Welcome 2024, the year you start your journey to playing guitar. There is a lot of free information and tools to get started. If you find yourself getting along good with playing guitar, you can always spend more if you want to.
Step 1: Get an acoustic guitar and make sure it is playable. This may seem simple but I have had students who start of with an unplayable instrument. An acoustic is recommended because you don’t have to buy an amplifier and an acoustic will build your finger strength. I get that you don’t want to invest a lot of money if it might not be your thing but you might never know if your guitar keeps you back. It would be better to start with a quality ukulele than a cheap guitar. Go to your local music store and ask for help. Most local music stores are glad to help you so you enjoy playing and succeed at learning.
Step 2: Get a tuner, I recommend Snark brand or the PanoTuner app. If you have to choose between the two go with PanoTuner. Find a YouTube video on how to tune your guitar or ukulele. When you are learning how to tune use care not to over tighten the strings and causing them to break.
Step 3: Make a commitment to spend 15 to 20 minutes every day on practicing. This will help you develop faster than spending more time just once or twice a week. Everyone is busy but try to fit it in every day.
To summarize, get a quality instrument that is playable and tunable. An acoustic guitar or ukulele is recommended. Be able to keep your instrument in tune and try to practice every day. These are the basic steps no matter what your goals are. There are a lot of free resources on the internet and some low cost learning websites.
Step 4: Deciding what to practice. This is the tricky part because I don’t know if you want to be a new age folk singer just strumming along as you sing protest songs. Maybe you want to be the next famous shredder in a Death Metal band or maybe a studio musician capable of filling in on all genres.
Things to Think About
- Ear training – this is essential for all musicians. Check this site out for ear training “The Tone Gym”
- Reading music – this is optional but highly recommended because it is the language of music. At one time I believed that reading music made you less of a “Rocker” and regret not learning how to read music better at a younger age. I was in band in high school (trombone, tuba, bass and guitar) and did learn the names of the notes on the treble clef but didn’t have a clue about reading rhythms. For reading bass clef I just added two notes about what the treble clef is. An A on treble clef is a C on bass clef. I learned about alto, tenor, etc… clefs decades later.
- Music theory – Melody, harmony and rhythm make music. It’s not required to know what the dominant 7th of a Gb major scale is on the guitar because you just need to learn the right shapes and the dominant 7th will be in there somewhere. However, knowing that ‘b’ means flat and ‘#’ means sharp are must know ideas. The fact that the dominant 7th in a Gb7 chord is Fb and that Fb is also known as E is good to learn eventually too. You don’t have to learn all the major scales and their relative minors but it’s good information to know.
- Writing music – If you learn to read lead sheets you should be able to write one out just for yourself. There is a ton of guitar tablature available so you can learn your favorite riffs off you favorite songs. This works great but only takes you so far. You can learn an Angus Young solo off of tab and never learn what the notes you are actually playing are. You can learn the names of the notes on the guitar, most players learn the low E and A string for bar and power chords but you will not know where the notes belong on the music staff. By the way… a piano or sax player won’t be able to do anything based on your guitar tab. But if you don’t care about any trumpet playing band 😉 it won’t be a big deal.
- Recording – recording is completely optional but absolutely beneficial to being a better musician. I’m not talking about going into the studio every practice. Take the time to record yourself and listen to how you sound. I’ve sung a song and thought it sounded pretty good but when I listened to a recording of it… then I knew what I needed to work on!
You can see that with everything there is to learn and what you might want to learn spends the 15 to 20 minutes pretty quick. I was lucky to have started when I was a teenager because I had a lot of spare time to play guitar as much as I wanted. I learned the basics then started learning songs I liked and got good enough to join a garage band, play in stage and jazz band in high school, then professionally in cover/bar bands. If I could do it over I would take the time to learn to read music, learn music theory and work on ear training as much as learning Stairway to Heaven. I learned a lot of riffs, licks, and how to improvise. The major, minor, and pentatonic scale forms is what I used the most. My ear was good enough to know what sounded good and what didn’t. I knew the root note name but not really what the other notes were. If someone had asked me to play an Ab major scale, I knew the shape to play but I did not know the notes are Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, and G. I knew the relative minor is F minor and the shape to play not the notes I was playing were F, G, Ab, Bb, C, Db, and Eb.
I get that there are a lot of awesome musicians that do not know how to read/write music or only know a few scales. Great for them but you are free to choose your own path.
I won’t be posting every day but I will be creating recordings and videos to enhance this very boring blah blah blah. Just text used to be a thing but that’s just for books these days… I’ll focus on bringing some action to this website.