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How do I learn to play the guitar?

 
steward
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I started learning to play the guitar a few weeks ago. I'm practicing daily. It feels wonderful to me!

I have a favorite planting/harvest song that I've been singing at drum circles. I've already learned to play it on guitar.

My biggest challenge so far is physical. My fingernails were too long. It took a lot of pain to get them short enough. My fingertips were totally soft and wimpy. They are currently numb from the callus building effort. Perhaps the will resolve itself in a month or so.

Are there any stories that you want to tell me about how you learned to play the guitar? Are there any favorite Internet resources that I should check out? Any songs or chords that you most recommend for beginners?

 
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I'll ask my husband! He's an awesome guitar player, and he learned it through a LOT of hard work (not naturally gifted at it). I remember him saying that to learn the guitar, he literally wore it around everyday for years, so he'd play it more.

I tried learning guitar, too. But, the sacrifice of losing my long nails that I use for untying stuff, was too great. My nails are essential tools for me!
 
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Keith has invented more riffs than anyone.

Most bands follow the drums. In every band he has been in, Keith Richards leads, and the drums, other instruments and vocalists follow.

Psychologists have said that the majority of young men who pick up a guitar, are hoping to meet women. It's a very male-dominated thing, so there might be some truth to that. What about you Joseph?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Psychologists have said that the majority of young men who pick up a guitar, are hoping to meet women. It's a very male-dominated thing, so there might be some truth to that. What about you Joseph?



I'm way past the "young man" stage, but that would still work for me! LOL!

 
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I didn't do it to pick up girls, but I soon realized they liked guitar players. Then when I got to high school and started joining bands, I learned that they liked drummers even more.

I am self taught, with a little help from others along the way.  I can't read music either.   Some advice I can offer after 40 years is :

Practice x3.  When you find yourself free, play.  Even if you know only 15 seconds of a song, but not all of it, play the hell out of that 15 seconds that you know.

Get familiar with the single notes on all of the strings and how together they make chords.  You will begin to notice the patterns going up the fretboard.  This will be like an epiphany for you and cause you to play more.

A metronome will help you immensely.   There are free phone apps and computer apps for that.

Most important for me was playing with others. It will have you running full speed ahead.  I wasn't very good until I started hitting open jams mics and such.  I was nervous that I would suck in front of other players but with so many people you will get drowned out, but you will hear yourself and learn by watching and asking others for tips/advice. They are generally always helpful to each other.  

Or, find a friend who's better than you and play on your back porch.

Also, guitar can lead to a multitude of other instruments you can learn.   Other fretted instruments are just different tunings and different patterns.

Happy strumming!

On last thing.  Youtube is awesome for learning guitar.


 
Joseph Lofthouse
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It's been 6 weeks since I started learning guitar. Wow! I never knew that I am a musician. It's coming fast and easy. (I failed music appreciation in college.) The mental part is easy, the fingertips are still being slow to harden up. Mostly because I damaged my middle fingertip by playing for hours one day, and blistered it, and layers of skin have been peeling from it for a few weeks. It's finally feeling close to normal. I stop playing now when the strings start to buzz, which means I'm not pressing hard enough (too tender).

And regarding Kieth Richards, he is famous for playing in Open G tuning. That is a wonderful tuning, because the chords can be simple bar chords. Makes it super easy to play by ear, to transpose, and to play songs that use only major chords. Therefore, I'm playing in standard tuning until my fingertips get tired, then I switch to Open G tuning and play for much longer.

I'm playing on steel strings, cause that's the guitar type that was loaned to me. My music teacher friend says that nylon strings are much preferred for beginners. She will only teach kids on nylon. When I went to the pawn shop a few days ago, every guitar in there was steel stringed!

 
Nicole Alderman
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I went and asked my husband. He agreed that nylon is best for the first 6 months "to make it easier to memorize the chord forms and play them." Light steal strings would also work. As you practice more and strengthen your fingers, move up to medium weight.

He also suggested, if you have larger hands/fingers, to look for wider neck guitars "like classical and Seagull brand, etc." (I don't know what the etc is, but I can ask him for more brands so you can look for them at pawnshops)
 
Ed Belote
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Open G is a great tuning.  The amazing thing about Richards is that he used open G, but removed the 6th string.  This allowed him to have the root on the bottom, and you can get a drone going where you have the effect of two chords playing against each other.  Then by moving one or two fingers to change the chord, the remaining strings are still ringing.   That is the sound that made the Stones.

Yes, nylon strings are much easier, and usually found on classical style guitars.  As stated above classical style guitars also have a much wider neck, so easier for people learning to make less buzzing and more music.

Also, take a look at your action (string height from the fretboard)  Lowering it may help, and best left to a luthier.    A lot of the time this will discourage a lot of beginners, having to push down so hard.  I have come across many people who said "I can't do it".  When I ask to see their instrument, the action is so high, I can't do it either.

Personally, having made it to blisters, I would keep doing what your doing, taking a break when it begins to hurt.  When the blisters heal, the calluses form.
 
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I think the best advice is to get a chord chart off the internet and download some songs. Search for the name of the song and the word "chords". You'll get the sense of the song from the chords and playing a song you know. Then follow with the other people's suggestions.
John S
PDX OR
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm currently working on The Rose, Cigarettes and Whisky and Wild Wild Women, Mother I feel You Under my Feet, and Long Time Sun.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:


My biggest challenge so far is physical. My fingernails were too long. It took a lot of pain to get them short enough. My fingertips were totally soft and wimpy. They are currently numb from the callus building effort. Perhaps the will resolve itself in a month or so.

Are there any stories that you want to tell me about how you learned to play the guitar? Are there any favorite Internet resources that I should check out? Any songs or chords that you most recommend for beginners?



Something I used to do when I was trying to build up calluses is to rub alcohol on the tips after playing a while, not sure if it worked, I got calluses anyway from just playing.
I was self taught from the beginning. I just bought a chord book (long before the internet) and learned chords, then joined a band in junior high which gave me motivation.
 
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A couple of thoughts from my own experience:

1.  Light gauge strings.  The less pressure you need to press down upon the strings, the less it will hurt.

2.  It WILL hurt.  But you've got to build up the toughness of your finger tips.  Even if you think your finger tips are too sore to play today, do so anyway.  At least 20 minutes.  You'll find the pain goes away after a couple of weeks.

3.  A classical guitar is a nice way to learn, as the space between the strings is more forgiving for clumsy fingers.  The nylon strings are also more forgiving.

4.  Print out a chord chart or buy one.  They sell nice laminated charts with all the correct fingerings.  And . . .

5.  Learn to play the chords correctly from the start.  I incorrectly learned to play D with the wrong 3 fingers.  So then when I went to learn additional chords that commonly evolve from that D fingering (Dsus), I couldn't do it.  

6.  I found it helpful to play with someone who was more advanced -- "Teach me that lick.  How do you pick that?"  They'll teach you a couple new things every time you hang out.

7.  Start simple and enjoy simple before moving on to tougher stuff.  3 chord rock n roll is good stuff -- old classics.  Twist and Shout.

8.  Simple, part 2:  Learn one key well.  D is easy enough (D, G & A).  Add the relative minor chords—Em and F#m.  Boom - now you're rocking.  You'll quickly learn that you'll also need Bm and C# diminished.  Once you've got the key of D, then move on to the key of C (C, F, G).

9.  Focus on your left hand first (chords).  After you find that you can transition smoothly between chords and you don't have to stare at your fingers to get them to move to the correct strings and frets, then you can begin to teach yourself how to pick with your right hand.  

10.  Patience.  It'll take 2 years before you are confidently playing without thinking about where your fingers are at or about keeping an even rhythm.  
 
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I recently (well, something like three years ago) started teaching myself guitar. I used Ultimate Guitar Tabs (website and app) and slowly picked through songs. It shows you chords (or tabs) but not automatically, so I'd have to stop and look at the chords. It did help me with the memorization aspect. I use Chordify now because it tends to be more faithful to the actual song. I am just a hobbyist but I get by! A tip- if you're playing a guitar with heavier metal strings, I'd suggest strumming with a pick. I gave myself a blister by strumming with my thumb on an electric. This could also be because I'm doing it wrong and don't realize it (the hazards of selftaught). Congratulations! Guitar is such a fun instrument.
 
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I would love to get one of these and learn.....because I am fundamentally lazy and efforts to lean in the past have been unfruitful.  And also because this couple are awesome and have some wonderful projects going.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm playing guitar almost every day.

I'm currently learning finger-picking.  It's much easier than I would have thought.

joseph-guitar.jpg
playing guitar
Guitar meditation in a rain forest near a mountain stream
 
Cris Bessette
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Just occurred to me that learning guitar or another instrument is a pretty permie thing to do.  
Creating music on your own instead of consuming, creating entertainment on the cheap, homestead activities,etc.
In older times, this is what people did because this was the only way you were likely to hear music, DIY music.


I know I've gotten a lot of joy out of my 30+ years playing, sharing music with friends.
 
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Joseph,

There's a guy in Pleasant View, Utah who sells used guitars out of his house.  (he has a contact down in Texas who has a warehouse full of them).  You can find him on the KSL app.  His ad is 'acoustical and classical guitars - 54.99".  

I have played since Noah was a cabin boy.  I play a classical guitar because I play my own style that has lots of picking, mixed with strumming.  When I was a teenager two of my brothers, my sister and myself all were learning at the same time.  My parents still can't stand to hear 'The House of the Rising Sun" (I think it was a law back then that you had to learn that song first).

Going back to the guy in Pleasant View, I bought a guitar for my son there.  (if they learn to play, I buy them a guitar when they leave home).  The guy had some nice beginner to mid range guitars.  I bought a very nice classical Yamaha for  $99.99.  When I am choosing a guitar I mostly ignore the name and focus on whether it plays easily and sounds good.  I've seen some cheap guitars that sounded great and some 'good name' guitars I was unimpressed with.

Once you master a song, play with it.  Make it yours.  Just because someone else made a song famous doesn't mean you can't improve or at least improvise on it.  Music, I think, is a very individualistic thing.  

It sounds like you're doing well.

ENJOY!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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It's been 14 months since I started playing guitar.

My fingertips are finally strong and stable.  That was the slowest part of learning, developing the physical ability to press the strings. For many months, my eagerness to play was not matched by the strength of my fingertips. Now, I can easily play for an hour without risking damage to my fingertips.

The guitar sits right next to my computer, right out in the open, so at any moment, I can pick it up and play something. I pick it up several times per day, or more. Sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for an hour.

I'm getting pretty proficient. For example, today I played "You are my sunshine" in 5 different keys without having the music written out. I often practice with my eyes closed, which gives me lots of practice finding chords and strings to strum or pick.

Things that I have found helpful:

  • Following at drum circles
  • Leading at drum circles
  • Paying close attention to how/what others are playing at drum circles
  • Playing with the radio (sometimes I get it right, usually not)
  • Lots of frequent short practices
  • Learning chord names so that I can talk with other musicians
  • Recording myself so that I can listen months later and notice progress
  • Attempting to play both by ear and from music
  • Keeping the guitar nearby and handy


  • I struggle with dead and buzzing strings from having thick fingers (or bad technique). I have not practiced tablature at all, and my strumming patterns remain rudimentary, though I do Travis and finger picking.

    I started playing guitar at the same time I started training to become a yoga teacher, so the two activities got merged together in my subconscious.
    lofthouse-bhakti-yoga.jpg
    Tantra, bhakti, and Earth yoga with Joseph Lofthouse
    Bhakti yoga
     
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    Joseph Lofthouse wrote:


    My biggest challenge so far is physical. My fingernails were too long. It took a lot of pain to get them short enough. My fingertips were totally soft and wimpy. They are currently numb from the callus building effort. Perhaps the will resolve itself in a month or so.

    Are there any stories that you want to tell me about how you learned to play the guitar? Are there any favorite Internet resources that I should check out? Any songs or chords that you most recommend for beginners?



    Although this is a little late....

    There is a shortcut for this.....and this is the time for it!
    On a traditional wood stove with a raging fire warming it, lick your fingertips and brush them for microseconds across that smoking stovepipe...just enough to singe your fingerprints!
    Repeat whenever there's a stovepipe handy.
    If your fast enough only the first layer is damaged, and no pain ensues, repeat performance broadens and deepens a usable pad of callous.
    Wetting the fingers gives something to mitigate the searing action.

    I spent a regrettable year in Spokane washing dishes to keep body and soul together as a kid,
    the work left my hands in horrible shape for playing guitar,
    when I needed to play for my baby sisters wedding I followed this regimen and had usable pads for a twenty minute file and seat assembly as well as a warning for the groom (Run For The Hills), and Noel Paul Stookey's - Wedding Song, within a consistent three days of scorching!

    Spokane was a bitter experience for me, Ray Lamontagne's - Jolene, captures the experience perfectly, gritty, heartbreaking, and hopeless.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_8xgmfUEHg

    Thirty years later and I still drive a broad loop to avoid that city.
     
    pollinator
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    It's a bit late but IMO a teacher. Not every week but every now and then. I play recorder and not guitar though. The other important thing is and ensemble with someone leading (a teacher) this is best and a lot of fun!
     
    pollinator
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    Preamble: I have been playing for a while. And I have picked up a lot of neglected guitars from guys who have given up. When I run the instrument through its paces, to know what I'm buying, the guy always says the exact same thing: "Well, I guess it's not the guitar." I honestly feel kinda bad about that. Though if it's a decent instrument, they are glad that it will be cared for, appreciated, and played.

    Back to the OP: I think the first barrier is *believing* that you can play. That you can make pleasant, melodic sounds as you start to learn. To that end, I recommend this simple hack: from the standard tuning, drop the first (bottom) string and the sixth (top) string by one full note -- from E to D and D. All of a sudden, any strum is a beautiful, resonant chord. And you can play and experiment up and down the neck to find other beautiful chords. This works for kids and adults.

    Once you believe you can play, you may just have the motivation to move forward and master the instrument.

    My 2c.
     
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    [quote=Joseph Lofthouse]

    And regarding Kieth Richards, he is famous for playing in Open G tuning. That is a wonderful tuning, because the chords can be simple bar chords. Makes it super easy to play by ear, to transpose, and to play songs that use only major chords. Therefore, I'm playing in standard tuning until my fingertips get tired, then I switch to Open G tuning and play for much longer.

    [/quote]

    Keith Richards stole open G tuning and just about everything else from Ry Cooder (Ry was hired to do some session work for the Stones in their early days). Ry is incredible and has done some phenomenal work over the decades. Lots of YouTube videos of Ry online and all of it is well worth watching. Ry’s slide work is straight up legendary. Many famous guitarist have cited the movie “Paris Texas” as being their favorite guitar work of all time. One of my “moment of zen” songs, that I play to relax and calm myself into a molten pool of bliss is Ry Cooder playing “Dark end of the street”. Ry gave us the Buena Vista Social Club (and the US government gave him a heavy fine for doing it)... But he didn’t care, he followed his heart and was compelled to rescue that music before it was lost forever. Ry Cooder and Steve Vai did the guitar work for the movie “crossroads” (with Ralph Macchio and Joe Seneca).

    Anyway, Ry is the real genius behind Keith Richards (and many other famous musicians). From a guitarists or just a music fans perspective, Ry has a lot to teach and has always been a tremendous force behind music and very rewarding to learn about/listen to.

    Here are a few links...

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6qiaksN_9HY

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=exHY3fASL68

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=a_Br9EJ0fhw

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X6ymVaq3Fqk

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CqdL36VKbMQ

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WxICp8GZy4U

    Good Luck!
     
    pollinator
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    Good topic. Guitar is, both easy and complicated....heres a bit of advice:

    There is no need to play until your fingers bleed. Easy does it. You can also go to nylon strings for a more baroque sound. You should change out the low quality finger killing strings on a new guitar, generally buying heavier strings is more comfortable to play.

    Dont put your guitar away without loosening your strings tension. Its a good way to bend the neck of your guitar.

    Learn how to tune your instrument with a pitch pipe, a tuning fork or by ear.  Digital tuners are nice but you will be a better musician for being able to do it old school.

    A guitar has a number of jobs: lead or melody, chords (a triad of 3 notes or more that sounds interesting), bass and even percussion, playing atonal thumps.

    A little theory helps. Make sure you know your fretboard and what place is what note.  Make sure you know what a chord is, major, minor, make sure you know what a flat, a sharp and an octave is.

    Make sure you know what a chord progression is and that different musical styles often rely on their own family of chord progressions.

    Budget your practice, a few minutes of notes, a few minutes of chords, a few minutes of finger work, a few minutes of chord progressions. End with a song.

    Sing your notes as you play the guitar.

    Look at the history of music, it will help. Learn what musical form begat the next musical form and how they are all related, how individual evolutionary lines of music fused with each other and created hybrid musical types.

    Know how to play your major chords, nothing fancy, C D E F G A B

    Look up double stops and drones for a different sound.  Riddle: how is Chuck Berry like a Bagpipe?  Look up double stops and drones.

    Dont "noodle", which is the act of sitting down to play something with intent and you end up just playing wierdo sounds for an hour.  Its best to have a plan and stick to it.

    Get together a couple of people at your level on other instruments and play a few tunes. Guitar is lovely with harmonica, fiddle, banjo, stick bass, or improvised percussion.

    Caveat:   If you play in public and somebody asks to "show you something on the guitar" please understand that there's a better than average chance they will drop your guitar and crack it or try to tune it and pop a string that you will need to replace. Be generous of heart but think about how you will feel if a stranger breaks your guitar. (You can always ask them to bring theirs to show you their wisdom.)

    Use your guitar to spread community through music.

    Enjoy the journey!!



     
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