This is going to be a long-as-crap myTake since there is a ton of info, so I leave this table of contents here so you can search through what you want and don’t want to look at (*cough* Command + F *uncough*).
I’ll also put a TL;DR; outline at the end!
Table of contents:
BUYING A GUITAR
== A1. What you need / How to pick out your first guitar. Acoustic or electric?
== A2: Picking out equipment
== B1. Learn the Guitar Techniques
== B2. Learn the Other Guitar Stuff
THINGS YOU SHOULD EXPECT:
== C1. Awkwardness
== C2. Pain
== C3. A Note On WRIST PAIN
COMPLAINTS / QUESTIONS
== D1: "I have no talent for music”
== D2: “I have no time”
== D3: “My guitar/amp sounds nothing like that on the songs I like”
== D4: “Why am I not becoming cool? I mean— I have a guitar, right?”
== D5: “Do I need to learn music theory?”
"But where's the section on 'How To Djent?'"
Hello my fellow big G’s. It’s your friendly neighborhood doge-man to help those out who are interested in learning guitar. Next to piano, I find this is an instrument a lot of people want to learn. I have been playing guitar/drums/bass for some years now, and I have put in many many hours in being a self taught musician. Hopefully, I can help share some knowledge on the subject! This is for those who are trying to start out from complete scratch— if you already play guitar a bit, this probably isn’t for you, but feel free to read or give additional tips in a comment!
STEP 1. GET A GUITAR
A1. What you need / How to pick out your first guitar. Acoustic or electric?
Do you already have a guitar? Well, congratulations! You can skip this step (go to step 2). If you have a pawnshop guitar lying around that still is playable— use it. Or, if it was like mine… buy strings and then use it. Don’t buy the guitar of your dreams just yet! Believe it or not, many people get discouraged, busy, or lose focus with their practice and give up within the first some months.
Acoustic or electric?— that is the question.
This question pops up a lot when you are looking for your first guitar. The idea of an electric guitar may seem pretty kickass, but many people may say to start with a good ol’ mellow acoustic.
Well, I’m here to say that it matters as much as “Whose Line Is It Anyway” points. (*Cough* For those who missed that reference in its entirety, I’m saying it doesn’t matter. *uncough*) Pick the one that you feel will inspire you to play the guitar more. Oh, but if you choose acoustic-- make sure you get one that is "steel string," not "classical" or "nylon."
Le electric guitar is on the left, and le acoustic is on the right.
— If you are on a tight budget, look for acoustic. They are generally cheaper.
— If you are worried about fingers hurting, go electric. The strings are lighter gauge and your fingers won’t hurt (as much.)
— If you are significantly worried about noise, electric is the one for you. You can change the volume as need be, and you can put in headphones to your amp if you’re extra concerned about that Mr. Jeff-The-Asshat-Who-Always-Reports-You next door.
— If you feel like making constant Skrillex jokes about dropping your instrument, and 6 strings sounds as complex as determine the irrationality of the Euler-Mascheroni Constant, I’d stick to bass (… in which case I’m surprised you’re here!)
STEP 2: GET YOUR EQUIPMENT
Here’s what you’ll need…
— Gig bag (or case)
— Cable (for guitar to le amp)
Here’s what you’ll want
— Guitar strap
— Extra strings
Congrats. You got 1/5th of the shopping list done. You’re practically a guitar god already. Now then, for picks/amp/cable, I suggest firstly looking at your local music store. (Shop at your mom and pop stores if you can— it’s usually cheaper!) If you don’t feel like leaving your man (or woman) cave, or are completely clueless to where your local store is, have no fear. ’Tis the 21st century, and ye gods have bestowed upon us musiciansfriend.com.
Now you may be asking yourself, “Mr. Doge, how many sentences does it take to get to the beginner guitar list of a beginner guitar mytake?” Well, let’s find out.
… and a one…
Acoustic guitar of choice:
— What I suggest: Fender Acoustic Guitar Bundle
— Why? Realistically, this is going to be a cheap guitar, but it is perfect for a start. I’ve played various Fender acoustics, and they hold up decently. It’s $140 and includes all the accessories (case/picks/strap/tuner).
… a two…
Electric guitar of choice:
— Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package
— How much? $196.60, free shipping on amazon
— Why? I own an Epiphone Les Paul myself— they are quite nicely put together. The feel of them are pretty solid. Likewise, Les Paul’s are pretty versatile in their sound. This bundle, like the fender bundle, has all the accessories you’ll need to start out. On a side note, you’ll find cheaper electric guitar bundles around $100, but lemme put out a warning: you pay for what you get here. Some dodgy manufacturing and defects start to happen when you get to extreme budget guitars.
… and a two and three quarters…
For non-bundled guitars, I strongly suggest going in to a store to hear it be played. (Google map "guitar center") Look at a few guitars that catch your eye, and ask a worker there to help you out. Say you are beginner and are looking for a guitar, and you’d like help in playing it. They’ll almost certainly help you out. Listen to the sound… Is it too bright? Dark? Does it have an annoying buzz? Pick it up and see if it feels ok for you. You’ll be spending lots of time with this fine piece of wood, so make sure you like it from the get go.
Oh. And choose a smooth sounding superstar name for your guitar. It increases your guitar god power ten fold (Side note: My acoustic = Elena.)
… and a three—
Actually… for brevity, if you have further questions about specific guitars or guitar equipment, let me know in the comments and I can try to offer some assistance!
"No Patrick, mayonnaise is not an instrument."
STEP 3: LEARN THE GUITAR TECHNIQUES
B1. By this point, I’m assuming you have your trusty steed of a guitar, and you’re ready to conquer the [*insert your favorite genre*] world. Well hold on there cowboy (or cowgirl). There are a few things you should know!
It may seem quite daunting to be holding an instrument and have no idea how to play it. Chances are you feel awkward. Maybe your perspiring a little. Maybe this is because you forgot to pay your internet bill (how are you here?), but chances this is partially since you’re holding your badass-ly named guitar wrong. Don’t worry though— youtube is here for you as your magical apple come to save the day. Why an apple? Well, I like apples, but that’s besides the point. The reason is because youtube has mostly good guitar instructional videos… but then it has that small bit of Scheiße that does more harm than good—like the cyanide/core in an apple. Don’t consume the cyanide. Consume the good parts… Unless you eat apple cores, but then you’re just weird.
Believe it or not, you don’t particularly need a formal guitar teacher. However, you do need a teacher, whether that is looking at a rockstar and copying technique, or watching youtube videos for all your dying questions (<— what I recommend).
For instance, this is good. There is a large playlist with it that you can follow along with.
His website is here. Check it out!
Now, for the bad and ugly, just try and avoid “expertvillage” first and foremost. The like/dislike ratio on videos often gives a good idea on how the video quality is.
If you have a question on any part of your technique, don’t hesitate to look it up. It’s vital that you get your technique down now, because
1.) you don’t want to have health problems (i.e. carpal tunnel),
2.) bad habits die hard, and
3.) good habits make it easier/faster to progress and learn. Get it down now, and you’ll save yourself A LOT of frustration and pain later.
And, as always, if you have any questions on what is a good/bad video, or if you need help on specific things with technique you can’t (or don’t feel like) looking up, let me know.
STEP 4: LEARN THE OTHER GUITAR STUFF
B2: How should one practice?
This is a controversial question, but I would personally suggest start by picking a very easy song that you like that is based on simple chords. A good one would be most christian rock songs. Simple and straightforward.
For instance, my first guitar song I ever learned was “How He Loves” by David Crowder. The chords don’t change much, are extremely basic, and I liked the song. Check, check, and check.
How to learn the song?
On google, type in “[your song name] tabs” and chances are, if it is relatively known at all, a link will pop up with the song name. There are static tabs like this:
… and for some songs, you can go on songsterr.com and find tabs for them on there. Just know they are sometimes not complete or perfect:
For static tabs, you’ll see the chord names (aka “Am” — a minor, or “G” — G major, or “F” — F major). Those are the chords that go with the song, and each chord changes based on the word it is over. If you don’t know the chord, you can very easily google it, or you can use a website like this with a chart: https://truefire.com/guitar-chord-charts/ OR you can use an app like “ChordBank” — that’s what I use all the time.
For reading songsterr tabs, check out this video:
How to get better?
Work your way slowly through your song, and learn the chords. After figuring out the chord fingerings, practice switching between each chord. Remember to keep your technique as shown in youtube videos you’ve watched! Once you feel comfortable playing this song, find different songs around the same difficulty and learn those. Once you’re comfortable with those, find a slightly harder song. Eventually, you can start working on picking specific notes, but I’d stick to strumming at first.
What about techniques?
If you learn song by song, you should progress naturally in your technique if you challenge yourself. I mentioned earlier how my first song was “How He Loves,” right? When I went to a harder song, I went to “Wish You Here” by Pink Floyd (which required basic picking). Then I went to “No Rain” by Blind Melon (which required faster strumming). It is in this way that I progressed my way up. I didn’t start playing Periphery and progressive metal right off the bat. I worked my way up to it.
Exposure to music is also key in your learning. If you hear a song with a badass guitar part, learn it! If you find it is too difficult or way out of your league, make a goal to-do list. Keep this list somewhere, and find songs that bridge the gap. Nothing says you need to learn CAFO on your first day.
THINGS YOU SHOULD EXPECT:
Well, this is going to be a given. You’re learning a new instrument, and it is going to feel weird at first. You’ll need to develop the muscle memory, and so you’ll be taking a lot of time to switch chords, remember chords, find frets, etc.. This is why most people get discouraged. Don’t worry though! It WILL get better and easier. Practice like 30 minutes a day, and you’ll be better in no time.
Assuming you don’t have any finger callouses, you will now. Playing guitar initially hurts. It feels like fingernails digging into the tips of your fingers. This is normal. It will last maybe 2 weeks if you practice often. Of course, take a break if you start to bleed or if it really hurts, but don’t get discouraged! Every rock god went through this phase. Push through the pain if you can.
C3. A Note On WRIST PAIN
HOWEVER, it is important that if you have bad wrist pain, you do NOT push through it. Wrist pain is a BIG NO NO that requires EXCESSIVE amounts of CAPITAL LETTERS. That’s how BIG of an issue it is. Bluntly put, your technique is crap. Hey, don’t worry— we’ve all been there. Start from scratch with whichever hand hurts and make sure you are doing everything absolutely right. Wrist pain = carpal tunnel if continued. Carpal tunnel is about as fun as riding third class in a plane with a screaming baby behind you and a guy who reclined the seat all the way back in front of you. In other words, it’s a special place in hell you certainly don’t want to buy tickets for.
D1: “I have no talent for music”
Personally, I feel like the idea of talent is mostly a bunch of Scheiße. It’s almost like a cop-out to the amount of time and hard work it takes. People will say one is talented only when it sounds good. So don’t let your dreams be dreams!
D2: “I have no time”
Ideally, one would practice for 30-60 minutes a day, but even 15 minutes is a start. It doesn’t even need to be an hour altogether. It can be broken up into 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. Unless you have literally no free time, you have time to practice guitar. (Bluntly speaking, I’ve found that most people who say they have no free time really mean that they choose to spend their free time on the couch watching TV or surfing the internet.)
To get slightly better and keep your current skill level from deteriorating, I suggest 15 minutes a day.
To get actively better, I’d suggest 30 minutes a day.
To get better fast, I suggest an hour a day.
D3: “My guitar/amp sounds nothing like that on the songs I like”
This is partially because you have beginner equipment most likely, but it is also because of post processing. Just as vocals have autotune, guitars are edited to make them sound full (via EQ, compression, added reverb, etc.). Don’t worry about that as you practice. You’ll craft your sound out eventually too.
D4: “Why am I not becoming cool? I mean— I have a guitar, right?”
Sorry to say, guitar does not make you automatically cool. When it is a nice day out, I sometimes go outside and play, but alas, people just walk on by and ignore it normally as you’d expect. Being able to play guitar may be a plus, but if you are playing guitar to become cool, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
(Oh, and don’t be “that” guy who walks around with your guitar/guitar case just to show everyone you play. People will remember you for all the wrong reasons. I’ll remember you. Heck, I just shook my head just now because I remembered someone like you. Shame, shame, shame.)
"Play that "Wonderwall" song one more time, amirite?"
D5: “Do I need to learn music theory?”
Ok, realistically, you do not need to learn music theory to be a good guitar player. To be a great one though… I strongly suggest it. For those completely lost by the words “music theory,” I’m referring essentially what is music math. Scales… how keys are formed… notes in keys… what makes a fifth, seventh, etc.. When you’re beginning, this stuff shouldn’t concern you. As you become an expert, this will be important for you. I suggest finding a youtube tutorial (there are plenty of playlists) for this.
When you should make the jump to learning music theory? I would suggest it when you are starting to want to improv and/or you are wanting to write your own music. It makes life much easier!
THE TL;DR; to end the TL;DR;s
E1. Intro: Do you like music? Are you an air breather? Congrats, you can learn how to play guitar.
STEP 1: Get a guitar. Have a used acoustic? Congrats, you can go to step 2. Otherwise, make the choice between acoustic or electric guitar. It doesn’t matter which one, so long as you have motivation to play. If you’re on a budget, go acoustic.
STEP 2: Get guitar equipment. For starters, you’ll need picks and a gig bag/case. If you have an electric, you’ll also need an amp and a cable. For some choices in guitar bundles, click here or here. Otherwise, I suggest going into your local music store and trying out guitars… or getting employees to play guitars for you as you listen.
STEP 3: Learn the guitar techniques. Look up videos on youtube for learning how to start out out. Here is a link to a great website with tons of beginner videos to start with. Make sure you start with good habits, because bad habits are like Bruce Willis— they die hard.
STEP 4: Learn the other guitar stuff. To progress, I suggest picking extremely easy songs at first and working your way up to harder ones. I chose “How He Loves” by David Crowder as my first one, but you can choose whichever. Look up tabs online from ultimateguitar.com or songsterr.com. Here is a link to how to read guitar tabs. I suggest practicing at least 30 minutes a day, or 15 if you can’t handle 30. 15 is bare minimum.
Things you should expect: Awkwardness and pain. Learning a new instrument is awkward, as you’d expect, but don’t get discouraged. Pain is also to be expected in your fingertips. You are building calluses, and after enough playing, you won’t feel any pain at all there. If you feel any wrist pain, stop and watch more youtube videos on technique. Your technique is wrong and you don’t want to get carpal tunnel.
Do you need to learn music theory? No, not at the beginning. But, when you start to want to improv on things or write your own music, I strongly suggest learning at least a basic level. It makes life much easier.
And that just about wraps it up! Thanks for reading! (Or, for those who just scrolled down to the bottom, there is a TL;DR; right above here you can look at!) Let me know if you have any questions about learning guitar or instruments in general and I'll try and help! Or, if you have any additional tips, feel free to leave them down below!