Monday, January 2, 2012

10 Beginner Guitar Notes

Welcome, friends and students, to my blog. :)

This will be a fun place for all my students to comment, respond, and interact with what's being taught one on one between all of you and myself. I have much to learn, as well. But, as I have been playing close to fifteen years (I'm bad with time, so give or take a couple of years), I hope I can offer some things to get you started in the right direction. I enjoy working with and getting to know people, and I don't even have to sell anything (I hate sales). Moving on, here are some things to keep in mind.

1) Your guitar is an instrument to be cared for. Once you have a good one, watch over it and keep it in good shape. After all, you can carry a guitar to places a lot of instruments couldn't even dream of being. For example, I rarely see a musician asking the airplane pilot if he will stow away their 88-Key, weighted, full size keyboard for the flight. I mean, I guess you could try.

2) The guitar can be taken to one level, then the next, then the next... you can become average, or you can become great. And honestly, I'm not going to knock either one (the music majors will forgive me). Some people love just singing and just want to know some chords to play along with at home. They just want a little personal music in their lives. I got "no beef" with that (sorry, my cool vernacular is low these days). With time and effort, you can be playing along with a radio song in no time at all (contradicting pun noted and now intended).

3) It's a good idea to keep your guitar in a room temperature area, circumstances allowing. The cold and heat can hurt not only the string tension on your instrument but also the whole neck itself (there is a "tension rod" inside the neck of your guitar that is kept to a certain tension level, allowing the neck to perform as it should; as even I don't mess with this yet, I don't recommend adjusting it yourself as a beginning guitarist).

4) It's a good idea to have a couple of towels/wipes (soft cloth) nearby to wipe down your guitar after each use. Just as you would clean your gun after getting your grimy hands all over it (no offense), the oil and dirt from your hands also finds its way onto your strings.

5) I recommend having at least the following items: a pick to your liking (I prefer medium nylon picks; it's just whatever you get used to, and different picks will serve different purposes; I don't recommend getting a pick that's too thick or hard), backup guitar strings (a string can bust at any time), a capo (not necessary, but good to learn how to use; it's the little clip looking device that raises the key of a song by clinching onto the neck at higher and higher levels), and a book or paper with guitar chord charts (trust me, you'll want this).

6) There is no substitute for playing. A lot can be gleaned from reading. I'm just now trying to wade into some music theory. But, playing by ear, training yourself to hear music and imitate or modify what you hear, and simply learning the way around the neck of the guitar by constant playing... is irreplaceable.

7) Start off by knowing the strings and then moving on to chords. Most western music is built on triads (i.e. chords). Start there. It's a safe bet.

8) Start learning some finger drills to get your left hand stretched out. A lot beginning students will struggle with a simple C chord merely because you have to stretch three fingers across three frets. Get your fingers used to stretching.

9) Tune your guitar each time before you play or practice. You won't learn a thing if you start trying to work on chords and everything sounds wrong. If you don't know how to tune a guitar to itself (in other words, tuning the guitar to itself without the use of a tuner), learn how. If you're ever stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere and only have a guitar (barring that you might have to crush it for a fire; let's hope not), this will be useful. I can think of other reasons it's useful if you care to know.

10) Have fun! Music is meant to evoke emotions: happy, sad, angry and murderous (i.e. hard rock/metal). I don't recommend all of those emotions. But, enjoy the guitar. You'll love it for life. If you're single, it's also guaranteed to bring about marriage. Wait a minute...