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Guitar Advice for an Absolute Beginner

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    Guitar Advice for an Absolute Beginner

    Good Morning!

    I've been shocked and impressed with how many great musicians are in this group! I've always wanted to learn an instrument, typically the guitar or saxophone, with possible interest in piano. However, I've let 32 years roll by and still haven't learned a darn thing! I've been committed to trying to better myself in 2020, and to make the best of a crazy year! I bought a very cheap acoustic guitar probably 8 or 9 years ago off of Ebay for maybe $50 to $100 if I had to try to recall. I think I remember playing around on it one or two days before telling myself my "fingers were too fat" lol. I now know that I was lying to myself.

    I'm an absolute beginner, and have never really touched an instrument in my life as of 4 days ago. Anyway, I bought a subscription to GuitarTricks last week after a lot of research that said it was kind of the best source for an absolute beginner. I've really enjoyed it so far, and I feel myself getting hooked. I can't stop reading about the guitar now. I've probably practiced for maybe 6 to 8 hours over the past three days and wanted to keep going yesterday but fingers were toast and was worried I would develop poor technique if I kept going.

    I was wondering if any of you musicians had any advice for a rookie brother?! I've never had it restrung in the 9 years I've had it, so I'm going to try to put light strings on because I read it is easier on the beginner's fingers. I'm assuming I can still learn on such a cheap instrument, even though it may be more challenging? I know the strings seem like they are higher than they should be. Don't know the slightest about buying a guitar, but know I probably would want a slight upgrade if I prove to myself that I can stick with it.

    Anyway, any practice tips, advice, words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated! I value every one in the Pits opinions!


    Thank you!

    #2
    Guitar is a pretty personal thing and its best if you can get your hands on to see what feels right for you. Right now that might be challenging of course. I personally started off witha Takamine g series. There are different models but even the cheap ones are pretty nice guitars. The other great thing to have is to find a local tech who can set it up for you and optimize the action (string height) etc.

    Comment


    • grantgallagher
      grantgallagher commented
      Editing a comment
      The other thing is just keep at it. When i started i literally played till my fingers bled and burned in the shower, lol. Learn the basics as you are doing, start trying to learn and understand scales and modes but importantly, put on some tunes and just noodle around.

    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Great advice, thank you, brother!

    #3
    Something I’ve learned as a musician for 42 years, not a guitar player myself, But I’ve been around them for decades, and have purchased many for my son, who plays, is that the setup of the guitar is important.

    Many of the cheap guitars that have come through the house have necks and fret boards that are not setup properly, causing you to really have to press hard to get the string down to the frets. This makes it a lot harder to play (and learn) than on a properly setup guitar. Even some of the Taylors and Martins and other more expensive guitars we’ve bought needed to have a professional setup at a local guitar shop to get things right. What you are looking for is the strings to be the same distance from the frets for the full length of the neck, and from string to string. And not too high above the frets either.

    I did have an Ovation acoustic electric that was mine - mostly to piddle around with, and unbeknownst to me, my son loaned it to a guy playing in the worship band at his church, and the guy quit showing up to play, changed cell phones and I never got the guitar back. I played so infrequently than it was 6 months before I missed the guitar, and by then it was long gone! I think it was a $400 guitar that was in the closet for 10 years, and I might get another one some day.

    Anyway, if the guitar is halfway decent to begin with, you might want to see if a local guitar shop can do a setup for you, as it may improve playability a good bit.
    Last edited by jfmorris; June 8, 2020, 06:45 AM.

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Great advice, thank you, Jim! What instrument do you play if you don't mind me asking!?

      I'm almost embarrassed to take this guitar in to get adjusted for fear they will bash me for playing on something so cheap!

    • jfmorris
      jfmorris commented
      Editing a comment
      Ground Chuck I’ve been playing brass instruments, mostly trumpet, but some trombone and baritone (think mini tuba) since 6th grade, 42 years ago. I play less in recent years as I had to drop out of the church orchestra due to other commitments. I grew up in a house with a piano and guitar, so can piddle around with those some. My mistake was learning to read music for a single line at a time, and I never could grok having both hands playing from two lines of music at once...

    #4
    I’ve been playing for a little over two years now, although I had a stint of playing maybe 8 years ago. But the last two years I have been dedicated to learning and have really enjoyed it. The two posts above give great advice on the guitar itself. The action can make it harder to play, which, in turn makes it not as fun to play. You may pay $25-50 for a set up, but it may help quite a bit if it’s not right. My Dad has a custom made acoustic and I don’t like playing it because the action is way to high I feel, and the guitar strings are to heavy, that’s my opinion though. A guitar just has to feel right in your hands.

    As for learning, I have taken lessons, but my schedule made that hard to keep up with. Where I have learned a ton is Justinguitar.com and the video lessons he has that are free. I am telling you these are hands down the best lessons on the web and they are free. It’s like taking lessons on a weekly basis - you get instruction, an outline of how you should be practicing, and songs to incorporate the learnings from the lessons. You will learn the basic chords, some music theory, notes on the neck - all things that if you want to learn guitar, are great to pick up. If you think you will enjoy learning how to play some lead guitar, there’s even some of this built in.

    I highly suggest these course. I know you paid for access to the other site, but check this one out and see what you think. I do pay for access to his Music Theory courses now, which, I am trying to get under my belt so I can play guitar in different ways.

    And then for the fun stuff, just learning some songs, Justin Guitar also posts to YouTube as does Marty Music - these are really the two channels on YouTube that I follow to learn new songs.

    Hope that helps - from a beginner’s perspective. There are quite a few others on here that play. There are a few threads as well - show us your guitar gear, share the music and share YOUR music that are fun to read through.

    oh - and that thing called MCS.....there is a thing called MGS.....just wait

    have fun!
    Last edited by barelfly; June 8, 2020, 07:06 AM.

    Comment


    • jfmorris
      jfmorris commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the link to the lessons site - I’ve still got a couple of crappy old acoustics hanging on the wall in my office and I may pick one off the wall and play with those lessons if we ever get home from the hospital.

    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you, brother! I will definitely be checking out Justin Guitar now!

    • barelfly
      barelfly commented
      Editing a comment
      jfmorris - you will thoroughly enjoy his lessons. He is From across the pond, so the accent is fun to listen to as well.

    #5
    I do a lot of guitar repair so I second a good proper action/setup. In short of a neck reset, which is not really worth it on a cheap guitar, a basic setup at a good guitar shop should run ya around $40 to $50 bucks. Anything to make it more comfortable to play (properly). Nothing has turned off and turned away more musicians than a guitar that is just too hard to play. Fingers are gonna hurt no mater what, but they can hurt way less...

    Lots of good Craigslist finds out there too. But you will be surprised to see how "good" guitars hold their value too. I look at all the guitars I build or buy as investments. That's what I always tell the Moonbeam.

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you, Lonnie! I knew you would have good advice from seeing you in the other guitar posts! I guess I'm torn between paying to lower the action or paying for a better guitar. It would be a no-brainer if I were 6 months in or so.

    • jfmorris
      jfmorris commented
      Editing a comment
      Ground Chuck you are more likely to be playing 6 months from now if you have a guitar that is comfortable to play.

    #6
    Interesting thread since my musical ability is pushing the presets on my car radio.
    Retiring in six months so need to fine something to while away the hours, guitar strumming may work.

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Hahahaha, you and me both, brother! I've always had the desire, and finally my wife encouraged me that I may have something musical in me since there seems to be a passion there. It has been inspiring to read that for many, they weren't born with the instinct, but developed it through hard work! Congrats on your upcoming retirement!

    #7
    A lot of great advice on lowering the strings/action on a guitar. I guess my question is why do they manufacture them with such "inadequate" action in the first place? Inadequate may be poor phrasing, maybe manufactured with a "less-preferred" action?

    Comment


    • lonnie mac
      lonnie mac commented
      Editing a comment
      For the most part, the do pretty well, or most try. Wood moves a LOT over it's life. What they fall short on is proper finishes, sanding, using good quality materials, making all the little things playable. But it is still important to know that it's wood, and wood moves. It is not uncommon to do a neck reset on a $50,000 Martin or Gibson guitar at some point it its life.

    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Very interesting stuff! Had no idea a guitar wood move like that!

    • jfmorris
      jfmorris commented
      Editing a comment
      lonnie mac good advice - my son's Martin is in need of a reset at this point, as it is no longer maintaining tune for a set on stage. It's probably almost 10 years old and has been great up until the last couple of years.

    #8
    Lots of excellent advice above!
    One real plus is that nowadays, there's quite a variety of very affordable guitfiddles that are actually quite decent quality.
    Th beginner guitfiddles I started on, decades ago were absolutely cheap carp, and were maddenin, an frustratin...

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you, Bonesey! I may have to look into a slight upgrade in a couple months.

    • Mr. Bones
      Mr. Bones commented
      Editing a comment
      LMK, might be able to hook you up, Brother...
      Gonna thin my herd, some...

    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Definitely!

    #9
    I won’t repeat the good advice above but like Mr. Bones said there are relatively inexpensive guitars such as Seagulls that seem real popular, maybe $450 for a new one. Like lonnie mac said, maybe you can find one on Craigslist. I have never played in a band, just an enjoyable pastime for me. As stated G series Takamines are nice guitars. I have a Jumbo. But before you buy one you have to hold it in your hands and see how it feels. There are different neck sizes and shapes and action. I am having neck problems right now and haven’t been able to play and I really miss it. Put it down for a week and watch yourself go crazy. Good luck brother and happy cooking too!

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, brother, awesome advice! Thank you for all of your insight!

    • TheQuietOne
      TheQuietOne commented
      Editing a comment
      I second the recommendation of Seagull guitars. I have their least expensive S6 and an S12 twelve string and they're great. Solid cedar top instead of plywood as used in many inexpensive acoustics. They have a nice full sound that I really like. Both my Seagulls were all bought used. The quality of low end guitars is light years ahead of were they were just a few years ago. If you can, in person lessons are best. Even 4-5 will help you not develop bad habits which are hard to break later.

    #10
    One other important aspect I think is finger stretching exercises before and after you play. It’s easy enough to find exercises to do on YouTube. I hope this helps a little.

    Comment


    • grantgallagher
      grantgallagher commented
      Editing a comment
      Thats a great shout out. Finger stretching and hand strength for ur fret hand are great exercises for any guitar player.

      One other thought...its very easy to start ignoring your fret hand pinky because it tends to be the least coordinated of your fingers. Dont. Keep working with because it will help you a lot as you progress, especially if you have shorter fingers like me. Clapton for example, doesnt use his pinky much at all when soloing, but he has giant spider leg fingers.

    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Grant, I was wondering if the pinky got much use or not. Very uncoordinated finger on my left hand lol. Guess I'll try including him.

    • barelfly
      barelfly commented
      Editing a comment
      Yep, and the JustinGuitar.com site builds this in to the lessons. All encompassing lessons, it’s amazing that they are free the amount of depth that come out of them.

    #11
    What kind of music do you like to listen to? Or do you think you would like to play as you start getting into it? I say this, because some electric guitars can be easier to play than acoustic. I know, electrics require an amp, but you can find those at a reasonable price as well.

    Just something to think about if you start looking at purchasing a mid-range guitar. I love classic rock and 90s alternative music, so I play my electric more than anything now, and, with that, I have upped my collection by 2 in the last month. Both electrics, different than my Strat. But.... that is the MGS kicking in I mentioned above

    you can play anything on an acoustic, but whatever will bring the most joy and get you playing more is what you may want to consider if you purchase.

    by the end of the day, we may have a few guitars picked out for you! Haha. Enjoy the search and go play as many guitars as you can if you do start to look at purchasing. That is the best way to see what feels good in your hands.

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      I like quite a few genres. I think right now I'm into acoustic, but could see myself wanting to move into electric at some point in the near future. Hopefully I will learn some basic stuff and then be able to decide which path to move down. I've enjoyed listening to some blues here the past few days though.

      Sounds like I have a lot to consider and research, lol!

    #12
    Not much more to add from me.......Some great advice above. My only advice is to check out Justinguitar great online resource for lessons both advanced and beginner.
    https://www.justinguitar.com/

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, brother!

    #13
    Let me begin by saying that I am not a great guitar player - I can play rhythm but that's about it - but I do own a lot of guitars! My advice is to learn the basics with what you have until you can go shop in a guitar store in person to play and hear what you like. I have never been happy (with one exception) with any guitar I've bought online.

    And now a story (since the subject of string height - action - came up): Living in Marin in the 70's I did a lot of synthesizer repairs and mods for local bands and separately came to know many members of the Grateful Dead (we drank and hung out together at the local bar). One day I got a call From Jerry Garcia. He had bought a guitar synthesizer and had it installed on one of his guitars. It used a special pickup to sense what string and note was being played. It wasn't tracking at all. Could I help? The action on Jerry's guitar was set so high (at least 3/8" inch off the frets). The angle of the string shifted so much between open and fretted that the pickup couldn't handle the variations. Jerry didn't believe me so I brought a guitar in from the local music store that was set up more normally and showed Jerry that it tracked perfectly. I handed him the guitar and he tried it for a few minutes, handed it back and said "Man , I can't play this. I learned to play on such a cheap guitar that I need my action this high." Needless to say the synthesizer was not in Jerry's future.
    Last edited by mgaretz; June 8, 2020, 08:18 PM.

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Hahahaha, that is a great story! I guess you can truly learn to play on almost anything!

    #14
    Practice practice practice! Important: that's different than play play play! Many first timers may not think about this. Playing means doing what you want, your comfort zone, and stopping when you're bored. Practicing means doing what you might not necessarily want to play, and making yourself continue past when your fingers hurt or you're bored. Music is a language, and a new language takes much effort, and scales and the "map" of the fretboard are important to learn to understand that language. There are repeating patterns in pentatonics and scales. Learn them. Make yourself learn them. Don't just settle for 'playing' and then stopping when you're bored. My biggest piece of advice.

    There are MANY great guitar lessons on YouTube and many great teachers. One I highly recommend is Steve Stine from GuitarZoom.com, he has a lot of free vids on YouTube too. He is so easy to learn from, he really dumbs things down for a dummy like me and explains them well.

    Here's one I especially enjoy from him (but it's not really the 1st one, it's just one of many of his):

    Comment


    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you, Huskee! Can't wait to check out GuitarZoom! You're right though, learning the language of music is tough! Really regret not playing something in school now lol.

    #15
    Some very good advice from above ! Huskee lonnie mac know what they're talkin bout, as well as others

    I'll also add, practice playin both sittin down, and standin up, with a strap...sounds stupid, I know, but jus do it.

    First many years I played, as a kid, I was always sittin down, mebbe even with some ancient, yellowed Mel Bay book in front of me.. Learnin to play standin up, with a strap was almost like havin to start all over... Do both.

    Also, I know full well yer gonna be watchin where yer fingers are, at first, checkin yer chord shapes, etc. ...it's necessary, of course, but th sooner ya can break yerself of that, as ya learn th shapes, an scales, better off ya'll be...

    Oh, I still glance, time to time, but mostly my eyes are closed, when things are flowin th best, an I'm jus lettin th music pour through me, an into my guitar. Takes time to git there, keep playin...

    To cure myself of gawkin at my fingers, I actually usedta come home, pop a top, mebbe inhale a bit, an go sit in a chair in a walk-in closet, in th dark.

    Don't git discouraged. That's what makes 99+% of people quit playin. Also where I've gotten 99% of my great deals on guitars.

    I truly thought both that I was stupid, an my fingers couldn't possibly, phyically make some them chord shapes. F can be a bastard, fer example. Was fer me... keep at it

    If ya git frustrated, set th guitfiddle down, but always come back to it, every single day...ya'll progress...

    There'll be times when ya make mad progress, an times when ya plateau...jus like th stall, when smokin...still, play every day, an Power through it!

    It'll seem like ya been playin th same ol shite ferever, but after a spell, ya'll stop, an realize ya jus nailed a lick or chord progression ya been tryin to fer a long time. It be's like that.

    Well, that's not everything, but my failures might help ya avoid some, save ya some time, an frustration.

    Hope this helps, an hit me up, anytime with questions. I don't know much, but what I do know is at yer disposal, Brother!

    Reckon that's my ¢2 worth, fer today...
    Last edited by Mr. Bones; June 8, 2020, 07:31 PM.

    Comment


    • lonnie mac
      lonnie mac commented
      Editing a comment
      Oh Jeebus Bones you have hit the nail on the head! I'll have more to say tomorrow, but it's bedtime. I was just out in the mancave thinking doubt this very thing.

    • Mr. Bones
      Mr. Bones commented
      Editing a comment
      Yup, Huskee , I hear ya, standin up is a whole nuther different world from settin on yer bum, an plunkin away...
      Awkward is a rather nice way to describe it, when I was put in similar circumstances as yerself...

      Fortunately, I got summat better...not much, but...

    • Ground Chuck
      Ground Chuck commented
      Editing a comment
      Wonderful advice, and very informative, thank you Bonesy! You are correct, I've been gawkin! lol. Was hoping it might help me learn the shapes better. I will work on breaking that habit!

      Also, great advice on the sitting/standing thing I think. I was telling my wife just this Sunday, for some reason I was irked at church that the only person sitting down on stage was the acoustic player. Now I'm understanding why!

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