Hey, I'm Tom Colohue. Welcome to the beginning of a brand new series here at www.ultimate-guitar.com. This series will be focused on teaching yourself guitar. If you've never picked up a guitar before and you've come to this site considering it, these articles are for you. If you were taught by a teacher or have been self taught for years, I hope that you take something from this. Even if it's sympathising with the difficulties of a guitar beginner, it might be something you haven't considered before.
This series is aimed at electric guitar owners, however, that doesn't mean that acoustic and bass guitar owners can't learn anything from it. The instruments are not as different as some other instruments, such as the violin and the tuba. Whether electric, acoustic or bass, they are all guitars and governed by the same principles. Take what you can get from these articles based on your chosen instrument.
There are going to be several sections to these articles. My aim is to guide and advise rather than directly instruct, based on personal knowledge and experience. The articles will likely be structured as follows:
Part One: Making The DecisionPart Two: Taking The First StepsPart Three: Knowing Your InstrumentPart Four: Learning SongsPart Five: Balancing Practical And TheoreticalPart Six: Practical ApplicationPart Seven: Being A Balanced GuitaristPart Eight: Playing With Others
Nevertheless, this set up is subject to change, without prior notice, at any time.
So anyway, onto the content.
'Teach Yourself Guitar' By Tom Colohue
Part 1: Making The Decision
It was October '06 and my mother was due to marry a man she had met only four months previously. In the effort to get to know somebody who would, undoubtedly, become a large part of my life, I joined some classes he was teaching on 'Meditation and Spirituality.'
I was later kicked out of the classes for being negative and depressed. One member of his group then killed herself, followed by another finally admitting to a cannabis addiction. Anyway, I won't get into that.
After a month of sitting in the back of a cluttered little shop learning how to breathe, another of the students gifted me with a guitar. This was not because I had ever shown any interest in such a thing, but he believed that I would be good at it, and he wasn't using it himself. The man who had given it to me, by the name of David, had only known me for that month. He was gay, worked at the Job Centre, and was probably the happiest man I've ever known. He also suffered from Superplex Cognita Hypergrypholsis. This meant that, while his upper body was fully formed, his lower body was that of a child. How he was so happy all the time is beyond me.
Regardless, the guitar he gave me was a Mexican Fender Stratocaster. The wood was light and smooth - the colour a deep and noble red. Accepting such an instrument felt like quite an honour. Before the day was over I had given her a name; she was to be called Charlotte, and she demanded that I learn how to play her.
Now, if you have a guitar then, at some point, you've likely thought exactly what I did at that moment:
How can I advance in skill as fast as physically possible?
The answer, fortunately, is an easy one:
The more you practise, the faster you will advance.
So, with that in mind, what should you practise? Not only that, but, for a complete beginner, how do you practise? This will bring you to your first major decision. Do you want a teacher, who will tell you what and how to practise, or do you want to seek those answers yourself?
In this article, I am going to provide information to help you make that decision. I will supply both for and against arguments for either option. Nobody can make decisions for you; it all comes down to how well you know yourself. My apologies for the long and drawn out introduction; I felt it was necessary.
Getting A Teacher
01. A teacher will instruct you in exactly what to practise. This means that you'll be put on your guitar and your teacher will walk you through something that you can then practise at home. Whether it's the first half of Smells Like Teen Spirit or the intro riff from Master Of Puppets, it's forward motion.
02. You'll also be told the intricacies of how to practise. This means that technique will be explained, as well as the often forgotten details of holding a pick or your guitar.
03. You will be under constant examination, which means that, should you begin to show signs of bad technique, your teacher can correct it. Technique, when learned incorrectly, can become seriously troublesome further down the line.
04. If there are any problems you are having with what your teacher has taught you, you can use some of your allotted time to ask questions and find out more. This will help you to understand the practise you have been given.
01. You only practise what they have taught you. Say, in the first lesson, you learn the main riff of Ironman. Until the next lesson, that's all you can use to practise.
02. When seeing a teacher, you're on a very limited amount of time. From the moment you say hello, every sound and every second is on the timer; best make sure it's well spent because it all costs. This brings me neatly onto my next point:
03. Teachers cost money. If you're young, chances are you won't be able to afford it without the help of your parents. There are many options once you do have disposable income. The prices of teachers vary depending on their level of experience and how good they think they are. Obviously it's very possible that the teacher you choose will be overpriced for their skill level. With no form of comparison, how would you know?
04. Depending on the teacher's knowledge, you might find yourself limited. Unfortunately, a teacher can only teach you what they already know. This means that if, for example, you want to learn Guns n' Roses, but they want to teach Foo Fighters, you might have a problem.
Being Self Taught
01. You decide what you want to learn and when. The means that you can play the music you love from the moment you own the guitar. If you only picked up a guitar to learn Greenday or the Red Hot Chilli Peppers then you can focus entirely on the band you want to sound like.
02. Learning on your own can fit to any schedule, as long as you find the time and the dedication. Even if you don't play nearly as much as you'd like to, whenever you do play, you will be improving.
03. When you ask a question of your teacher, you will recieve one simple, concise answer. If you ask the same question of the internet, you will get a vast array of different answers, suggestions and ideas. There will likely be song suggestions, technique suggestions and occasionally queries will develop from your original question. There is an incredible network of information out there just waiting to be found.
04. Teaching yourself will cost you nothing. Apart from being good for young musicians, this is also good for those with disposable income. Instead of spending money on a teacher, spend it on your guitar.
01. If you being to practise your technique in a way that is likely to hinder your playing, there is nobody there to correct you. This means that, chances are, you will continue to practise in that way, which will be damaging to your playing. Most self taught guitarists develop a bad habit or two, meaning a lot of time trying to train themselves out of them.
02. You won't be aware of many techniques or pieces of theoretical knowledge as quickly as a teacher can provide them. A teacher should already know a wide selection of techniques that they can pass on to their students. However, being self taught means that you're going to have to discover it all on your own.
03. In order to learn, you're going to be spending a lot of time reading from books and the internet when you could be practicing. A teacher would instruct you while you were using your guitar.
04. When learning from a teacher that teacher would ensure that you remain focused. If nothing else, you'd want to make sure you weren't wasting your money. However, without a teacher, you're more likely to become distracted. This means that, overall, you're likely to practise less.
So the option stands before you and the facts stand behind. It's up to you whether to seek out a guitar teacher or not. If you choose to teach yourself, then I hope to see you for the next article. If you'd prefer to learn from a teacher, I'd still hope to see you.
In the next section we'll be going through the basics of holding your guitar, pick and strings, as well as giving you a few bits of information you might find useful as a beginner guitarist.
Thank you for reading. I hope to see you again soon.2009 Tom Colohue