So you have a dream of being a guitarist and playing the songs that you love. Sounds easy enough. The good news is that it really can be that easy and fun. You just need to do a little planning before you actually use the 3 steps to begin learning the guitar – starting the right way.
Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine yourself in a year. Paint the picture in your mind of you playing for someone. Someone who will encourage you.
You start with confidence, your fingers moving with a gentle flow through the chord shapes. You smoothly play the lead over a backing track.
If you have chosen to sing along, the words and chords flow together, creating a word picture that excites and inspires your listener. Feel it?
Now, what are the 3 steps to begin learning the guitar, which will ensure that dream comes true?
Step 1. Begin by picking the right guitar for you?
When we first fail at any new skill there is a temptation to blame our tools and this time you could be right. I’ve seen so many new guitarists give up, just because the first few chords they played sounded awful. There is a good reason for this.
- The guitar won’t stay in tune
- It’s the wrong size or shapes for the student
- Steel strings can really hurt your fingers
Staying in Tune
The truth is a good guitar doesn’t have to be expensive to sound great. I truly believed that only a $1000 guitar could make me sound great for half of my life. Then I started chatting to other guitarists.
Some strummed, some played the lead, some would only play on electric guitars, and others only on acoustic guitars but the facts were still the same. If it doesn’t stay in tune for at least one whole song, then it’s a dud and it will make you want to quit. Yes, strings do get worn and go out of tune but we are talking 6 weeks of heavy playing or a couple of months with nylon strings.
Many old guitars have old machine heads that slip and this is one of the problems. The new silver string winders at the top of the neck on your guitar shouldn’t slip as you play, so keep this in mind when buying a guitar.
The other problem with a guitar is that being wood the neck can warp and move as they age, or if the temperature changes. My 3/4 size Cordoba warms up as I play because I always sit down to play and it is resting on my leg. After about 15 minutes I always need to retune my strings and then they stay in tune for most of my practice.
Buy a guitar tuner and always begin playing by tuning your guitar.
The wrong size or shape
Now, this is an easy one to get wrong. There are two decisions here.
If you want to play an electric guitar
Be warned that they can be very heavy. This doesn’t mean not to, it’s just that if you are a woman or a child you need to find a guitar that you can comfortably handle. You may choose to sit down and play so that the weight is resting on your leg and/or wear a strap to help balance it.
If you will be standing, ask yourself if the weight will eventually become uncomfortable enough for you to quit. You don’t want back problems down the track, believe me, this is common with solid body guitars. Take your time and try several guitars in a store before buying and it is always cheaper to buy online. Here is a great place to look for a bargain below.
If you want to play a steel-string acoustic or a nylon string guitar
Any guitar you choose should feel comfortable when you reach over the top with your right strumming or picking hand. Many top guitarists play 3/4 size guitars with thin necks. There is a misconception that all-nylon string guitars have 2-inch necks.
That used to be the norm but now there are many brands of guitars with narrow necks and small bodies, which make it easier for those of us with small hands to reach comfortably around the neck to form our chords.
I own all three of these types of guitars. When I practice I use my narrow-neck nylon string guitar because it doesn’t hurt my fingers and sounds mellow. (It’s also small enough to take on holiday or to the beach) Then when I do a gig, I play my semi-acoustic steel string Ovation for a brighter sound and my electric for leads.
Step 2. Focus on the type of music you enjoy and want to learn
This is such a personal choice, so don’t be swayed by friends and family, no matter how well-meaning.
If you love rock music then play it. When you truly enjoy singing along to pop songs and want to play and sing them, go for it. Old Jazz songs just soothe your soul, you will keep learning because of this choice.
When Country and Western or the Blues make you want to pick up a guitar, then follow your dream.
Hearing your favorite songs will inspire you to practice. Even if at the beginning they are out of your skill level, you can work towards playing them one day. Many popular songs are only 4-5 chords.
Step 3. Plan your practice method
What do I mean by this?
How you choose to learn a song to play will determine how quickly you learn to play. Every piece of music you choose to learn will have a beginning, middle, and ending. Professional musicians also add on an introduction, an instrumental in the middle of the song, and plan the ending or the Outre. (This is just a fancy word for getting out!)
- You could get private one on one lessons (someone to keep you motivated and accountable)
- Research and buy a DVD course of lessons with Steve Krenz.
- Join an online guitar group with live lessons
- Try and online guitar course like Guitar Mastery Method
- Decide to learn from a friend or just pick up what you can
- Or learn from Youtube videos
It all depends on how much money you want to spend and how you personally learn. I will discuss this more in future posts. You can read more about this review.
How we learn and why it’s important to your success
Just think back for a minute to an important decision you made that worked out for you. Do you think you would have achieved this result if you had just winged it? I doubt it.
The Talent Code – Excerpt
There was a very important study that Gary McPherson did in 2001 concerning ‘Commitment and Practice: Key Ingredients for Achievement During the Early Stages of Learning a Musical Instrument.
A Case Study
Gary followed a large group of children. From Primary School, until their final year in High School. Over 10 years, to see why some students continued and excelled at learning an instrument and others gave up.
It wasn’t talent, practice, family, or any of the other obvious triggers. It was the original decision that they made before beginning as to how long they would play for.
A year, through school, or for life. What Gary found without fail, was that it was the personal decision to play for life or a long time, that made the crucial difference to their growth in their performance and continued playing.
They were only practicing for 90 minutes a week. (You can buy a copy of this awesome book here. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle)
What will you decide?
Why you won’t fail
If you’ve read this far and have understood the 3 steps to begin learning the guitar, you will succeed and I look forward to watching your progress. Sharing the challenges and triumphs on your journey. It’s now time to choose a guitar, select some music, and start your learning method.