Guitar is one of the most popular musical instruments in the world. Many musicians, singers, and people who love music play it. Would you like to be able to play a few songs to show off in front of your family and loved ones, or do you aspire to become a straight-up professional? We have prepared a practical guide and tips for you to learn how to play the guitar.
To begin with, it is important to choose the type of guitar you want to learn to play. You will find many guitar models on the market today, all of which fall
into three basic groups.These are:
- classic; guitars,
- acoustic; guitars,
- electric guitars.
Classical guitars are characterized by their more robust body and the fact that they are not played with a plectrum but with the fingers. They are usually used for playing classical music and flamenco. It is a trendy type of guitar used not only by professionals but also by beginners.
The classical guitar is one of the oldest guitars you will find on the market. Their history dates back to the Baroque period, which prevailed in the 17th to 18th centuries. At this time, the classical guitar looked different than it does today. Its body was much more robust and massive. It was in the 19th century that it acquired its current characteristic shape. The classical guitar is the forerunner of other guitars that evolved from it, such as acoustic or electric guitars.
A traditional classical guitar has twelve frets. It should be resting on the left leg, and the right-hand playing or strumming the strings should be near the back of the sound hole. However, if you want the guitar to make slightly different sounds, you can move the hand higher up.
In the past, guitar strings were made from animal intestines. Nowadays, there are materials such as nylon or fluoropolymersused for them.
Sometimes, you may also come across the term “modern classical guitar”. This term distinguishes the new classical guitar from older forms of guitars that also belong to the classical category, but nobody uses them anymore. For example, this might be the six-string early Romantic guitar from 1790 to 1880, or earlier Baroque guitars with five strings.
Materials and manufacturing methods of classical guitars can vary depending on the manufacturer.However, the pear shape is the most common.
A classical guitar with steel strings usually has fourteen frets and is commonly held in place with a strap around the neck and shoulder.
Classical guitar body
In addition to the size division, a classical guitar can also be divided based on the body:
- Layered – also referred to as plywood hull. The most affordable guitars on the market have it. It is a great alternative for beginners who want to wait to invest thousands of euros in an instrument. The plus of guitars with the laminated body is also their high durability. They are okay with worse handling or being moved from place to place regularly.
- Semi-solid – the front of these guitars is made of solid wood, while the back and sides are made of laminated material. This combination gives you a fuller and more beautiful sound when playing. The downside is the higher price and poorer resistance to moisture.
- Massive – these are guitars whose body is made entirely of solid wood. The quality of materials is high, which in turn determines the price. For all-massive guitars, you will pay several thousand euros. These are the best choice for professional musicians because they provide the most beautiful sound. The downside is the high sensitivity to higher humidity, so it’s important to be careful where and how you store them.
Acoustic guitars are characterized by having a much more complex and wider range than classical guitars. You can use them in rock, folk, blues, pop, and country, for example. Another plus is that they are easier to play because the fingerboard is narrower, and the body is rounder, guaranteeing greater comfort.
This type of guitar has metal strings which are much stronger than the nylon strings used on classical guitars. However, if you were to play them without a pick, you could easily injure yourself. So be sure to buy one with your guitar.
The acoustic guitar was first made by American musical instrument makers in the 19th century. People referred to it as the “Western Guitar,” and musicians did not need to use an amplifier when playing it.
The acoustic guitar is ideal for beginners and professionals alike. You can strum just a few notes or play an entire song. The guitar’s sounds are natural and do not require any electrical technology amplification.
Metal acoustic guitar strings produce a more complex and brighter sound than nylon strings. They also have higher tension and are closer together. The body is usually made of different types of wood, and the better the quality, the better the sound you get. Cedar, for example, is ideal as it supports different tones.
Types of acoustic guitars
There are several primary groups of acoustic guitars, namely:
- Acoustic Guitar Orchestra – also referred to as Auditorium. This guitar was made in the last century when people used it for its balanced sound.
- Concert Acoustic Guitar – is characterized by producing a brighter and sharper sound. Some models can produce lower bass tones.
- Deadnought Acoustic Guitar – this type of guitar has a large and deep body that produces a powerful sound and has a more distinct bass.
- Parlor Acoustic Guitar – it was especially popular in the early 20th century. It is known for its small and slender body, which resembles a classical guitar. Nowadays, only a few people use it.
- Acoustic Jumbo Guitar – some call it a “cowboy guitar”. Its body is more pronounced, especially at the bottom. This type of guitar produces a fairly loud sound with deep tones.
Another basic type is the electric guitar, which you can distinguish from classical and acoustic guitars very quickly and easily. They are not sturdy and usually have an interesting, colorful appearance. There is also a difference in the way we use it. You can also play them on their own, but in most cases, we plug them into the hardware.
The equipment doesn’t have to be too big for those just learning to play electric guitars. A smaller and cheaper home kit is also suitable, enhancing the guitar’s sound and allowing you to use it to its full potential.
The first electric guitar was produced in 1932 when jazz musicians mainly used it. However, it gained its greatest popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, when it became one of the most important instruments in popular music. Today, it is used in almost all styles and genres, including pop, rock, folk, country, blues, and jazz.
This type of guitar is also considered a significant component in the development of electric blues, rock and roll, and rock and heavy metal music.
In each genre, the electric guitar is used differently. For example, pop and rock can serve as a rhythm guitar, playing chord sequences and setting the beat, or as a solo guitar, filling in some passages.
Types of electric guitars
Electric guitars are divided into several types. As a rule, you will encounter:
- Stratocaster – this type of guitar was first made by Fender. However, many musicians fell so in love with it that others began to make it as well. It is a versatile electric guitar used in almost all musical genres. It is suitable for both professionals and beginners.
- Les Paul – a single cutout in the bottom of the body characterizes Les Paul guitars. In addition, they have a dual pickup, which ensures a strong output signal. Les Paul guitars are prevalent in musical genres such as metal, reggae, and blues.
- Telecaster – Telecaster was also first produced by Fender. After a short time, however, these guitars became so popular with musicians that today you can find them in the portfolio of other brands. Telecasters feature a single cutaway and a sleek look. They have a very clear sound, which is why they are so popular in country and pop music.
- Super Strat – these are Stratocaster-inspired guitars. They have a narrower neck and body, sharp corners, and deep cutaways. We usually use them in rock and metal.
- SG – they were launched by Gibson, but today you can also find them in the offer of other manufacturers. SG guitars have a symmetrical body and two cutaways. It is a versatile type used in many musical genres.
- Semiacoustic – their shape and size resemble acoustic guitars. They have a hollow and larger body, which allows them to make delightful “round” sounds. For this reason, they are most commonly used in jazz and blues.
- Multi-string – they can have seven or eight strings, which allows them to produce much deeper tones than other electric guitars. Multi-string models are often used in modern metal genres. Baritone – this type of guitar usually has six strings and a vast scale, the part between the fretboard and the zero fret. You can therefore tune them lower than classical guitars. Hard and heavy – these guitars are designed for rock and metal genres. They are known for having unconventional and interesting designs.
Other parameters important for choosing a guitar
When choosing a guitar, it is important to look at many other parameters besides the type.Only this way will you ensure that your chosen model will serve you well.
Basic questions to ask before choosing
To get started, answer a few basic questions to determine which type of guitar is best for you.
- What music would you like to play most often? The type of music you want to play determines your guitar type. Acoustic ones are suitable for pop, folk, country, or blues. People use classical ones mainly for classical music, but they will also be fine when playing pop or folk. Electric guitars are versatile, and you can play almost anything with them. But they are indispensable, especially in metal and rock.
- What’s your budget? How much you are willing or able to pay for a guitar will greatly influence the selection. Indeed, beginners should invest less in musical instruments. It is because they may find that they stop enjoying playing after a short period. If you are starting, choose a model priced between 100 and 150 euros. Later, when you get better and want to start a career as a musician, invest in a more expensive guitar costing several hundred or a thousand euros.
- How tall are you? Ask yourself this question, especially if you want to choose a guitar for a child or a shorter person. It will ensure that the musical instrument will not cause problems when playing. For example, people under 160 cm should avoid big classical guitars. Rather, they should opt for smaller designs, such as seven-eighths-minute ones.
Guitar size and weight
The size and weight of your guitar depend on the type of guitar you choose. Electric guitars are smaller than acoustic and classical guitars, which tend to be massive. On the other hand, their weight can be higher due to some components, such as metal strings. Common electric guitars weigh between 5 and 7 kilograms, which may be too much for children, for example.
Many experts, therefore, recommend guitars based on the age and height of the person who plans to play them. Their recommendations are as follows:
Classical guitar size
- ¼ – quarter guitars – designed for smaller children aged 4 to 6 years with a height of 100 to 115 cm,
- ½ – half guitars – these are larger guitars that are suitable for children aged 6 to 8 years and between 115 and 135 cm in height,
- ¾ – three-quarter guitars – suitable for children between 8 and 11 years of age and between 135 and 150 cm in height,
- ⅞ – seven-minute guitars – suitable for children aged 11 to 13 years and for people 150 to 160 cm tall, 4⁄4 – full-size guitars – full-size classical guitars suitable for children over the age of 13 and adults taller than 160cm.
Electric guitar size
- ½ – half guitars – ages from 5 to 8 years and heights from 80 to 100 cm,
- ¾ – three-quarter guitars – ages from 8 to 12 years and heights from 100 to 125 cm,
- 4⁄4 – full size guitar – ages 12 and up and heights from 125cm.
Size of acoustic guitar
- ¾ – three-quarter guitars – ages from 5 to 12 years and heights from 100 to 120 cm,
- ⅞ – seven-eights guitars – ages from 12 to 15 years and height from 120 to 165 cm,
- 4⁄4 – full size guitar – ages 15 and up and heights from 165 cm.
Type of wood
The type of wood used to make a guitar has a significant influence on how it sounds.The following materials are most commonly used:
- Cedar – guitars made of it are designed for quieter playing and soft strumming. They are, therefore, suitable for beginners or those who like to play the guitar by the fire, for example.
- Spruce – durable wood that does not mind even worse manipulation. It’s a good choice for those who want to lean into their playing and crave clear, loud tones.
- Mahogany – it is a medium-hard and high-quality wood used for guitar bodies and necks. Its characteristic feature is a strong response in the bass and midrange frequencies.
- Linden – is the exact opposite of mahogany. It is a soft and light wood, pleases with a strong response in the middle frequencies. Linden is known for its lower price, which is why they use it to make more affordable guitars.
- Rosewood – a very hard wood, but rarely used for guitar bodies. We can usually find it on fingerboards.
- Ebony – Ebony is also a hardwood widely used in manufacturing fingerboards. However, as it is more expensive, you’re more likely to come across it in more expensive guitars. Maple – guitar makers mainly use this hard and durable wood for necks. Its strength is its great response in high frequencies.
Try the guitar
When you want to be sure that the guitar you choose is the best for you, try it out. Go to a music store, grab it in your hands and see if it’s too heavy or big. Remember, you don’t have to buy the guitar right away. You can let everything go through your head or check the internet to see if they sell the model somewhere cheaper.
Don’t forget the accessories
Be sure to get quality accessories for your guitar. Some accessories you will need right from the start, others later on.
Essential accessories to make playing guitar easier include:
- Plectrum – do not miss it if you plan to play acoustic or electric guitar. However, you can also use it on classical guitar, especially if you don’t want to chafe the bellies of your fingers. You can find interesting picks on the market in one or more colors. So you can choose exactly to your liking.
- Guitar strings – you’ll do well to keep them in stock. You should choose them according to the type of guitar.
- Racks – Instead of putting your guitar on the floor or a shelf, get a practical stand to store it safely. That way, you’ll never trip over it or have it fall from somewhere and get damaged.
- Cases – you will need them, especially when carrying your guitar from place to place. A sturdy case will ensure that the instrument will survive the journey in the car, bus, or plane.
- Guitar straps – if you want to play your guitar standing up, you need a comfort strap. You’ll find a variety of straps on the market, with stylish leather designs being among the most expensive.
You can also get various special accessories for your guitar, such as guitar effects, which change the sound of the guitar, or a guitar combo consisting of an amp and a speaker.
How to learn to play the guitar?
Once you know how to choose a guitar, you can start learning how to play it. When playing the guitar, you generally have two options on how to do this:
- teacher/music school.
You can learn to play guitar at home. The whole process will be longer and more difficult, but there is nothing to be afraid of. There are now practical tutorials in the form of books, articles, and videos to make learning easier.
So how to learn to play guitar at home? Just follow a few basic steps:
1. Getting to know the guitar
If you’ve never held a guitar before, you need to get acquainted with it. Look at it and find out what parts it consists of. The parts you see on it have different names. They are:
- Strings – this is the part that makes the sound and which you play with your fingers or a pick.
- Pipe body – located in the widest part of the guitar body and has a rectangular shape. Resonant hole – it is a hole located on the body of the guitar. All the sound comes out of it.
- Fret – these are the columns on the fingerboard. Fretboard – the long part of the guitar. It indicates the chords.
- Tuning Mechanics – located on the guitar headstock. It is used for tuning.
2. Learning chords
A chord is a consonance of several tones. You need at least two fingers to play it. Learning chords can be challenging for beginners, as there are no shortcuts or methods to help you with this. You have to memorize them like a poem or the alphabet.
3. Chord changes
Once you have learned the chords, start alternating between them. When playing, try not to concentrate on one hand or the other. Try for interplay of tones.
To make learning chord changes easier and more enjoyable, try playing the song Wonderwall by Oasis, which is very popular among beginners.
4. Regular training
Guitar playing is a never-ending process in which you can constantly improve. Once you learn to play one easier song, move on to the next one, which will be a bit more challenging. Spend at least an hour a day playing guitar, and you will see the first results very soon.
Teacher or music school
Do you want to speed up the process of learning guitar, or do you need to have an expert watching over you to explain where you’re making mistakes? In that case, start attending a music school or find a professional teacher to give you beginner guitar lessons.
Many elementary and secondary art schools offer guitar classes for children or adults to learn the basics, advanced techniques, and tricks. Courses are usually designed for more than one student , so you can meet and get to know other music-loving people.
If you want lessons just for yourself, the ideal choice is a guitar teacher. You can easily find a teacher or tutor on the internet. Guitar lessons can take place online or in person, usually at the tutor’s premises. So you can easily find guitar lessons in London, lessons in Manchester, private lessons in Leeds, or a guitar teacher in Liverpool
Private guitar lessons are better than multi-person classes for many beginners and advanced players. It is because of the personal approach of the teacher and the more intensive learning. You will get so much more out of a single guitar lesson.
Learn how to play the guitar yourself
Guitar is one of the most popular musical instruments. Playing it is not difficult, but you must devote enough time to it. If you want to see results after just a few weeks and make the whole learning process easier, look into guitar and piano lessons taught by a professional tutor instead of taking lessons on your own. They will teach you the basics and various tricks or how to play more challenging songs.