Blog for Beginners: Starting on guitar, and becoming a good player

Posted by Bryan Peterson on

Getting your first guitar can be exciting and bewildering all at once. A guitar isn't like a video game that teaches and develops your skills and control dexterity in a training level. You may not have even thought about that part when you decided to wish for a guitar. But there it is, sitting there waiting for a new virtuoso to pick it up. So let's talk a bit about first steps. 

It's important to realize that you aren't a virtuoso as you play your first notes. You're not going to be, nobody is, and no matter how great a musician might be now, they all started right where you are. Have patience. You'll get to where you want to go. 

Following on that, it's important to know where you want to go. Keep your eyes set on a prize as you learn, and keep working towards it. This will allow you to develop a good practice habit, which we'll get to in a minute. 

Next, understand yourself. I'm a strange person. I'll admit it. When I started playing, I started on bass, and all I wanted to play was Metallica Cliff Burton lines. So I started playing Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) and I worked it and worked it until I could play it just fine. I don't mean I played it a bit and then did some other things, I played for a couple hours a day for a couple months until I could play it, and hardly touched any other piece of music. I'm obsessive that way. 

You might not be the person with the personality to choose a difficult piece as your first and just go for it with everything you have. You might be the learn a few chords and build from there with a lot of different songs, and then branch from there. The important thing is to know how you learn and pursue your studies in a way that supports you. 

And to go along with that concept, consider whether lessons are right for you. I know it costs money, and you already put out a lot for your beginner instruments. There's a time commitment to lessons, and a structure that some people struggle with. I'm a fan of in-person lessons for at minimum a few months, enough to get going.

The reality of it is, as a beginner, lessons will get your fundamentals right from the beginning, and I don't mean fundamentals like the cowboy chords and what a quarter note is. You can learn those on your own. I'm talking about how to hold the pick, strumming motion, where your thumb should be on the back of the neck, get a little specialized vocabulary of music terms, that sort of thing. A couple months of lessons can prevent a lifetime of unlearning bad habits. It takes and experienced eye to see it. As a beginner, you can't look at a video and notice these details. A good teacher will also check out the playability of your instrument as you go, to make sure if you're struggling it isn't your instrument fighting you. 

Some people can teach themselves better than lessons, but those folks are a rare few, and I'd argue that even for them, a few months of kick start with lessons to make sure your basic technique is sound would be wise. 

The best lessons won't teach you guitar, so much as how to learn guitar. When I give lessons I spend a little bit on theory, a little on exercises, a little on counting with a metronome, and a little on playing a song. These are the fundamentals, if one is off, you'll know it and it will dog you for the rest of your life like those bad habits. I do this to instill good practice habits. 

Which brings me full circle to practice habits. After 30 years of playing, I still warm up on fundamental exercises, scale runs, rhythm exercises, and other fundamentals, and the more I do this, the more I wish I always had. I'd be a much tighter player. 

We say we play the guitar much more often than we say we practice it. Set time to practice, and this practice might be working a song, but it might be working a technique or a scale. but when you practice with your set time, have a goal and pursue it.

And to counter that, set time to play. have fun, play that song and don't worry about the mistakes. Sing along badly, run around the house like you're putting on a show, kick on the stage lights and got to town. Practice and play are two different things, and should be treated differently. 

I've always taken extra time with new players in every way, selling the instrument, checking it when they come in, giving extra attention when they come in. We don't throw you in the deep end of the pool to see if you can swim. We will continue with the beginner blog experience, and develop it as almost a curriculum support for you, the beginner. Keep with us and we'll make sure you accomplish your goals. 


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