Go ahead and play guitar badly, it’ll make you better!

Guitar player practicing

That’s right; I’m encouraging you to play badly. I want you to hit those random open strings that sound out of key. Go ahead and strum that chord that your index finger has landed on the wrong string. Is that note buzzing partway through the riff you’re playing? Who cares!

Wait, aren’t we meant to be getting better at guitar?

Learning a new skill is daunting. No one likes being bad at something.

Unfortunately, the only way to improve is to accept you are going to be pretty bad at it at the beginning.

There are a lot of benefits to permitting yourself to stop trying to play the guitar perfectly all the time. When you’re practicing, give yourself permission to play guitar badly, it’ll make you better in the long run. Let’s talk about your chords for example.

Letting your hands learn muscle memory by not stopping all the time

Take the safety net away. If you’ve been bowling, think about if the bumpers were up. What’s the point in trying to avoid the gutter? The fretting hand is thinking the same thing: ‘Why should I move faster, you’re gonna wait for me anyways.’

Force your fretting-hand to learn muscle memory but taking that leap of faith with your chords and act like you are going to hit the chord with no problem. When it’s wrong, try not to get disheartened. Keep going. After a while, you might notice that you keep making the same mistake, but the rest of it is correct. You can now focus on just fixing this part.

Practice messing up at home before you play in front of other people

It sucks when you are playing a song in front of people, and you get it wrong. It happens to everyone, from beginners to professional musicians. One of the most significant differences is the player’s reaction to the mistake. Rather than making a disgruntled look, stopping dead and being visually frustrated, the more confident guitarist shrugs it off. Often they even laugh and carry on or try again. It’s one wrong note in hundreds, focus on the correct ones.

We know we are going to hit a wrong note at some point. Let’s take this opportunity to practice blending those mistakes into our playing. When you’re strumming a chord, and you finger lands on the wrong string, it sounds horrible. Don’t stop playing! You’ve got an excellent opportunity to learn how to fix the mistake on the fly. The last thing you want to do is to make a mistake in front of an audience and have no idea what to do; it will be ten times worse.

By not worrying about playing perfectly, you’ll be relaxed and start to play better.

You know how when you overthink things they tend to not work anywhere near as well as when you’re relaxed? Take a chord change that you tend to mess up. You’re strumming away and rather than thinking about a nice, smooth chord progression; your mind is doing something completely different.

‘Here it comes, the chord you always mess up! Ok, concentrate! It’s going to work this time… I think. No, you can do this. Uh, what was the shape again?! Alright, here I go!’

How are you ever going to move a chord properly when you are thinking about it going wrong the entire time? Your mind is full of doubt, and you’re just mad at yourself that you ‘got it wrong again’.

Take a deep breath and remember, we are just practising. We are just having fun. Who cares if it’s not perfect this time, you’ll get it next time.