As you progress on guitar, you’ll probably reach a point where you wonder why you’re not improving. Most of the time, this just means you need to find a new way to learn. If this happens, just switch up the tools you’re using for a bit and find a way that works for you. Jam Play is a great program to check out.
But, there are times when your stuck progress isn’t normal. Something’s wrong. Something is holding you back. I’ve seen this happen in my decades of teaching a surprising number of times. This one problem will keep you from improving on guitar no matter what lessons, teacher, or amount of practice you put in. What is it?
If your guitar is no good, you’ll be stuck.
The majority of guitars out there will do most people just fine. But there is a large number of…let’s say junky ones out there. How do you know which ones to get? Well, I could recommend any number of brands and models, but today, let’s talk about the 3 things a bad guitar does that will hold you back.
#1 High Action
The action on a guitar is how high off the fretboard the strings are. For most quality guitars, you actually have the ability to raise or lower the action based on your preferences. With cheap guitars, this isn’t possible.
That isn’t to say a cheap guitar will automatically have bad action; it just means it needs to be in the right spot. Low action isn’t a common problem. If it’s too low, the strings will buzz when you fret them because they’ll be so low they touch the next fret. Manufacturers don’t make this mistake. You’ll usually only see this if your neck gets warped or you lowered the action too much manually.
High action is much more common. With the strings too high, you have to press much harder to get them down to the fret and make the chords sound good. The pressure hurts hands and fingers, causing many to quit. Even as an experienced guitar player, I can make a guitar with high action sound OK, but I’ll hate playing it.
Take a look at the guitar neck from the side. For most players (professionals and experts aside), I’d recommend no string action of more than 2 mm. Yes, more action will allow for more vibration and a potentially deeper sound. But the benefits for the majority of people aren’t worth the work.
#2 Poor Tuners
Your tuning pegs are essential pieces of hardware most people blow off. How important can they be as long as they’re easy to tune?
Super important. Poor tuners will lose the pitch of the string constantly. You’ll be tuning multiple times per day. Or you may need to tune, but you won’t. Then your chords won’t sound right, you’ll hate playing it, you’ll get frustrated, and you’ll quit.
You should only need to spot tune once per day or when the temperature changes. Good tuners should keep the strings pretty close to perfect even after days of sitting there.
#3 Terrible Sound
Wood makes a difference. If your guitar has cheap wood or general poor design, the sound just won’t be pleasant to listen to. It may not actively hold you back from mastering skills, but on an unconscious level, you won’t enjoy playing as much.
I had a guitar when I first started playing with decent action and OK tuners, but it just didn’t sound good. I learned quite a bit, but after a while, I just kind of lost interest. Then, my mother-in-law showed me her guitar. It wasn’t amazing by any means, but it sounded good. It sparked my interest to get back into playing, and I’ve been teaching and jamming ever since.
Don’t skimp on the guitar, my friends. It may just be the thing holding you back.