April 09, 2015
Six Essential Principles for Playing the Guitar
There’s a reason the guitar is one of the most popular instruments to learn–it’s portable, relatively inexpensive, easy enough to learn the basics, and pretty much everyone at one point or another needs a new guitarist in their band. Lots of people, from young kids to those of retirement age, decide to learn the guitar and, if you’re one of them, this advice is for you. From finding a way to stay motivated to learning to listen, learning the guitar isn’t too difficult as long as you keep these basic principles in mind.
Learn the Basics (The Right Way)
At its core, playing the guitar involves a combination of a bunch of different skills. If you learn one or two of those skills the wrong way, or allow yourself to form bad habits during the learning process, you could send your playing into disarray. As a beginner guitarist, you should make an effort to learn a little of everything, ranging from notes and chords to rhythm and strumming. Although some guitarists try to teach themselves, learning from a professional music teacher is always recommended–not only will they teach you things “the right way”, but they’ll be able to notice mistakes and prevent those mistakes from becoming habits that are hard to break. Need help finding a teacher? We’ve got you covered.
Train Yourself to Listen
Not only is listening an underrated life skills, but it’s an important part of learning and playing the guitar. Listen to how others play, both during live performances and on pre-recorded CDs and music videos. What kind of guitar are they playing? What’s that interesting thing they’re doing with their fingers? Watch and listen as often as you can, and don’t be shy about asking questions. Your music teacher is there to guide you through the learning process, and this includes answering any questions you may have about how the guitar works. From there, listen to yourself while you’re practicing. Try to record your practice sessions (even better if you can record video), and spend some time each week watching yourself while keeping an eye (and ear) out for mistakes or areas of improvement.
Pay Attention to Music Theory
A lot of guitarists disregard music theory the way they do math…”will I ever really use this in the real world?” The answer? YES!!!! Whether you love it or hate it, music theory is the bond that ties all music together. Without music theory, groups of musicians wouldn’t be able to play together, and transposing music for the guitar would be nonexistent. Every guitarist should be able to read a chord chart, and the Internet is full of guitar tabs, so learning to read those is beneficial, too. While you’re at it, learn the note names of each string, and take the time to learn chords and scales. Plus, guitarists who learn and know music theory will have more job opportunities down the line, from session musicians to teachers.
Add Variety to Your Routine
Another important principle for beginning guitarists to keep in mind is to always add variety to your routine, otherwise you’ll burn yourself out. If you play the same set of scales day in and day out, you’ll become an expert at those scales–and nothing else. With this in mind, it’s important for musicians of all types to practice a variety of techniques. Not only will this make you a more well-rounded guitarist, but it’ll help you avoid boredom that could make you lose interest in learning the guitar altogether. To add some variety, try playing songs from different genres and eras of history, and speak with your music teacher about learning different styles of guitar, from jazz guitar to blues.
Keep Yourself Motivated
Although it’s one of the easier instruments to learn, learning to play the guitar won’t always be easy. You’ll run into rough patches, and there will be days when you want nothing to do with the instrument. You may feel good about learning the guitar right now, but how do you stick with the instrument when you feel like giving up? Setting short-term goals that aren’t hard to accomplish, along with harder, long-term goals, is a good way to keep yourself motivated. Whether you reward yourself after each practice session or find a guitar buddy who will help hold you accountable, different people are motivated by different things. Find the method that works for you and stick with it.
Always Have Fun
No matter what, always remember that the key reason you’re learning the guitar is to enjoy yourself; therefore, having fun with your practice sessions is important. Without fun, you’ll grow bored and will quit the guitar before you’ve ever really given it a chance. Some guitarists invite their friends over for jam sessions, while others head to local mic nights and perform in front of others. However you decide to bring some fun into learning the instrument, make sure that the words “fun” and “enjoyment” are synonymous with learning the guitar.
Want more guitar advice? Check out Six Guitar Upgrades That’ll Improve Your Sound (Or Save You Money).