Getting started playing guitar.
The following is a list of the various items to help you get started playing guitar along
with an explanation and tips on thier use. Getting started playing the guitar isn't difficult or
expensive, but choosing the right equipment in the beginning will save you money and make the
experience more enjoyable. The recomandations of specific brands/models of guitars, tuners, etc.
come from years of teaching hundreds of students with these items and instruction materials.
There are, of course, many other brands of guitars, amps, etc. and a dizzying array of books
and videos. The following should provide a basis to help you judge which materials will be best
The Guitar: To begin with, it really makes little difference whether you start out on
an electric guitar, steel string acoustic guitar or nylon string acoustic guitar. That choice should
depend on your goals. If you like classical guitar and wish to play classical guitar music, choose
a nylon string guitar. Many instructors insist that all thier beginning students start with a nylon
string guitar because, they say, it's easier on your fingers. I believe this is inapropriate
because, while the string tension may in fact be lighter (and the string diameter, larger), the
guitar may not be stylistically consistant with the goals of the player. In short, if you want to
play heavy metal, buy an electric guitar. If you want to strum away and maybe sing along by the
campfire, a steel string acoustic is probably your best choice.
Guitar Case or Bag? Many guitarists assume that a hardshell case is the only acceptable
choice when it comes to transporting and protecting your guitar. For some, this may be true, but
for the majority, a padded guitar bag is just fine if not preferable. In fact, today, guitar
bag sales outstrip hardshell sales by a wide margin. This is partially due to a generally lower price
tag, but also because the bag is much more transportable due to its light weight, soft feel and
compact size. As far as protection is concerned, take care of your guitar whether it's in a case or
not and it will last for dacades. That said, it is worthwhile to note that probably the number one
culprit leading to guitar damage is heat. When a guitar gets too hot, necks warp and twist, finishes
are damaged and wood often cracks. So, never leave your guitar in direct sun, in the trunk of a car
or expose it to other sources of heat.
Recommended Guitar Cases and Guitar Bags
Electronic Tuner: There are many ways to tune your guitar. Tuning forks and pitch pipes
provide a fairly reliable reference pitch but temperature and humidity (and with pitch pipes, how
hard you blow) effect thier intonation. Also, these require the player to match the pitch of the
guitar string to that of the pipe or fork; a skill that may take considerable time to develop. These
days, electronic tuners are innexpensive, realiable and compact. They insure that your guitar is in
tune with itself as well as with other instruments and are available for under $20.
Click for a tutorial on guitar tuning.
Instruction Book: As with learning anything, getting started with the guitar usually
means buying an instruction book or two. Beginning guitar books generally follow a simmilar progression
or methodology. First, they teach you how to hold the guitar and the pick. Next, you learn the notes
on the staff followed by note values. Finally, most books move into exercises sequentially
introducing the first through the sixth strings. Most books will also include the basic, open chord
shapes as well. Any of these books are fine regardless of who the author is.
Ernie Ball - How to Play Guitar: Phase 1
Ernie Ball - How to Play Guitar: Phase 2
Hal Leonard Guitar Method: Book 1 w/CD
Hal Leonard - All Chords in All Positions
Musician's Institute - Guitar Basics
Lately, I've seen a lot of new books cropping up for beginning rock guitarists that diminish
the value of many basic guitar skills like reading music or learning full chords. It's probably
better to avoid this type of book in the beginning and find one that is more comprehensive.
Guitar Pick: Most guitarists use a pick to either strum the guitar strings or play them
individually. Choose a standard shaped pick like Jim Dunlop Nylon or Fender Medium.
A pick that is too heavy will be hard to control at first and one that is too light won't offer
enough resistance to get a feel for the guitar strings. In short, any standard shaped, medium
thickness pick will be perfect.
Jim Dunlop Nylon Guitar Picks - .60mm
Jim Dunlop Gator Grips Guitar Picks - .58mm
Guitar Strap: A question that often comes up is "do I need a strap?" In the
beginning, probably not but, many people find it more comfortable to play thier guitar with a strap
even when seated. The strap sometimes will allow a more natural hand position because the guitar
tends to stay in position better. Electric guitars and some steel string acoustic guitars have strap
buttons and the base of the guitar body as well as the area where the neck is joined to the guitar's
body. Any standard strap will fit these guitars. The strap ends have a keyhole shaped slot at the ends
that simply fit over the buttons on the guitar. Many steel string acoustics only have the end pin and
no second button near the heel. You will need to use a string (usually included) to tie the strap
to the headstock beyond the nut but under the strings. Classical guitars usually have no strap
buttons at all and require a special classical guitar strap. These are basically a neck loop with
a hook that holds the guitar from the soundhole.
Click for a huge selection of guitar straps.