T Nation

Learning to Play Guitar

Hey guys,

I am trying to learn to play the guitar. Has anyone here ever taught themselves? If so, using what resources? I would really like to learn, but don’t have much room in the budget to pay for lessons.

I taught myself after one very boring lesson with a coked out guitar teacher. I just learned tab…the timing will be off if you don’t know the song but it is much easier to learn than notes. Some muscians hate tab but, hey, I play the songs I want, so f’em.

I taught myself 16 years ago. I purchased every book on theory I could and tried to learn every song I liked. I prefer jazz, blues and classical though so I didn’t really learn any pop tunes.

I would pick up a book on scale and chord theory and start with a genre of music you like. Learning to play a song from tablature doesn’t really teach you anything about music structure.

If your only goal is to learn some three chord harmony to accompany on voice so you can impress some “chiks” I’d start at OLGA on the internet.

[quote]frisbee wrote:
Hey guys,

I am trying to learn to play the guitar. Has anyone here ever taught themselves? If so, using what resources? I would really like to learn, but don’t have much room in the budget to pay for lessons.
[/quote]
Oh and I forgot the most important thing: Play with other people and along with recordings. It’s imperative to learning timing and rhythm.

I understand Randman’s son gives lessons.

Guitah, guitah, guitah!!!

Buy a decent how to play guitar book. You need to learn good hand placement and finger positioning, and a little theory. As a music teacher of mine once said,“Theory is just there to explain the music after it’s written.”
The key to learning to play well is playing. Don’t mess to much with scales and such, or you’ll sound like you’re playing scales. Play the stuff you like, and that’s what you’ll sound like.

Download this program called Powertab. What it is, is a program that displays plays a midi file, shows tablature, and follows the notes for you. I’m pretty much self taught, about 5 lessons after playing for about 5 years. Powertab is basically all I use anymore. It?s nice and tabs are easier to understand than regular music… to me at least. Then just search for powertabs and you should find a nice library of songs formatted to work with the program. Happy strumming.

This is going to sound stuck-up and snobby. If you can’t deal with it, go fuck yourself.

1 - If you’re serious about it, you’ll shop around for a teacher with good credentials, and one that you have chemistry with. No matter what anyone will tell you, if you are interested in learning technique and theory the right way and quickly, a teacher is indispensible. As far as famous guitarists who are self-taught go, listen to me: chances are, you are NOT one of those people. Chances are you are not a revolutionary genius, so don’t be a bitch, and get yourself a guitar teacher. They are absolutely AMAZING. Even if you’re not that serious about it, try one out (a good one) for a month or two.

2 - Also, don’t be a douche and not learn any theory. Idiots who claim that “theory cramps your style” are worse than people who curl in the squat rack. This situation is like grammar and language: you can break the rules after you have mastered them. And then you can apply those rules in different fashions to create new and interesting ideas. Also, as above, there are people (like the band members of Opeth) who write unbelievably imaginative stuff, but who know almost no theory whatsoever. Again, you are probably not one of those people. Suck it up, and learn your theory.

3 - If this is just a hobby, and you can’t afford/don’t want to get a teacher, start reading up at http://www.cyberfret.com, it’s a great beginner’s site. http://www.guitarnoise.com is pretty nice, it has very nice beginner and intermediate song articles, as is http://www.wholenote.com, but be careful with wholenote, since it’s a collection of articles written by whoever can type, and you often get retarded articles. In fact, don’t go to wholenote until you know your shit. Go here to download the Powertab Editor (http://www.power-tab.net/downloads.php) and then go to http://powertabs.net to download tabs of whatever songs you want and just learn them. But definitely practice stuff on cyberfret.com first (or in addition to just learning songs), you’ll learn some invaluable stuff.

4 - Improv… don’t be afraid of it. Learn your fucking scales! Start with the basic minor pentatonic, and branch out from there. cyberfret.com has some great charts that show how you can move all over the fret keeping in the same key. Keep practicing those scales over some recorded music, or over a Powertab score, and over time you will memorize and master that scale. Just fuck around with it. You will suck at first. You will suck for a while. And then you will suck because your shit will sound like everyone else’s, but at least it doesn’t sound like crap. And then, you won’t suck as much, and you can impress musical SPEDs by just playing fast. :slight_smile: Trust me, really good improv takes years to learn. And imaginative, unique improv can’t be learned period, you have to either be born with some serious talent, or play for so long and so seriously that you develop your own style. Sorry if this is scary. IT IS. And it will suck at first, and most new guitarists quit at this point. Suck it up. You’re a weightlifter. You probably have puked from trying to eat too much, or broken ligaments from trying to lift too much. I do hope you’re not a pussy when it comes to this.

Also, I suggest buying a cheap acoustic in addition to your electric. If you learn how to play on an acoustic before moving to an electric, it’ll be all the easier. If all you want to do is play backing acoustic guitar for Howie Day songs, then go suck a dick, I have no respect for you.

Oh, and have fun. :slight_smile: Guitar is amazing.

STFU and play your scales!
Post again in three months and let us know your progress. kidding!:slight_smile:

I am glad to see some other musicians, esp guitar players that read this site!

well just wanted to put my two cents, everything has been said.

yes, get a teacher to teach you the basics.

learn your scales and play along to your favorite music, hopefully not jazz because that takes years to even understand, at least for me.

the rock/ballad works well with the chicks!

you wont know jack until you stick with it for two years, then at 5, you will be able to perform with confidence in front of crowds.

just give it a little time everyday, 30 min a day is better than two hours once a wk. muscle memory stuff…

i learned off records and it pretty much falls into place when you can recognize notes of recordings.

occassionally record yourself to hear how you sound.

guitar kicks ass!

I learned with a brilliant guitarist (a natural, not a Joe Satriani prodigy, but still a natural). I’m biased and everything because he’s my teacher, but he’s probably the best person I’ve heard play live (after superstars like satriani, vai, malmsteen, etc. whom I’ve seen in concert). His improvs are original and increadibly imaginative, ranging from classic rock to hair metal to bluegrass to popular music (popular as in tico tico, not pop) to blues and jazz. And you know what impresses me the most? He’s better at classical guitar than he is at electric (what do you expect when his teacher is celin romero, who was enough impressed with his skill that he gave him a 90% discount on classes). I truly believe this guy could be a star if he wanted to (and he’s only 24!!!).

Why am I bragging so much about him? 3 reasons:
First of, as danmafti already said, the chances that you are like him are slim. Don’t think you’re the next Hedrix or EVH. If you can, get a good teacher, or at the very least, some good musical theory and guitar basics books and videos (get books that come with a cd).

Secondly, guitar is probably the most popular instrument (along with piano), so there are a lot of extremely good guitarists out there who can teach you. I was incredibly lucky to get someone like him, but chances are that if you look hard enough, you’ll find someone.

Third, it’s of utmost important to stress the need to constantly practice, not just play. Every instrument demands total dedication (not unlike weightlifting), and the reason why you see so many wannabe guitarists out there just playing 3 chord riffs is because guitar is relatively easy to pick up. Compared to say, the violin, it takes about a fifth of the time to learn basic songs on guitar. Don’t conform yourself with just getting your favorite zeppelin song down. Always strive to improve and never be satisfied.

Finally, you have to love playing guitar, to feel electric when it’s in your hands, to sense the sparks between your fingers and the frets. Some people just don’t like guitar, or have little musical ability. For example, two of my cousins and my brother have absolute pitch. My oldest cousin (the one with absolute pitch) just finished his masters in classical violin and is moving to Austria. My other cousin with perfect pitch dropped the piano 5 years ago, but he can still play entire songs (as in all the instruments except for drums) on his keyboard via overdub. My brother is developing into an advanced guitarrist/songwriter, even though he’s 13. Now my ex girlfriend cannot play for shit, as in at all. She quickly realized this and now just plays for fun. So don’t assume that you’ll be playing the intro to hot for teacher in a year. Don’t get discouraged though, very few people are so bad that they can’t improve to a reasonable level; you just have to want it and work for it.

Oh, one last piece of advice: download guitar pro (version 4 I think) from shareazza or limewire. It’s a guitar program that plays tabs with beats, converts to notes, and lets you compose, plus you can download tabs with audio from www.mysongbook.com. It’s indespensable for any serious guitar player.

To step back a bit from the great advice given so far…

Assuming that one must be an autodidact, and cannot, for whatever reason, have a teacher… what books or videos are the best?

I am completely unqualified, but I did enjoy working through Guitar for Dummies over a winter break a couple of years ago (sad to say that I haven’t had time to work on guitar since). Anyway, specific products are always helpful.

nopal, that was beautiful.

Let’s see… well I have to assume that you already bought a guitar. If not, get a simple one like a fender squier, a gibson epiphone (sg, just cause it looks sooo cool), or the ibanez starter pack. Both the squier and the epiphone come in starter packs too (guitar, basic amp, soft case, extra strings/picks, and usually a video with the basics).

Shred guitar is an excellent book for when you can start tackling basic solos, improv, riffing, and scale composition.

For a flat-out beginner, I’m not really sure, but you could browse around in the amazon.com bestsellers.

i have a bachelor’s of music performance in classical guitar. for classic stuff i just read it but most rock isn’t transcribed so everyone’s in the same boat and you learn it through a combination of tab and listening and you do it one song at a time.

that said i prolly have over a hundred books on guitar and guitar music and the one book for pop music that i learned some real roots that are still serving me well from is called " arnie berle’s book of modern chords and progressions for guitar " isbn :0-8256-2802-4

there’s another one called" chords and progression for jazz and popular guitar by arnie berle" isbn: 0-8256-1056-7
which is killer also.

if you know music and have practiced other instruments these books will provide instant no-nonsense access into chord progressions on guitar.

but if you’re totally new there’s a really good basic book also by arnie berle called “understanding chord progressions for guitar” i don’t own that book so i don’t know the # but it’s a really useful book.

other than that just google songs you like for tab, listen carefully, and have fun in the maze !

Thanks for all the suggestions guys. I downloaded Powertab, seems like a really cool program, (although it did lead me to waste some time downloading a bunch of GNR stuff that is probibly years beyond my league). I’ll check out some of the beginner sites that were suggested to me, and perhaps this weekend find a good book with pictures of hand positioning-thats what I am most worried about with teaching myself.

Rock on guys

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Everybody’s first song. :wink:

HAHA, actually my first song on guitar was Dust in the Wind. I played bass before guitar, so I was fairly good at fingerpicking, it took me a while to get used to the pick, but I have to second the notion of practicing your scales, as I’ve learned that if you can master your scales in each key then you can improv quite well, and if you’re not especially musically talented it helps immensely.

[quote]atmosphere wrote:
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Everybody’s first song. ;)[/quote]

my first (and, now, only so far) is smoke on the water

[quote]atmosphere wrote:
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Everybody’s first song. ;)[/quote]

My first was paint it black (Rolling Stones, duh). Whoever said that scales are important knows what he’s talking about. Don’t just learn the minor pentatonic scale, learn the full minor, the major (both full and pentatonic), the blues scale, the diminished scale, the diminished arpeggio scale, the japanese pentatonic scale, the whole tone scale, the gypsy minor scale and the minor harmonic scale. Try to learn multiple fingering patterns for the major and minor scales. Then you can focus on learning the modes of each scale (ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeolian, and locrian.

You’ve got some good advice here. If you can’t afford lessons, check out some of the sites others have listed.

If you learn some of the basic chords there are tons of songs out there pretty quickly. Oasis songs come to mind as tunes centering around easy changes for a beginner. Just practice!

And as suggested earlier, an acoustic is great to learn on, when you move to electric you’ll fly