Hopefully, with my advice for beginning guitarists I can help you gain some perspective on learning to play guitar whether you are wanting to learn yourself or you are a parent with a child who wants to learn. Either way, a beginning guitarist needs to approach learning to play the guitar from the proper perspective and with reasonable expectations. My intent is to provide you with enough information on the various aspects of learning to play guitar to help you get started on the right foot.
People decide that they want to learn to play guitar for a variety of reasons. Some people just want be able to play like their favorite
stars, some want to play professionally, some just want to be able to play well enough to play for gatherings of friends and
family, etc. My best advice for beginning guitarists is to decide what your goals are and plan accordingly. Your path to learning to play
guitar will determine the direction you need to take.
Do you want to be a professional musician? If that's the case you are embarking on a long process. One thing that will be essential for your success is a good understanding of music theory and how it applies to the guitar. My best advice for beginning guitarists in this case is to find an accomplished teacher in the style that you want to play. I recommend the same if you're just wanting to play like your favorite stars. A good teacher will guide you systematically through learning the music theory that you need to know as well as guiding you systematically through developing the physical skills you will need. If you already have some musical knowledge, say from playing in school band or something similar, you can learn a lot of the theory yourself.
I highly recommend materials such as the Carcassi Method and the Adam Schearer series for Classical guitarists. This may not be the type of music you want to play but what you can learn from these is applicable to any style and the technical exercises will greatly elevate your playing skills, again, no matter what style you want to play. I also recommend the Mel Bay series of books - they're primarily Country Music based but they contain a lot of great information. If you're after Blues, Jazz, Rock or Heavy Metal, materials from the Musician's Institute are just the ticket. I still recommend finding a good instructor, though. Along these lines, another piece of advice for beginning guitarists that I can give is to find Bluegrass songs to help you develop your picking techniques. Bluegrass pickers are among the most skilled in the business. Practicing Classical and Bluegrass guitar runs is a surefire way to turn yourself into a serious shredder.
If you are in the third category I mentioned above and you already have some musical knowledge, picking up some good instructional materials and teaching yourself is feasible, although it will take you longer to become a good player than it would with an instructor. If you don't already have musical knowledge, find yourself a good instructor. It might mean the difference between feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and quitting instead of hanging in there until you get it together.
I still recommend finding a good instructor, however, some of us like to do things ourselves and at our own pace. In addition, guitar lessons aren't cheap. Depending on the instructor, you can expect to pay between $50 to $100 an hour for lessons. Aside from the resources I mentioned above, there are some great learning tools and programs that can provide you with a detailed and highly structured approach to learning to play the guitar. One of the best online resources is Jamorama. Jamorama is one of the best and most popular online guitar learning courses on the market. The only real downside to Jamorama is that you need to download a few hundred megabytes of information. The material is well organized and is a great resource for the beginning guitarist. You can get a hard copy CD/DVD set but it will cost you more. Either way you get a full year's worth of instruction for much less than a year's worth of lessons from an instructor would cost you.
Another great resource is Guitar Superstars. One of the major advantages of Guitar Superstars is that everything can be accessed through an online Members area. In addition, you get what they call the GSS Jam Machine which allows you to create your own jams or use pre-recorded jam tracks to help you not only to develop your playing skills but also to help you to learn to play with other musicians. In addition, you get lessons from 7 professional instructors in musical styles that range from Blues, to Rock, Heavy Metal and everything in between. Guitar Superstars is not as comprehensive as Jamorama but it's still a great value for the money.
If you want to become an accomplished guitarist you absolutely MUST master scales. The scales are what all music is based on no matter what style it is. Scales form the basis of chords, riffs, melodies, harmonies, etc. At first, mastering the scales can seem daunting and overwhelming. Craig Bassett's Guitar Scale Mastery is designed to help you learn and master the scales and really shine up your playing skills. Now, to be honest, I've got to tell you that this course is not for everybody. It's really intended for the Intermediate to Advanced player who wants to really advance their mastery of the guitar. Before you begin this course you really need to be able to read tabulature, have a basic knowledge of scales and be willing to put in the time and work it takes to really get it together. No teacher or tool is going to turn you into a master guitarist in a few days.
Once you're ready, there is another tool that is absolutely fantastic. Even though you may know how to read music, trying to master an over the top Hendrix or Clapton or Zakk Wylde lick is super difficult. It isn't just the difficulty of pulling off a riff that is so fast that it sounds like an UZI on full auto, it's also being able to get the feel of the riff right. If, however, you can slow the riff down without affecting the pitch, you can start with it slowly, get everything right and then work on speeding it up. Riffmaster Pro is exactly the tool for the job. I have a practice tool that can do that but it's not the easiest thing in the world to use. You have to go by ear to decide where you want to start playing and where you want to stop. Once you've spent 10 or 15 minutes getting that right so the tool loops over the section you want to work on, you've got to get the tempo set where you want it as well as setting a number of other things so that you're not affecting the pitch. Riffmaster Pro has a slick visual interface that you can easily use to set the part of the song you want to loop over and then set the tempo where you want it. This really is a slick tool and I'm not telling you everything that it can do. When you're ready, this is definitely a tool you'll want.
My best advice for beginning guitarists here is - BE PATIENT! Also, approach your endeavor with reasonable expectations. Don't
think that you're going to pick up a guitar and in a couple of months be burning it up like Chet Atkins or wailing away like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix
or Zakk Wylde. One of the most valuable piecees of advice for beginning guitarists that I can give here is ignore all these crap advertisements for miracle products or methods that claim they'll have you playing on a professional
level in a few minutes, hours or days. It ain't gonna happen. Not only are you going to have to learn chords, scales, notes and where they are on the guitar,
you also have train your hands and develop the muscle memory to be able to play all of it without having to stop and think about it.
It takes a lot of time to develop all that, as well as the advanced techniques like bends, trills, vibrato, harmonics, tremolo picking, etc. that make you favorite players
sound so good.
Also, you have to develop the sheer physical endurance that your fingers, wrists and forearms need. Just like taking up weight lifting you're going to be working muscles in a way that they're not used to. They're going to get tired and sore. Your fingertips are going to get so sore that you can scarcely bear to press down the strings. It takes time to develop the muscle strength to hold chords and successfully pull off some of the advance fingering techniques. It takes time for your fingertips to stop developing blisters and develop the calluses they need to keep from hurting when you play. I've been playing for forty years and my fret hand fingertips still sometimes feel bruised after a marathon playing session. My best advice for a beginning guitarist here? Don't be discouraged by this and just know that you WILL get there if you perservere and don't give up.
Whether you're a seasoned professional or a total beginner, you need quality equipment. If you have crappy equipment, you will have a crappy sound regardless of the level that you play at. However, my best advice for beginning guitarists is DO NOT go out and spend a ton of money on professional level equipment. You don't need it. You can get good quality equipment for a very affordable price if you know what you're looking at. I have two pieces of advice for beginning guitarists on this. First, if you know an experienced guitarist, have them go with you to your local music store and help you pick out good entry level equipment. You can get everything you need for under $700 if you know what you're looking at. One very good option is to buy a starter pack, which many manufacturers offer. Secondly, you can buy online if you know whose entry level equipment is good quality and which online dealers will stand by their offerings and will deal with you fairly. I have had personal experience with a number of online dealers over the years and I can guide you to dealers you can trust. In addition, I know the histories of most of the manufacturers of guitars and equipment and I know who provides good quality equipment whether it's entry level or professional level equipment.
I put together the Beginner's section of this site not only to provide advice for beginning guitarists but also to point beginning guitarists in the right direction
both in terms of the mindset to approach learning to play guitar as well as advice on quality
entry level equipment. Why am I stressing not buying professional level equipment to learn on(especially if, at some point, I decide to develop affiliate
relationships with various dealers and would potentially make a commission if something is purchased through this site)? It's simple. My main purpose for this
entire site is to provide the best information and advice that I can. It's been my experience that a lot more people want to learn to play guitar
than actually follow through with it. In some cases, after they realize what's involved and how much time it will take, they decide they really
didn't want to learn to play that badly after all. Some simply get frustrated and quit when they don't become Jimi Hendrix in a month or two. Some buy crappy
equipment and nothing they do sounds good no matter how hard they try and they get aggravated and quit. I can't do anything about the first two groups,
but I can take away the third possibility by pointing you to good equipment. On the first two, the only advice for beginning guitarists that I can give is don't quit!
If you do decide that playing guitar isn't for you, for whatever reason, I hopefully
will have prevented you from spending potentially thousands of dollars on equipment that's just going to sit and gather dust.