Archive for the ‘Tips for New Guitar Players’ Category

Happy New Year, all!!

Instead of ponderous resolutions, why not encourage yourself instead? If you already play and want to get better, or if you’re completely new to guitar, here are some quotes by great players that are inspirational to me in my own practice. See if they help you, too!

When Howard Roberts, the great guitarist and educator, was seven, he lied to friends about being able to play guitar. Someone called him on it, as there happened to be an old Silvertone guitar nearby with rusty stings and terrible action. Here’s what Roberts recalls of the experience:

“In the panic of the moment, I quickly, very quickly, tried to picture what a real guitar player would do; he would move the fingers of his left hand up and down the fingerboard (the faster, the better), and the same would probably be true of the right hand. So I moved my hands about the guitar with blinding speed in one short but furious burst. When I had finished, I did not know what I had done, but neither did they… That experience gave me the subliminal message: I had in fact actually played the guitar and that all I will have to do from that point on was to become a little more particular about the notes I played… Nothing’s changed since.”

“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.” – Jimi Hendrix

“Patience is the most important lesson. It has been my experience that the only requirement for playing is the desire to do it. All else bows to this.”  – Joe Diorio

Have you been inspired by quotes from favorite players? Share them by commenting on this post.

Have a wonderful and productive 2011, everyone! Happy guitaring!


Will a guitar be under the Christmas tree this year? Congratulations! You’ve been given a great gift that will enrich your life for years to come. Now learn to play it!

As a new player, there are many options. This post will give you an overview of what to expect as a beginner and where you can find help in learning to play guitar.

Can you  commit to 15 minutes a day, 5 to 7 days a week, for focused practice? Make that answer “yes.” You’ll need to practice at least this much to get past the first challenge of playing- fingertip soreness. If you commit to your practice schedule for two weeks or so, you’ll fly past the first hurdle. Make the time, do the work, and you’ll be past that stage quickly!

The next challenge is getting clear, clean sound from your notes and chords. It doesn’t have to take a long time to learn to play. You can accomplish a lot with a handful of basic chords and one very common strum pattern. But when you begin playing chords, you’ll need to troubleshoot the sound you’re getting. There are five things to be alert to in getting clean sound (see earlier post “Getting Great-Sounding Chords”). Once you’re getting good sound from the basic chords, have memorized them and are able to form them quickly, you’ve passed the second challenge.

The third challenge is moving smoothly from chord to chord in a song, so that your left hand fretting can keep up with the right hand strumming (or the reverse if you’re a left-handed player). This stage takes longer, and at this point I ask my students to increase their practice time to 30 minutes, at least 5 times a week. You’ll need the extra time in order to do enough repetitions so that they’ll start to feel natural and easy. As long as you have to think about it, there will be hesitation and delays in your playing. So increase your practice time at this stage. Make up exercises involving all the chords you’ve learned, and practice getting from chord to chord smoothly. Do many, many repetitions, again and again. Eventually it will become easy and natural. At that point you won’t have to think about it anymore. This is when you’ll begin to see the payoff to the work you’ve done and start feeling like a guitar player!

So, you’ve got three early challenges in learning to play: fingertip soreness, chord clarity and smooth chord changes. You can get past the first one in two weeks, if you do the work. Then learn to make good, clear chords. Then practice, practice, practice so you can move smoothly from chord to chord. All of this can happen within two or three months if you are consistent and focused in your practice. If your other commitments keep you from being able to practice 30 minutes a day, do as much as you’re able to. You will still make consistent progress- it will just take longer. But you’ll still get there. Do as much as you can, and keep after it. Find ways to do it, not reasons why you can’t!

Here are some suggestions and links to helpful online resources to get you started.

Option 1: Find a good guitar teacher and take regular lessons.

If your budget allows, this is probably your best option, at least in the early stages. A good teacher will hear your progress before you think you’re making any and will encourage you to stick with it while you overcome those first three hurdles. If they’re good, they’ll ask about your musical goals, what artists you enjoy listening to, which songs you’d like to play, and they’ll develop your lesson plans to match up with your goals. They’ll be able to help you troubleshoot problems with the clearness of your chords, and will be able to offer suggestions for smooth chord changes. I think that when you first start learning guitar this is your best option, if you’re able to do it. You’ll have the complete attention of your teacher for 30 minutes, and if you remember and apply their instructions in your practice, you can make faster progress this way. It’s a costlier option, and you need to be able to budget the money and time. It does have the advantage of giving you the teacher’s undivided attention, with lessons developed around your own specific musical goals, and very specific help with your own particular problems. So if you’re able to, consider this option.

Option 2: Online Instruction

If travel time or budget considerations make it impossible for you to take private lessons right now, be aware that there are many great online resources for learning guitar, many of them free. If you have an internet connection, you’ve got a world of learning right at your fingertips. There’s no reason not to learn to play. You’ll need to be self-motivated and encourage yourself if you go this route. There are three great online video instruction sites I can recommend off the top of my head:

All of these sites offer free lessons for players at beginner and intermediate levels, as well as unlimited access to all video lessons for a modest monthly fee. Especially if you’re a self-motivated person, these sites can be very useful. Some of the lessons are better than others, but they all give a decent introduction to guitar for new players.

One of the best and friendliest online resources I’ve found is:

The instructor makes much of his site available for free, and provides a wealth of practical information. If you have a small budget to work with, spend some time on his site.

Option 3: Instructional DVDs

Some of these involve a set of actual DVDs shipped to you, often in combination with immediately downloadable video lessons from the website. Others are download only. These offer convenience, value and good instruction for self-motivated people. It’s possible to order these, then let them sit on a shelf, or never play the lessons on your computer or TV, and then you’ll have wasted the money. If you enjoy learning this way, though, here are two products you should be aware of. Lots of bang for the buck. (I own both of these programs- bought them mainly as teachings aids and extra resources for my private guitar students.)

Gibson’s “Learn and Master Guitar” Instructional DVDs

This is widely regarded to be the best and most comprehensive DVD training for new players, covering the earliest basics up through some quite advanced material toward the end of the course. The instructor, Steve Krentz, is a friendly and likeable man with many years of professional playing and teaching experience. The course is not cheap, but the price has dropped and if you watch for seasonal specials, you can own a very comprehensive course for a reasonable price. There are sample videos on the website, so click the link and take a look around:

One that I just downloaded few minutes ago and haven’t had much time to explore yet looks like it would be a good option for those on a tighter budget:

If you go the Jamorama route, be prepared to spend some time reading the instructional PDFs. There are many short, useful videos in the course, but you’ll want to make use of the PDF documents, too.

So, there you are- several solid options to get you started off right! Now that you’ve got the guitar, dig in and learn to play. You’ll find that once you’ve cleared those first three hurdles, the guitar is a friendly instrument that will reward you in proportion to the time you spend with it. With just a small set of skills and knowledge, you’ll be able to play many great songs. If you’re inspired to go beyond this level, it gets even better. But even a little skill will bring the gift of music into your life! Enjoy!