I have always liked music, this has changed over my life, but I have always felt that I wanted to do something with music. So when I began to pick up interest in guitar, I felt that I would be doing that for the rest of my life, and I still do. Anyway I guess here are some of the things I learned along the way through my "journey" of guitar playing and music. Hopefully beginners and others can read this and get something out of it.
Play Guitar Because You Love It
Don't just pick buy one because your cousin, best friend, or the coolest kid in school did. If you really want to play guitar and pursue music like that, then do it. If you are doing it just because of popularity or "to be cool and trendy" or whatever, I would suggest not buying a guitar. Chances are you will just leave it sit around in a closet or under a bed. So all you really got out of it was a thinner wallet and 15 minutes of playing time. Make sure you are serious about playing guitar.
If you really like music, and want to make your own, pick up the guitar. I have seen so many people pick up a guitar to be "cool" and now they just leave it set. It is a shame. Having said this I have heard of people who have picked up a guitar because of family and have succeeded. Still, I don't really like that approach, but I can't stop you, and really I have no right to. And if you happen to pick up guitar because of the above reasons and do happen to succeed, congratulations. You went through with something and never gave up.
Here is a true story about a person I know. When I got my first electric guitar he got one too. He does this with other things too. He seems to follow me. Well, since then I have blossomed as a guitar player, becoming quite good (hate to brag). He on the other hand has barely learned anything. He has learned a couple of easy songs, mostly learned from me, and not much else. He can't even name a simple E, A, or G chord shape. He recently got a rather nice Dean acoustic guitar for a Christmas gift. It has been played maybe twice. Twice! The point is that he never tried to follow me, and ended up wasting time and money. Don't be like this, although if you are reading this article you are probably decently serious about guitar in the first place.
"Well (insert guitarists name here) was self taught ". Yes, I am sure you have heard that, and if you haven't you will. But since you are not (insert same guitarists name here), and (insert name, again) is probably just a god (Hendrix) or sort of got lucky off of media attention (Cobain) you should probably take lessons. At least a few. I suggest taking lessons until you have learned a sufficient amount of music theory and have attained decent techniques and skills. This way you can learn more on your own. Personally, I don't think I would be as good of a guitar player today if I didn't take lessons. I would not know theory or have a grasp on advanced techniques. Trust me, lessons are a worthwhile investment. I have since stopped taking lessons, but still I look at my books I bought for learning and I still learn more about theory and guitar playing. Lessons gave me a good base to start on and I have built substantially on that base. Lessons are great!
Also, when taking lessons make sure that your teacher is goal oriented and does more than just teach you songs. He (or she) should be teaching you technique and theory, this way you will be able to develop yourself as a better musician. You will get your money's worth this way. You will become a better guitarist.
(*NOTE - The Cobain thing is not Nirvana bashing, I am just trying to get the point across that Cobain wasn't a great guitar player. I have always said he was a great songwriter and am a huge Nirvana fan.)
Learn More Than Just Your Favorite Songs/ Artists/ Genres
When I first picked up a guitar I wanted to play like Nirvana. That was what I wanted to do at the time. But then through listening to more music and taking lessons, I have expanded my musical "walls" gratefully. I went from wanting to play like Nirvana to wanting to play almost everything. By learning other genres of music you expand your musical knowledge and find ways to blend genres together. From wanting to play only Nirvana-like songs, I now want to mix Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Clapton, Santana, RATM, Allman Bothers, AC/DC, SRV, The Doors, ect. together. I want to do so much of everything. I have found that by learning a multitude of genres, you better yourself greatly. You will thank yourself for doing this. Your own personal songs will be better and you will be more able to play with others. Be open to other genres.
"Do I really need to know theory"; " I don't like using theory/scales". Yes you have probably heard these. Well yes, you need to know theory, at least a sufficient amount of it. You need to learn scales. I have a friend who is supposedly in a band. He claims he doesn't use theory, hates scales, blah, blah. And he goes around claiming his greatness. So I am guessing this "said" band sucks. Yes, sucks. I have seen him play. He sucks. Why? Because he is a lazy piece of crap who never plays anything except power chords and learns one new song each year. But the point is he doesn't use theory. The lazy-ass will never become a great guitar player without some knowledge of theory or scales. You don't' have to know every last drop of theory (even though it wouldn't hurt) but enough to where you know what in the hell you are doing. Playing other peoples songs from Tabs only gets you so far. Learn scales. Learn theory. 'Nuff said.
If you like classic rock and all of your friends like pop-punk, well don't change for them. Find others to play with. (And kick your friends ***** asses for liking pop-punk in the first place). If you make a Southern Rock band (god knows we need some more) or if you want to play the blues, make an alternative band, or play 20 minute jams, then do it. Being true to yourself is one of the greatest things you will do as a guitarist. This will also help you open up to other genres and will make you a better player. You will be more comfortable playing guitar. This also brings me to my next point:
Make Your Own Decisions
If you have ever been in the Electric Guitar forum here at UG you would have seen many people bashing and upholding different guitars. This is great; they have their own opinions, but don't let other's opinions dictate yours. Say you want to buy a Fender Standard Strat (yes I chose a popular topic). You have played one in a store and loved it. It fits your budget and it fits you. You post a topic about wanting to buy this. A couple of jackasses come along and chime in saying "standard strats suk, fender sux, get a (insert brand or guitar model here." (Well first off Standard Strats are good guitars and second of all these are probably people who are like the afore-said idiot who has complete disregard of theory). Is this going to affect your decision? No. It shouldn't. This goes along with being true to you.
Don't Try To Make A Serious Band With Your Friends Who Have No Talent Whatsoever
We all probably have a friend or two that have a guitar and are not that good at it. You want to start getting more serious and want him to be a part of it. Well, you find he drags you down. He doesn't know what he is doing. You get pissed. Ditch him! Be as nice as possible about it, but be straight with him. Tell him how you feel. Hopefully he will take it right. Find people who you mesh well with to start a band.
Record Yourself Playing
Use a tape recorder, computer, or whatever. Recording yourself playing is a great way to analyze your playing and if you like to write songs it is a great way to analyze them and make necessary adjustments. I do this. It works.
This is also a good way to play songs with two guitar parts. Such as a Pearl Jam song or something where you can record the rhythm and play lead over it. This is what I have done, it is great, especially if you have a metronome or drum machine.
Never Stop Wanting To Learn
Remember this. Write this down. I will even say it again. Never stop wanting to learn. The more you learn the better you will get, the better your music will get. For the third time. Never stop wanting to learn. The more you progress you will become more interested in guitar. People who become bored with guitar are usually not learning. Never stop wanting to learn.
And Most Important Thing: Keep Coming To UG
Well, duh. You should know this by now. This is the best place I have found to get tabs, learn random things, and to be part of a kick-ass forum. I guess this is more of an opinion, but yes, UG is the best guitar site on the net, hands down.
That's it for this article. I hope someone reads it and takes something from it. This along with other UG articles should be a help to many.
Never give up. Keep rocking on, - sjones