We all were beginners at some point in our lives, some come with a background with another instrument, some are totally new to musical instruments, and they got in love with the guitar because, well, it's hard not to love the guitar, with its amazing sound and versatility, and so they decided that the guitar will be their first musical instrument, and for many, maybe also the last.
These tips are more relevant to beginners of which the guitar is their first musical instrument, but it's also useful to beginners with a background on other musical instruments. It doesn't hurt to to go over them nonetheless, some of them are very important and they will shape the way you learn the guitar and how to play right from the start. So let's begin!
Tip 1: Choosing a guitar
Now I won't tell you go out there, buy an expensive high quality guitar, and you're good to go. No. Some players are just curious about the guitar, they are not sure if the guitar is for them or not, they don't have this “enthusiasm” that some players have that make them so SURE about their affinity to the guitar. If you fall in that category, just buy an around 50$ classical guitar from your local musical instruments store, and try it out. Don't waste too much money on this if you are not sure about your decision of playing the guitar. I know many people who bought a guitar for the first time, they played it for a couple of weeks to only throw it away or hang it on the wall as a trophy.
If you, however, have made up your mind and you think that your passion is in guitars, and you are eager to learn it, then do yourself a favor and don't buy that 50$ guitar, it will only discourage you to continue playing after a couple of months, when you really start knowing what you are doing, and start noticing the sound and each tone that you make. There are plenty of good quality, in-expensive entry level guitars that range from 150$ to 500$, that you can buy either from your local guitar store, or from the internet.
I made a reviews-article that suggests several options for the guitar beginner, ranging from classical guitars, electric, to acoustic. These suggestions are based on guitarists' recommendations, the company profile of the guitar (such as Yamaha, Cort, Ibaneze, all are respected names in the guitar production industry), customer reviews, and seeing it in action either in real life, or on video on youtube. The choice is yours, you can visit your local store if you want, but if you're looking to buy online, here's the reviews article (and it keeps updating), you will find some pretty interesting suggestions that are worth to look at: Great Guitar for Beginners
Tip 2: The type of the guitar to choose
Should you start on classical guitar? electric guitar? or perhaps acoustic? To be honest, I wrote a comprehensive article discussing this topic, which can enable you to come with your own conclusion and decision regarding this matter, you can check the article here: Pick a Guitar.
Bottom line is, all three options are actually valid options to start learning the guitar with, many prefer starting with the classic or acoustic guitar, mainly because of its clean sound, and basic form which allows you to concentrate only on the note and finger techniques, and much less expensive than the electric guitar, which you have to buy a guitar amplifier with and a cable. However, there are no restrictions or rules regarding this issue, and choosing the electric guitar as a starting point is also considered acceptable. So, your choice!
Tip 3: Posture and Positioning
The correct posture holding the guitar, as well as correct hand and finger positioning, is the first important basic lesson that everyone can have. Learn to hold the guitar the correct way, place your left hand correctly on the fretboard, press down your fingers correctly on the strings, and regarding your right hand, learn how to use your pick correctly, starting from the basic pick-down style, then pick-up, then combining both, and if you are using your fingers, a correct fingerstyle technique is required.
How to learn all that? Here are three options:
- Check The Basics page here, of which I explain briefly on this matter (I will upload video soon as well).
- Watch Steve Vai in his world's largest online guitar lesson talking about this issue (among others) for the guitar beginner, where I add my own analysis and inerpretation to it here: A Lesson with Steve Vai
- Watch pros and expert guitarists on youtube, and try to imitate them. Each one have his own style of course, but the basic technique of holding the guitar and hand positioning, is all the same, except for picking styles with your right hand, that can be different with each player. Still, some basic picking techniques is common among all guitar players.
Tip 4: Build a strong foundation right from the start.
I can't stress how important this is. Every one can get a guitar, download some songs' tabs, practice intensively for a couple of months, and play them fairly well. The problem is, when you get past this point of playing these intermediate-level songs, which is perfectly fine if that's what you want to do with your guitar! but when you get past it, and want to progress to advanced and expert levels, if you skipped the essential beginner process which is full of important instructions such as posture, hand and finger positioning, gradual coherent learning of techniques and exercises, you will find it practically impossible or very difficult.
So the solution is this, nothing beats learning from a well respected professional guitarist that knows what he's talking about and willing to teach you. If you are able to find such a person, that doesn't charge you 30$ bucks per hour, unless you have excessive spare of money, then go for it. But there's an alternative to this, we are in the age of the internet, and you can find almost every kind of service online, including services and programs that are made to teach you how to play the guitar. You will find a section in this website dedicated for reviews on such programs online, I suggest you check it out, check each program I recommend, and choose one that suits you the most. The page can be found HERE and it's constantly updated with new reviews. Just to name a few popular ones: Jamplay, GuitarTricks, etc.
Tip 5: Your own progress, your own success
Some players will progress through the early beginner stages quickly, some don't. Some will actually experience lots of difficulties starting out, but once they get past that phase, they race to pro level like a rocket. Some are naturally slow learners and will have a steady, slow learning curve throughout the whole process, and very few are those prodigies that are born to play the guitar (them 7 year old Asian kids! hah).
Doesn't matter what type you are, it shouldn't affect your learning and discourage you in any way, this is a personal matter and we are all different. Don't compare yourself with others. Actually, some of the best guitarists today were slow learners, like Steve Vai, but his dedication, and setting goals to himself, and spending time into practice, he managed to overcome, and become the guitar virtuoso that he is today. Learn from him and get inspired!
Tip 6: Learn to play without looking
That's actually very hard to do when you are a beginner. However, starting with intermediate level, you should start getting used to playing without looking at your fretboard. This will actually enhance your memory muscle, and enables you to play faster because your hand and fingers are used to the physical distances between each note.
Just look at the pros, they don't need to look after their hands when they play, and when they do, they peek for a moment then continue playing normally.
That's a thing to remember to work on staring from intermediate level and above, and don't take it for granted! If you don't let your mind and fingers learn the location of the notes and distances on the fretboard, you will have trouble later on playing literally everything.
I'm sure there are a lot more tips to give, but these are the main essential points that every guitar beginner needs to know. From having the right gear for you, to building a strong foundation on the guitar, and learning the right techniques for handling and playing the guitar for many years to come.
Along your journey learning the guitar you will discover more tips by yourself or by other more experienced players and instructors, don't overlook anything even if it was hard for you to implement, but rather learn to persevere and have the right discipline to do everything right. Spending 6 months on a hard technique to eventually master it, is much better than spending 1 month to play it wrong and everyone can notice it.
Feel free to leave a comment below in case you have an opinion, feedback, or something to add, it's always a good idea to share thoughts and open discussions for the benefit of everyone. Thanks for reading and good luck!