You finally got your hands on a guitar and have visions of you singing and playing at half time at the Super Bowl (hey, it’s okay to dream). Well okay, maybe you’re more down to earth and see yourself playing and singing for your personal enjoyment or for family and friends.
Either way, most of us go through the up and down cycle:
Up – Excitement – you know, the “hooray – I got it” moment!
Down – The Question – we grab our new pride and joy and then THE BIG QUESTION hits …….
What the heck do I do now?
Well, here are some tips to counter that feeling and help you make the most of this experience.
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Step one: Learn to tune your guitar
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it, but you’d be surprised the number of people who have a guitar but don’t know how to tune it. A digital electronic tuner can simplify this process, they aren’t expensive and you can find one in any music store. It’s a good idea also to try to learn how to tune the guitar by ear. To do this, you need to get used to the sound of the notes, which takes practice, but it’s great training and can bail you out when your batteries drain.
Another alternative in this internet age is the online tuning site. There are sites you can log into and they’ll play the notes you need to tune your guitar.
Step two: Learn the parts of your guitar
Again, this may sound obvious, but it’s important to be able to identify the parts of your acoustic or electric guitar by their proper names. This includes frets, fret board, bridge, tuner and so on. It’ll help you understand when talking with other musicians.
Step three: Learn the right way to hold the guitar
The position you use will have a lot to do with how well you play, how quickly the notes start sounding clear and sharp and also how much your joints and fingers bother you in the beginning. So, don’t just grab the guitar and go, learn the correct posture and positioning of the hands to help you begin and advance your play.
Step four: Learn the open string notes
Guitars typically have six strings. Each open string is a musical note. The six notes on the guitar starting from the string closer to you are E A D G B E. This will also help you in learning how to tune the guitar.
Step five: Learn the numbers for each open string
Guitar strings are often referred to as numbers from one to six. Number one corresponds to the high E 9 (the skinny string) and you work your way up from there. This, for most people is considered starting from the bottom rather than the top. Don’t know why they did that, but that’s the way it is. Learn it.
Step six: Learning the frets
Frets are technically the wires you see on the fret board (see, gotta know the names of the guitar parts) that run across the neck of the guitar. But when we talk about this or that fret when playing, we’re really referring to the spaces between those cross-wires. Frets also have numbers and the most common numbering puts the number one fret to be the one closest to the head stock.
Step seven: Learn to ‘fret’ your guitar
Fretting the guitar means to position your fingers on the fret board. Try placing your fingers slightly behind the fret wire as this position will produce a more clear sound.
Step eight: Holding the pick
There are almost as many right ways to hold a guitar pick as there are musicians. You’ll find what you’re comfortable with over time, but at least in the beginning, try holding the pick between your thumb and first finger with the pick facing outwards. You can adjust to your style as you progress.
Step nine: Strumming the guitar – the right way!
Strumming has two motions – Down strokes and up strokes (deep thought isn’t it). All strumming methods are based on these two movements. Start by learning these strokes and you’ll soon be able to do many combinations.
Step ten: Reading TAB
TAB, short for tablature, is a simple easy way to notate guitar music without having to learn how to read music in the traditional sense. The diagram has six lines that represent the six strings. So far, so good.
The numbers on the lines represent the fret you have to play. Other notations may vary according to the style and technique the song is written in. You’ll be able to find a TAB score for any song so being able to read TAB will be a lot of help, unless of course you’d really like to learn how to read music.
Step eleven: Choosing the right guitar lessons
Many people try to learn the guitar by being a “Google Guitarist”. They use Google to find lessons and end up bouncing from one site to another. If you do that, you won’t be able to make a real schedule and you’re unlikely going to learn anything except bits of riffs and tunes. The result will probably be to give up on your dreams.
What you should do is to choose a lesson program and stick to it. This will teach you the basics and, once you master them, you can advance more easily and then pick between different more advanced programs or, learn on your own.
Whether you choose DVD / hardcopy or completely online, or anything in between is immaterial. Once you choose one, unless is clear you made a mistake, stick with it. It may surprise you to know that you are the most important part of the equation, not the lessons. A determined student will learn to play, almost despite the course or coach.
Step twelve: Taking care of the guitar
If you have an acoustic guitar it’s most likely made of wood and you should be aware that changes in temperature and humidity can affect the finish and sound quality.
An electric guitar many not be as subject to these factors, but there are other things to consider like keeping the electrical components clean and dry to avoid sound quality deterioration.
Either way, take a moment to learn how to take care of your guitar, how to carry it and how to store it. Changing strings and using technical equipment are also things you should know.