over the fingerboard.
2. Are You Playing With Too Much Tension?
This is a huge mistake I see in most guitar players. For example, at a Christian Guitar Convention several years ago, I was surprised to find only 2 students out of the classes I was teaching with relaxed technique. Did you know, for example, that you do not have to hold the strings down to the wood? You just need to hold the strings down to the frets.
Kids, in general, need to hold down the strings harder, but a lot of adults don’t. One of the ways to test if you are using too much tension is to see if you can completely relax the fingers you are not using. This applies to both hands.
In the classes, I went to each student and touched their right hand in the finger picking position above the guitar strings. Your fingers should be completely relaxed. It’s odd, but relaxing your shoulders and face actually helps you to relax your fingers.
After graduating from USC in Guitar Performance, I found that after playing 10 hours in a day, there was no hand fatigue at all. Playing with a relaxed technique was drilled into me by some of the teachers there. It really makes a big difference.
3. Do You Warm Up First?
Instead of just playing songs, if you work on changing chords better or finger exercises first, you’ll make faster progress. If there is a song with a chord change you find hard. Isolate just the chord change and play it over and over by itself. It’s also a great idea to warm up with guitar scales or exercises. For example, here are a couple good Guitar Technique Exercises you might like to try.