“Gosh, I wish my fingers could conjure up a ditty on the guitar strings!” Or simply put, “How I wish I could be a Guitarist!” In all my years of teaching music, these words and my ears have become quite the pals! I might as well introduce the cliche here: “If I had a dime for each time I heard someone say that…!” But living where I am, a dime wouldn’t be of much avail, now would it? So let me me rephrase that to “If I had a rupee..!
Anyhoo, enough with this rambling! Let’s get down to the point shall we? It’s small wonder that most avid music listeners have always nursed a penchant (grand or small) for learning to play the guitar. Out of these, there have been ones fortunate enough to transform their desire into sweet reality! For truly, it’s fortuitous knowing how to ballet up your fingers on the guitar strings! On the other hand, there are ones who still nurse and nurture the dream but haven’t been able to chalk out a clear cut plan or are unsure about the natal steps towards the learning experience of a lifetime! This article is dedicated to the same lot. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll give you the A to Z of the steps and practices in Guitar learning in the cheapest and most effective way (at least to the best of my knowledge and experience).
Buying your debut guitar.
Initially, it’s not about the brand names or how much cash you shell out, It’s about convenience and rationale. You don’t need a Fender or a Gibson right away. You’d be better off settling for a national brand such as Givson, Grason, Hobner etc. These are good for nimbling up the fingers. Speaking of rationale, it’s always a good practice to start with an acoustic guitar. These are the hollow, wooden ones which do not need electricity and amplification. Carry ‘em wherever you go! Don’t get bedazzled by their bodacious and curvaceous electric counterparts! Practice enough and in time a pro or semi-pro electric guitar will be the fruit for your labour. But not just yet!
Here you see a Yamaha Pacifica Electric Guitar with a Yamaha Amplifier.
You and your guitar.
I’d mentioned convenience in ‘Step 1’. You need a guitar which complements your body frame. For small framed kids, baby guitars are available which facilitate a decent grip and convenient posture. For the medium framed young learners, ‘Junior’ guitars can be opted for which have dimensions tad incremented. Then come the standard 21 fret guitars for all adults with average or larger built. There are special guitars for females as well with a relatively petite built, having 19 frets.
Since I’m addressing beginners here, I’d strongly advocate purchasing an ‘F CUT’ guitar. F cut guitars are the variants with thin sound boxes (aka sound board).
Above, you see an F Cut guitar which looks like an inverted mirror image of the English alphabet ‘F’. The advantages of such types are three fold. To begin with, they are lighter to carry around and easier to maneuver while playing. Secondly, they’re ideally suited for playing beginner lessons. Finally and most importantly, they allow you to easily monitor your finger movement along the strings on the fret board. Believe me, this is of utmost significance! In your early days of learning, you will constantly feel the need to scrutinize your fingers to take them to the desired spots! Buy a jumbo (guitar with thick and hefty sound box, shown below) and you just might end up complaining of a plausible back ache or even neck stress. These guitars are best suited for playing pieces which require depth, such as rhythm. All this comes on later in the learning process.
“How much will it set me back?”
Knowing the price.
Continuing from step 1, rationality must be introduced in your first guitar purchase. It’ll be prudent to go for an F Cut in the vicinity of Rs. 3000-3500. Yes! That’s all you need to bring home your long coveted beau! Now I’m not raising any doubts in your ability to learn but as a beginner, it makes more sense to go for a cost wise humble model. You are yet to learn how well you find your way around a guitar. If you do, which you will (you have my blessings), then feel free to move on to let’s say maybe a YAMAHA F-310 (shown below) which is a lovely entry level acoustic guitar. It should cost around Rs.7000-7500. If you want to know more on prices, then sky is the limit! International vendors sell their marvels for lacs of rupees. So if your talent is as thick as the fat bundle of dough in your pocket, then my God man, Ovation, Ibanez, Fender and Gibson are the stars you should be plucking!
Finding a good teacher:
Now the importance of a good teacher can never be overemphasized! This will be a person in whom you’ll be vesting blind trust! But you’re allowed to wear an eye patch! You need to be sure if your source of learning is a legitimate one. For this you might want to consult decent local musicians (who preferably aren’t into teaching). Don’t go by word of mouth of a layman or for that matter a rookie! For them, any piece on the guitar is a ‘magnum opus’! I do not mean to be facetious but guitar is such a spell bounding contrivance that even the simplest musical pieces to an untrained ear sound like…well..heaven! If you’ve already become protégé to a master then you might want to compare his/her lessons with the abundant accurate material on the internet. Skeptical eh? But it does pay in today’s times when dilettantes turn teachers! Lastly, avoid teachers or academies which encourage lessons based on the ‘Sa re ga ma pa’ format! NO! It’s wrong!! I do not mean to condemn our rich Indian classical heritage. My point of emphasis is that a western instrument must be taught using a western format! Same implies for those who teach the piano on the format of a Harmonium and in a reverse situation, ones teaching the ‘Tabla’ on the principles of The Drums! Madness!! This alienates your knowledge from internationally accepted standards and practices.
‘Practice, practice, practice’!
Ah! The inevitable step! The road to being a guitar hero is no trivial business! Many a dedicated hours go into it! I’ve seen the enthusiasm of many erstwhile energetic learners wane away within few days for the reason that they thought it would be a ‘cake walk’! But of course reader, I’m sure you’d do much better! So read on as I encourage you for fruitful practice sessions. Initial lessons can get monotonous and taxing on the soft, untrained finger tips. (So where’s the encouraging part, right?) The only way to confront this is to avoid getting bored and soldier on! Believe me, if you make it through 2 months of basics, then it would be established with good confidence that you do have what it takes! Symptoms of quitters start emerging within this period and eventually get the better of them! This is what you DON’T have/want to do!
But if you ever feel like giving up, take the following medication:
1. Think of how far you’ve come and what a waste it would be quitting from there
2. Interrogate your will power with self-doubting questions like “That’s it?” “This is the best you could do?”, “Is that all you’ve got?” “You have the patience of a brat!”. Probably this will tick off your ego forcing you to get back at the good work.
3. Watch your teacher play. Observe the awe in the eyes of the ones listening. This twinkle in the eyes might glisten for you too!
4. Too bummed? Heck, go watch a live concert and witness people substitute the guitar wielding angels for their Gods!!
5. Watch at home pre recorded concert videos of bands and rock stars with the crowd going gaga and bowing to the masters!
6. Think of that special someone whom you’d like to impress with your musical skill! Although a shallow alternative but hey, whatever works for you!
7. Think of all the recognition you’d be letting go!
8. Finally, realize that you’re giving up on your DREAM man!! I mean, what is that? Doesn’t get sadder!
Now that I’ve hopefully provided figurative steroids, let’s briefly discuss the practice schedule.
If you’ve got nothing better to do and you’re the master of your time, then hey, knock yourself out, play into insane hours each day and witness a fulfilling progress! In 3 months, you’ll find yourself moving your fingers to the riffs of songs by decent rock bands!
If you’re taxed with school or office works then at least try to devote 1 hour each day. A minimum of half an hour is essential in the least, even on your busiest days! The reason is that you do not want soft finger tips. Your tips get hardened or in more appropriate terms, undergo ‘conditioning’ as you practice. This facilitates swift gambits along the strings. Introduce long practice gaps and witness your finger tips turn into candy floss! Then what will you play, sugary tones? So please, please, do not leave gaps of even 2-3 days unless things at your end are really going berserk for reasons you’d know best. If you’re regular, you don’t have to repeat lessons, which gives the positive impression of progress which is all the motivation you need.
Finally some resources for self practice which even helped me elevate my playing from novice level.
Visit these useful sites and check out the lessons they provide for beginner, intermediate and expert levels, moving in that order of course!
Apart from these, watching lessons on youtube.com can be your kryptonite! Please do not omit making use of this google sent awesome free aid! You’ll find the best from the west and all across the globe sharing some snazzy and nifty tricks as well as teaching all time killer guitar numbers!
Use winamp as your media player and download these musician plug ins for it:
These dsp plugins work simultaneously. One enables setting an unending loop between 2 points of your choice in the song so that you can listen to the desired portion without having to click over and over and the other reduces the tempo of the song without affecting the pitch, allowing a deep study of the musical piece.
So practice hard, play hard
And PLEASE, never give up! Compromise is too evil a thing to enter a musician’s heart!
Au revoir mes amis!