March 15, 2021
You’re never too old or too young to begin learning how to play an instrument. While there are countless options available, today, we’re going to look at learning to play just one instrument—the guitar. Specifically, we’re looking at the acoustic guitar.
Why Should You Learn To Play An Instrument?
Before we dive in, we thought we’d give a little attention to those of you who are on the fence about learning a new instrument. Yes, it might be hard. Yes, it might take time. But learning an instrument is an enriching experience. The act of playing music has been shown to create more resilience to age-related mental decline than any other activity. What this means is that learning to play an instrument can help protect your brain from dementia and other age-related developments.
Beyond this nice mental boost, playing an instrument is also known to have incredible therapeutic effects. Some even cite practicing their instrument as a pathway towards greater feelings of transcendence (the sensation that everything, including ourselves, is connected). Ranking higher on the self-transcendence scale has been shown to improve multiple areas of wellbeing.
Besides being good for your mental faculties and outlook, learning to play an instrument is fantastic for your mood. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression as well. There’s no denying it; learning to play an instrument is good for you.
Where To Begin
Learning to play a new instrument doesn’t have to be something strict or rigid. Before beginning, it’s a good idea to develop some parameters for yourself. Why do you want to learn how to play guitar? Are you learning because you wish to compete with other players or perform in public? Or are you learning because you love music and want to feel it coming from your own fingers every once in a while?
Depending on your personality, you might want strict rules like practicing for an hour each day, or you might find that takes all the fun out of it. Decide how you want to feel while playing, and then build your expectations around that—how it feels—not how much progress is made at what speed.
If you’re someone that doesn’t know how to guide yourself using online tools or videos, you might want to look into finding a guitar teacher. This can be done in person, but virtual lessons are also available online.
Get To Know The Instrument
Take some time to get to know the guitar. Look up the names for different parts (fretboard, bridge, head-stock) and how you should hold it. Play around with the instrument to understand the feeling of the sound and which parts impact which elements of the music produced. If you’re using a borrowed or second-hand guitar, now is a great time to get it tuned. You can ask a knowledgeable friend or teacher to do this, or you can use an online website or apps to help you.
Match Up Notes And Strings
Once you’re comfortable with your guitar, it’s time to learn which notes correspond to which strings. At some point, this might become second nature to you, but no worries if it takes time! Take a moment to learn some of the more common notes (like C Major 7). Make sure you include both C and G in this practice, as those two will be coming up a lot. You might also want to throw in E Minor and Dsus2.
Fret Some Chords
One of the first big steps when learning to play the guitar is understanding how to fret chords properly. Remember to use only the tips of your fingers—not the fleshy portion. At first, hand positions might feel strenuous or uncomfortable. With practice, the discomfort will fade, and your muscles will learn how to work with what the guitar requires from your hand.
Learn About Strumming Techniques
Strumming needs to be strong and rhythmic. The swinging motion should originate from your elbow. Maybe only 10% of the strumming effect should be shouldered by your wrist. Keep the wrist straight while you practice helping encourage this.
Once you’ve fiddled around with the above tips and steps, you’ll be ready to learn your first song. You mustn’t rush any part of this process. Knowing correct hand positions and chord fretting can save you a lot of trouble later on down the road. If you learn incorrectly from the start, it’s going to be harder to switch up the habits weeks, months, or years from now. If you understand the correct approach early on, you’ll be able to focus on the magic of the music you’re learning and not the positioning of your fingers or the angle of your elbow.