I thought for my next blog, I would share a little information of a personal hobby of mine.
Playing the Guitar
I started playing the guitar when I was around 12/13 years old. In the beginning, I used my Dad’s old 6 string, Yamaha acoustic guitar that was, and still is, older than me! My dad played the guitar every now and again and subsequently my brother started to play electric guitar. I decided I would pick it up and just start learning by myself.
It was not easy, and I had a lot more patience back then, than I do now, which paid off. However, there are some things I wish I had learned as a beginner, and bad habits I wish I had nipped in the bud from the moment I picked up the guitar for the first time.
I started learning simple, open chords such as A, G, D, Em etc. For those of you wanting to learn, I would suggest looking at ‘Tab’ form of guitar music as this shows you the fret board and where to put your fingers. It will take quite some time to play these without thinking about it. At first it will be slow, and you may even think you won’t get the hang of it, but I promise you will. It becomes muscle memory. A good website for learning chords to songs is “Ultimate Guitar.com”. I have used this for nearly 10 years! It gives you lyrics, chords, and tabs to songs. Also, you can transpose the chords up or down depending on what Key you want.
I got my own guitar for Christmas when I was 14 and I have had it ever since. I decided to get a electro-acoustic so I could plug it in to an amp or into recording devices. I will be honest, at this time I wasn’t really sure about guitar quality, I picked what I liked and what looked pretty. I began researching guitars later when I was really interested. My Dad and brother stuck to Yamaha, my other brother is into rock and has stuck to electrics; and recently my other brother bought a cheap acoustic off of Argos, and to be honest, I really like it! So, if you are buying a guitar, I suggest visiting a shop and playing around with a few to find what suits you best.
I wish I had practiced using a pick a bit more. I did in the beginning, I used to drop it into the hollow of the guitar all the time but that also stopped after practice. I started strumming with my fingers as I liked the sound a bit better for some songs. Eventually, I stopped using it but I wish I hadn’t. A lot of harder techniques involve a pick, so keep practicing.
Once you have the open chords you can start to learn bar chords. These involve “barring” the fret with your index finger.
When starting finger picking, my Dad suggested specific picking patterns to learn. I started learning picking by reading tabs on songs, however this doesn’t really teach you the best, and easiest positions for your fingers when switching between chords. Sometimes, by only reading the tab, I never realised that the picking patterns were following chord progressions! So, look for this! Find the best position for your fingers on the fret and it will speed up your fingerstyle work.
I was a big fan of Sungha Jung – a South Korean Fingerstyle Guitarist who covered many popular songs. His skill level is out of this world, but it was helpful for me to aspire to. I learnt some of his (possible to learn) songs. You can find a lot of tab and fingerstyle songs on “Songsterr.com” I have used this forever too.
I good picking pattern I learned was the picking pattern for the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac and similar to “Dust in the Wind” By Kansas.
Once I learned chords I felt quite settled and began to get to comfortable with the skill level I had reached. I kind of hit a wall for a number of years, especially since, as I grew up, I found less and less time to practice. I wanted to learn new songs, but I felt I had played all of them. This is because I self-taught and never had anyone getting me to do any homework or pushing me to try a traditional way of learning the guitar. This is where my new chapter began and where I think every beginner should also consider learning when picking up the guitar.
I very recently treated myself to a new guitar. Instead of an acoustic though, I bought an electric. To be specific, I bought a Squire Affinity Telecaster from Dundee’s own, Kenny’s Music. They were extremely helpful and let me try out some guitars which were on display. Being a fan of country music, I found the Telecaster perfect for my type of music and sound. However, there are different options for funk, indie or rock and roll.
So, with my electric I have started learning scales on the guitar! Better late than never! I have also started learning all the notes on the guitar from the bottom of the fret to the top, on each string. It sounds like a lot but there are simple tricks to this. This all increases your knowledge of freestyling on the guitar and matching keys and pitches to other players if you are trying to play along to a song. Personally, I started learning this so I could start playing solos.
Other tips I would like to give is to use a metronome for this. It will keep you in time and can gradually speed up your playing over time. I dusted off my loop peddle recently (I bought it ages ago as another method of improving my skill and creativity on the guitar) and used this for playing chord progressions and then playing some scales or solos over the top with matched with these chords.
I have been through a more detailed process than I can explain in a short blog but hopefully, this gives you a little guidance and things to bear in mind when picking up a great new hobby of learning the guitar. Enjoy!