JAMS Notes - “You have a guitar! Now What?”
Hey folks! Like it or not, 2023 is in full swing and like most hearty Americans I have already failed at those New Year’s resolutions. Actually, I was so lazy this year I didn’t even make a resolution; just skipped a step and went straight to failure. I mean, sometimes you just have to know yourself and realize it takes more than throwing an old calendar in the trash to motivate change. Really though, I did it for you. You see, now I don’t have to focus on my own ambitions. I can help catapult you to your new goals for 2023. As long as your goal is learning to play the guitar that is.
So, Christmas rolled around and you found yourself with a brand new guitar. Whether you saw the latest Capital One TV commercial featuring Slash and made a quick witted comment which birthed a gift idea from a family member or you are stepping out to fulfill a lifelong dream, learning to play the guitar is a journey. So, let me give you some tips on what to do next.
Whether you bought the guitar for yourself or Santa picked one out for you it’s important that you make sure the guitar is in optimal shape to play. If you bought the guitar at a local music shop most likely the instrument is good to go. But, December is busy for retail stores so unless you had a tech change out the strings and ask for a final quality inspection before you left the shop, it could need some lovin. Plus, the constant temperature and humidity changes in our beloved Southeast Missouri could easily get things out of whack. Go ahead and take the time to bring it back to the shop and ask for a restring and inspection. If you take the guitar back to the shop it was purchased from most likely they will be happy to give it a thorough look and make any small adjustments necessary. As long as it was purchased recently most shops will not charge for this service. Go ahead and ask for a restring too. New guitars don’t necessarily have new strings. Those strings installed at the factory could easily be a couple of months old. Again, most stores are happy to replace those strings if you purchased the guitar from them; as long as it was purchased recently, within 30 days. Ask the tech for string recommendations for a beginner player. There are many different string sizes so you’ll want to get something on the lighter side, but not too light.
If you bought a guitar in used condition or bought it online it is an absolute must that you take it to a local shop and have it set-up. For a used guitar there is no telling what condition it is in and how well it has been taken care of. It may look fine but guitar tech’s know what to look for and what to adjust to make it play the best. If you bought a guitar online understand that weather conditions do have an affect on guitars. Don’t be surprised if a guitar that ships from California has a few shifts and changes after a couple of days in Missouri. (Read my blog on Guitars Vs. Humidity). Remember your goal is to learn how to play the guitar and it's a long journey so make sure the guitar is in its best possible playing condition. This is more important than how much you spent on the guitar. A properly setup $200 guitar can play just as well as a $1000 guitar. It makes a huge difference whether you realize it or not.
How to Learn
This is the biggest decision that will determine your success. 99% of players can’t just sit down and automatically start playing the guitar. You’ll need some help. Personal lessons are an excellent choice. Most players benefit from having an experienced teacher show them what to learn and how to learn it. Plus, it's good to have a person provide motivation and comradery. Even experienced players benefit from having professional instruction. The guitar is one thing you never truly master, there is always something to learn and building a relationship with a teacher is a worthy investment. But, lessons can be a costly investment too.
If you are looking for a cost effective approach then the internet is a win. There are lots of great Youtube channels and online guitar teaching sites that are excellent options. There are even a handful of apps that offer a great learning experience. The problem with the internet is your unlimited options can be truly overwhelming. It's hard to know which direction to go and what suits your learning style and personal goals. For those more old skool you can always find a Guitar Book. It’s a nice affordable resource but many times the songs are old fashioned and sometimes the book moves too fast before you properly master a skill. Books are great for building a solid foundation, but again the options can be overwhelming.
Which option is the best? Well, unfortunately there is no right answer. A lot of it depends on the individual. Some players excel using a book. Some players need the personal hands on experience of a teacher. Some players grow exponentially using online resources. Just have to know yourself, maybe do some self analyzing and follow the path you think will be most successful to you. If you choose online I do recommend that you find one site or person and stick with their system. Don’t jump around to different websites or Youtubers, find one and follow their approach for a good amount of time before you try somethin else.
Make it a Priority
If playing the guitar is a major goal then make it a priority. Don’t let it be one of those things on your list that gets done only if you have time. Chances are, you won’t have time at that end of the day, or you’ll be too tired to focus on it. Schedule it in your list of things to do daily. Forbeginers, 15 minutes a day is suitable. Your fingers can only stand so much at the beginning until they toughen up. Consistent practice is the key. One day a week is not going to cut it if you want progress. Make it a daily routine. No amount of lessons, Youtube knowledge, or anything like that will replace practice. Even if you spend thousands on your guitar it won’t matter if you don’t take the time to practice. Start now and start a little at a time. 15 minutes a day, everyday, makes a big difference. Also, have a good practice routine and make your practice count. This is where a good instructor or Internet source is important. How to practice and what to practice is important too.
Find Some Buddies
Nobody says you need to start a band right away, or ever in fact. But, find some friends or local musicians and start spending time with them. If they are experienced guitarists then you can benefit from their years of knowledge. You can learn a lot just watching someone play. If you can only find beginning musicians then learn and encourage each other. Most musicians today succeeded simply because they had a community of players that encouraged them and motivated them to press on. If you do it alone chances are it will fizzle out in a couple of months. Whether your goal is a relaxing hobby or you have aspirations for the bright lighted stage you can find a group of musicians to help you achieve your goal and create some great relationships along the way.
Unfortunately, I see it everyday where someone has given up on their goal of playing guitar. My goal is to help you have the best possible route of success. If you set up your guitar correctly, find a teaching source, practice daily, and find a group of friends, I firmly believe you greatly increase your chances of success. You’ll find what thousands of guitarists have already realized. Playing guitar is one of the most: rewarding, frustrating, addicting, expensive, fulfilling, and fun loving hobbies you can have. It’s worth every step of the journey.