Learning a new skill is always intimidating, but the guitar remains the favourite among new and amateur musicians. Part of the reason is instant gratification: when you make your first few strums, you know that those few awkward notes have the potential to become beautiful music. But learning music has its challenges, and it’s important to prepare for them if you want the most out of your learning experience.
Here’s one tip you probably wouldn’t expect: start with what’s difficult. This doesn’t mean attempting a rock-star riff on day one, but never settling into a comfortable level. Determine your skill level right away and always try exercises that are just beyond that point. Once it’s gotten easy for you, move up one more level. It’s tempting to stick to the easy pieces and play them well, but it’s only by failing at harder tasks that you master any craft.
If you still have to buy your instrument, don’t go for the best just yet. Good equipment is important, but when you’re a beginner there is such a thing as too good. There’s the practical point that you won’t be wasting money if you lose interest later on. But more importantly, all the bells and whistles of a fancy guitar can cloud the basics you’re trying to learn. Modern guitars often have correction abilities that hide your flaws, and this can interfere with your improvement.
Another trick is to tune your guitar on your own, using a tuning fork instead of an electronic tuner. This helps you become more sensitive to sound and frequency, an important quality for any serious musician. Also, at some point during your training you may find yourself working with other musicians, and being able to tune your instrument with everyone else’s can be crucial. You can rely on an electronic tuner for occasional needs, but try not to get too dependent on it.
Next, don’t stick to just one style. Everyone goes into a guitar lesson with a general idea of who or what they want to play like, but it’s important to experiment because each style focuses on one skill. For example, rock music places lots of emphasis on power chords, while minor and major chords are best addressed in country and folk music. Although you probably won’t be using them all equally, practicing them will make you a more well-rounded musician and give you an edge in terms of creativity.