I still remember how excited I was when I got my first guitar. I remember staring at the case, taking the guitar out of the case picking it up to play for the first time. You probably feel (or felt if you have had your guitar for a while) the same excitement about your first guitar.
You should feel excited, this is a great time. You made the decision to learn how to play guitar. You want to play the music that you love to listen to.
There will also be questions that you have about what you should or shouldn’t do like:
- Should I take lessons?
- Should I teach myself?
- Where do I start
- What if it is too hard to learn
You will have questions about what you should do first and the answers will vary. Some people will say that you can just teach yourself to play. Some people will tell you should take guitar lessons.
What advice should you follow? If you take lessons, what kind of teacher should you study with? Does that teacher need to specialize in the style of music you want to play? Does it matter if they know about the style of music that you want to play?
Let’s take a look at what you should do and also what you should not do:
- Figure out what style(s) of music you want to play
- Look for a great teacher in your area that can help you
- Make sure you have the essentials (other than your guitar) that you will need to get started
- Be patient with yourself as you are going through the process
Should Not Do:
- Follow advice from people who tell you that you do not need guitar lessons
- Use only books or videos to help you learn to play
- Pick up bad practice / playing habits
- Expect that you are going to master playing guitar right away
- Give up on yourself
- Let’s take a deeper look at these:
(Should Do) Figure out what style(s) of music you want to play
Your taste in music might change the longer that you play guitar. When you first start out you should have an idea of what type of music you want to play. Knowing this will help you find the teacher that is best suited to help you.
(Should Not Do) Follow advice from people who tell you that you do not need guitar lessons
Friends or family may have good intentions and want to help you but if they don’t know how to play guitar, should you take their advice? The short answer is no, they are not the ones you should listen to. The easiest way to become the guitar player that you want to be is to…….
(Should Do) Look for a great guitar teacher that knows how to help you
You may think about (or even try) teaching yourself to play guitar at first. Think about this though… If you don’t know where to start, how will you know if the things that you are doing are the right thing for you now? The easiest way to get the right information is to find a great guitar teacher. Contact teachers in your area and talk with them.
Once you choose a teacher, you should also make sure they teach the style that you want to play. To put this another way, if you needed knee surgery would you look for a general practitioner? Or would you look for a doctor who specializes in knee surgery? Don’t waste your time with a teacher that doesn’t specialize in the style that you want to play.
(Should Not Do) Use only books or videos to help you learn to play
Books and videos use a one size fits all structure. Neither will be able to see where you are struggling and help you fix your problems. They also won’t be able to give you any feedback on your playing (good or bad). You will have to figure things out for yourself and that can get very frustrating.
(Should Do) Make sure you have the essentials (other than your guitar) that you will need to get started
You should have things like: Guitar Picks, Guitar Strap and a Guitar Tuner.
Guitar picks coms in many different sizes and thicknesses. Start with a pick that has a medium or heavy thickness. You will find that thin picks have too much give when strumming or picking individual notes. That can slow you down when you are playing.
Thicker picks are better because they push through the string easier. They also give you more volume without extra effort.
The guitar strap holds the guitar in place when you are playing. This might not seem like a big deal right away but if you don’t use a guitar strap your guitar will slide when you play. A guitar sliding all over the place makes playing and practicing harder. You spend more time focusing on keeping the guitar in place.
Having a tuner (even if you don’t know how to use it at first) is very important. You want your guitar to be in tune every time you play it. If you don’t know how to use a tuner, you can ask your guitar teacher to help you
(Should Not Do) Pick up bad practice/playing habits
Even if you choose not to take guitar lessons you still need to have good practice habits. How long you practice for is not as important as what you do while you are practicing. Yes, you could do this on your own but only after a lot of trial, error and frustration.
(Should Do) Be patient with yourself as you are going through the process
Becoming a great guitar player takes time and you will have to be patient with yourself. Some guitar players will give up without giving themselves a fair shot. Mastering the guitar does not happen overnight. There are some things that you will pick up on faster than others. That is normal. Don’t get down on yourself and most important….
(Should Not Do) Give up
Guitar is a great instrument to play. It is so much fun to play and sounds so cool. It can be frustrating at times. Know that every guitar player who has ever become good or great went through the same things as you. Those guitar players never quit, stayed with it and got really good. There is no reason that you can’t do the same thing.
If you are working with the right guitar teacher, it is easier to get past the things that are holding you back. You can get better. You can become the kind of guitar player that can pick up a guitar and play anything they want to play. Does that sound good to you?
About the author:
Byron Marks is a guitar teacher in Manchester, New Hampshire who teaches guitar for beginners