Do you want to learn to play the guitar? Are you concerned that you won't have enough time? Maybe you think you're too old to learn an instrument.
To be honest...
Those worries are valid. Starting a new instrument or hobby can be scary. If you don't know much about the subject, it can feel downright intimidating.
But you can learn to play the guitar. No need to worry about time constraints or age limits. Because they don't exist in the world of music.
You can learn to play even if you only have a few minutes each day to practice. And you definitely don't have to be young to learn an instrument.
The guitar is an amazing instrument, but you probably already knew that.
You're sitting on your porch, strumming out a tune on your guitar with ease. How would that feel? If that's something you really want, then you can make it happen.
And we can help.
Take Your Pick
The guitar is a very versatile instrument, and it has been around for a long time. Anyone can learn to play, and you don't need experience with music.
However, knowing a bit about the guitar's history and how it works will make it easier for you to learn.
There's a lot more to the guitar than what meets the eye. It's not your average string instrument. You can pluck it, strum with a pick, and you can even use the guitar body to make cool effects.
Not only that:
There are acoustic guitars, electric guitars, guitars with different strings, and more. You can play almost any type of music on the guitar.
- And music from around the world
The sky is the limit, and the guitar has something for everyone.
You read that right.
Big Guitar! The world's biggest guitar is over 13 meters (43 feet) long.
Highway to here
The guitar has its roots in Spain (any flamenco fans here?). An instrument called the guitarra latina is considered the guitar's predecessor.
This guitar had four strings as opposed to six on modern guitars. Also, the instrument was narrower and had a deeper body.
The guitar is a close relative to the vihuela, which the Spanish used in place of the lute.
Funny thing is:
Early guitars looked similar to today's violins because the pegs and bridge shared a similar design. But in the 16th century, the guitar's design started to change. Eventually, two more strings were added to give us the six-string guitar we have today.
Around 1600, the design of the pegs changed from violin style to that of the modern guitar. The guitar's body experienced changes to increase the sound and sound quality. This meant that the body became deeper and wider.
The acoustic guitar is probably the oldest version that we use today, but there are many other types of guitar. Of these, the electric guitar is the most common.
Navigating the guitar
The guitar has a few parts and features that you should know about. If you don't know your way around a guitar, it will be much more difficult for you to learn to play.
Let's look at the different parts of the guitar.
Starting at the top of the guitar (when held vertically) these are the parts you will see:
Tuning keys (or pegs)
Pickups (electric only)
Pickup selector switch (electric only)
Volume/ tone controls (electric only)
Vibrato bar/whammy bar (electric only)
Output jack (electric only)
The neck and the body are the two most distinctive parts of the guitar.
You will use the neck to determine what notes the guitar produces, and you will make those notes by strumming or plucking on the strings over the body.
You may notice some features don't exist on all guitars. Anything that has to do with electricity only exists on electric guitars. Acoustic guitars have a saddle which is where one end of the strings go.
There's no reason for any guitar to have features it won't use.
The nice thing about the guitar that other string instruments don't have are the frets. If you don't have a good ear, you don't have to worry about misplacing your fingers and playing a wrong note.
The science behind the sound
Like other string instruments, the acoustic guitar produces sound when strings vibrate and cause air in the body to vibrate. The sound hole releases that air and makes the sound.
On the other hand:
Electric guitars produce sound through an electric amplifier (or amp).
To produce a sound on an electric guitar, you will need to connect it to a power source. However, you can hear some residual sound by playing the guitar without an amp.
The fact is:
Regardless of the type of guitar you play, the strings play an essential role in the pitch levels of your guitar. Most guitars have one range of pitches, though the bass guitar has a lower range.
The regular guitar has six strings, but you can play more than six notes. To play these extra notes, you simply need to change the length of the string.
And to do that, you change the length by placing one of your fingers on the string. The longer the string, the lower the pitch. Similarly, the shorter the string, the higher the pitch.
Yeah, more science.
Popular Music or Popular Instrument? Next to the piano, the guitar is the most popular instrument for people to play.
Acoustic or electric?
Some of the main parts of the guitar are the same on acoustic and electric instruments. Both have a body, a neck, strings, frets, and tuning pegs.
Since an acoustic guitar produces sound without electricity, it needs a decent sized body that the sound can vibrate in.
For this reason, electric guitars are thinner than acoustic guitars.
Looking at the front of the guitar, the acoustic guitar looks more simple compared to the electric. Electric guitars have different switches and buttons to adjust your tone and volume. Acoustic guitars don't need all of those extra features.
So, should you start on an acoustic or electric instrument?
The truth is:
There are pros and cons to both.
Learn to Speak Guitar
Once you're ready to learn to play, you should learn how to speak guitar.
As long as you know the basics, you can get to strumming in no time.
Here are some terms you should know:
3/4 SIZE GUITAR:
A smaller guitar, great for kids and small adults
A bar that you place on the guitar to shorten all of the strings.
Three or more notes that you play at the same time.
The part of a song that's repeated throughout the song.
When you strum with your fingers instead of a guitar pick.
A triangular or teardrop shaped piece of nylon or plastic that you use to strum the guitar.
The distance between two notes.
Playing the guitar, usually one string or note at a time.
The specific way a player adjusts their instrument.
The guitar strings typically tune to E-A-G-D-B-E from lowest to highest.
When you play two or more strings by brushing across them.
TABLATURE or TAB:
One writing system that you commonly find for guitar music.
An electric devise that tells you what note it detects.
All About The Bass
You have your guitar, and you know some basic guitar terms. Also, you should know some music theory. Don't freak, we'll break it down.
Here's where we dig deep:
You don't have to read traditional sheet music to play guitar. A lot of guitar music uses tablature or tab. Instead of notating the pitches you play, tab tells you what string to play and which fret to press.
Now, this doesn't tell you how long to play that note, so some tab music has conventional notation below it, so you know when to change notes.
What you need to know is:
The guitar is a popular chordal instrument. This means that the guitar usually plays chords. So, you'll start your guitar journey with a chord or two.
Chords are the backbone to music because they support the melody that you sing or play.
Another popular form is...
Lead sheets. Often used in jazz music, lead sheets provide the melody with chord changes above it.
A lead sheet solves the problem of tablature because the lead sheets show the rhythm and progression of the piece.
But here's the bad news:
It can be hard to read if you don't know many chords.
Now, you're ready to learn to play guitar. It doesn't matter if you want to learn on an acoustic or an electric guitar.
You know a little about the guitar's history, the parts of the guitar, and how the guitar makes a sound.
Music theory and guitar terms? No problem, you know the basics.
There's a huge misconception that adults can't learn to play guitar or any instrument. Only children can really learn an instrument. Luckily, that's far from the truth.
Sure, children have access to teachers and other music students. School is a great place to learn to play.
But you don't have to be in school to do it.Yes, you read that right. As long as you have the desire and determination to play, you can learn. Now, you probably won't become the next Jimi Hendrix. And that's okay. Your passion for music will help you learn and it will keep you going even when you get frustrated.
Anyone can start at any age. In fact, there are some advantages to learning an instrument as an adult. You don't have to worry about playing for a grade.As an adult student, you can play for the fun of it. No pressure.
Left-handed? No Problem! If you're worried about playing guitar as a lefty, you can do it. You can get a left-handed guitar, or you can learn to play a right-handed guitar.
If you need the reasons, here's why you should!
Playing an instrument benefits almost every part of your body from your brain to your heart.
But that's not all:
If you learn to play guitar, you will be able to play almost any type of music out there.
Let's look a few amazing reasons why:
Improve your memory
There are multiple ways in which playing an instrument benefits your brain. The first way is by improving your memory.
Do you ever feel like you forget the simplest of things? Maybe you forgot to get milk at the grocery store, or you had to send a belated birthday card to your friend.
Well, playing an instrument like the guitar can actually improve your memory by stimulating different areas of your brain. This improves your cognitive function and therefore your memory.
Do you find yourself drifting off during the day? Sometimes, it can be hard to concentrate on the task at hand.
The good news is that music can help with that.
If you learn to play guitar, the same brain activity that helps your memory will also improve your concentration. Gone are the days of falling into an hour-long Facebook session.
Check this out:
After a long day of work, you just want to lay on your couch watching Netflix.
But wait. Do this instead:
Pick up your guitar, and channel that anxious energy into something you love.
Playing guitar is also a great creative activity. You can play music for yourself, and it can take your mind off of the day's events.
Choose a song that will help you de-stress.
It's an awesome way to maintain the balance between your work and personal life.
Lower blood pressure
Playing guitar involves your hands, wrists, and arms. The increased strength you get from playing guitar can help lower your blood pressure.
According to a study by Harvard Health, power ballads and love songs are especially great at reducing blood pressure and anxiety.
So next time you feel overwhelmed, take some time to play guitar. It could totally change your day.
Get social! While it might be lonely when you start, music isn't supposed to be a solo endeavor. Network with other musicians in your area and form a group that you can play with.
There's something for everyone
So this benefit isn't as health-related as the other ones. However, that doesn't mean it isn't important.
The guitar is one of the most versatile instruments, and you can play almost any type of music with it. Of course, there are plenty of fantastic guitar solos in rock music. But there's also flamenco music, popular music, jazz music, and so much more.
You don't have to feel constricted to one or two genres with the guitar.
Improve your memory
Lower blood pressure
There's something for everyone
So You Want to Play Guitar
You understand the history and inner workings of the guitar. You know a little bit of music theory. You're aware of the multiple benefits that come with playing music.
You know that guitar is the instrument for you. But you still have a few questions.
In fact, you should have more questions. You're a new guitar student, and you should be curious.
“If you want to be a rock star or just be famous, then run down the street naked, you’ll make the news or something. But if you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play and play! And eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.”
-- Eddie Van Halen
But it's too hard
Truth be told, guitar can be hard to learn.
But there's good news:
It doesn't take long to learn a couple of chords, and you can build on that.
The thing is, as with everything, it takes a desire and a commitment. As long as you have that, learning is much easier than you think.
“I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it.”
-- Jimmy Page
Maybe I should teach myself
Thanks to the internet, you can learn just about anything with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger.
But should you learn guitar that way?
Plenty of guitar players are self-taught. They used books, websites, and video tutorials to teach themselves how to play.
If you're disciplined enough, you definitely can teach yourself how to play guitar.
So, you can, but it may take you longer.
Maybe not. It all depends on your learning style.
Self-teaching tip: If you decide to teach yourself, take advantage of videos and forums. Seek out as much information as you can about the guitar. Once you're ready, you can even post videos of your playing for feedback or just to share your new skill.
Okay, I'll take lessons then
We're not going to say one way or the other that you should or shouldn't take lessons.
Private or even group guitar lessons can be very beneficial, especially for beginners. However, not everyone has access to guitar lessons.
Maybe you live in a rural area, or your schedule is too busy for a dedicated lesson.
If you want to learn more quickly, then you might want to invest in at least a few lessons. A guitar teacher can tell you about the best practice methods. Guitar teachers can see and hear what's holding you back as you learn to play.
If you can afford to take a few guitar lessons, we would recommend it. It's a great way to speed up your progress and get to learning those guitar solos sooner.
We've answered some basic questions you might have about learning to play guitar. You're still probably wondering about how to get your first guitar.
There are many places where you can shop for a guitar, and there are many brands you can choose from.
Of course, we can't forget to mention that you will also need a few accessories for your guitar.
If you already have your guitar, go here:
"How to tune the guitar"
Where to buy
You can buy a guitar online or in person from multiple different stores.
Here are some places to start:
- Guitar Center
- Music & Arts
- Local music store
- Facebook marketplace
If you have a teacher to help -- even better.
A teacher or experienced guitar player can tell you want to look for and what to avoid.
Choosing your first guitar
Once you're ready to buy a guitar, you should try a couple of them to see what feels right for you. You don't have to know how to play it.
When you test a guitar, you should pay attention to how it feels to hold it. Figure out how easy or hard it is to depress the strings. Check the tuning pegs to see if they are easy or hard to turn.
As a beginner, you don't need the most expensive or high tech model on the market.
Here's what you should look for:
- You do want to get a guitar that is easy to play and can last for a while.
- You also need to decide if you want to learn on an acoustic or electric guitar.
- Acoustic guitars require fewer accessories, so they're usually cheaper.
- However, electric guitars are great if you want to play rock music. You can also practice electric guitars more quietly as long as you don't plug them in.
- Another consideration is your budget. If you aren't totally sure you will stick with the guitar, you should look for a more budget-friendly option.
- Some stores will even let you rent a guitar in case you don't stick with it.
- A rental is also great for fast learners because you can trade in your rental for a more advanced instrument.
You can find a guitar for as low as $30 or as high as $30,000. Know your budget and stick to it.
You've chosen your first guitar! But don't check out just yet. There are a few accessories you should have on hand as you begin.
No matter which guitar you choose, you will need a backup set of strings.
Strings can break or wear down, and keeping extras on hand helps you avoid a last minute trip to the music store.
You should also get a few guitar picks. Guitar picks are small and easily lost, so you should keep a few in your case.
And since guitar picks come in different materials and thicknesses, you should have a variety of them for different songs.
If you plan to take your guitar with you out of the house, you should also invest in a guitar case. It can be a soft case (or gig bag). But you want something that can protect your guitar from the elements.
And if you want a safe place for your guitar at home, consider a guitar stand. That way, you don't have to put it in the case or haphazardly on a bed or table.
You should also get a tuner for your guitar. There are plenty of smartphone tuner apps you can use, or you can purchase a physical tuner.
Lastly, every new guitar player should get a book that covers the basics of guitar playing.
Now, you electric guitar players have a couple of extra necessities. If you play electric guitar, you should also get an amp and a cable that can connect your guitar to the amp.
How to tune the guitar
We mentioned you need a tuner, so now let's look at how you will use that tuner. A guitar has six strings, and those strings need to sound nice with each other.
Changes in temperature and air pressure can affect the tuning of your guitar strings. So when you pick up your guitar, you want to make sure the guitar is in tune with itself.
Starting from the lowest string, you want to tune your strings this way:
You don't have to have the perfect ear to tune your guitar strings. Instead, you can use a tuner app on your smartphone. Or you can purchase a physical tuner.
Once you have your guitar in hand, you can start. As a beginner, you will encounter some things that you might not expect.
First, you might find that your fingers hurt from pressing on the strings.
That's normal! Your fingers will need to develop a little bit of a callus.
But the worst is this:
You might want to give up at times. Don't. Nobody ever got anywhere by giving up. You've got this.
Remember! As a beginner, you have a lot to learn. But you can push through the beginning stages, and music will get easier
Good beginner songs
Many songs only use a few chords, so you can start playing songs earlier than you think.
The song "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster The People uses four chords. These four chords are some of the most common chords you'll come across: E minor, G major, D major, and A major.
The song "New Divide" by Linkin Park uses these same four chords. So you're well on your way to playing a ton of great songs.
One of the best things about the guitar is that you can learn many songs quickly because you don't need to know a ton of chords.
Fingers on fire
Remember those callus formations we talked about? Well, while those are developing, your fingers will hurt.
If you want to minimize, the pain, choose thinner or lighter strings.
And if you can place the strings closer to the fretboard, then that can also help reduce the amount of pressure you need to press on the strings.
Taking practice breaks can also help with pain. Make sure you listen to your body and know when to push through and when to stop playing.
Your own path... Don't worry if you can only practice a few minutes a day. Your path is different from everyone else's. Don't stress yourself out by focusing on someone who practices for hours when you don't have the stamina for that yet. You'll get there.
Despite finger pain and mental frustration from learning a new instrument, you should keep going. There will be times when you feel like you haven't gotten better. You will have days where you just don't want to play.
Here's a tip:
If you have a day where you don't feel like playing, don't force yourself. Take a break from the instrument. After a day off, you can come back to it more refreshed.
You should also do this:
Once you get comfortable with a few chords, find other musicians to play with. Join a local jam band or find jam sessions in your area. Playing with other musicians can be very motivating, and it can make you feel less isolated as a musician.
Look for new and exciting resources online. If you play the same stuff over and over, it can get boring. So add some new music into your routine.
Get to Strumming
“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”
-- Jimi Hendrix
It may seem like you have a lot to do to learn to play guitar. We aren't going to sugarcoat it:
You do have to work hard to play an instrument.
As long as you have the passion and drive, you're halfway there. The second part is getting that shiny new guitar and learning your first few chords.
It may take time, but you won't regret your decision.
From the myriad benefits of playing an instrument to taking part in a creative and social activity, playing guitar can really change your life.
- Put yourself out there
- Buy that guitar
- Get online and watch some tutorials
- Do the thing you've wanted to do for years.
Even if you don't pursue music professionally, it's an amazing hobby to have. You can be creative, and you can share your love of music with others.
Don't wait. Learn to play guitar today.
Do you already have a guitar? Have you tried to play in the past but have given up? Let us know in the comments!
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