4 Beginner Guitar Tips For New Guitarists
If you’re thinking about learning to play the guitar, that’s a great choice! You’ll be joining a huge community of people around the world who are passionate about this fun and versatile instrument. But if you don’t know much about it, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here are a few things to think about before you start playing guitar:
1. Which type of guitar do you want to learn on?
If you haven’t got a guitar already, you’ll first need to decide which type you want to learn to play on. There are various varieties of guitar, the main categories being electric guitars, acoustic guitars with steel strings and acoustic guitars with nylon strings (of course you can also get electro-acoustics, 12-string guitars etc, but as a beginner you'll probably want to start with a basic six-string acoustic or electric model). The type you choose will depend on the music you want to learn.
If you’re interested in rock, pop and other popular styles, you’ll want a steel string guitar. Many beginners find electric guitars easier to learn on (since it’s usually easier and less painful to fret the notes), although there’s something to be said for learning on an acoustic, as this can be more versatile, doesn’t need an amp, and your fingers will toughen up quickly enough anyway.
If you want to play classical or flamenco guitar on the other hand, you’ll need a nylon string guitar of the appropriate type. It’s a good idea to learn general classical guitar skills first, and graduate to the more specialised flamenco techniques when you have some experience.
2. Which guitar should you buy to start off with?
Once you know what type of guitar you’ll need, it’s time to make a purchase. Buying a beginner guitar can be an overwhelming experience, since there are so many to choose from in every category. Your budget will naturally have a big impact on your choice, but even if you don’t have much to spend right now, don’t be tempted to go for the absolute cheapest guitar you can find. Very low cost guitars are often poorly made, with an unappealing tone quality and they can be frustrating to play. The guitar can be challenging enough to learn without having to struggle with a bad instrument, and unfortunately some people give up the guitar for this reason, never realising that it was the guitar that was at fault, and not them.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend huge amounts of money though. You can get nice quality yet relatively cheap guitars from reputable brands for around $200 or less. These obviously won’t be as good as a high end guitar, but as a beginner you’re unlikely to really know what you want in a guitar anyway, so there’s not much point in spending a lot until you have more experience.
The internet is the best place to start your research – read the reviews on sites like Amazon, as well as specialist sites such as GuitarCenter.com, and see what others are saying about the guitars you’re interested in. You might also want to visit your local music stores for advice (although bear in mind that they may naturally steer you in the direction of models they sell), or ask your guitar teacher, if you have one. Guitar forums can be a good place to get more opinions too.
Don’t get too hung up on finding the ‘perfect’ guitar at this point. Remember, you’re not looking for your dream guitar here – there will be plenty of time for that later - just a decent instrument that will be pleasant to learn on.
Guitar Books & DVDs
3. Choosing your guitar instruction
So, you’ve got your guitar – now how are you going to learn to play it? There are two general routes you can take here: lessons with a teacher, or teaching yourself. Ideally, learning with a good guitar teacher is best, since s/he will get you started off on the right footing, will stop you developing bad playing habits, and will show you what you need to know in the appropriate sequence, while providing encouragement and support along the way.
On the other hand, private lessons aren’t always feasible, for various reasons. They may be too expensive, you might not live near (or be able to travel to) a teacher, and it can be hard to find someone you get along with. Some people also just prefer to teach themselves guitar, especially if they’re learning rock/pop-type styles.
By teaching yourself, you can learn at your own pace, while saving time and money. It’s best to follow a high quality, well-structured lesson plan though, and not just try to pick up bits and pieces of information in a random way. A good guitar course will teach all the fundamental skills you need, and the options available include traditional tutors books, guitar lesson DVDs and online guitar lesson courses.
Personally, I think courses that offer a combination of written and video instruction work well; the text provides in-depth explanations and is easy to refer back to, whereas the videos will show you the correct posture and hand/arm positions, as well as how the music should sound. Online courses may also offer software, audio jam tracks, a forum where you can connect with others following the course, and more (see my Jamorama review for more details about one such course).
Whichever lesson format you choose, you’ll need to be very highly motivated to teach yourself guitar successfully. You’ll also need to be diligent, so you don’t fall into bad habits. It’s so important to learn the proper playing form that it can be a good idea to at least have a few lessons with a teacher to learn the basics correctly, even if you don’t plan on taking them long term.
4. Keep the right attitude
Even with a nice guitar and a good plan to follow, to progress well it’s vital to have the right attitude. Are you really committed to learning to play well? You might not be sure at first, and just want to try the guitar for a bit to see if you like it or not, which is fair enough. But once you’ve decided that you do want to stick with it, a high level of self-motivation is crucial. This is particularly the case for people who are teaching themselves to play, and who don’t have a teacher to provide encouragement.
It’s easy to feel enthusiastic when you’re starting something new. But after a few weeks, that novelty wears off and the reality sets in – it’s not easy to learn to play the guitar well, and there’s a lot of work involved, even for the naturally talented. And there will be days or even weeks when you just don’t feel like practising, no matter how much you enjoy it normally.
It’s important to be aware of these ‘downsides’ in advance, then you won’t be surprised when you run into a rough patch. It’s normal to have ups and downs as you learn, and the journey is easier if you decide in advance that you’re going to practice regularly no matter what, and to regularly remind yourself of the reasons why you want to learn when you start to feel bored or discouraged.
Keep these tips in mind, and have fun with your guitar!
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