Can You Guess What This Student is Doing Wrong (guitar)

This post comes from a 2-part series from my newsletter.

Last week I asked you to listen to a 15-second recording of one of my students playing guitar. Your mission was to guess what he was doing wrong.

If you didn’t do it last week, give it a quick try before reading on.


This is an issue that almost every beginner experiences at one point or another. It’s very important to learn how to identify the problem early on in order to implement the solution.

(Towards the end of this post I’ve included a 40-second video medley of this student’s current level)

I received a lot of great responses.

Everyone could tell that it had something to do with rhythm, and many noticed how his strumming seemed to be too much of a connected in between the guitar and the singing.


So what’s the answer? What exactly was he doing wrong?

Have you ever tried patting your head with one hand while rubbing your belly with the other?
The first few tries will invariably result in one hand imitating the other. Before you know it you’ll be patting (or rubbing) both your belly and your head.
This is what happens when you try to play and sing at the same time.
As soon as you start singing, your guitar playing seems to take on a mind of its own following your voice instead staying independent.
If you listen careful to the recording, you’ll notice that every strum is linked to a syllable in the lyrics.
Here are the main elements to look at if this is happening to you (we address them all in the course, in detail):
FYI: If you aren’t familiar with guitar yet, a “rest strum” is when you pluck all the strings of the guitar from top to bottom, with the thumb of your right hand. It sounds like this: 

Check each step:

  • Can you sing the song while tapping your hand or foot to the beat? (no guitar)
  • Can you sing the song with your guitar while playing rest strums instead of tapping?
  • Can you do the same while changing chords with a metronome?
  • etc.

Going through a system such as this one to will help you discover the weakest link. You can then start building from there in a systematic way, effectively fixing any problem regardless of your level.

I still use this same approach if I’m having trouble with a song.

Who is this mystery student?

A few facts about the person you heard in the recording:

  1. He’s my father
  2. He’s 70 years old
  3. He had more trouble in the early days than any other student (He had to overcome more obstacles than most)
  4. He’s now a learning machine and one of my favorite success stories from the course.
  5. He sends me emails every week with questions and recordings for new songs. He won’t stop 😉

Here’s his response to last week’s email:

And here’s what he sounds like today:

I hope this is inspiring to you. It should be.

When my father started out with the course, he had trouble understanding the most basic exercises. He’d sometimes send in assignments that seemed to have nothing to do with what I asked for, and he wouldn’t even realize it.

So if you aren’t sure you can learn guitar because you think you aren’t talented, aren’t good at learning, or don’t have a good “ear”, take inspiration from this man.

If you follow the system and show up every day, you will know how to play songs on your guitar for the rest of your life.

Are you interested in learning guitar?

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