I’ve learned several great lessons from my Dad, many of them about life in general, the value of hard work, or even the proper way to hold a baseball bat or how to pick up chicks (that one didn’t turn out too well). I’ve also learned quite a thing or two about how to play guitar, since my Dad is the reason I started.
I’ll never forget my first guitar. It was an acoustic no-name hand-me-down pawnshop gem. The action was terrible, everything rattled, and there was something loose inside the guitar that I could never find. But I didn’t care, because along with that tattered guitar came hope and excitement to learn such an awesome instrument and a little piece of my Dad, too (I still have the old thing!)
What I’m imparting to you today are some of the things he taught me when I first started out on the awesome journey of learning guitar. Check them out below, and be sure to also check out the Dads Rock Sale & Giveaway that we have going on in celebration of Father’s Day. Enjoy!
1. Slow and steady
When I first started playing guitar, I was ready for an overnight miracle. I had my guitar, I had my amp, I had my gung-ho attitude. Why shouldn’t I be instantly amazing? Oh yeah, because it’s a skill learned over time, just like anything else. Around this time in my guitar playing infancy, I was given some great advice: Rather than rushing through training, it’s better to slow down, take your time, learn the fundamentals, and only move on when you’re ready.
2. Make a plan
And stick to it. It really helps. I definitely didn’t do this until late in the game, but I’m glad I eventually did! Your goals can be simple, like “learn 5 new major chords by the end of the month,” or “learn to play one new song each month.” The best part is, looking back on your previous goals helps to see how far you’ve actually come. What’s better motivation that to see you’re achieving your goals?
3. Lessons are key
There’s two ways to approach learning guitar. The first is to go blindly into the dark, teaching yourself chords and the rest. You’ll miss some skills along the way, leaving some major holes in your skill library. The second (better) approach is to find an instructor or online school (ahem, TrueFire, ahem), take lessons, and be held accountable for your skill improvement. Just going to put this here: TrueFire has a plethora of beginner guitar courses for all ranges of musical genres. With top instructors, you’d be doing yourself a favor by starting here.
4. We’re all ugly at first
Of course, I’m exclusively talking about ugly guitar playing skills. It goes without saying we were all incredibly beautiful babies. When you learn your first chord, your first song, your first strumming pattern, it’s going to sound ugly. But ugly is good. Ugly is step one. Step two is, “eh.” Step three is, “Woah man, you’ve been practicing!”. It helps to remember that everything awesome sounding today was once very, very ugly. Keep this in mind and it’ll help you to stay motivated as you go!
5. Hang out with musicians who are better than you
When I first started playing guitar, I practiced all by myself. And, by my own standards, I was amazing. It wasn’t until I had started jamming with friends that I began to see just how much more I needed to learn. This is a good thing though. Playing with somebody who’s better than you will keep you super motivated to keep learning. You’ll see them doing things you never thought about trying. And if you’re lucky, the more-skilled friends will help you along your guitar-learning journey. You might have to buy them pizza, but that’s an easy price to pay.
6. Learn when to call it a day
I remember when I used to get stuck on a chord progression or strumming pattern for hours to no avail. It wasn’t until later in my guitar playing days that I learned a really important piece of advice: If you’ve killed your brain for hours and it’s just not happening, call it quits for the day. Let your brain and body step away from the struggle-piece all together for the night. Chances are, the piece you were struggling with the day before, you’ll be able to play flawlessly the next day. Sometimes, your brain just needs a little time to take things in.
7. Your phalanges will hurt
Here’s a fact: Your fingers will hurt for a while when you first start playing. This happens for several reasons. One reason is, beginners tend to press down too hard on the strings. Another reason is the guitar’s action might be too high (action = the distance from the strings to the fret board). But, the main reason for calluses is that it’s a rite of passage, it just happens, it means you’re a guitar player. Welcome to the club! Too many beginner guitar players stop playing because their fingers hurt. But don’t quit! The pain goes away once your fingers callus. Just keep strumming away and you’ll be glad you stuck with it.
8. Keep it simple at first
When you’re learning the basics and building a foundation, you don’t need every pedal ever made. I know it’s tempting, but adding on bells and whistles right off the bat might distract you from what you really need to learn. Trust me, pedals, and accessories are super fun and should be added into your inventory eventually. But when you’re first starting out, all you need is a decent guitar. Of course, if you have the cash, some other good investments are a tuner, a metronome, an amp, and picks.
9. Play what you like, like what you play
Chances are, the reason you’re learning guitar is because your were inspired by a musician or style of music. Well, when you get to the point where you have some chords under your belt, and you’re ready to cover some songs, stick with the music that made you want to begin playing in the first place. For me, that was Blues Traveler. I learned a bunch of Blues Traveler songs on piano and guitar. I was really digging learning all the music I loved and, at the same time, was expanding my personal chord library like crazy!
10. Don’t give up!
To recap: Everything’s going to sound ugly at first. Your fingers are going to hurt. You’re not going to be an overnight success. You’ll discover others will be much better than you. The key is to not let any of this stop you! These are just hurdles, nothing more. If you can keep moving forward you’ll never once regret it. Finding ways to stay motivated, like discovering new artists and taking lessons, will keep you going strong. If you ever find yourself in a rut, switch things up by learning a new style. At TrueFire, you’ll never run out of genres to learn. So hang out with us, keep your head up, and keep moving forward! You’ll be a rockstar in no time.
Bonus: Free Guitar Lessons
Looking for a good place to get started but short on cash? Check out TrueFire’s library of free guitar lessons. This comprehensive library contains thousands of free video guitar lessons across a variety of styles and skill levels covering every technique and topic. Be sure to check back as we update our library often!
What are the things your Dad (or someone else) taught you when you started playing guitar? Please share in the comments!
And don’t forget to check out the Dads Rock Sale & Giveaway!