Guitar is an instrument that is at the centre of my life, I adore playing and have found it has opened up a number of opportunities both inside and outside of my career. But despite this, there are still a number of things I wish I knew before I started playing. In todays blog I will try and shed light on some of those things and tell you some of things I wish I knew before I started playing guitar.
It is hard
Though guitar is one of the most accessible instruments out there it does not mean that it is easy. I have lost count of the number of times I have had pupils say to me ‘I want to learn c within a weeks’ when in reality c can takes a lot longer than a to learn. Guitar is hard, our hands are not used to holding the guitar the right way and our fingers neither have the dexterity or strength to hold chords right out of the bat. Playing guitar…
…Requires a lot of time and dedication
To get to a point where you can play the basics proficiently can take months and for it to happen that quickly you really need to be picking up and playing the guitar for a significant amount of time most days. I often advise pupils to make sure that they are playing 6 out of the 7 days in the week for at least 20 minutes if not 30 minutes to ensure that they make sufficient progress. Those who are impatient and do not make such a dedication in time and effort to the instrument often end up losing interest due to lack of progress whilst those who make a habit out of practice and are patient in their progress often end up progressing a lot quicker than anticipated. If you are going to learn to play time and dedication are an absolute must.
It is not always fun
Though we play because it is fun and because we enjoy playing, learning to play is not always fun. In fact, it can sometimes be downright boring. To get to a point where we can use a certain skill to play for fun often requires hours or mind numbing exercises. But to be able to play well and to be able to do the fun stuff requires us to spend that time being bored to get there.
It will hurt to begin with but in time your fingers will adjust
We are not used to putting our arms, hands and fingers into the positions required to play the guitar. You will find practicing will hurt sometimes, particular after long periods as you are yet to develop the strength and stamina to play but do not worry as in time your hands and fingers will adjust and having a guitar in your hands will begin to feel comfortable. Now I do need to make a clear distinction between good pain and bad pain. It is ok if after a while practicing your hands and fingers ache a little like kind of pain you would feel after exercising, however if you feel any sharp pain stop playing immediately! I repeat stop playing immediately! You may well be causing damage and could potentially be causing injury. To avoid this happening I advise that you find a guitar tutor. A good tutor will ensure that you avoid the mistakes that will likely cause you injury and can guide you through the process of slowly increasing the strength, stamina and dexterity of your hands and fingers. If you are interested feel free to look into my own guitar lessons or feel free to read up on my blog post offering advice on how to find the right tutor for you.
You will need to trim your finger nails all the time!
As a guitarist you will find it is very easy for your finger nails to become an impedance. If they get too long they can get in the way of you playing melodies, holding notes and strumming chords. You will therefore find that to prevent this from happening you will have to cut your finger nails, a lot! I cut mine at least once a week. Sorry ladies, I am afraid you are not going to be able to grow your finger nails if you want to play, maybe settle for the temporary option of fake nails for nights out and special occasions because the rest of the time you are going to need to keep your nails short and trim. Now if you are someone who likes to finger pick using your nails, like a many classical guitarists, then you have a whole load of other care to worry about including filing, creams and supplementation. In short, nail care is surprisingly important to guitar players. Who would have thought?
It can be expensive
Playing guitar can become quite an expensive hobby. Good quality guitars, amplifiers and effects are not cheap with their prices easily able to exceed thousands of dollars, euros or pounds. On top of that is paying for the accessories such as strings, cables, straps, capos and plectrums. Some of these such as strings and plectrums need to be replaced regularly due to wear or loss (you will be surprised how many and how easily plectrums are lost). Now of course you do not necessarily need all this gear to play guitar, for many one instrument is enough and investing in other gear is excessive. However, if you want to become a serious player and perform gigs and record then you are going to need to invest in some gear equipment. If I were you apologise to your bank balance in advance.
There are many different specialisms
I used to have this idea that a great guitar player was someone who could play anything that was put in front of them and though some highly skilled players are able to adapt to multiple situations, to be able to excel in the intricacies of certain specialisms can take years to master. There is no single type of guitar player. Those who are a great at styles like Rock often face difficulty trying to adapt to styles like Jazz and vice versa. On top of genres, other musical skills require a lot of study and dedication in and of themselves. A really talented songwriter may not be technically proficient in playing guitar but their ability to play with words, rhythm, melody and chords can take years to develop. In short, do not expect to become a player who is great at everything. You will find one or a number of niche’s that fit what you want to do and become good at it whilst other areas of your playing will not receive as much focus.
There will always be someone better than you
When I started playing, I started with a mission to be the best guitar player the earth had ever seen. The only problem with this idea is that there is no such thing as the best guitar player ever. After all, playing guitar is about producing something that is very much subjective: Music; and even though there is some consensus on who are truly great guitar players no single one of them could ever claim to be the greatest guitar player ever. If you looked to players like BB King, who many say was the greatest blues guitar player ever, many would say he is not anywhere close to the standard of Jimmy Hendrix when it comes to playing 60s classic rock. So play with the acknowledgement that there will always be some area of your playing that someone else will be better at no matter how long you play for, and instead aim to better yourself as a player rather than someone else.
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