Starting Guitar In Your Teens

author: cantshreddave date: 04/15/2005 category: junkyard

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I would like to point out that I am a 14 year old guitarist from Cardiff, Wales (for all those people who don't know where Wales is, I don't blame you, but for those from across the pond etc, it's "near England"). I have been playing guitar since I was eight, and have had lessons with the same teacher since then. I played classical untill a year and a half ago, and still do, but I got my first electric last year then. This article is mainly based on personal experince, and is a reflection of what I have learnt from watching friends and other fellow pupils at school trying to ace guitar. Some succeed, but many don't. This article should give teens starting out an idea of how to pass or fail, whichever you prefer. Please do not criticise the spelin mistaces I am abowt 2 maek. I would also like people to know that I am lacking in an ego and self esteem, and am not trying to sound egotistic (is that a word) in this article. I have played guitar for much longer then anyone else I know of my age. Even though I have been playing classical guitar for most of my time - I picked up an electric much later then most of my friends- I've been able to pick up rock guitar pretty quickly, and now consider myself the best guitarist in my year, apart from this crazy Canadian kid who came over and can shred like fuck. I have witnessed many people try to pick up guitar and have noticed that even though most have been playing for at least a year, they just arn't very good. Here's a list of tips for those teens starting rock guitar so they don't make the mistakes I have seen others make.

Get Lessons

Yeh, get lessons. If you don't get lessons, you may get off the ground and be able to pull off a decent Back in Black with solo after a few months, but unless your incredibly commited your unlikely to get much further. I will admit that many guitarists have an almost natural talent and/or are very commited, and thus will get further than this Ac/Dc classic, but I have seen the vast majority not able to do this.

Challenge Yourself

I have various friends who have been playing for two years now, and still cannot play the solo to Boston's More Than A Feeling. Why? Because all I hear them play is powerchord after powerchord after powerchord. All they play is Greenday, Blink 182 and Nirvana. These bands are pretty good, and played great songs, but they are soooooooooooo easy (well most of them). I have seen guitarists declare that a song or solo is too hard because they can't play it after five minutes of practice. This was the very mistae I made at first untill I started putting in the effort to learning Freebird (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Dancing In The Moonlight (Thin Lizzy). It is also quite amazing how being able to play songs like this can increase your confidence after repeatedly playing Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Don't Play In Front Of The Girls Untill Your Good (Boys only)

O.k, let's face it. Almost all teens (well the boys) pick up a guitar to impress a girl or girls, or maybe just their friends. Just don't play in front of them untill your actually quite good. Messing up in front of your "one true love" is possibly the most embarassing thing that can happen to you. Also, whilst playing their favourate song; All The Small Things, will get them interested and jumping up and down, playing the Stairway To Heavan to solo will reaaaaly catch their eye. In fact any song with quick pentatonic licks will catch someones eye-really easy but sound impressive- hey, it worked for me. And that brings me on to my next point...

Learn Your Scales

The same guy who can't play More Than A Feeling doesn't know one scale in the book, and its even worse when he starts to improvise I Believe In A Thing Called Love because he can't play that too. Learn your majors, minors, pentatonics and blues scales. Then use them. Heres a tip, turn on Ac/Dc or Led Zeppelin, or one of your favourate songs which has a long soloing slot, preferably a live recording. Play the song quietly with the C.D, then when it's solo time, crank up the volume, drown out the solo guitar and improvise your own solo in the right key, but not too loud, you want to hear the drums to stay in time. Once again it worked for me, and greatly improved my creativity.


Practice, practice, practice. But really practice. Playing American Idiot over and over again is not practice. Read some of the practice articles ont this site for more information.


O.k, so unless your rich, you'll probably start off with a Strat or Les Paul copy guitar and a small ten-thirty watt amp. Over time upgrade your gear. I find that the PRS SE range are brilliant guitars to buy after your copy has done its work (Yes, I am the guy who wrote that terrible article on PRS). Get a good amp too, and maybe a multi effects pedal, the Zoom 505 is great as a starter. I can't give much advice here as it comes down to preference and how much cash you got.

Music And Theory. Learn Learn Learn

Tab is great, and you can get free tab on sites like this so you can cover your favourate songs night and day. But tab doesnt depict rhythm (well it may sometimes) and this makes things much less clear, particularly on songs with long, reasonably quick solos. Invest in buying books which contain tab and music so you know what and when your playing. They really help. Learn to read music too, it isn't hard, and a bit of theory doesn't go amiss either, particularly when you start wrting songs for that girl (or boy) of your dreams.

Classical (Using The Term Loosely)

Not so nessasary this one, but helped me tones. You may think yawwwwwwwwwn, but classical guitar, particularly blues and baroque, is very stimulating and greatly improves knowledge of music, hand coordination and gives you great inspiration. Start on basic stuff, but if you ever get advanced, I've found Bach is great. Bach has been great inspiration for many metal shredders such as Paul Gilbert. So there you have it. I understand that these tips may not all apply to everyone, but it should get most teens started, at least some of it. I would also like to take this oppurtunity to apoligise for that PRS article. Thanks for bothering to read.
More cantshreddave columns:
+ Best Guitarist: The Criteria Junkyard 06/27/2005
+ Maintaining Your Guitar Playing Ability In Your Teens Junkyard 06/18/2005
+ Eric Clapton: The Great Debate Artists' Discussions 06/03/2005
+ Being In A Band In Your Teens General Music 05/18/2005
+ Paul Reed Smith Guitars Junkyard 03/25/2005
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