People who are interested in learning the guitar for the first time, usually ask a few of the same general questions about the whole process. In this guide I will attempt to answer some of these questions.
Because we are living in the massive information age, it can get quite overwhelming when it comes to making choices about anything anymore.
The guitar industry is no exception. However, for the beginning guitarist, this can be simplified. Later you can dig deeper into guitar theory and education. You can learn more about the parts of the guitar that make it sound just right, and be better equipped when purchasing your second, third, 4th, or 5th guitars!
I will give you my humble opinion on how I would go about buying and learning to play the guitar if I had to do it all over from the beginning.
Whether you dream of playing an electric guitar on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans, or mellowing out by the campfire with your acoustic and some friends. Playing guitar is satisfying to the soul and can become a lifelong hobby that takes you away from the everyday stresses of life.
And besides that, nothings says, "you're cool" - more than knowing how to play the guitar.
Choosing The Right Guitar
Why do so many people try to learn how to play guitar but give up before they have any success? One main reason could be that they started out on the wrong guitar. They may have tried playing with the only guitar that was available at the time. That guitar may have gone out of tune a lot, had strings that were too difficult to press down, or a number of other reasons that made it difficult or even painful to play it.
The first step is to match yourself with a guitar that will meet your needs and budget.
If you do not have a relatively playable guitar to start out with, then of course you will have to plan a visit to a local shop or an online guitar store. Local shops are great for being able to touch before you buy, but they won't always have the deals that you can get online, so check out both if you're able to before you make a purchase.
Younger children do not necessarily have to begin with a smaller scale model just because they are small. That being said, there are some guitars that are bigger than others and you should choose one that is appropriately sized. In my experience, the smaller scaled guitars made for children are not made very well and do not stay in tune and can cause one to give up sooner.
Electric or Acoustic?
An electric guitar typically has strings that are easier to press than an acoustic guitar. A nylon stringed acoustic guitar is an exception. It is a good choice if classical music is something you enjoy and is easy on the fingers. Steel stringed acoustic guitars are more for strumming pop songs and the strings can be a bit more difficult to press for beginners. But if you plan to progress as a guitarist you will have to go through a period of finger soreness anyway no matter what style of guitar you choose. Once your fingertips stiffen up a bit you will be able to play any type of guitar.
So a better question might be, what style of music do you want to play most? Knowing this will help you choose the best type of guitar to begin with.
If you like to rock, than you may want your first guitar to be an electric.
If you're into folk or unplugged styles of music, you may choose an acoustic as your first guitar. There is no reason to start with an acoustic just because you are a beginner. Eventually, most guitarist will have both anyway and many of each in time if they stick with it.
Guitar Models For Particular Styles.
The two most popular models in my opinion, (kind of like Chevy or Ford) are the Gibson Les Paul (think Slash or Jimmy Page) and Fender Stratocaster (think Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jimi Hendrix). These brands seem to be what most guitarists compare or judge all other electric guitars by.
These two brands can get quite expensive. Several thousands of dollars expensive. But don't worry, there are some less expensive models and good generic copies of each model that won't cost as much as the best model.
The differences in these two models vary greatly from the spacing of the frets to the width of the neck. But the main sound quality difference comes from the types of pickups used for each model.
Pickups are what pick up the signal from the guitar strings when you strike them, creating a distinct tone through the amplifier. The Fender is the choice for bluesy type music while the Gibson Les Paul is prefered for more harder rock style, though both are very versatile. This is a broad subject that we won't get into here though.
Here is a short example list of guitar models that are preferred by guitarist for playing certain styles of music. But really, any guitar can be used to play any style of music.
Blues Acoustic: Gibson j-200, Alvarez
Electric: Gibson Es-355
Gibson Les Paul
Classical Acoustic: Alvarez, steel or nylon.string.
Country Fender Telecaster
Heavy Metal Gibson Explorer, flying V, SG, Les Paul Dean, Ibanez iceman,
Jazz Gibson Es-175, Ibanez
Rock Fender Stratocaster
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul
Some other really good general acoustic guitar models for all types of guitar styles are, Takamine and Taylor.
Buying Your Guitar
How much should you spend on a guitar?
Before you spend any money, think about how much time you have to practice and how dedicated you think you will be.
Even if you are committed and have plenty of time to practice, you may find that after you start learning how to play, your just not enjoying it too much. I know it sounds crazy! But for whatever reason, some people just can't seem to get it. Anybody can play guitar but some will struggle with it. Some people have a natural ability to play while others have to work at it a little more. Some may decide they don't want to work at it anymore and that’s okay.
For this reason it is probably safe to spend somewhere around $150 - $200 for your first electric or acoustic guitar that is not going to be a piece of junk. There are all in one type packages that come with a guitar, amp, strings, chords etc.. ranging in the $300 range.
Buying a guitar at a local Store or Online
People buy products all the time without seeing them first. Computers, jewelry, even cars. Others have to see it and fall in love with it before they buy.
If you know exactly what you want, chances are that you can get it for less money by buying it online, and sometimes even avoid paying sales tax.
On the other hand, some local stores know they have competition and you may be able to negotiate price or get customised service if you buy through them.
New or used?
Buying new has its obvious advantages. You can always return it if there is a problem and It's always nice to have a shiny new guitar.
But buying used can be a good idea as well. Many times you can find a motivated seller with a valuable guitar for substantially less than a new one. And guitars do not typically lose much of their value. You will not get a warranty, but sometimes you can find a used guitar at a music store that may still come with a warranty.
A few things to look for if you buy used. Familiarize yourself with the parts of the guitar. Look over it to see if there are any broken parts or bent tuning keys etc. A few scratches or dents are not a big deal.
But one major thing to look for is a neck that bows too much in either direction. If the strings are raised very high off the fretboard, don't buy it.
The action, or playability of a guitar can always be adjusted by a qualified technician or even by yourself. But a seriously warped guitar neck just can't be fixed. If possible, bring someone along who can play.
Most new guitars will come ready to play. But even a new guitar may need to be adjusted, or “set up” in order for it to have good string action over the fretboard. A guitar with good action means less stress on your finger tips and more enjoyable playing. Other settings and adjustments are sometimes necessary to get the guitar to have top quality sound as well.
If you buy online, make sure you shop at a reputable store. Don't just choose any site that sells guitars. Of course you know that already. Even ebay makes me a little nervous.
Amazon, Sam Ash, American Musical Supply, are a few trusted sites that have reviews as well.
Here is a link to my site http://beginnerguitaronline.com/resources.html where you can find some of my suggested music gear that I either own and use or think is a good choice. I do make a small commission if you click on any of the links from my site and make a purchase, so thanks in advance if you decide to do so.
If you have an electric guitar, you will need an amp. You don't need an expensive amp to start out with. A practice amp will work just fine. With today's technology, even small inexpensive amps can crank out some loudness and have some really cool built in effects that can make your guitar sound like Eddie Van Halen. Of course it can’t help you to play like him but hey, it’s a start right?
If you're going to play along with a drummer who beats like an animal, you may need more wattage than a practice amp will put out. But not necessarily. My 15 watt Peavey will crank over any drummer that I’ve jammed with. If money is not an object than you can spring for a larger higher wattage amp if you want to. It’s just not necessary until you think you may want to start playing out with a band.
Also keep in mind that some cities actually have music studio rental practice rooms that you can rent out by the hour. They have amps, drums, PA speakers for singing and all the equipment your band needs to practice with. All you bring is your axe.
A guitar case is almost a necessity if you care about protecting your instrument while transporting it.
Most expensive. Preferred.
Best protection from shock, dropping, or stacking with other luggage.
Soft cases and Gig bags
Although they are made of soft material, they still provide pretty good protection.
Less expensive. Straps over your shoulder making it easy to transport and travel with.
Doesn't take up much space.
Doesn't provide protection against crushing.
Minimal bump protection.
Effect pedals are little boxes that take the sound signal from your guitar and change it into all sorts of cool sounds when you activate them by stepping on the foot switch.
You can get individual pedals for each specific sound, or an all in one type of multi processor that has several effects built in.
The choices are hard to make. They can get pretty expensive as well.
Some of the most popular and preferred sounds that most guitarist like to get from these devices are:
Delay - Repeats the notes you play after you play them. Echoes.
Chorus – Gives a fat soothing sound as if many guitars are playing at once. Tremolo effect.
Distortion – The overdriven power sound preferred for metal and rock guitar. Also can be reduced to give a crunchy sound that is not so overdriven. This is ideal for playing blues or when you want to be able to hear chords or strings more clearly but still have some bite to it.
Wah – Wah A device used in old disco songs but also made popular by Jimi Hendrix.
Creates a wah sound by altering the high and low signals when you press up and down on the pedal with your foot.
Reverb - Reproduces the natural echo sound you would get from a particular type of room. A big hall, to a small room. Most amps have this feature built in.
Flanger - Creates a swishy swirly effect. Jet plane sound. Popular with Eddie Van Halen.
Other Guitar playing essentials
Pick – also called the plectrum, is what you use to strike the strings.
Picks come in a range of thickness from very thin to very thick. Most beginners should use a medium thickness pick. I prefer .60 - .75 thickness. They are a little more flexible than a stiff pick that some may prefer.
Strings – strings come in extra light to heavy gauges. The thickness of the strings determines the tone you will get from them.
Beginners should start with a extra light or light gauge until the fingers have become stronger from playing often. More about guitar string types.
String winder/clipper – an inexpensive but valuable device that helps wind the strings around the tuning pegs when installing new strings on the guitar. Some models have additional features for clipping excess string and removing the pins that hold the strings in the saddle of an acoustic guitar.
Straps – worn around your shoulder to hold the guitar when standing.
Choose a strap that is comfortable, but also one that matches your guitar and personality.
Capo – is like a clamp that acts like a strong finger that you can place over the fingerboard at any particular fret. The capo enables you to raise the pitch of the open strings to any fret, while you finger the chords in the usual way. This is helpful when you want to transpose a song to a different key without having to change all the chords to the new key. It also gives an interesting new voicing to the chord sound. It also helps out a little with playing barre chords.
Tuners and practicing beat keepers, metronomesTuners –Electronic devices that help you tune your guitar to perfect pitch. Some more advanced models can perform rhythm patterns to practice with and have recording and playback ability with built in speakers.
The lessons at my site can help you with Tuning the guitar.
Caring For Your Guitar
Cleaning – As you play the guitar, moisture from your fingers, hands and arms will start to create grime on your guitar and especially on the strings.
Every now and then it's a good idea to take a cotton rag and dust your guitar. You don't need to use any chemicals unless it is really caked on. Then you could use some guitar polish.
Changing strings - You will want to change the strings when you notice a grimey build up under the strings or if they’re rusty or when they start to sound dull and won't stay in tune. This can be monthly, bi- monthly or even longer if you're lazy like me. It really depends on how much you play and how grimey they become. Some guitarist choose to let them stay on as long as possible. They prefer the sound or playability that older strings have. Others would rather change them as often as possible to have that crisp new string feel and sound. I prefer the Elixer nanoweb coated strings that last a really long time. They won’t rust out if your guitar has not been played in a while like most uncoated strings tend to do. Wiping down the strings after each time you play will help prolong the string corrosion process.
Learning To Play The Guitar
Finally! You got a guitar. Now you just need to learn how to play it.
If you are totally new to learning guitar, it is a good idea to get basic guitar instruction until you are able to start figuring things out for yourself.
Your options include:
Teaching yourself from a book.
Taking lessons at your local music store or by private tutor.
Taking lessons online.
Any one of these options will work. It all depends on the type of person you are and your budget.
Of course you probably know by now that you can learn the basics for free at my site Beginner Guitar Online.com
But after you’ve learned a few chords and the basics, you will hopefully want to advance and learn some of your favorite songs and some new techniques. I can try and point you in the right direction and will refer you to some of the online instruction that I have used. And as I discover new and interesting lessons I will send them your way if you allow me.
How long should you take lessons?
There is no set time rule for taking lessons. However, there is a point where you will gain enough skills to be able to teach yourself by watching and listening to other guitarist. Whenever you reach this plateau is when you will no longer need structured lessons.
This does not mean that you stop learning of course. It just means that you don't need to go to that Wednesday afternoon lesson anymore if you don't want to. Now you can learn by watching other guitarists and you should be developing your ear skills. This can be accomplished by jamming with other guitarists, searching online for songs or techniques that interest you and purchasing study guides for techniques or styles that you want to improve on.
On the other hand, you may decide to further your education at an accredited university. You may venture to become a top qualified instructor, an accomplished classical guitarist or a superior rock guitarist.
Don't worry so much about using the proper technique, or starting out with, “no bad habits”. Many online teachers will use this as a sales pitch to get you to take lessons with them. In my opinion, there really isn't only one right way to play guitar. If there were, every guitarist would probably sound about the same with nothing to set them apart. Maybe you shouldn't start out playing the guitar behind your back like Jimi Hendrix, but I think you know what I mean.
Learn the basics and then concentrate on creating your own style.
And don't forget to have fun!
Ps. In case you haven't been to my site yet, here is the link. Beginner Guitar Online
You can learn all the guitar playing basics for free and then venture out from there.
On the resources page, you will find some of the basic guitar playing essentials that you might need. Guitars, Amps, Effect pedals, strings, etc.. Gear that I use, or would personally buy if I had the money.
P.P. S. I hope this guide helped you out a bit. Please share it with anyone you think can benefit from it.
I wish you the greatest guitar playing success!
Keep it Simple!
Simple Steve’s Beginner Guitar Online Lessons.