Beginner Guitar Questions

Beginner Guitar QuestionsThese are answers to real beginner guitar questions I’ve had emailed to me.

 

Will I need an Amp to start learning guitar or is it better to buy one when I can actually play?

Short answer: No, you don’t need an amp when starting out.

Longer answer: An electric guitar makes some noise without an amp. It’s only good enough for playing / practicing on your own, but it will be enough to get you started. You will want an amp eventually, but in the short term focus on getting a good guitar and starting to learn. If you find you enjoy it and want to carry on then you can consider an amp then.

 

Is it OK to learn it from videos and books instead of going to a lesson? Can you recommend any videos or books that I may be able to start with?

Short answer: It is OK to start with videos and books, although they are not as good as having a proper teacher. I’d recommend www.justinguitar.com. Have a look at his Beginners Course. It’s free and has lots of good videos.

Longer answer: You can get started with videos and / or books. The Justin Guitar link above is a good starting point. I was lucky enough to have a few lessons with him when I was younger. He’s very good, and he’s put a lot of time and thought into how he presents his material online. His beginners section also covers answers to some of these questions, so you can check to see if his answers agree with mine!

However, a real teacher is always better than videos or books. I’m not just saying that just because I am a teacher! You can’t replace the benefit of having someone watching what you do and giving you specific guidance based on what you’re doing. I find I pick things up more quickly when someone is showing me in person. Learning from books and videos takes longer. A teacher will give you feedback so you know which bits you need to work on and which you’ve mastered. When you’re starting out it’s hard to judge that for yourself. It’s also a great psychological motivator, knowing you have a lesson coming up – it encourages you to practice. Without lessons there’s the potential to pick up bad habits that take more time to correct later. There’s less chance of this if you have a teacher giving you personal tuition.

By all means get started using the videos on the Justin Guitar site. Then, if you find you’re enjoying it, seriously consider finding a teacher to have regular lessons.

 

I am not looking for a luxury guitar, but one which is nice quality and suitable for a beginner. Is there any brand or any particular model you might recommend? 

Short answer: The Yamaha Pacifica 112 is a great guitar for beginner to intermediate level. They’re £169-£200 online.

Long answer: I’ve always recommended the Yamaha Pacifica 112 as a fantastic beginners guitar. The J version costs around £169, the V version is £200. Get the V if you can afford it, but the J is still perfectly good enough to learn on.

I own a Pacifica and often take it to gigs as a back up guitar in case anything goes wrong with my main guitar. It’s good enough that I’d be comfortable playing live with it if necessary. They’re really versatile instruments and the build quality is consistently good. It will be a long while before you needed to ‘upgrade’ to a better instrument.

There are lots of cheap guitars out there and the quality varies hugely. Personally, I would avoid anything less than £100, anything that comes in a ‘kit’ with an amp, and steer clear of Squiers. Also, don’t buy a guitar with a ‘floyd rose’ or ‘floating tremolo’. You don’t need to know what they are, just don’t get one! They make the guitar much more difficult to learn on.

The best thing you can do is go to a shop with someone who plays guitar and try it with them, but I realise that’s not always possible. If you do see anything online that you like the look of and want my opinion then email me the link and if I know anything about the make I’ll let you know.

 

I also found that if I buy a guitar online, I might get it cheaper. But I am not so sure about doing it as I am wondering whether I will need to do some setup or to match the tones or things like that by myself after I have bought online? 

Short answer: Yes, it’s OK to buy online. You will have to learn to tune the guitar whether you get it over the internet or from a shop. Watch the video on www.justinguitar.com about tuning your guitar.

Long answer: A puritan would say you should never buy an instrument you haven’t tried first. I definitely wouldn’t buy a guitar for more than £400 without having played it first. But for beginners guitars I think it’s OK to buy online. Whatever you get will probably be good enough to learn on, and after 2-3 years you will probably be thinking about upgrading anyway.

You will need to tune the guitar when you receive it. However, even if you bought it from a shop it’s possible it might need tuning by the time you got it home, so you’d have to learn that either way.

 

I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar but have no idea of how long it will take to become proficient?

Short answer: 6-9 months to get comfortable with the basics.

Long answer: I usually say it takes about a 6-9 months to get to ‘campfire guitar’ level – i.e. you are comfortable strumming the chords to well known songs around a campfire, bbq, etc. while people sing along. You can keep time, change chords smoothly, etc. You’ll be making good music that everyone can enjoy.

This assumes that you put in about 30 minutes of practice most days of the week. After 6 months you’ll have the basics down, then another 3 months to get really comfortable with it.

It might be possible to do it quicker than that if you are especially disciplined or you practice more than 30 mins regularly, but that timescale is a good guide.

After that there is always more to learn. Music is such a vast topic that you can never learn everything there is to know. Once you get to that stage you can decide if you’ve learnt as much as you want, or if you want to delve in to another area – rock, blues, acoustic, jazz, metal, the possibilities are endless! I’m always talking to my students about what they are interested in and what they want to learn to make sure I’m tailoring the lessons to their specific tastes and goals.

 

What sort of time or financial commitment might I be getting into?

Short answer: £30 to £60 per month, if you’re serious about it.

Long answer: I recommend weekly 30 minute lessons. Try to keep them quite focused and to the point. You get material to practice, you practice it through the week, then review it next lesson with your teacher and get some more stuff to work on.

If weekly is too much of a time commitment then hour long lessons every 2 weeks are OK. This relies on you to be disciplined and keep practicing between lessons. Some people find that harder without the ‘deadline’ of a lesson coming up.

Both the options above will cost around £60 per month (assuming 4 weeks in a month).

If that’s too much of a financial commitment then 30 minute lessons every fortnight does work. It might take a little longer to progress, but you’ll still get there. This will cost around £30 per month (again assuming 4 week months).