Before you start taking guitar lessons, there are a few things you should know! Guitar teacher Ryan B. shares six things everyone should know about learning guitar…
It really is a magical moment when you first pick up a guitar. The feel of the wood, the tension on the strings, the way the curve of the body fits just right on your lap. You’re filled with visions of yourself on stage playing for thousands who worship your every note.
The problem is the next moment isn’t quite so magical.
You try to play a chord, but the only sounds are dull thuds and ceaseless buzzing. Your clumsy fingers just can’t figure out how to coax music out of this cursed piece of wood.
For so many, frustration is where their experience learning guitar begins and ends. But going into it with the right mindset can make all the difference and lead to a nice payoff. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re starting on the guitar:
1. Your hands need some exercise
There are 35 muscles that control your fingers! And you’re going to need each one of those to make your guitar strings hum just how you hear them in your head. So when you practice, especially in the beginning, remember to warm up and stretch (here’s a great video) so you don’t hurt yourself. And keep in mind that after a long session you might have sore hands and forearms.
2. Practice is really boring sometimes
Just like anything else, practicing your guitar can get extremely monotonous. After a hundred times practicing that new scale or picking pattern and still needing more work, it’s really easy to give up and play something easier. But to get better you really have to hunker down and put in the hours necessary (in fact they say you need to practice something for 10,000 hours before you master it!).
3. Take good care of your instrument
You’ve been practicing every day and really making progress towards your goals, but one day during a particularly intense session you break a string (or input jack, or neck…). The problem is you don’t know how to fix it, and so your guitar sits and collects dust and all your skills melt away. It’s a common story, one that happens far too often. Learning some simple maintenance like changing strings, cleaning the neck and a bit of basic wiring can go a long way towards preventing lapses in your practice because of something as simple as a busted string.
4. The fastest way to learn is to slow down
Everyone wants to play their favorite lick right when they pick up the guitar. When you try to do this, though, you’re either going to fail miserably and inevitably give up or learn it very very poorly. Before you get to killer solos you have to master your scales. And in order to master your scales you have to learn to do your scales very… slowly… In order to really shred through those suckers, you’ve gotta get them perfect going at a snail’s pace and then slowly pick up the tempo. And then once you’ve mastered that, then you move on up to the next step. And so on and so forth…
5. Ditch the phone
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m addicted to my phone. If I’m away from it for just a few minutes I start to get jittery and extremely curious about my friends’ Facebook walls. But too many distractions will keep you from getting productive practice time in. This might mean getting a dedicated guitar tuner instead of an app so you don’t even need your phone in the room with you. Hopefully you can spend the next hour learning guitar and not looking at cute cat videos.
6. Take a break
Now you’ve been doing scales for hours, and despite getting rid of obvious distractions, you’re still having trouble focusing. Maybe you need a break. You need to be able to put the work in, but if you’re getting too stressed it will also hurt your practice (and make your fingers too tense- which is not a good thing). Every once in a while, take a few minutes to play a fun easy song or watch that silly cat video you’ve been putting off. Maybe even a quick power nap.
There’s a lot more to learning guitar than just these, but I hope that these tips can help you along your musical journey. Happy pickin’!
Get personalized tips and tricks for learning guitar by taking private lessons with a guitar teacher. Guitar teachers are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on locations and availability. Search for your guitar teacher now!
Ryan B. teaches guitar, banjo, and mandolin in Chicago, IL. A graduate of the University of Illinois, he can teach his students music theory, and as a member of a traveling local band, he can also help with songwriting! Learn more about Ryan here!
Photo by afunkydamsel