While playing guitar is a great hobby for many reasons, there are a few drawbacks worth mentioning. Some, like neck and shoulder pain, are easily remedied or avoided altogether, while a couple others, such as frustration and associated expenses, are facets of the pasttime that need to be accepted and dealt with the best you can. Here, we detail the most common disadvantages of playing guitar and offer helpful tips to cope with or overcome them.
Problem #1: Hand and Finger Pain
Finger pain presents itself as the most obvious disadvantage of playing guitar the moment you first fret a note. It will oppose all beginner players in one way or another, whether in the form of sore fingertips or cramping digits. And if you overdo it, you can develop guitar-related injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you can’t take the pain of pressing your fingers into steel strings, nylon string guitars offer a gentler alternative that is much easier on the fingertips.
However, if you can play through the initial soreness of steel strings, your fingertips will eventually develop tough calluses that will act as a barrier between your nerves and the strings, leading to pain-free performances in short time.
Cramping can be avoided by properly warming up your hands and fingers through the use of stretches and exercises, while injuries can be avoided altogether by pacing your practice time and maintaining proper form.
Problem #2 Shoulder and Neck Pain
Any new physical activity will make you sore if you do it incorrectly. There’s a right and a wrong way to hold a guitar, and it’s important to learn the proper way from the start. If you choose a guitar that’s either too big or too small for you, neck and shoulder pain can develop due to uncomfortably contorting your body in order to fret notes. This can happen to anyone who doesn’t start off with good playing habits.
The most important thing to do when you start playing guitar is to learn the right way to hold your instrument while sitting and standing. Your teacher can show you this, or you can use any of many online resources to ensure you’re playing with proper form.
It’s also important to get a guitar sized to play comfortably. If you’ve got a smaller build, consider a ¾ size guitar or one with a short scale length.Conversely, if you’re a large person, make sure you don’t get a guitar that’s too small so you can avoid craning your neck and hunching your shoulders as you practice.
Problem #3 Expense
Playing guitar isn’t the cheapest hobby you could choose to take up. In addition to the initial cost of buying your instrument, you’ll need to buy strings regularly, and will want to purchase different accessories like picks, capos, and straps to fully master the craft. If you’re an electric player, there’s also the cost of an amplifier, effects pedals, and cables. It can get costly quick and leave you wondering how you can keep affording the expense of musical equipment.
Fortunately, there are many affordable entry-level guitars available from several quality manufacturers, so it’s no longer necessary to spend half a grand to get a guitar worth playing. Some come with option of “player packs,” which include a variety of accessories such as picks, cables, tuners, straps, extra strings, and more.
Strings are often sold in bulk packs, allowing you to save money both in shipping or trips to the store, all while getting a multi-pack discount.
Ultimately, you can learn the basics even on the cheapest guitar and with no additional accessories, but thanks to the growing popularity of playing guitar, you can get a quality instrument plus many extras at an affordable price, considering that many guitar parts are not as expensive as they once used to be (more about it here).
Problem #4 Time Commitment
We live in a time when instant gratification is expected in many areas of life. However, playing guitar is a skill that takes time and dedication to practice; there’s no quick way to get good. To increase your skills, you’ll need to set aside daily practice time. In our fast-paced busy world, this can be a real challenge, but it’s an absolute must if you plan to play guitar well.
Even just ten to twenty minutes a day can help you become a better guitarist. Take a look at your day’s layout, and decide where you can fit in a few minutes of practice. Time management can be a difficult task, but if you’re serious about playing music, you should be able to find a bit of time every day to practice scales and stretches or to learn a new chord shape.
Problem #5 Noise
This sounds like an oxymoron, but for players living in tight quarters with other people, noise can be a serious disadvantage to playing guitar. I’ve heard many times from my mom how she was grateful when I started to get good, because my first few months of playing were apparently pretty hard to sit through listening, despite practicing in a room behind closed doors.
Of course, you can always try to time your practice for when you’re alone, but this is not always practical. Nylon string guitars and small-bodied guitars are on the quiet side, so consider one of these if you’re concerned about disturbing your housemate with your cacophonous practice noise.
If you’re learning on electric guitar, most amps have an Line-Out jack, into which you can plug headphones for nearly-silent playing. You’ll either need headphones made with a ¼-inch plug, or you can purchase an adapter to run standard 3.5-mm headphones into an amp’s ¼-inch insert.
Problem #6 Frustration and Discouragement
Most players are going to find themselves frustrated from time to time. Whether it’s dealing with the initial finger pain you’ll experience, or having a hard time nailing a challenging riff, there will be times when playing guitar can really get on your nerves. When you’re shooting for the stars but hardly able to take off from the launch pad of fumbling chord changes, discouragement can set in and cause you to want to quit the hobby altogether.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! No one starts out as a great guitarist. Becoming proficient in anything takes time, patience, and dedication. We all make mistakes, but those are simply an opportunity to learn. If you’re having a hard time playing a certain riff or keep getting dead strings on specific chords, this may point to a problem with form or finger positioning. Just keep in mind that there will always be room for improvement, and as long as you keep practicing, you’ll keep getting better.
Now that you know some of the disadvantages of playing guitar, you’re better suited to know how to handle them as they arise. If you really want to play, there’s no drawback that should keep you from fulfilling your passion. Stay focused, be creative in your problem solving, and know that whatever setbacks you may face, there’s a way to work through or around them in order to become a talented guitarist.
Alan Jackman is an experienced guitar teacher who currently blogs about guitar and music at Beginnerguitar.pro. If you’d like to take your guitar playing to the next level – be sure to check it out.
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