Where to start, when it comes to learning how to play the guitar? Acoustic verses electric? Do you invest in an instructional book, dvd, surf youtube, sign up for some lessons with a guitar instructor? So many possibilities!
First, you need a guitar! A guitar that you can control in your lap, hold properly, a guitar body that isn’t too big or awkward for you to handle. A neck that is comfortable to fret notes and chords on. Strings setup with action that isn’t too high off the fretboard, making it seem realistic to press down strings to sound out notes and build chords.
You shouldn’t have to go out and spend thousands of dollars on your first guitar, unless of course you want to! Be practical. Set a budget.
How do you pick out the right fit for you? Well, what styles of music do you listen to? Does it typically consist of electric oriented or acoustic oriented material? What artists or bands do you listen to? What do you envision yourself playing? You know! C’mon. You need to pick what you’re most enthusiastic about. If you’re listening to a lot of electric oriented bands and artists, invest in an electric guitar. If you’re listening to a lot of acoustic oriented bands and artists, go get an acoustic guitar!
You ask — how do you pick it out? Well, if you know absolutely zero about the guitar, I highly recommend you have a friend, a relative that plays the guitar, or even possibly a guitar instructor you’ve approached about taking lessons, tag along with you on your adventure of investing in a guitar. Someone who is very familiar and plays the guitar, who can point out the obvious things. For instance, playability, breaking it down with what different types of sounds you can get out of an electric, depending on the model, pickup combinations, etc. Acoustics — same deal.
How different types of wood impact the sound; how dark, warm or bright a guitar can sound. How it fits you. You’ve got to be comfortable with it. Holding it. It should never be a scenario where you feel you are not able to control it in your lap while seated, or while standing for that matter, in combination while using a guitar strap.
You’re at the music store and you see one hanging on the wall and immediately you are drawn to it. Why? It looks cool! It’s your favorite color! That’s all fine, but, most importantly, does it feel comfortable in your hands? Have your friend who plays guitar or a guitar salesman show you a couple of basic guitar chords to play. See how it feels. It’s not going to be magical at first and it will most likely be quite awkward.
You’ve decided on a guitar. Now, how about a guitar case, something to offer your new investment some protection? Well, there are many choices. Soft cases, hardshell cases and gig bags. Find one that fits and protects your guitar. If you envision yourself doing a lot of traveling, then a hardshell case is probably your best bet. If you are going to be home with it most of the time with just short trips to lessons or to a friend’s place, you can probably get by with a softshell cases or a gig bag.
Now, if you’ve settled on an electric guitar, are you getting an amplifier? You don’t have much money left and you can’t be making a lot of noise in the evening when your family, roommates or significant others are winding down from a long day! There are so many cool options on the market today without having to come home with a Marshall half stack!
If volume needs to be kept in check while practicing, consider a portable amp that plugs straight into your input jack and you plug your headphones into. Or a belt pack battery powered amp to tote around everywhere! You can check these types of amps out online under mini guitar amps. They can range anywhere in prices starting out at $20.00 and above. Or, how about an amp with a headphone input jack? Many guitar amplifiers come with this option now. This will be your family, roommates or significant others saving grace! Trust me!
Also, remember this can work for acoustic-electric guitars, as well. The most important thing is that you can hear yourself sufficiently while you practice and you are not disturbing the rest of the household either.
I would also recommend investing in a basic electronic tuner while you’re there. Have the salesman show you how to use it. Some guitar picks, too. Get thin and medium gauge to start out with. A pick that has some flex to it, while you’re getting familiar with strumming and picking single notes.
How are you going to learn how to play this cool new guitar you’ve just invested in? Once again, so many possibilities and resources exist. Maybe invest in a basic instructional book with basic chords and learning the notes on the fretboard, learning how to tune by ear. Most are reasonably priced and pretty straight forward. A lot of them are usually accompanied with a DVD, so, this is an added plus, to be able to hear how it should sound and also have a visual.
It’s instinctive to rely on our ears and our eyes when learning how to play the guitar. You may decide to get online asap and surf YouTube. There is a lot of amazing and resourceful tools online. But, if you’re a complete beginner and have never played before, it can be a bit intimidating and confusing when opting for this route. There’s so much to choose from online!
First and most importantly, you need to figure out what your goals are. What it is you want to be able to do on the guitar. Is it just learning a few chords and strumming patterns to accompany yourself while you sing? Do you envision yourself eventually playing in a band or performing live? Are you a songwriter? Do you aspire to pursue music as a career? Everyone has different goals. You need to be honest with yourself and make that determination. Make a list.
Now you have your list of goals. Regardless of what your list of goals are, you absolutely need to learn the basics. Build a foundation to grow from. Yes, build a chord vocabulary, become familiar with the fretboard, learn note values. Learning how to read music and apply it to the guitar can sound so boring! But, in all honesty, if you have no background in music, I highly recommend making the time to do this. This information will carry over to any style of music you play and help you develop a full understanding of rhythm.
You encounter rhythm in every aspect of playing the guitar. Whether you aspire only to play basic melodies, strum basic rhythmic patterns, or you want to play lightening fast guitar solos being able to count, decipher and breakdown parts, note values, etc. is mandatory. Absolutely mandatory if you are wanting to truly be a stand out guitar player.
If you have been playing other musical instruments, you will more than likely already have an understanding of note values, etc., so, you’ve got half the battle down if you opt to go ahead and apply that knowledge and learn to sight read on the guitar, as well. I really stress learning how to sight read for the up and coming guitarist that has never played any musical instrument prior to the guitar. Doing this will enable you to be a strong, proficient rhythm and lead guitarist. It will give you the tools to forge ahead and better understand information you will inevitably encounter along your journey. It will make sense much faster having taken the time in doing this.
Do you have a friend who plays that you feel can share some of their knowledge with you? Do they have patience? If not, maybe signing up for some one-on-one guitar lessons with a guitar instructor would benefit you. It doesn’t have to mean you sign up for the next 20 years of your life. Just getting a solid foundation established to grow from. Remember, you want to build that foundation and be able to make steady progress. This would give you the perks of having someone to walk you through information and demonstrate it for you as well as being able to ask more in-depth questions about it.
Ask if you can bring in an audio or video recorder to capture the information and be able to refer back to it in-between your lessons. Hopefully, this will help you to not settle into any bad habits in your learning process. If you are taking lessons, that’s something an instructor should be very observant about in making sure you’re not acquiring any bad habits in the process.
How do you find an instructor that’s a good fit for you? Ask your friends if they’ve taken lessons from anyone they could recommend, or go online and google music lessons in the area you’re living in. If you go to a music store, talk to the instructors and maybe take one lesson or ask for an introductory lesson to see if you think they are a good fit for you. Now, a good fit does not mean how many hot guitar licks they can play. It goes much further than that. It’s chemistry and the instructor’s attention to the student. Listening and being attentive to what the student’s goals are. Being realistic and honest with the student and finding an approach that will enable the student to reach their goals in a timely manner. The instructor cannot do all of the work. The student has to practice to progress.
Practice should be daily, at least 30 minutes a day in the beginning. Your fingertips will be super sensitive initially while becoming accustomed to pressing down the strings on the guitar. Your fingertips toughen up with time and then the tenderness and discomfort subsides. This is a good thing. You will not be distracted from your objectives then.
Once you get some of the fundamentals down, think about going to some open mics and playing, performing, or just sitting back, watching and observing. There is a benefit from just observing another guitar player in their approach as well as playing with other guitarists, no matter how much more advanced they may seem in their playing or if they seem less experienced than you. You always benefit from doing this kind of activity. Open your mind. There is always something new to learn.
If you have a guitar you are comfortable with, that is setup properly, a good practice ethic, commitment, enthusiasm, and good learning resources, you can go as far as you aspire!
Pick up your guitar and play!