I Always Wanted to Play the Guitar…”
Post 1: Choosing the Type of Guitar to Play
I hear so often “I wish I could learn to play” or “One day I’ll start; I even have a guitar.” I tell them I am the proof you can both play guitar and pick it up at any age.
Guitars are as much part of the American interior as coffee tables. You see them in the background of every sitcom dwelling, and part of the landscape of advertisements. The most popular instrument in history, the guitar is so omnipresent in our society. The classical guitar’s softness is used for emotion and nostalgia in movies, the screaming of the electric guitar is heard with every car commercial. It is the basic instrument for Rock, Flamenco, Bluegrass…
There are millions of people who have learned just a few easy chords, and with them can play virtually every song ever written. You can just strum, and sing along. That’s one way to play it! Like the ukulele.
Then there are millions who have taken the instrument up seriously and play it well in so many styles. YouTube has hundreds of thousands of guitar playing posts, and a lot of the “non-professional” players are quite good. And it’s astounding how many views these sites get, (some by the better players get in the hundreds of thousands). There are a lot of players, just like you, who are sharing what they have learned with their own personal touch.
This blog is for those who have always wanted to play. How do I get started, how long do I have to practice? What is the best way to practice? All these questions will be answered.
First we must consider your goal. What type of music do you want to play, and how much time do you think you have to give it. Think about how important this is. Your goal may change as your ability grows, but no matter. What do you want to do NOW?
Do you just want to be able to play some songs with friends and sing along? Do you want to play jazz, flamenco, classical, samba, rock? Whichever it is you can do it on some level with some practice. Think of it like a sport, or cooking or learning a language…you get a little better every day.
The greatest athletes and musicians in the world totally agree:
YOU ARE NEVER EVER DONE LEARNING AND GETTING BETTER. NEVER. The whole fun is the process. It’s work but it’s fun and worth it. Think how great you will feel when you are able to play something you have always loved!
So once we know what you want to play, we can will determine the first step- the type of guitar you want play. There are scores of different types of guitars, but three basic types (each with many variations). These are quite different from each other, as a piano is different from a harpsicord or organ.
· Steel String Acoustic- For folk fingerpicking, strum and sing along, bluegrass and western, can do some types of rock or jazz. The most common in the USA, these guitars were first popularized by Martin Guitar company in the early 20th century. This instrument does not require an amplifier and speaker, but can easily be adopted with a microphone “Pick-up” to become amplified. The steel stings have a long, metallic sound. It can be played while standing with a shoulder strap or while sitting.
· Nylon String Guitar- for classical, flamenco, samba, a soft sound for folk using strumming, and some types of jazz. This is the guitar that was played before the 20th century. It has a wider neck which is quite different from the steel guitar. Nylon strings have a shorter and more gentle sound than steel. Classical guitar is usually played while seated. It can be amplified but usually only for volume, not tone or sound effects.
· Electric Rock or Jazz Guitar- for rock, jazz. This guitar has a microphone pick-up and amplifier which must be used to make sound. Played standing up only. It has a similar neck to the acoustic steel, but with a longer and more accessible “neck”. Rock guitars have a solid body and virtually no sound without a speaker, the jazz guitar has a few inches of hollow body to allow for some volume without amplification, and a fuller sound when amplified.
Once you know what your goal is, go to any guitar store and look around.
DO NOT SPEND A LOT OF MONEY!! Like an athletic activity, you don’t need the most expensive equipment to start. It won’t help or make you learn easier.
You really need not spend more than $100–150 for your first guitar. These guitars are very available at guitar stores and online, and for the beginner they are all the same. You won’t need an upgrade for a few years.
For classical guitar, get a cheap foot stool. It’s more comfortable and easy for on the back and shoulders. For electric guitars, you must also by a small amplifier. At first, keep it super small, especially if you have neighbors or others in the house. Give them a break as you learn!
Now you have a guitar. Next we’ll go into to start a program. How many hours of practice will it take to reach your goal? You will be quite surprised!