Introduction to Guitar - Expert Guide

So you want to learn to play guitar? You’re in the right place.

But here’s the thing: many people have a guitar, but the guitar is more of an ornament than a real instrument. It gets dusted now and again, but not played. That’s sad. Taking the time to learn the guitar is well worth it.

But hold up. It’s time for a bit of harsh reality.  To be any good at playing the guitar takes years, right?

Of course it does. Or everyone would be able to play like Jimi Hendrix.

But here’s the good news. If you persist and learn the right way, you can save a lot of time and make the whole process enjoyable.

We’re so lucky to be living in a time when learning is made SO easy thanks to the internet.

Ok, here’s what you’ll need to get started.

 

Guitar

First things first, you’re going to need a guitar. Acoustic or electric, that’s entirely up to you, but people often start with an acoustic guitar then move onto electric. There’s a certain logic to doing that. Beginning on an acoustic means you can focus on basic chord shapes and learning simple songs. Once you’ve got the basics sorted, moving to electric guitar is relatively straightforward. Many players never move to electric, sticking with the awesome sounding acoustic.  If you do go straight for an electric guitar, you’ll have to buy a guitar amplifier of course, and it will help to buy a few simple effects pedals. You’ll also want to consider which style of music you want play. Certain genres of music, e.g., blues or fingerpicking, sound better on a particular type of guitar. It’s worth considering this before you make the purchase.

 

Strings

You’ll also want to make sure whichever guitar you are using has a new (or relatively new) set of strings on it. When starting, we need all the encouragement we can get, and a set of old, rusty strings isn’t going to help to inspire us. In fact, a new set of strings can make a very ordinary guitar sound great. Even the best guitar out there with an old set of strings will sound awful. So fitting a new set of strings is a must. 

Also, think about how you’re going to pluck your guitar. You can play fingerstyle (without a plectrum) and many people do (take Mark Knopfler for example) but to learn the basics its worth learning with a plectrum, even if further down the line we decide finger-picking is our preferred method.

Tuning Your Guitar

Tuning a guitar is one of the biggest challenges for any new learner, and while many seasoned guitarists wonder what all the fuss is about, many beginners are put off the guitar because their guitar is always out of tune. So grab yourself a cheap tuner and learn how to tune your guitar properly.

Some semi-acoustic guitars have tuners built into them, but you can pick up an affordable guitar tuner or use an online guitar tuner.

Setting Up

When George Orwell wrote “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” he could just as easily have been talking about guitars.

Even the same model of guitar, from the same manufacturer, often sounds wildly different. Often your guitar will sound great straight off the shelf, but it’s worth remembering if your guitar sounds awful, even though you’ve put new strings on and tuned them correctly, the guitar may need to be set up properly.

Take your guitar to a local reputable guitar shop and ask them to take a look. It’s likely some elements of your guitar are ‘misaligned’, and a few tweaks will see it right.

Accessories

For now, this will more than suffice. There are of course a ton of other guitar accessories you could buy, such as capos (which let you play in any key) to fancy guitar straps and ergonomic seats.

 

Tips for Playing Guitar

Focus on Technique

The difference between a good or lousy golf swing often comes down to learning the basics the right way, and not picking up bad habits. The same can be said about the guitar – a good guitar technique is vitally important when you start out. For example, how you pick or strum your guitar is something many seasoned players never learned about, but learning the proper way at the outset will mean you’re setting yourself up for success later down the line. Learn bad habits early on, and they’ll stick with you and stunt your growth.

 

Learn Basic Theory

As well as technique, a basic appreciation of where the notes are on a guitar’s fretboard is critical when learning guitar theory. In fact, mastering where the notes on the fretboard are is a lifelong endeavor and rarely something that you just learn and then be done with. Notes are laid out in a very logical fashion though, so once you’ve learned the fundamentals you can quickly work out where any given note is. For beginners, it’s important to appreciate that each string is tuned to a specific note. The most common notes they are tuned to is E, A, D, G, B, E – but remember that the same six strings can be tuned to whatever note you like (it’s just that most popular music uses this one – what we call ‘Open Tuning’).

 

Learn Songs

A great way to make chords come to life is to learn songs. Once you have grasped the shapes and are kind of familiar with moving between them, start looking for easy songs to play. Remember some of the most memorable guitar songs are only three chords so just with a few basic shapes you can create music.

There are of course millions of songs transcribed for you all over the internet. Just type a song you like plus the word ‘chords’ into google and you’ll see a whole list of links show up.

Practice, Practice, Practice

With all the best will in the world, if you don’t have a good practice routine you’ll quickly stagnate and it will take you twice as long to improve. The good news is a good practice routine can put your learning into hyperdrive – even 30 minutes a day spent in the right way, ideally using a metronome, can bring you on leaps and bounds. Like physical training, just remember to warm up properly. It’s also worth considering joining an online guitar school such as Guitar Tricks or Truefire which wonderful places to improve your playing.

Summary

Playing an instrument is one of the most rewarding things you can do. In today’s always-on, super-connected world there is something very calming about spending time with a piece of wood, some strings, and your imagination.

Be sure to take great care of your equipment and it will take care of you. Best of luck!