So, you want to start playing guitar? I mean you really, really want to start playing guitar? The good news is you’re certainly not alone. The guitar is one of the most popular instruments out there, and I’m sure you can tell why! Although a wonderful hobby to have, sounding great requires dedication and quite a bit of money. However, if you’re dead set on picking up an axe, then I advise you to go for it! The following is a brief guide on starting to play guitar.
Before you go out and buy a custom Les Paul, consider why you want to play guitar. It’s not uncommon for people to spend a small fortune on one, only to grow sick of the instrument after a month. If you live and breathe music, then this is a good sign. However, you should still think carefully before getting a guitar. I started playing guitar when I was eleven, having discovered a love for various hard rock and metal acts of the seventies and eighties.
Five years later, my music tastes had expanded considerably. Although I loved playing and had learned some of my favourite songs, something changed in my outlook. A grossly underappreciated artist named Victor Wooten made me wish that I had started playing bass instead. Now that I’ve been on bass for several years, I find myself wishing I was better on keys! My point here is that you should think carefully before choosing an instrument. You don’t want to lose interest and waste money, or ignore a skill you’d love even more.
If you’re certain you want to play guitar, then it’s time to get the gear for it. Again, I’ll warn you against losing interest, especially if you have a lot of money to blow! It’s fairly common for adults to buy the guitar their hero plays for a couple of thousand dollars. Then, they become frustrated with working their way through “Iron Man,” and then sell the instrument. Guitars depreciate much faster than you’d imagine (unless you hold on them for a while or they’re a vintage guitar), so you can’t expect to make much of your money back.
You can still buy a perfectly good guitar for a more affordable price. Large brands like Gibson and Fender have subsidiaries which produce lower-budget copies of their iconic guitars. Look at Epiphone and Squier, respectively. It’s possible to buy pre-owned guitars, but they can be a massive gamble. I learned this the hard way, if you’re interested!
When it comes to amps, you should go cheap, as well. However, don’t go too cheap and buy an extremely low wattage. Sure, ten-watt amps thrown in with a “my first guitar” kit serve their purpose. However, their sound is often horrifically tinny, and the controls don’t give you the best idea of how an amp works. I recommend buying at least a 50-watt amp to get a nice sound.
There are a range of brands and models to choose from, all with their own distinct sounds and features. As you progress, you’ll learn more about how amps differ from each other, and eventually find the best amp for your guitar.
Finally, learning the art itself. There are a few ways you can go about this, and a personal teacher isn’t always necessary. Slash, Jimi Hendrix and Adrian Smith, to name a few, were all self-taught. However, some people are more predisposed to this method than others. I personally had lessons for four years, and have made a lot of self-sufficient progress since then. However, I don’t regret most of my lessons, and I’m sure my progress was helped by them.
When you first start out, I recommend getting a tutor. They’ll be able to show you how to read tablature, hold chords, and execute techniques properly. There’s an advantage here in that when you first start, you’ll probably have a few bad habits which you need to shake off. It’s much easier to wean yourself off of these in the beginning. Again, I learned this the hard way!
You should know that not every good guitarist is a good teacher though. I had one teacher who was a lovely guy and skilled musician, but would go off on long stories and spiels when we could have been learning. Another one could pull off Van Halen’s “Eruption” without a single flaw, but had me doing chord exercises and “Happy Birthday” for a month. Most tutors will offer a free taster session. I recommend you take this, and make sure that you’ve found a good teacher. Some tutors will be hesitant to tell you you’ve outgrown them. If this happens though, don’t hesitate to move along.