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Do You Have What it Takes to Learn Guitar?

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Music > Guitar > The Eight Essential Skills in Learning the Guitar

So you want to learn to play guitar like your favorite guitarists. You want to be a guitar player that sounds like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton.

You’ve taken it on, but you just don’t know where to start. What is this thing called the fretboard, and how on earth do you navigate the whole thing? How do you get such independence in the right hand to do fingerstyle? What is a pentatonic, and how does it differ from a major scale?

Thankfully, there are numerous blogs and YouTube vidos on the internet that can help you get started.

But how do you know which ones to use? Where should you start?

The Basics for Learning Guitar.

There are two key questions to start –

Ask yourself these two questions before you launch yourself into the world of guitar:

  • Would you rather a class on music theory or a specific class that focuses on guitar? Learning music theory is a great way to introduce yourself to the world of music and to begin to understand it – but you might just want to focus exactly on how to play the guitar.
  • Do you want to teach yourself or learn guitar with a professional? Either option is good, but the method you choose should be matched to your personal goals and ambition. If you want to be a classical guitar or jazz guitar virtuoso, you might want to get yourself a guitar course. If you want just to have fun on rhythm guitar, maybe you won’t need it.

If you want to teach yourself guitar, there are many different online tutorials that you can watch to help you on your way. Books and ebooks can also help you on your journey.

If you’re looking to find a guitar teacher, you have a few options. You could sign up for classes at a local music store, you could join a local group, or you could take private one on one classes with an independent teacher. You could also try online guitar lessons.

Two children sat playing the guitar. Teach yourself guitar with these eight tips.

But here are some tips for getting started at guitar and keeping a good attitude – from the first guitar techniques you will need. Look out for guitar chords, the importance of tablature, and the skills you’ll need for guitar solos.

You can find video tutorials on specialist websites to help learn more about a specific topic or area. Signing up for guitar lessons will also give you the advice and support of a professional and you’ll learn other tips and tricks from them.

Most importantly, you just need to enjoy it! If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t go anywhere.

Reading and Playing Guitar Chords.

A guitar chord is when you play three or more notes at the same time. Learning to recognize and play the common chords is a key part of learning to play guitar – as most of the songs to play will use chords. In fact, pretty much all of them.

We generally recommend starting with the major and minor chords – as these are the basic chords. And you’ll have to learn them as open chords rather than as barre chords. In rock and metal, you also have the ‘cheat’ chords, known as power chords, which only have two notes.

Then you can move on to other chords like ‘seventh’ chords, or work on your arpeggios.

Have a look through some instruction books, check out some online videos or free guitar lessons online, or ask your guitar teacher for help in placing your fingers on the neck of the guitar.

Headphones on guitar chord charts One of the essential things you need to know about the guitar: chords!

Reading Guitar Tabs

In guitar, you have either the classic musical stave, you have guitar chord charts, or you have tablatures – otherwise known as tab.

Learn to read guitar tabs and chord boxes to know where to put your fingers. Numbers tell you which frets you need to put each finger on.

In contrast to reading normal music, a tab shows you the physical movements to make to play your song.

This simplified way of reading music makes it easier to learn to play the guitar, and gives you more information. However, it is also specific to the guitar – and can’t be transposed onto different instrument.

When using tabs, it’s worth keeping in mind that you should only play the strings and frets that are marked. If a string doesn’t have any numbers on it, you shouldn’t play it.

This will probably be what your guitar instructor will give you in a guitar lesson if you want to learn your favorite songs.

Finding the Beat for a Piece of Music

How do you know the rhythm for a piece of music when it isn’t in your guitar tabs?

There’s no magic spell to find the rhythm for a piece of guitar music, and you have two options – either you can buy the official songbook, or you can train your ear and learn to recognize and reproduce the rhythms you hear in pieces of music. Conventionally known as ‘ear training’, or ‘playing by ear’, this latter is a skill that every guitarist will want to develop.

The key is to not try and recreate everything you hear all at once. It’s better to make the piece of music your own. Have you noticed that a rock guitar player, when live, will play the riff differently to on the studio recording? This should tell you one thing: it doesn’t have to be exactly the same every single time!

Your knowledge of the piece – and your own creativity – will help you get to grips with this idea.

Try and choose styles of music which are relatively simple but have a strong beat, like rock, pop, metal or folk.

Begin Arpeggios

In order to begin playing the most common guitar chords (C major, A minor, G major, E minor, D major), you’ll need to strengthen your fingers, begin playing more smoothly, and be able to place your fingers on the neck with speed and agility.

It’s also a great opportunity to learn to play without looking at your left hand.

There are two types of arpeggio – arpeggios that form part of the harmony and are played to a strong beat (instead of strumming all of the strings at the same time, you play them one by one) and arpeggios as solos, which is a common technique in jazz music.

It is important to begin by playing slowly, keeping your right hand relaxed, and trying to just move your fingers and not your hand in a regular rhythm. This is the basis for the guitar practice known as fingerpicking.

Once you feel comfortable, begin to increase your speed. A metronome can be a handy tool here.

Putting Chords Together

Do you dream of learning to play your favorite pieces? Whipping out the guitar and impressing your friends at a party?

Well, to play any of your favorite songs, you are going to have to practice chord progressions. A chord progression is the way in which different chords are linked together in guitar songs. It’s an absolute staple technique of beginner guitar – because if you can’t nail these guitar tricks, you are going nowhere.

There’s just one thing for it if you want to begin putting chords together into a song – repetition and practice. You need to repeat the same movement again and again until it becomes natural.

The objective is to create muscle memory, reflexes that help you complete an action, like holding a pen or tying your shoelaces.

Don’t hesitate to try watching some YouTube tutorials or ask your teacher how to change chords. Getting some help means you can improve your technique and avoid picking up bad habits.

Start with easy chords like A minor and G major. And don’t forget to always make sure that you’ve learned the individual chords before you try linking them together.

Work slowly and pick the movements apart, then put it all together and increase your speed.

More experienced guitar players will be able to string lots of different barre chords together seamlessly, using all sorts of different chord shapes. For the rhythm guitarist, this is the best guitar technique you can develop.

Changing the Strings on your Guitar

Learn how to change the strings on your guitar by yourself. Once you’ve got a new guitar, one of your first beginner guitar lessons will be this.

Once metallic strings oxidize, snap, or start discolouring, it’s time to replace them.

Watch some video lessons, or ask your guitar teacher to show you the basics of changing your guitar strings. They’ll show you how to tune a guitar too – which is very easy if you have a chromatic tuner.

How often you change your strings will depend on how often you play, how often you leave your guitar un-played, your string materials, and your style of playing.

Improve your Guitar Technique

You’ve just started playing guitar, but your movements are still a bit clunky and hesitant.

Don’t worry. Just like anything else, you need to learn to walk before you can run, and it’s the same for guitar. Before you can wow people with your skills at blues guitar, you need to get very competent at the basic guitar techniques.

Go easy, play songs at a speed a bit slower than they’re meant to be, learn how to break a song down, check the placements of your fingers, and repeat everything as many times as need be. This is how you will nail the more complex guitar licks and parts of the guitar repertoire.

Practice and tenacity are key to learning how to play guitar and improving your technique.

Pay attention to the little details that make a difference – check your posture, how you’re holding the guitar, the positions of your hands and fingers, and work on any weak muscles. Guitar lessons for beginners should pay close attention to your posture too.

Keep Yourself Motivated

When you start playing guitar, you’ll have lots of different plans and specific pieces of music that you want to learn how to play. You’ll be able to decide whether you want to play fingerstyle guitar, focus on improvisation, or on blues licks.

You also need to figure out the best way to learn to play guitar.

Over time, you’ll realize that learning to play guitar is not without its difficulties and challenges to overcome.

A parody mural of guitarists at the Last Supper. The most important guitar lesson of all? Keep motivated.

To stay motivated as you learn to play guitar, don’t hesitate to occasionally go back to the basics, meet fellow musicians, get advice and take guitar lessons, show off and inspire others on YouTube, and picture yourself achieving your goals.

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