Top 10 Questions Asked By Beginner Guitarists

1. What is The Right Age to Get Started/Am I Too Late?

It is never too late to learn any instrument. There is no age for learning. We call it ‘age no bar’. Moreover, if it is an instrument then it can be learnt at any time irrespective of age. Guitar is one of the easiest instruments to learn. All that is required is a good teacher and the zeal to learn something new. Initially the endurance practises need to be done for strengthening both the hands. This hurts the fingers little bit but that is a passing phase, with time the fingers gain the required strength for playing. During this phase, patience is what is required.

This endurance exercises need to be done repeatedly which many beginners find boring. As the saying goes “There is light at the end of the tunnel.” Within few months the fingers and the playing posture becomes perfect. Once the posture is ok, finger exercises, scales and chords become  easy to learn. Slowly and gradually when the beginners start applying the chords and playing their favourite tunes that is when thy find interest and the enthusiasm level increases  .

It should be kept in my mind that there should be a guidance for step by step learning or else the foundations are not cleared. Foundations form the basic pillar of learning. If the foundation is correct learning becomes all the more systematic and easy. Beginners need to practise the instrument everyday for at least sometime – the more they practise shorter is the time required for getting accustomed.

2. What Kind of Guitar Should I Start?

The best way to learn an instrument is to learn the acoustic version first. Acoustic guitars are more difficult to play compared to the electric ones in terms of playability. It is tougher to play an acoustic guitar rather than playing an electric one. In an electric guitar there are pickups. Pickups are nothing but electro-magnets which capture the vibrations of the electric guitar and transform them to sound. Whereas in acoustic guitars the harder one strums the louder he is. The term “strum” means to play the strings with the right hand holding/without holding (open). It is really very essential to buy the right size of the guitar. The beginners should opt for the most comfortable ones which is matching them. It is always advisable to take along someone who knows how -to play.

Classical Guitar – The concept of classical guitar is that it is used to play the classical pieces of various famous composers. The strings are nylon strings unlike acoustic guitars which have steel strings and it is played with fingers. There are two styles of learning: Acoustic and Classical

  • Acoustic : If someone wants to learn to play the guitar then they should take to learning the acoustic whereas,
  • Nylon or Classical Guitar – If someone wants to learn the classical music.

Beginners may learn how to choose the first guitar base on their buying strategy– their discretion.

3. How quickly will I be able to play songs?

This is a debatable topic “as in how quick can I play.” It is exactly proportionate to the amount of practice that is dedicated to it. The process of learning is a step by step approach.

Firstly the various parts in a guitar should be studied followed by the study of the origin of the guitar. The ancient form of guitar was “Lute” then after various modifications “guitar” has evolved.

Once both the hands are in shape, then the scales, chords etc are learnt .

There is no time duration fixed as such. The more it is played the better the learner becomes/improves. It is the most easiest instruments to learn but like all instruments it takes years and years of practice to master it. There are no shortcuts to this. On average within 6 months the beginner can start playing tunes. It is the zeal which takes a learner forward in his learning. Apart from learning the theory, ear training and sight reading should also be considered. Understanding the rhythm and time signatures is also very very important. The earlier one learns this, the earlier can he start playing songs. Learning the grammar will give a fair knowledge of the other instruments and melodies.

A teacher is very much essential as there I so much information in the internet that often people get confused as in what to follow and pickup. The teacher guides the training.

4. Will My Fingers Hurt and What Should I Do?

Yes, initially it hurts but this is common for any instrument specially string instruments. Guitar is played with the tip of the four fingers of the left hand. The skin of the tip of the fingers becomes hard with practice and peels off. There is no remedy to it as the saying goes “No Pain No Gain.”  Whereas for the right hand fingers this does not happen as it is played with a plectrum. The word “plectrum” is a triangular/oval piece of plastic which helps in playing the strings. It is used for playing acoustic/electric guitars. Classical guitar style is also commonly called “Finger Style” where fingers are used to pluck the strings and there is no need of the plectrum.

Fingers of the right hand are called “PIMA.” P Stands for the 1st finger, I for Index finger, M stands for Middle finger, A stands for Ring finger and the Thumb  .

Fingers of the left hand are called  1st -2nd -3rd -4th finger .

The nails should be trimmed always for the left hand whereas for the right hand there is no rule, few guitarists use the nails to pluck the strings. But it is advised to learn the finger style and with plectrum style, then venture into all the complicated styles of plucking where the nails are also used along with plectrum.

Best of luck!!!

5. How often do I need to practice?

There is no hard and fast rule about practice. You just need to keep practicing everyday. You will see improvement in your progress if you practice more. Performance is directly proportional with the practice hours.“Practice makes a man perfect” as the saying goes. Practice sessions should include the following:

  • Finger Exercises
  • Recognizing  the Fret Board
  • Scales
  • Chords
  • Site Reading

Finger Exercises are required to strengthen the fingers. Once the fingers are in control, notes can be played anywhere in the fretboard. This is essential because while playing scales/solos a good control over the fretboard is required for which the exercises are very essential.

Recognizing the Fetboard – It is quite essential to know your fretboard. Scales should be practiced throughout the board in ascending – descending orders and in all octaves. This increases the knowledge of the guitarist – any melody can be played anywhere on the fretboard.

Scales – All major/minor scales should be learnt. They form the basis of any melody. Once all types of major and minor scales are practiced and memorized it is advisable to shift to the modes. There are seven modes:

  1. Ionian
  2. Dorian
  3. Phygian
  4. Lydian
  5. Mixolydian
  6. Aeolian
  7. Locraine

Site Reading: Site Reading is very essential for all learners. Learners who have started learning the classical guitar should practise this everyday as it comes slowly with practise.

This is basically playing the notes on the sheet by looking at them simultaneously.

6. What strings should I use?

Strings are very important — they can alter the playability and tone of your guitar. The strings on your acoustic steel string or classical guitar have a major impact on its sound and playability. If you’ve taken a look at Musician’s Friends, huge assortment of guitar strings, you’ve likely realized that there’s a lot to consider in figuring out which strings are right for you and your instrument.
The acoustic guitar’s body type is also an important factor.

Acoustic guitar strings vary from the classical guitar strings as below:

The first basic distinction to make is the difference between classical and flamenco guitars fitted with nylon strings versus steel string acoustics—the type associated with rock, folk, country, and blues. In most cases their strings are not interchangeable. Using steel strings on a guitar built for use with nylon strings can seriously damage it. The neck construction and top bracing of classical and flamenco guitars are not designed to handle the far greater tension produced by steel strings. Using the wrong strings can also damage the bridge and saddles.

Lighter gauge strings:

  • Are generally easier to play
  • Allow easier bending of notes and fretting
  • Break more easily
  • Produce less volume and sustain
  • Are prone to cause fret buzzing, especially on guitars with low action
  • Exert less tension on the guitar neck and are a safe choice for vintage guitars

Heavier gauge strings:

  • Are generally harder to play
  • Require more finger pressure to fret and bend notes
  • Produce more volume and sustain
  • Exert more tension on the guitar neck

7. Learning theory and the notes on the fretboard is boring, and discouraging me from playing. What should I do? Is there a fun way to learn theory?

I think every guitar player in history has. The first thing to do when this happens is to stop practicing. It could be a sign that you’ve been pushing things (or forcing things) just a little too hard and you need a break for a few days.

The only way to make it a fun thing is learning a theory and knowing its applications or trying to figure out its application in the songs which are your favourites. It is often a case of trying to push ahead to quickly and attempting to play things which are not within reach at the moment. But it could also be that your mind simply needs some space to process everything too.

Aside from taking a break for a few days, spend time listening to the songs, solo’s and guitar players that made you want to play so badly in the first place. That’s likely to be the original source of your inspiration so return back and try to re-find it again. Get inspired.

I can assure you that all those guitarists also experienced the feelings you’re having now, they’re no different, they just kept going because the desire in them to play was stronger than anything else.

Often progress on guitar is invisible. If we take barre chords as an example, many beginners struggle like crazy with them and for weeks each time they attempt to play them it feels just impossible.

It seems that no progress is being made but I can assure it is, it’s just that the progress has not become visible on the surface yet. But underneath, it’s happening.

Be smart about your practice from now on, make it a priority to create baby steps towards getting to where you want to be with your playing.

If you can create baby steps you’ll find that you constantly experience a succession of ‘little successes’ on guitar. This is the key to keeping your motivation high, because you’ll constantly feel as though you’re moving and not stuck.

8. I only play rock/metal/jazz/polka, why do I need to study other musical styles?

It is very essential to learn all the forms of music – “genre” to be specific. Every genre has its individual style of playing and application of notes. Lot of things are known by knowing all the forms of music and the approaches of playing are also different. Following are the BASICS to be learnt:

  • Reading Standard Music Notation and Tablature

Learning how to read music is not as complicated as it appears but will make the rest of your personal learning experience faster and easier. The notation is simply the directions on how to play a piece of music. Without it, it is just like attempting to set up a piece of furniture without being able to read the instructions. You may gradually figure it out, however it will be tougher and take more time than it must.

Guitar tablature is a simple system to understand, but don’t stop with that. Tabs do not include a rhythm notation aspect. So you have to understand the rhythm to make sense of the notes. Being capable of reading standard notation in addition to the tab will bring you anywhere you would like to go.

  • Essential Music Theory

Music theory is one area which you’ll utilize and expand upon through the guitar training process. It’s really like learning the grammar of music. By learning how the music is put together, you’ll learn to apply that knowledge to every new tune you will study to help make the learning go quicker.

Here is your short set of basic theory concepts you must get to:

  • How chords are built
  • Tension and release
  • What a “key” is
  • Chord relationships (You’ll want to be able to answer a question like “What is the IV chord in the key of F major?)
  • Half, Authentic, and Plagal cadences
  • Intervals
  • Borrowed chords

Once more, do not just try and memorize these concepts. Always search for them all in real pieces of music to see just how they are actually implemented.

  • Strumming Patterns

It’s useless having chords when you don’t have any rhythms to go in combination with all of them, correct? You can begin by using rudimentary quarter note/eighth note rhythms and later develop towards sixteenth notes as well as syncopations. Practice your rhythms first over just one chord, and then begin using pairs of chords to rehearse changing them successfully. You’ll go on to learn and invent rhythm styles all through your studies.

  • Tuning By Ear

Tuning by ear is a practise of tuning the strings by ear – it helps in ear training. You don’t need perfect pitch here. You’ll start out with a good reference note coming from another source and use relative pitch to tune the remainder of the guitar.

  • Barre Chords

The reason barre chords a little bit harder is the physicality of keeping down five or six strings at the same time plus continuing to keep them all nice and clean sounding. If you run into a little bit of trouble with these chords, that’s totally normal. Just keep working at them. As a guitarist, you’ll use barre chords a whole lot.

As well, while you’re studying all of your barre chords, it is simple to learn to read the rest of the notes along the fretboard.

  • Major Scales

Same as the pentatonics, you’ll want to learn just one form at a time here. The awesome thing is that when you know a few major patterns, they can be changed a little bit to get various other interesting scales too. Always look at how a new element you’re learning relates to that old things you practiced.

  • Minor Scales

Your minor scales are based on the major patterns that you mastered in the past. Here you will need to get to know the natural, harmonic, and melodic minors.

  • Extended Chords

If the above mentioned things are learnt, any  guitar player can play any style of music.

9. How Important Are Lessons When I’m Starting Out?

As illustrated in the last point, the lessons are the basics – pillars of learning. Once the basics are clear, it is that the basics of music is clear to you. This will help you to play any instrument as the language of music is the same for all instruments whether it is guitar/piano etc…

10. What is the best brand in acoustic guitars to buy for beginners?

There are lot of brands in the market. In the international market the following brands are available:

  • Fender
  • Ibaneez
  • Hoffner
  • Gibson
  • Gb&A
  • Cortz
  • Yamaha
  • Epiphone
  • Takamine to name a few.

There is nothing as such as a best brand for the beginners. Any guitar that is comfortable to play can be used by beginners.

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