Here are some common questions that people ask before taking lessons
Can anyone of any age learn to play guitar? Pretty much, yes. Young children, 5 and 6 years old, have difficulty sitting comfortably with the guitar and with the grips needed to play a note, and people 55 years of age and over often take longer to build up toughness in their fingertips (callouses), but it's possible for almost anyone to play the guitar to a good standard and get enjoyment from playing. I should say that I teach players from the age of 13 onwards. I think my lessons are best suited to teenagers and adults. If you are looking for lessons for your child, check out this info.
Do I need to learn to read traditional music (crotchets, quavers, dots, etc) before I start to play guitar? You may be surprised to learn that many great guitar players never learned to read traditional music notation properly, and in many cases they didn't learn it at all - Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Django Reinhardt.... For adult learners studying modern types of guitar music (eg blues, folk, rock, jazz, country, singer-songwriter, etc, NOT classical guitar) I recommend that we use other more commonly used notation method, eg guitar tablature (TAB), chord diagrams, chord and lyric sheets, at least to begin with. In this way, we'll spend more time learning to play music and less time learning to read it.
I haven't got good rhythm/coordination. Is it worth me trying to play guitar? Some people have an easier time learning to play the guitar and they progress quicker than others. This could be due to natural ability or due to some previous useful experience (eg they previously played another instrument, took dance lessons, played a lot of Guitar Hero???). Whatever the case, it's possible for pretty much anyone to play music - everyone has natural rhythm (we have heartbeats and we move our legs to a rhythm when we walk) and the coordination side of things can be learned.
I haven't got a guitar. Should I buy one before starting lessons? If you don't have a guitar now, it's better to wait to have a first lesson to get some advice on which kind of guitar to buy to suit the styles you want to play, and some advice on what to look out for when buying a guitar. If you do want to buy before a first lesson, then take a look at the info here - buying guitars.
Which type of guitar is the easiest to learn to play on? In my opinion, no one type of guitar (electric, acoustic or classical) is easier to learn to play on than another. The important thing is that the guitar is well set up. I suggest you choose the type of guitar that is used to play the kind of music that inspires you.
Can I hire a guitar? Yes, here's some info on hiring guitars.
How long will it be before I can play something - a song, a piece of music?? It depends on ability, but somewhere between 5 and 10 hours practice should see you strumming the chords in time to a basic three-chord song.
How much should I practice? As a bare minimum, one hour a week of dedicated practice (ie not random strumming while looking at the football game on TV). Ideally, practice should be split into 10-minute sessions on different days rather than one full hour of cramming the evening before your next lesson. Anything less than an hour's practice over a week and we'll tend to cover the same material as in the previous lesson. Of course, the more you practice.....
Should I get a left- or right-handed guitar? I think you will get on better if you strum a guitar with your dominant hand - so if you are right handed, buy a regular right-handed guitar, and if you are a lefty, get a left-hander. Having said that, many left handers have played right-handed instruments well, and Jimi Hendrix played left handed but wrote and played pool right handed, so it's not a hard and fast rule. Left handers will have to hunt harder for lefty guitars in shops here in Brussels, and they won't be able to play on other people's guitars at a party, for example (they are likely to be right-handed guitars), but learning left-handed can have its advantages. When facing an instructor or another player, it's like having a mirror image in front of you - you may find it easier to copy what they are playing.
Besides the guitar, do I need to get any other equipment? Here's a list of some necessary and desirable things you may want to invest in.
Will my fingertips be sore? Yes, unless you have played another stringed instrument before, they more than likely will be sore to start with. It shouldn't take more than a few weeks for this tenderness to go away and for calluses to develop though, so hang in there. If it becomes very uncomfortable then stop playing for a short while, otherwise all the time you spend playing will help build up the toughness in your fingertips. I'm afraid this is a process all players have to go through.
Will I have to cut my long fingernails? If you're playing right-handed (ie if you're strumming with your right hand) and your left-hand fingernails are long it will be a major hindrance to learning to play the guitar. I imagine it would be a similar challenge to learn ballet dancing wearing hiking boots - not impossible, but extremely difficult. The reason is that you need to be able to press down on the strings with your fingertips and long fingernails will hit the wood of the guitar neck before you can do this. Realistically, playing the guitar means cutting your nails very short on your left hand. For certain styles, long fingernails shaped in a particular way are useful on the right-hand though.
By Mark Baxter
(c) 2010 - 2015
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