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How to Learn Guitar for Beginners
You have taken your first steps in the wonderful journey of learning guitar!
By reading this page, you have started out in the right direction. You have an interest in the guitar and you are looking for the right way to learn. You have made a great decision because there are so many benefits and joys to playing the guitar!
This article is designed to give you the tools you need to move forward on the guitar and experience those joys without frustration. If you are willing to put in the time, you will definitely be rewarded. But first, there are some things you need to know to get the most out of your time.
I had an old guitar.
In my attic there was an old guitar. It was an old acoustic guitar that my mother had tried to play years ago. I was 12 years old and was so excited about music and the guitar in general.
My mother and I went up to get the guitar and after that, I spent several days checking it out. I was hooked. It just felt right to hold. I didn’t know how to play it, but I was ready.
After a week or so of trying to play it, I started to get discouraged. Every time I tried to press the strings down, my finger tips really hurt. I didn’t know how to tune it so what ever sound I could get out of it honestly didn’t sound that great.
I didn’t know anyone that played the guitar to ask questions to. I soon learned that if I was really going to play this thing, I needed help!
At the time that I was learning guitar, I didn’t have access to all of the awesome resources that are available now. I needed something or someone to point me in the right direction.
Eventually, my parents and I went down to the local music store and I signed up for lessons, and I’m glad I did. Everything started to make sense with a little help from someone that had been through all of this before.
I realized that the guitar I had was not set-up properly and I was working way too hard to push the strings down. I quickly learned how to tune the guitar, and immediately, the sounds I was getting on the guitar started sounding better.
Today you have a lot more options than I did to get you started in the right direction. Lets take a look at the things you need to know and the options available to today’s beginner guitarist.
The Things you need to know before starting
It is very exciting starting to play guitar for the first time! You hear all of this great guitar music and you can just see yourself having the time of your life making music. Just like your favorite musicians. But, there are some things about the guitar that aren’t as effortless as these great players would make you think.
Learning the guitar is going to take some time. Spending time with the guitar is very important. When you watch a great guitar player, you don’t see all of the many hours it took to get him or her to that point.
Well, OK then. How much time does it take to get good on the guitar? That is a good question, but there isn’t a “one size fits all answer for you”. For all of the years that I have been teaching,
I have seen many different students learn at many different paces. Some move ahead quicker than others. But what I can say is that every student of mine that spent the time with a regular daily practice routine, had great results on an ongoing basis.
Another thing that you need to know is that playing guitar is not easy. There are many challenges to playing the guitar, especially at first. Getting your hands coordinated, building up the calluses on your fingertips, learning rhythm.. Etc.
All of these (and more) challenges are tough in the beginning, but they don’t last long if you put in the time and keep at it.
The Last thing that you need to know is that a lot of people who start playing guitar quit shortly after.
- Some, when they see that it is going to require some work, decide that it is not right for them.
- Others, would enjoy learning how to play but they don’t think they have the time it takes to get good on guitar.
- And others, don’t know where to start, try to start any way, get confused and frustrated, and that’s it for the guitar.
Luckily for you, I’m going to address all of these situations here today. My goal is to save you the frustration of starting to learn guitar and give you the most straightforward path for you to start progressing and having fun with the guitar!
Where to start
Success on guitar at this early stage is all about making some big decisions. Making these decisions isn’t hard with a little help.
Don’t worry! They won’t take long to make and the decisions you make will get you started in the direction that makes the most sense for your situation.
The first decision you need to make is to decide your path. You need help to get started on the guitar, and as I said before, there are many resources available for you to take advantage of. Pick the one that is the most comfortable for you. I will list the most effective resources that can help you start your journey on the guitar:
Free Videos and Blog Posts
The free route is the most popular today. There are thousands of free lessons and pages that will show you how to do any number of things.
This can be a great starting point, especially if you are just wanting to see if the guitar is for you. There is a lot of great information available but there are a lot of drawbacks to going the free route.
The first drawback is that over time it is easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed by all of the content available. When using free content you are basically guiding your own path on the guitar. You can pick to learn anything you want. You are in control.
The problem is that most don’t realize that learning the guitar is like building a house. You need to learn certain foundational lessons before you can move on to more advanced things. It is the main reason people get stuck on the guitar:
trying to learn something when they don’t have the foundational skills to attempt it.
The next drawback of going the free route is that it is too easy to jump ahead. When you are judging your own performance you may miss something critical and move on to the next topic. Before you know it, you are stuck and not sure why.
So, what are some tips to get the most out of free content available on the internet.
My first tip would be to stick to one teacher. If you find you learn well from one person’s video, take a look at the rest of their available content.
If it looks like they have videos or blog posts that can take you where you want to go, stick with them. The method that they have may just be the thing that gives you the foundation you need to move forward on guitar.
If you jump around too much from teacher to teacher, it’s easy to miss important things and get confused. If they don’t have anything available to take you farther on your guitar journey, spend the time to find another path.
If you do find some free resources that you like, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Use the comment section below the video or blog post. I would think that you should get good responses to your questions from either the author or other viewers. If you don’t get the answers you need, spend the time to find another path.
Guitar lesson books and DVDs
Guitar books have been around for a very long time. At one point, that was all you could buy to help on guitar. Books are great and I have learned a lot from several different guitar books. In recent times, video has become more popular. Some people learn better being shown what to do. Many guitar teachers have DVD’s for sale to teach a lot of different things. One of the drawbacks of learning from books and dvd’s is that there is no way to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, there is not usually a way to get in touch with the teacher to get help.
In person, private lessons
One on one lessons have been the standard for learning guitar for as long as the guitar has been around. You get the full attention of the instructor and if you are lucky, your instructor has a great method to help you advance on the guitar. Unfortunately, not all guitar teachers are created equal. There are some that can really help you and some that can do more harm than good. It is best to find out as much as you can about a guitar instructor before you decide to sign up for lessons. Lessons can also be expensive and out of the price range of some beginner students.
Small group lessons
Lately there has been the trend of teachers offering group lessons. There are many benefits to this. Group lessons are more affordable than private lessons. Also, learning along with others takes a lot of the pressure off for some students. Not being the center of attention for the whole lesson can be more comfortable and create a good learning environment for some. Small group sizes seems to be the most effective. Large groups can be distracting and you may not get the attention you need to get your questions answered.
On-line lesson sites
Over the last several years there have been more and more on-line lesson sites popping up. These are great ways to combine the best parts of video lessons with the best parts of private lessons.
You will usually get a well thought out method of learning. One that will take you from beginner to advanced player.
You also get the benefit of being to watch the videos over and over again. Most lesson sites have a way for you to contact or show the teacher your progress for more interaction. These are usually very affordable and a good idea for someone who is willing to get the best bang for their buck.
Once you have decided which way you think would be the best fit for you to learn, If you haven’t already:
it’s time to purchase your guitar.
The first decision you need to make is what kind of guitar would you like to buy. The two main types of guitars are:
Acoustic guitars are ones you see that have the big hole under the strings. They are hollow and they are great for strumming songs.
Because they are hollow they amplify themselves. Because of this they are great to practice with and bring along with you to play where ever you are going. You don’t need to bring an amplifier to be heard in a small room setting.
The downside of starting with an acoustic guitar is that the strings tend to be thicker. This means that they are more difficult to push down. You will need to build some hand strength and toughen up your fingertips. Some like to start with Nylon string acoustic guitars. The nylon strings are much easier to push down than regular metal guitar strings.
The other type of guitar to purchase is an electric guitar. Electric guitars are usually made from a solid piece of wood. Because of this they don’t amplify themselves. It would be hard to hear an electric guitar over several people speaking normally.
New electric guitar players will usually also purchase a small practice amplifier. When you plug the electric guitar into an amplifier, the sound of the guitar comes through the speaker of the amplifier and you are able to control the tone and volume of the sound with the controls.
Both of these types of guitars come in different sizes. Getting the size of the guitar that is right for you is important.
Guitars are sold in 1/2, 3/4 and full size.
1/2 and 3/4 size guitars are generally for kids. They are outgrown quickly and around 11 to 12 years old, most transition to full size guitars.
The size of full sized guitars vary a lot. There are thicker, thinner, wider, longer, lighter and heavier guitars. With so much to choose from, a trip to your local guitar store is in order. Just go in and try a lot of different types of guitars. You will quickly find the right size and style for you.
After you get your new guitar, you need to make sure it is set up properly. This is a big step that most skip. A lot of manufacturers of beginner guitars don’t take the time to adjust their guitars properly.
Guitars have many adjustments that can make them play a lot easier. You will need help for this step. Find someone local that you know knows a bit about guitars. Ask them if there is anything they could do to make your guitar play easier.
If you don’t know anyone that knows about guitars, take it to a local music store and ask if they could help you set up your guitar. It’s best to do this in the beginning so that you don’t start practicing on a difficult guitar.
Sometimes the strings on a new guitar will be hard to play, and a hard to play guitar is no fun at all. The strings that the guitar comes with may not be the best fit for you.
Heavy gauge strings are tough to press down and require a good bit of hand strength.There are many different gauges of strings available. For beginners, it is better to start out with light gauge strings. They are much easier on the fingers. There is plenty of time later to move up to heavier gauge strings if you would like.
Sets of strings are commonly named by the gauge of the smallest string (high E string).
Examples of light gauge strings for acoustic would be a pack of 11’s, which would mean that the high E string is a .011 (which is measured in thousands of an inch, 11 thousands of an inch).
An example of light gauge string for an electric guitar would be a pack of 9’s. That would mean that the high E sting would be .009 or 9 thousandths of an inch. If you are not sure what gauge strings are on your guitar, take it to your local music store and have them check it out.
If you have heavy strings it will be very easy to purchase a new pack of light gauge strings and have them put them on for you.
When will you play guitar?
The next decision that you need to make before you start your journey on guitar is:
When are you going to practice?
Practicing is important and to move forward on the guitar you are going to need a good practice routine.
If you are super busy and can’t find any time to practice, learning the guitar will be extremely challenging.
In all of my method books that I supply my students, I have a small schedule page for practice time. This is where you can write down the time each day that you are going to practice.
If you know that at a certain time each day you watch TV or play video games, you may want to re-purpose that time for your guitar lessons. Some like to practice in the morning, some later in the day. It doesn’t matter as long as you stick to a regular schedule.
I always recommend sticking to a shorter daily practice routine as opposed to a monster weekend session.
I say this a lot…
but, do you remember taking a test in school. You have a week to study but you put it off till the night before. You stay up most of the night studying and take the test the next day.
You may have done great on the test, but what happens the minute you walk out of class…
You forget all that you have learned. You struggled to keep the information in your short term memory. Now that information is gone. But the opposite happens when you study a little bit every day.
The very act of repetition commits the information to long term memory, It’s there for good. That is what we want for guitar. To keep all of what we learned ready to go at all times, and it’s fun playing music when you don’t have to stress or worry about whether you are going to do it correctly.
Find your space
The last decision you need to make before you start with the guitar is:
Where are you going to practice.
I know that when I started I was more comfortable practicing away from others. I practiced in my room and was able to have fun, and concentrate without worrying what other people thought.
You may be the opposite. You might be comfortable practicing in a place in the house where others are around.
It’s up to you. Just find a space. Make sure that the space you pick to practice is comfortable to you.
Also, what I would recommend is to pick up a guitar stand. Some like to buy guitar hangers that keep the guitar out on the wall.
Either way, it is important that you don’t keep the guitar in the case. Why, because when the guitar is in the case…
it is very easy to forget. And when you forget about the guitar, It’s easy to forget about practicing. Plus, I think guitars look great. I love having my guitars out on display.
So those are the four decisions I recommend a new guitarist make before diving into learning the guitar. To summarize, they are:
- Decide which method you will use to learn. Free videos and blogs, books, in person lessons, small group lessons or online lesson sites.
- Decide what guitar you would like to learn on: Electric or Acoustic, purchase it and have it set up properly
- Decide when you are going to practice
- Decide where you are going to practice
Once you all of this decided, it’s time to start. Get your guitar, sign up for lessons if that is what you decided to do, set up your practice area, and clear the time you need to get started.
Start practicing 🙂
You are going to need help when starting guitar. But that’s OK. There is a lot of help available to you. Just realize that it is a narrow path that will keep you moving forward on the guitar without much frustration. It’s easy to want to jump off and try to play some very cool advanced thing. Just stick to your plan. It won’t be long before you are ready to start tearing it up on guitar.
If you are a beginner and you have any questions, you are always welcome to contact me.
Leave a comment below or on my contact page at www. playguitarpodcast.com/contact . I’d be happy to help get you pointed in the right direction.
Have you just started guitar? What is the biggest question you have right now?
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