“I want to learn how to play the guitar, but I’m too old.”
“I tried to teach myself guitar a while back but…”
“…but I always thought you had to start on acoustic.”
I hear these ‘buts’ all the time. Because I own a music company, this sort of thing tends to be a topic of conversation with friends and new folks I meet. Many people have a desire to learn how to play the guitar, but put up a mental barrier that ends up getting in the way. Why do we do this to ourselves? I think it usually comes down to 2 things – fear, and the lack of a plan. Fear gives voice to all of our insecurities and reservations “I’m probably not going to be any good,” “My friends will think I’m silly for trying,” etc etc. The lack of a plan leads us to failure, which just confirms our fears and leads us to give up. BUT DON’T GIVE UP! This article contains information that will demystify and debunk the most common misconceptions people have about the guitar so that you can become the musician you want to be.
So this is a good news/bad news situation. Let’s start with the bad news. Think you’ll be playing like Eddie Van Halen in a few weeks? Think again. There is a reason we admire people who have mastered any skill or art form. It’s because we recognize that they have done something that many others have not; something that seems impossible. With very few exceptions, excellence comes after hard work. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not shredding after your first month of lessons. Just remember: you’re climbing a mountain. When you get to the top, others will be looking up at you saying “that’s impossible!” That’s the good news – the achievement is worth the effort.
Learning an instrument consistently shows up on bucket lists and it sure is safer than skydiving and cheaper than world travels. While it is certainly an advantage to start learning anything when you are young and your brain is still forming new connections faster than Kim Kardashian’s Instagram account, you are never too old to pick up the guitar. Unless you’re literally too old to pick up the guitar … in that case, sing. But for real, we have a lot of retired folks who come in for lessons because they have always wanted to learn how to play. Playing the guitar offers a great outlet for personal growth and expression, as well as the reward of getting better at something. Plus, it beats crossword puzzles.
1. Expertise – A great guitar teacher knows what you don’t know. They can guide you towards the knowledge you need to reach your goals.
2. Accountability – Having a teacher provides meaningful accountability. If you are teaching yourself, who is going to ask you if you practiced last week?
3. Feedback – When a teacher points out something you are doing incorrectly, that is worth the price of lessons by itself. If you are only watching videos or playing out of a book, you are missing out on the coaching that teachers offer. This corrective feedback points you in the right direction and keeps you moving forward.
4. Encouragement – We all need affirmation and positivity in our lives. Hearing “good job” from your guitar teacher may be the motivation you need to keep working hard toward your goals.
We hear this one a lot at Mason Music. A new student’s parent assumes they need to start on an acoustic because it seems more ‘basic.’ The truth is, the electric guitar is actually easier to play. The strings are closer to the fretboard (lower action), and lighter gauge. This makes it easier to press down the strings in the frets and get a good sound out of the instrument. It is also less painful when building up callouses. Additionally, if a beginner is interested in learning songs that were originally recorded on an electric guitar, they are likely to be disappointed to hear what “Crazy Train” sounds like on an acoustic (or worse, a classical guitar!). That being said, either option is fine for a beginner and there are affordable products in both categories. Visit our retail section to see our top picks for beginner acoustic and electric guitars.
Well, this one is sort of true and false … If you just want to be able to play the guitar, you really don’t have to know what’s really going on inside the music. However, there is a big difference between a ‘guitar player’ and being a musician who plays the guitar. Learning about Music Theory is a great way to connect what you are doing with your hands to why you like the way it sounds. Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” I used to be afraid that learning music theory would somehow cause me to have less enjoyment of music. Like somehow the mystery would be solved and it would no longer seem magical. For me, it has had the opposite effect. Seek to understand music and your appreciation for it will only deepen. If your goal is to become a serious musician, this is a non-negotiable. To get into music schools or to get gigs with most bands, you will need to master at least the foundational concepts of music theory. Bonus – you get to drop humble brags to impress your friends, “man, did you hear that secondary dominant chord going into the bridge?” They may roll their eyes in the moment, buy we all know inside they’re jealous of your knowledge.
It’s not. Change them. Today. Then again in 4-6 weeks (sooner if you play every day like you should). “But Will, it’s annoying and I don’t feel like doing it.” Trust me, I get it – I hate changing my strings. BUT – old strings sound bad, feel bad, and look bad. This is all due to the corrosion that happens over time. Primarily because of the interaction of natural oils on your fingers coming into contact with and remaining on the strings. One way to lengthen the life of your strings is to wash your hands before you play (kids, I’m looking at you!). However, no matter how diligently you wash your hands, there is the second culprit of dead strings, oxidative corrosion, or the natural process of the oxygen in the air interacting with the metals in the strings to cause degradation of the material. Either way, it’s best to go ahead and change your strings regularly. I’m not a big fan of wiping down strings or using string cleaner- to me, it’s easier to change them regularly. Changing strings regularly makes it more enjoyable to play your guitar, which makes it more likely that you are going to pick it up and practice, which makes it more likely that you are going to get better and have more fun. So change your strings! Not sure which ones you need? Check out our article on finding the right strings for you!
Well, I hope that clears up a few things for you and encourages you to take your first step towards becoming a great guitar player! Be sure to subscribe to our blog on the right side of this page for more helpful tips for how to play the guitar.