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4 Mistakes Intermediate Guitar Players Make (and How to Fix Them) According to Tom Bukovac

4 Mistakes Intermediate Guitar Players Make (and How to Fix Them) According to Tom Bukovac
Struggling to take your guitar playing to the next level? Top session guitarist Tom Bukovac reveals the 4 mistakes intermediate players make and how to fix them.

Legendary session guitarist Tom Bukovac shares his insights on the biggest mistakes intermediate guitar players make and how to overcome them to take your playing to the next level.

Struggling to Break Through the Intermediate Wall?

Every guitarist reaches a point where their progress seems to stall. You can play the notes, and you have a decent lick vocabulary, but there’s a particular “something” missing that separates you from the pros.

4 Mistakes Intermediate Guitar Players Make

Tom Bukovac, a Nashville session ace who has played with everyone from Keith Urban to Taylor Swift, knows exactly what that “something” is.

In his latest YouTube series episode, Bukovac dives deep into four common mistakes intermediate guitarists make and offers practical advice on how to fix them.

1. Rushing: Relax and Find the Pocket

Intermediate players often rush their playing, eager to get to the next note or phrase. This lack of timing creates a frantic and disconnected sound.

Bukovac emphasizes the importance of relaxing and finding the pocket – that sweet spot where your playing feels laid back yet perfectly in time with the music.

Here are some tips to improve your timing:

  • Practice with a metronome: This helps internalize a steady tempo.
  • Jam with records: Play along with your favourite songs to develop your feel.
  • Record yourself: Listen back to identify areas where you’re rushing.
Tom Bukovac Uncle Larry
“Uncle Larry”

2. Tensing Up: Loosen Your Grip and Play with Feel

Gripping the guitar too tightly creates tension that hinders your technique and kills your tone. Bukovac advises playing with a loose and fluid touch, even when playing aggressively.

Here’s how to loosen up:

  • Focus on economy of movement: Use only the necessary motion to fret notes.
  • Develop finger strength: This allows for a lighter touch while maintaining clarity.
  • Visualize the greats: Watch how pro guitarists play with relaxed intensity.
Tom Bukovac
Tom Bukovac

3. Excessive Vibrato: Use Vibrato Intentionally

Adding vibrato to every note is a common crutch for intermediate players. Bukovac calls this “nervous vibrato” and emphasizes the importance of using vibrato sparingly and with purpose.

Here’s how to use vibrato effectively:

  • Listen to great players: Observe how they use vibrato to add expression, not just fill space.
  • Practice vibrato control: Experiment with speed, depth, and timing variations.
  • Use vibrato strategically: Let notes ring true sometimes for maximum impact.

4. Fear of Silence: Embrace Space and Let the Music Breathe

Intermediate players often feel compelled to fill every gap with notes. Bukovac reminds us that silence is a powerful tool in music, just like in conversation.

Here’s how to incorporate space into your playing:

  • Think of your guitar as a voice: Use silence for emphasis and emotional impact.
  • Let notes ring out: Don’t be afraid to hold a bend and savour the sound’s decay.
  • Practice “call and response”: Alternate playing phrases with moments of silence.



Bonus Tip: Get Personalized Feedback from Tom Bukovac

Looking for more specific guidance? Bukovac now offers personalized guitar instruction “for a small fee.”

By addressing these common mistakes and incorporating Bukovac’s advice, you can break through the intermediate plateau and elevate your guitar playing to new heights.

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