For The Beginning Guitarist
For most guitarists, the first steps are the ones you can make the fastest progress on without practice: that is, deciding the type of guitar to buy and making the purchase.
You come home from the store after doing your research. You have this great guitar, probably an amplifier, and several other cool accessories.
There they sit.
They look great!
What should your first steps be as you learn to play?
1) Do not worry... panic... feel overwhelmed.
No one is born knowing how to play guitar. Everyone takes time to learn. According to one well-publicized research paper it takes 10,000 hours to advance from your first steps to master-level. So, in your second week it should not surprise you that you're having trouble playing an F-chord, or making smooth chord changes, or remembering which is the G string. It takes hours and hours. Give it time, you'll do fine.
2) Buy a music theory book.
My favorite is Sandy Feldstein's Practical Theory Complete a consolidated version of her multi-volume set. It's less than $10. It begins with naming notes, understanding time, explaining the music staff and other first steps toward understanding sheet music and the fundamentals of music. The explanations are clear and well-paced. Each section includes a worksheet to check your understanding. All worksheet answers are given in the back of the book.
3) Buy two or more guitar instruction books with DVD's.
The best guitar instruction books for beginner lessons include a DVD. Most books will provide traditional written instructions, reference charts, and glossary. A well done DVD should include demonstrations, instruction, tuning help, drum and simple accompaniment tracks to play along with, exercises, and other basic first steps.
Taught by the well respected Keith Wyatt, each volume contains step-by-step instructions to teach tuning methods, essential chords, scales, practice tips, picking and strumming techniques, caring for your instrument, and more. The DVD contains over three hours of material to help illustrate the book material, plus backing tracks for the exercises, an animated fretboard, and visual aids for things like finger placement, strumming, muting, and much more.
These beginner lessons won't replace a good instructor, and they won't teach you in-depth guitar method, but if you want to get started playing guitar, these volumes are hard to beat.
4) Buy a simple songbook.
There's a million of them. Buy ones with songs that are familiar to you, and have only a few chords per song. Most include chord charts to help you along.
Don't be too concerned with songs that have complex looking chords: come back to them later, simplify the chord by only playing the first three strings, or have someone show you how to change the key with a capo. Take a look at the Easy Guitar page for lots of tips to reduce the complexity of playing.
Here are a few recommendations:
- Country Licks For Guitar - Lead guitar licks from the masters of country guitar: Chet Atkins, Jimmy Bryant, James Burton, Albert Lee, Scotty Moore, more... included CD contains normal and slow speed backing tracks;
- Instant Guitar Fakebook - Over 150 songs, plus photo/chord diagrams, melody line in music and tab, and lyrics;
- Or, have fun with Front Porch Songs - a collection of old-time songs, stories, and corny jokes; or search for one of the many songbooks by your favorite artists... some of these will challenge a beginner;
- For a wide selection of popular songs, The Greater Guitar White Pages is a huge collection of songs spanning a number of years and styles, from "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits, to Def Leppard's "Photograph," and Smash Mouth's "All Star."
5) Learn from others.
I started in a classroom setting, where your mistakes blend into a mistake concerto, so it's not intimidating at all.
Taking individual lessons is often the best way to learn while avoiding bad habits... assuming you find the right instructor. Ask around.
Jamming with friends, most of whom will be patient and very helpful, is another great way to kick-start your playing.
6) Practice every day.
Sooner or later it had to be said. Your first steps must include practice. In fact, if you ever hope to be proficient, you must practice. Remember that 10,000 hour number I mentioned in tip #1? That's practice. Putting in your time. Trying things. Figuring stuff out. Doing it again and again until it sounds right.
It can be tough, especially when you're first starting out, or have reached some plateau. But it's the only way you'll improve. Even if you just tune up and work on one part of one page of your beginner lesson material... pick up your guitar and play!
7) Read More Articles On Start-Playing-Guitar.com.
If you haven't already taken a look at all of the articles on this site, I encourage you to take a look at the home page. Read through our overview of how to get started, from buying your first guitar to understanding the fundamentals of music theory, and much more. Explore, share, have fun!