8 Tips for Beginner Guitar Students

PlayingGuitarAre you interested in learning to play the guitar?  It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone starts at the beginning with the same challenges.  To help make your musical journey as enjoyable as possible, here are a few tips to get you started.

Choose the right guitar.

If you have a guitar, take it to a local instrument shop and have them look it over. They may suggest a capo — a device used on the neck of the guitar to shorten the playable length of the strings.  If you do not have a guitar, and assuming you have decided on the type of guitar you want to play – electric, bass, acoustic or classic – you’ll want to look around for a good used guitar or lease one from the music store. Why?  In a few months, you might decide that guitar isn’t your thing, so you don’t want to pay a lot for an instrument that may start to gather dust.  If you have a friend with an extra guitar, borrow it for this “probationary period”.  If you decide that you do want to continue after a few months, then you can invest in your own guitar.

Remember that the quality of the instrument will not make you a musician.  A great musician can make magic from almost any instrument.  However, some acoustic guitars have a string distance from the neck that is easier to start with. So. hold and pluck a few strings to see if it “feels right”.

Begin with the basics.

When you first start playing the guitar, learn the basic skills early and correctly.  You are building your musical foundation; so take the time to learn the chords, notes and finger charts at the beginning.  If you are learning the guitar without a teacher, then get yourself a beginner guitar book or check out online resources that can help you learn the basic skills.

Learn rhythm.

Learn to strum and pick.  Don’t rush the basics and try to skip over needed lessons.  You will sound terrible at the beginning, but don’t let that discourage you.  Be patient and work at making each sound clear and correct.  Use the correct fingering when playing chords and scales.  Make sure that the way you hold the guitar with your right-hand grip (assuming you are right-handed) and the wrist action with your left hand are correct.

When you’re ready to play some simple songs, try play along songs with your iPad, Mini, iPod or iPhone app  http://www.atplaymusic.com/our-apps/playalong-acoustic-guitar/ (see PlayAlong: electric, classical and bass guitar), to guide you through each note .  It will help you learn the notes and the correct rhythm for the song. 

Play easy songs.

It’s important when you are first learning to play your guitar that you start out by playing easy songs.  You aren’t ready to play “Stairway to Heaven” so don’t get frustrated by trying.  Work up to it.   Try finding easy songs to play, like “Mary had a little lamb” and “Twinkle twinkle” – yes, even if you do favor rock.

Tune your guitar every day.

It’s very important to make sure that your guitar is in tune.  There are a variety of tuner apps on the market that will help you tune your guitar.   If you are using one of our free guitar apps, the app will “listen” as you play and let you know if you are playing the notes correctly.  This instant feedback will help you learn the chords and note quicker.  It will also let you know if your guitar needs tuning or not!   You’ll advance much quicker if you have the instant feedback.

Practice as long as you’re improving and having fun – stop when you’re not.

Start by playing every day.  For the first few days, play for 10 minutes. Learning to play the guitar requires finger memory, not lots of pain. If you want to play more, come back in 30 minutes – just long enough to give your fingers a break.  You want your fingers to know how to play each note and chord without thinking about it.  The only way you can accomplish this is by repetition every day.  Remember everyone who ever played a new instrument made the same “early sounds” you’re making.  Promise yourself you’ll play that minimum 10 minutes every day for a month.  Then you can decide how much more you want to practice each day moving forward. If you’re loving it, you should be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour a day.  In addition, whenever you have a few minutes, pick up your guitar and go through your scales and basic chords.  In a surprisingly short time, playing your guitar will be part of your daily routine, and you will begin to miss it if you miss a day!

Stay motivated.

Playing the guitar will have its challenges.  Remember everyone who ever played a new instrument made the same “early sounds” you’re making. At the beginning, you’re going to sound a lot different then you will in a few days!  The only difference between you and your favorite performer is they didn’t stop when they felt just like you do today!  Your fingers tips are going to hurt until you build up callouses.   You might get cramps in your hands and fingers until you build up the muscles that will make holding the guitar easier.  Don’t get discouraged.  Find ways to keep yourself motivated.   Using the PlayAlong guitar app you can record your daily best and post it — compare your performance tomorrow against your personal best today!

Listen to music.

The PlayAlong app provides the sounds of the music you will be playing – just touch the Play (“>”) button and listen to the tune played. If while your playing you can’t quite get the right pitch — touch the finger chart and listen to what that note should sound like. This will help you train your ear to detect subtle tones and sounds.  The ability to deconstruct what you’re hearing and playing will accelerate your ability to play music and master your guitar.

Have fun.

Playing the guitar can bring you a lifetime of music appreciation.  Remember why you started playing the guitar in the first place, and make sure you are having fun learning and growing.  Laugh at your mistakes and rejoice your successes.  Remember the performers you admire did!



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