Advice & InspirationCare & Maintenance

11 Common Mistakes Made by New Guitar Owners

5. Holding the guitar incorrectly

Many new guitar players come to me struggling to play a specific chord (or chords), and right away I spot an issue: they’re holding the guitar wrong. As if the chord itself isn’t difficult enough, they’re putting themselves at an ergonomic disadvantage that makes it even MORE difficult.

I’ll be writing an in-depth blog post about the proper way to hold your guitar in various sitting and standing positions, but for now I encourage you to check out Nate Savage’s YouTube videos:

6. Ignoring the environment (humidity and temperature)

I always say that the degree to which you should worry about the environment’s effect on your guitar is proportionate to how much you paid for your guitar. If yours is a cheap “starter guitar” (anything under $150), you can worry less about potentially ruining it if money’s not an issue for you.

On the other hand, if you bought a decent mid-priced or higher guitar that you hope will last for years, spend a little extra to protect your investment with some sort of in-case dehumidifier or humidifier (depending on whether you live in a very wet or dry climate, respectively). Your guitar is happiest in a relative humidity of 45% – 55%. Buy a digital in-case hygrometer first to see what the humidity reading is inside your guitar case after it’s been in there 1-2 days, then decide if you need to remove or add moisture, or do nothing at all.

I wrote an in-depth article on humidity here if you’d like to learn more about how to keep your guitar safe.

You should avoid extremes of temperature as well. Your guitar is happiest in a temperature somewhere between 68F – 78F… give or take a few degrees. Do NOT leave your guitar in an extremely cold or hot car.

7. Unintentionally scratching the finish with belt buckles, metal buttons, etc.

If your guitar is already pretty beat-up and you’re not concerned about scratching it, you can ignore this one. However, many people get pretty upset when they discover that they’ve unintentionally scratched the glossy finish of their new guitar with a belt buckle, metal shirt buttons, jean rivets, etc.

So, if you’re fond of your guitar’s finish, be aware of what you’re wearing before you pick it up to play it.

8. Not cleaning the guitar properly

Never use standard household cleaners, furniture polish, etc. on your guitar. If a cleaning product is on the shelf in a grocery or department store, it’s probably unsuitable for your guitar. Only use cleaning products specifically made for guitars, by well-known guitar companies such as Music Nomad (my #1 choice), Ernie Ball, Gibson, Martin, etc.

Never use regular household cleaners on your guitar

Nothing you see on the shelves at a grocery (or similar) store should be used on your guitar.

Unless you’re playing on stage and sweating all over your guitar every night, you really don’t need to clean your guitar very often. If you only play for a few minutes each day in the comfort of your home, a good cleaning a few times a year (or less) is usually sufficient.

Want to learn more about what you should and should not use on your guitar? I’ve written a couple good articles on the topic of cleaning:

9. Setting the guitar where it can fall or be knocked over easily

Oh… the things I’ve seen: broken headstocks, broken necks, cracked bodies, chipped paint, and much worse. This is one of the most common guitar mistakes I see that is responsible for damage.

A proper guitar stand isn’t going to save your guitar from every possible situation, but it definitely lowers the likelihood of the guitar falling over. Avoid leaning your guitar haphazardly against the edge of a table, a couch cushion, etc. This is a recipe for disaster.

If you’re on-the-go, there are a number of portable guitar stands, and some will even fit inside your guitar case (depending on your case’s design). If you’d like some recommendations, just let me know in the comments below.

10. Buying the wrong kind of guitar amp, or buying an amp that’s not necessary

Marshall JCM800

Sure, a Marshall JCM800 half-stack would be great, but is a tad overkill for beginners

If you bought an electric guitar, buy an amp designed for electric guitar, and one that is designed for the style of music you want to play–one that will produce the kind of music/tones you ultimately want to make. Whether it’s Heavy Metal or Country Twang, be sure the amp you buy is the right one for that style.

Next, don’t buy an amp that is too small or too big. Avoid the cute, battery-powered “amps” that run $20 – $40. They’re novelty items, and you’ll be disappointed. At the opposite end, don’t buy a monstrous guitar amp–even if you imagine yourself one day playing live in clubs. Cross that bridge when you get to it, and for now buy a good starter amp. These usually run $100 – $200.

If you bought an acoustic-electric guitar (an acoustic guitar that can be plugged into a guitar amp), you don’t need an amp at all, not at first. In-store sales people will usually try to sell you an amp anytime you buy an acoustic-electric guitar. Just say no. Your acoustic guitar is going to be loud enough acoustically (unplugged) for most situations you’ll encounter as a beginner. In fact, it can get loud enough by itself to disturb neighbors. You really don’t need an amp for your acoustic-electric guitar until you get to the point of performing live outdoors, or in decent-sized venues. So, wait a couple years on that one.

11. Over-stressing about dings and scratches

Of course, you never want to purposely damage your guitar, but on the other hand being overly paranoid and protective isn’t healthy or practical. Guitars are meant to be played and are designed to withstand a certain amount of abuse and cosmetic damage while retaining their sound quality and playability.

If your guitar gets dinged or scratched, it’s natural to be upset (especially when it’s someone else’s fault). Take a deep breath, relax, ensure there isn’t any serious damage that needs professional repair, and then play on. Veteran guitar players believe these mishaps “add character” and give the guitar an interesting history. They affectionately refer to such damage as “mojo” or “battle scars.”

The source of joy that a guitar provides should come (primarily) from the sounds it produces, not how it looks.


Have you made any of these mistakes? Maybe you’ve made a few I didn’t list here? If so, let me know in the comments section down below!

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