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Learning to Play Guitar: An 8 Step Guide

As we approach the New Year, we often reflect on the things that we’d like to achieve and the skills we’ve always wanted to develop. Last year I wanted to change careers and branch out as an international pop sensation but with just over a week left in 2017 – I’m starting to think that pipe-dream may have to hang on a little longer….

A quick discussion around the office identified that most of us, would actually love to learn to play a musical instrument and some of us would like to develop our existing skills playing an instrument. This lead me on a mission to prep myself for the coming year and make my New Years resolution one that is centred on learning how to play the guitar.

You can never be too old, too busy or too tone deaf to learn how to play the guitar and it’s a skill and a past-time that everyone can get on board with. So I got, resident guitar-guru and editor Malcolm to help me out and we reached out to some guitar experts and have managed to outline just 8 key tips to help you on the way to musical masterdom!

Learn the chords

So you want to learn how to play guitar? Without sounding all Julie Andrews, you’ve got to start with one thing – chords. Chords are essentially the building blocks of music and you’ve gotta learn to speak their language if you want to learn how to play songs on your guitar. For new guitar players, we recommend that you get your introduction to chords by mastering the 7 basic guitar chords; also known as the open position chords. These are the simple chords that are played in the first few frets. Practice these and the chord progressions to get a primary understanding of the way that most songs are written and played.

Take your time

Anybody who has started playing guitar, can fall victim to one bad habit – rushing. We seem to pick up a song and aim to play it as fast as we can in a pursuit to fulfilling some Hendrix half-dream. To develop your guitar playing expertise, it’s really important that you are willing to take the time to perfect your technique before rushing into playing a sloppy song at double-speed. It’s the whole walk before you can run philosophy and it will certainly pay off in the end!

Use a Metronome

Learning to play guitar is a lot like learning to drive. There’s so much to focus on at times, that it’s often easy to lose direction. Although it’s important to play the right notes, it’s equally as important to play the right rhythm. Playing alongside a metronome is sterling practise and will keep you in check when mastering a rhythm. If you don’t have a metronome available, there are plenty of free phone apps and websites which can provide you with a free metronome.

Keep it light

On our mission to find the best tips and advice for new guitar players, we had to stop by the ‘Guitar Answer Guy’ blog run by Bobby. Bobby helps aspiring guitarists in all aspects of guitar ownership and has some excellent content to help learners master the art of playing guitar. We asked him what the most important thing would be for someone hoping to learn to play guitar in the new year. He told us:

“Start out using really, light guitar strings–and I mean REALLY light. For electric guitar, this means roughly 8 – 38 gauge and for acoustic guitars roughly 10 – 50. This will allow new guitarists to focus more on actually learning the instrument and less on physically fighting it. It’ll lessen the chance of hand injury as well. They can increase string gauge (thickness) over time, as they naturally gain hand strength and build calluses.”

Stay Motivated

You will have heard it time and time again but practice, actually does, make perfect. However, it’s tricky to practice if you’re just not feeling it – so be sure you keep yourself fresh and motivated. Practising the same chord progressions might get boring but persevere and find something to push you through – join a band, perfect your favourite song, jam with friends, attend open mic-nights, whatever it is, stay motivated and think about the long-term result of lots of practice.

Ears instead of eyes

It sounds like a weird note of advice but, when learning to play learn to listen rather than look. When you start mastering chords you’ll be tempted to keep looking to make sure that your fingers are in the right position but teach yourself early on what a chord sounds like rather than just looks like. If you practice your chords without looking at your hands, you’ll be surprised at how quick you will be able to identify chord sequences in songs without any visual aids!

Challenge yourself

So you’ve started to master the chords and your rhythm isn’t too bad – so why are you still insisting on playing back-to-back renditions of Wonderwall? Be sure to recognise when it’s time you stepped it up a notch and stretch and challenge your skills with new songs and solos that might be a little outside of your comfort zone.

Welcome an audience

The prospect can be terrifying for some but if you’ve been jamming away on your own, welcome an audience and garner some feedback. Playing solo is easy enough when you can brush over that little mistake but when you add an extra pair of ears the pressure may help you to adapt from that mistake or not make it at all. Getting used to playing in front of other people will also do wonders for your confidence and develop your performance.

I hope this has helped you feel inspired to pick up a guitar and give it a go. Use the internet to get free guitar tabs, tutorials and resources to support you on your quest to learn how to play the guitar like a real professional. Step aside Malcolm…there’s a new shredder in town. (Sorry boss)

Carl & Malcolm


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The big bad boss at Man Wants. What he says is law around here.