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Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Playing Guitar
I started playing guitar, when I was twelve years old. The year was 1979, and I had an older brother who used to listen to rock music that was around back then. We used to sit in his room, and not even talk but just listen to music. The music was too loud to talk anyway. We listened to the usual bands around at that time like: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Styx, Journey, and many others. This music stirred a fire in my soul.
Besides this, my household was not a musical household. No one in my family played any musical instruments. My parents didn't even listen to music. I know they liked country music, which I hated at the time, but they didn't listen to it. I remember being dragged along to all day outings, which had a bunch of country bands playing. I think they went mostly just to hang out with friends and drink all day.
I don’t know why I wanted to start playing guitar. Nobody pushed me to want to play, and I didn't even know one person who actually played. Maybe it was the music, the look of the instrument, or the photos of the musicians themselves on the front, back or inside sleeve of the albums we used to listen to. Whatever it was, something made me want to play, and I begged my parents to buy me a guitar. So they did, and that’s when I started playing.
So I've been playing guitar since 1979, I’m 44 now, and its 2012, so that means I've been playing 33 years. I know what you’re thinking “I must be a guitar god by now”. The truth is I’m an average guitarist at best, and there was a period of about ten years when I didn't play at all. Oh I can play, and hold my own, but it became a love hate relationship over the years. What I’m trying to say is that it did not come naturally for me. Everything I learned I had to work at it, and practice, and what I know is through experience, and years of playing.
The guitar is a hard instrument to learn, unless your just one of those gifted people, who are just a natural at it. It takes practice dedication and time to be able to play well, and the feeling you get when you can play well is better than any drug out there. If you’re like me and not a natural at it, but want to learn how to play, check out the things I wish I knew when I first started playing, in no particular order.
- Learn basic chords Like C, D, G, etc. Concentrate on fingering and make sure you can every string ringing out. This is important. Keep at it till you get it right.
- Learn to strum these chords, there are many strumming patterns that you can learn, and once you can do this, you’ll be able to entertain family and friends at the drop of a hat. There are many songs out there with only three chords, and you can strum almost any song. This is stripped down guitar playing at its best.
- Learn scales. The sooner you learn to be able to do this, the sooner you can learn to solo. When you memorize these scale patterns, you’ll be able to pull off great solos without thinking about it, and you can transfer any of these patterns to any key. Make sure you play these patterns slow at first then gradually build up your speed.
- Use a metronome, or a drum machine when you are playing these patterns. use a slow beat at first then gradually build up speed, by increasing the tempo in small steps. This will also help with timing.
- Learn Basic music theory. Learn how chords and scales are built, and get to know all the notes up and down the fret board.
- Find a good music teacher. This will help lead you in the right direction.
- Hang out with other musicians. You can learn a lot from other guitar players, especially someone who has been playing longer than you.
- Once you can play a little, join a band, or jam with other musicians. This will help you get better and give you more confidence.
- Learn songs, especially stuff you like to listen to. Not only will it help you get better, but people are impressed when you play something that they know.
- Challenge yourself. Try to play something you can’t, and stick to it till you master it. Learn new techniques and explore other music styles.
- Play slow. This is one of the most important things. If you don’t play slow and try to play to quickly you only set yourself back, and learn bad playing techniques.
- Play in a band with someone who is better than you. This will help you get better with lightning speed.
- Play out live. This like riding a roller coaster, you’ll be scared at first, but after it’s over you’ll want to do it again and again, and to hear people cheer after a song is over is very rewarding. This will also give you a lot of confidence.
- Use good equipment. Spend a little more and get an above average guitar and amp. Nothing can discourage you from playing, like a crappy guitar that’s hard to play, or a crappy sounding amp. In order for you to be inspired you have to like the sound of your amp, and it should be pleasing to your ear.
- Find a guitar that’s made for you. Everyone is different. Just because someone is playing certain kind or brand, doesn't mean you should play the same thing. Find a guitar that feels comfortable in your hands. A guitar should be like an extension of your body. Try a lot of different kinds of guitar and brands to see what’s best for you. Just because a guitar looks cool, doesn't mean it was meant for you to play.
- Play standing up. Playing while sitting down is a lot different from playing standing up. Plus when you learn to play while standing, it will be an easy transition when you join a band.
- Learn timing. Learn to tap your foot while you’re playing. Most songs are in 4/4 timing. If you don’t have good time, you can’t make good music it will not flow right.
Learning to play guitar can be very rewarding, if you put the time and effort into it will pay you back tenfold, and if you get with the right bunch of guys, you could even make money at it. If I could go back and do it all over again, these are the things I would do, and I wouldn't be working a 9 to 5 job, I'd be playing music for a living, after all for me that is the ultimate dream job.