Learning how to play electric guitar is not difficult and a lot of fun. And who knows: if you have talent and practice hard enough, you might become a virtuoso on the six strings! In this article you can read how to get started.
Method 1 of 2: Just play
Step 1. Adjust your guitar properly
A properly tuned guitar is very important if you want to learn to play the guitar. You can have it done at a music store or maybe you know a guitar repairman. A good adjustment has many advantages:
- The right intonation. This is probably the most important. The guitar must be accurate so that it sounds good when the guitar is in tune (and when you play the right notes). A badly intoned guitar may sound good when played near the bridge, but horribly out of tune when you play higher up the neck. That's really discouraging and makes it harder to learn.
- The playability. A guitar that is tuned too high is almost impossible to play because it takes a lot of force to get the strings onto the frets. This causes intonation problems, but it also hurts and makes the game slower! After a while of practice, you do develop calluses on your fingertips, but it remains difficult to play quickly or switch chords quickly.
Step 2. Listen and repeat
Every song has a recognizable melodic pattern, a combination of notes that gets stuck in your head. Don't just listen to the guitar solo - although that's always good to learn - but also listen to the vocals, the bass guitar and little decorations of the guitar. Listen carefully, what do you hear?
- For example, the melody of Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars is very simple, it contains short voice melodies and phrasing that you can try to imitate on the guitar.
- Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen has a recognizable melody, but there is also a distinctive string arrangement; a challenge to try on the guitar.
- Psy's Gangnam Style features a lingering synthesizer melody from start to finish. Of course your guitar doesn't click like a synth, but you can recreate the lick and have a lot of fun.
- The point is that you don't become a guitar god by learning solos, but you become a guitar god by listening and learning to play what you hear.
- If you can't distinguish a part of a song, you can take a look on YouTube. You can often find recordings of the band playing the song there.
Step 3. Try to alternate the difficult songs with easy songs
Give yourself a mental break after studying something really hard, then try an easy fun song. Then at least you keep moving your fingers, you get better anyway, and you don't get discouraged so easily.
Work on the things you find difficult more often than the things you find easy. For example, if you're really good at playing solos, but have more trouble with chords, practice those chords at least as often as the solos
Step 4. Don't get into effects pedals yet when you practice
You get a really big sound and a lot of sustain right away, of course, but it also does something else: it masks any mistakes.
You can't hide behind a bare, clean guitar sound, you hear everything. Save the pedals for when you're jamming with friends, or when you want to let loose after practice
Step 5. Learn music theory
If you develop yourself as a guitarist, it is good to get to know the underlying theory.
- With a basic knowledge of music theory you can find out what the chords of a particular song are much faster and you don't have to search for that long on your guitar.
- It also makes it easier to confer with other players - very useful when starting a band. The keyboardist probably won't know what you mean when you say "Look at my fingers for the chords". But if you say "Play an A7, then a B7 and back to E", he will understand.
Method 2 of 2: Take guitar lessons
Step 1. Find a good guitar teacher
And 'good' is different for everyone. Some people learn by watching, other people learn by listening. Maybe you want someone who specializes in the music you love or someone who just knows how to get the best results despite the student's music preference. Look for the best style for your learning curve.
The music you like is not the most important consideration. For example, someone who likes blues can benefit a lot from learning flamenco guitar. Blues and flamenco are not alike at all, but having studied flamenco and then playing the blues can lead to an interesting and complex playing style
Step 2. Learn how to read music notes
Whatever learning system you have, always learn how to read music. It is not easy to read notes on the guitar as there are six strings and each note can be played at different heights. But it always helps you a lot.
Step 3. Have fun with it
Whatever you learn, taking lessons involves a certain discipline: repetition, difficulties, more repetition, more exercises that are all about technique and not about playing 'cool' guitar. If you don't keep it up, this can get really annoying!
- Practice the lessons you need to practice and when you're done, close the book and play whatever and however you want.
- If you're constantly playing scales and you're going crazy with boredom, you can start decorating the notes a bit. Do play the notes so that you keep perfecting the technique, but add some vibrato here and there or go down a note instead of playing the note a fret. Or try playing the exercise backwards. As long as you keep it exciting for yourself.
Step 4. Practice
Whether you take lessons or teach yourself, the only way to get better is to practice. Play as often as you can and for as long as you can.
- Learning to play the guitar has many facets: your fingers have to get stronger, you have to learn where the notes are on the neck, you have to train your "muscle memory", you have to learn to play with feeling. This all takes time to develop and some parts develop faster than others. Just keep trying and it will eventually work.
- Every guitarist you admire has once been a beginner. And they have one thing in common: they never stopped playing and practicing!
- Make sure you choose the right guitar. Some guitars, like a Les Paul, are very heavy. For example, a Strat or a Strat copy is much lighter.
- A good amplifier makes a difference: you enjoy the sounds you produce much more. A low wattage tube amplifier is already very nice.
- Guitar pedals may not be good for learning technique, but they are great for practicing with headphones. So you can play at night without waking up the neighbors.