So you finally did it. You bought that guitar you have always dreamed of playing. Now you want to learn how to play it, but you feel overwhelmed by all the instructional videos on YouTube or all the advertisements for this or that guitar class you see on your Facebook feed. How do you break through all the clutter and filler to find some real, useful information?
Well, as someone who has spent decades playing professionally, studying and teaching guitar, learning from just about every method book and instructional video out there, I can share with you these 7 tips any beginning guitarist of any age will find useful:
Be Honest and Realistic with Yourself
- You know how all your favorite guitarists look so calm and at ease with the guitar in their hands? Do you ever think about how their motions look so effortless even when they are in the midst of rocking out? How do you think they achieve that? Or more likely, do you feel discouraged because you don’t play the guitar like that or think thoughts like “I will never be that good” or “there is no way I will ever be able to play like that?”
- All of your favorite guitarists have spent years and years practicing, studying, performing, and failing to get where they are now. Nobody just picks up the guitar and is suddenly the next Jimi Hendrix overnight.
- Becoming even a decent guitarist takes consistent practice. It requires humility and the desire to learn and also the understanding that you are going to make some mistakes along the way. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t dwell on negative thoughts. Be honest with yourself about where you are and your journey will be that much smoother.
Set Goals for Yourself
- Becoming a guitarist takes consistent and dedicated practice. You can spend years wandering through chord books and tab websites and make limited progress. The key to making sustained progress is to create and follow through with goals.
- Your goals do not have to be monumental. Actually, it is better they be as simple as possible. Don’t overwhelm yourself with something you know you cannot realistically achieve just for the sake of being intense. Practice 5 days this week for 20 minutes. Learn 3 new chords this week. Learn 2 new songs. Learn a complete song, all the chords and riffs. Write 1 new chord progression.
- Many small steps taken over the course of 6 months or 1 year will yield much better results than decades of aimless practice.
Learn the Music You Want to Play, Not Music You Think You “Should” Play
- There is more music in the world today than any other time in history. A huge number of people now have access to streaming music services and thousands of new songs are being uploaded every day.
- It is important to understand and appreciate the different histories and traditions of music. There are so many different types of music in the world, each with their own cultural significance and stories.
- But don’t feel you need to learn a particular style of music if you don’t have an affinity for it. Find what interests you and pursue it because you genuinely find it interesting, not because you want to look cool.
Make Sure You Have a Guitar Tuner and Know How to Use It
- This may be a no brainer to some of you, but it wasn’t to me.
- When I was starting out, I would try to play along with recordings of my favorite songs, but my playing never sounded right. I didn’t understand why, I just thought that was how it was supposed to be.
- I went along for some months until I discovered that I was using my guitar tuner incorrectly! Wow, did I feel silly.
- There are many phone app guitar tuners that work just fine or you can get a clip-on or pedal tuner.
Make Sure You Practice With Proper Technique From the Beginning
- Practicing the guitar with proper technique is not difficult. In the long run, practicing with proper technique makes everything easier to play, makes your chords sound cleaner, makes your scales faster, and keeps your risk of repetitive motion injuries low.
- It is easy when you are a beginner to just sort of play the guitar how it feels good. This can mean wrapping your thumb around the top of the fretboard, holding the guitar at an improper angle, splaying out your fret-hand fingers, or not fretting notes with the tips of your fingers.
- All these things may feel good or easy and you might face some resistance to change once you develop habits like these, so it is most advantageous to you to play with proper technique and to be aware of how you are holding the guitar, the position of your thumb behind the fret board, the way in which you fret notes, and how much tension you keep in your hands, wrists, forearms, and shoulders. Being aware of these factors from the get-go will quickly boost your progress and will keep you injury-free in the long run.
Find Friends to Play With
- I believe wholeheartedly in the individual pursuit of music. I think there is an infinite source of wisdom that can be unlocked through the study of music theory and guitar technique.
- That being said, a crucial aspect of music is collaboration. Without collaboration, without “playing” music with anyone, we lose a critical source of inspiration and connection.
- It is crucial to begin playing music with friends and quickly as possible. Since I decided to pursue music as a career as an early teenager, almost all of my friends have been musicians. All we do is play music, talk about music, share ideas about music, turn each other on to new recordings and new artists.
- Additionally, I often seek performance or study opportunities where I am the least accomplished musician. I want to surround myself with better and more accomplished musicians as often as possible to learn and absorb information from them to level up my skills.
- Engaging musically with your friend and community will only serve to increase your skills, boost your inspiration, and lead you to new and fresh territory you would probably not have found on your own.
Have Fun and Don’t Be Too Judgmental
- It is important to take your new guitar studies seriously, otherwise you won’t make any serious progress!
- But, don’t forget why you bought that guitar in the first place. You saw or heard somebody else playing the guitar and thought “wow, how cool! I want to do that too, looks/sounds like so much fun!”.
- It is easy once you start to get a little deeper in your study, to start judging yourself harshly. It is important to be critical and to examine your habits and tendencies in order to refine your progress, but it is equally important to not allow that voice in your head to ruin your fun time! Don’t be overly judgmental about your playing. Don’t be too harsh on yourself, or you run the risk of forgetting why you wanted to play guitar in the first place!
I hope these 7 tips help you with your journey to learn the guitar online. The internet is an amazing resource for guitarists right now. Learn what you can from whoever you can and don’t forget your original inspiration. I still remember the day almost 4 decades ago that I decided I wanted to play the guitar. I saw a friend of mine slide across the stage on his knees while playing a guitar solo at our school talent show and I thought “yeah, I want to do that too”.
And so I did it. And so can you. And I wish someone had shared these 7 tips with me then! So good luck out there and have fun!
Need a Little Extra Help ?
Click Here for 6 more Vital and Valuable tips that I wish I’d learned when I first started playing guitar.