5 Tips for Beginner Guitarists

Tip #1 Get a Guitar (that you want to play)

Getting your first guitar when you are starting out can make or break your experience learning the guitar.  I have been teaching Guitar consistently since I was 16, and when I began my teaching career I would travel door to door working with a lot of beginners.  I taught adults and children of different ages and one thing that I saw happen again and again when teaching beginners is that if their guitar didn’t feel good to play then they wouldn’t practice.  You certainly don’t need to spend a lot of money, or any money in some cases on your first guitar, but it is important to make your instrument comfortable to play.  For children that can mean getting a guitar with a thinner neck and a smaller body.  For all people of smaller builds a concert size acoustic would be much more comfortable to play than a dreadnought size.  Most importantly of all, if you find it hard to press down the strings (even with good technique) then get your guitar setup with lighter strings.  This is a service I provide for my students locally and most music shops can setup and restring a guitar for $20-75 dollars.  This will make the guitar much more easier to play and will make it more fun to pick up your guitar and practice.  If you are just starting out on guitar; get a guitar that you want to play.

Tip #2 Find a Mentor

When learning any new skill it is important to find people with more experience to give you feedback on what you are doing.  If you are baseball player trying to improve your swing you get a batting coach, and if you are a musician then you find a music teacher or a producer to help you along.  Having someone with years of experience can save you thousands of hours of time and effort when you are learning music.  A good mentor can show you have they have approached certain concepts and provide you with a good foundation.  They can get to know what you are interested in and guide you towards it.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be practicing and learning on your own, but instead you should be curious about what you want to learn and seek out mentors that will help you get where you want to go.  If you are struggling to get where you want to with Guitar, find a mentor that can take you there.

Tip #3 Don’t Compare

These days it is easy to compare ourselves to others.  We do it all the time with social media and at work and school.  In music, it is easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to others.  As musicians we aspire to play like our favorite players.  We are influenced by the riffs and solos that we learn and we spend hours trying to play just like the recording.  We all have different interests and are influenced by different musicians, so it is hard for two guitarists to sound the same.  Focus on your influences and aspire to play like your favorite players, but don’t compare yourself to them because you will end up finding your own style.  Don’t compare and stay positive!

Tip #4 Take Your Time

Learning guitar for the first time is really exciting.  If you are just getting into music then you are finding out about Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and many other iconic musicians.  There are so many different genres of music and so many songs out there that it can be overwhelming to know where to start.  Since the rise of the internet, 21st century musicians have had the privilege of growing up with Youtube and websites like ultimateguitar.com.  This puts thousands of songs at our fingertips with video lessons and free online tabs.  Not every video lesson and tab on the internet is going to have the right information and it can be frustrating to find reliable information.  Try to find a few sources of information that you trust and close those other 20 tabs in your internet browser.  Don’t expect to have a song memorized after skipping through half of 10 different Youtube lessons.  When you are learning the guitar, don’t rush and don’t expect results overnight.  The best players have years of practice and have spent thousands of hours on the simplest of concepts.  Take your time and make sure you understand what you are learning.

Tip #5 Learn Full Songs

One of the hardest milestones for a beginning guitarist is learning a song all the way through.  You might start by learning the names of the notes and a few riffs and parts of songs when you first start out.  When I work with beginners I try to get them to play a song all the way through after 5-8 weeks.  Learning to play an entire song and keep track of the form (verse, chorus, bridge etc.) is important if you want to play with other musicians.  If you have aspirations of starting a band or accompanying yourself singing, then the most important thing you can do is learn songs all the way through.  When it comes time for your first performance it is better to know 10 songs all the way through than 30 riffs and solos.  Learn to play songs all the way through.

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