Angry Thoughts
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Angry Thoughts

How to play the guitar — lesson 1, kiddo


Are you one of those many souls who have always wanted to play guitar but, somehow, never tried? Riffs, chords, fingers, rhythms seemed a bit overwhelming? Many can relate to how you feel. But let me tell you something: the hardest part is just deciding to start.

Since you actually need a guitar to play one, we’re going to focus on that process first.

What guitar should I get?

Between the endless variety of guitars that are particular to every region of the world, there are three that are the most popular:

Classical guitar — It’s the granddaddy of modern guitars and is credited to the work of the Spanish guitarist and luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado. It uses nylon strings, being commonly played with the fingers or fingernails, and is associated with classical music, flamenco, bossa nova, and others.

Steel-string acoustic guitar — Originates from the classical guitar. It uses steel strings and a narrower neck. Besides the fingers and fingernails, guitar picks also enter the picture here. It is commonly denominated as “the acoustic guitar” (even though classical guitar could also be considered the same). The associated genres include folk, jazz, country, and bluegrass.

Electric guitar — Keeps the thin neck and steel strings, but the hollow body is swapped out for a solid one. In this case, the sound projection method is delegated to its electronic components that send an audio signal to an amplifier and speaker(s). They are more used in musical genres like blues, rock and roll, punk, metal, and funk.

There’re small variations between these types mentioned above. Besides, we can’t forget the bass guitar. Read more about it.

Which guitar should I choose?

There is a common myth that beginners should start on acoustic guitars, but there are a couple of problems with this argument:

  1. Acoustic guitars are not necessarily easier to play;
  2. They might not fit the beginners’ expectations.

The truth is that each type of guitar is physically different and thus produces a unique sound profile that might not fit the kind of music that the musician wants to play. The best type of guitar for you is the one that you want to play.

Getting a guitar

Not fully set on buying a guitar? If you have a friend with one, ask him to let you borrow it because it can help you decide if it’s something you want to pursue.

Nowadays, mass production means that there are very competitively priced guitar models that make buying a good guitar easy. Don’t buy the cheapest piece of driftwood as your first guitar because that makes learning harder, and even if you can learn something on it, it’s not going to sound good. Find a guitar within your budget that has a good reputation or one that you can try out and make sure that you like the sound.

It’s often cheaper to buy a guitar online. However, there are real benefits to visiting a guitar shop. It gives you the possibility of trying out various instruments before committing to a buy. This can be a weird experience for beginners since they don’t have the repertoire to test the devices and can even cause some anxiety because of the presence of other people. Keep your focus on your needs on your visit: you are there for yourself.

How can beginners test guitars:

  1. Put your hand on the neck as if you’re going to play and get a feel of the proportions of that and body. This will help you find a comfortable model.
  2. Test the sound of the guitars. If you can already play a few chords, great! If not, maybe you can take someone you know to play the guitars for you or ask the employees (they should gladly help you out). You might not feel like you have the knowledge or practice to judge the sound of a guitar, but this way, you can build various reference points and pick the sound that speaks to you the most.

Guitars are something that, when properly handled, can last you for your whole lifetime — any money put into it is a very long-term investment. I’ve had mine for 14 years, and it’s never been better. It’s a relatively poorly built guitar because my budget at the time was pretty low, but it’s good enough that it has lasted me for all these years.

Other isssues that might appear

“What I really want to play is another instrument.”

Great! If you know what instruments you really want to play, then you should really look into those. If, for example, you really want to play drums but want to be a considerate neighbor, there are alternatives like an electronic drum set.

“I already got a guitar!! Now what? Do I need classes?”

There are a lot of ways of mastering guitar (classes, videos, articles, etc), and you will often find a combination of them to be the most effective. There are two videos below that I really recommend as a starting point. If you don’t have your guitar in tune yet, there are apps that use your phones’ microphone and can help you with that.

For example, this should be everyone’s first guitar lesson:

5 Things Every Beginner Guitarist SHOULD Learn

After watching these videos, you should take hold of your guitar journey. Guitar classes will always be the most valuable learning resource you can get and can be taken on a consistent schedule or once every so often style. That being said, the internet is an excellent tool in which you can find some of the best guitar players and teachers giving out free and valuable knowledge.

Unless you live in a really humid environment, don’t keep your guitar in a guitar case stored in a closet. I keep mine in a guitar stand right by my desk, so it’s always ready to pick up and play. That way it, will be harder to neglect the journey that you set out to take on. Resilience goes a long way in learning music, and every little progress is a long-term victory. Good luck, rock on, and always remember: there is no plan B.

Originally published at on May 20, 2021.



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