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By MillMan (Fri May 24, 2013 at 10:05:23 AM EST) (all tags)
If I want to learn to play -


should I just get a book on how to play and a cheap guitar and start with that? Is that fine or will I develop bad habits without actual lessons (which I won't be able to afford for a while)? Any other tips?
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Coursera recently had a guitar class by lm (2.00 / 0) #1 Fri May 24, 2013 at 10:25:37 AM EST
And if its too late to join it, ther are plenty of instruction videos on youtube if you're worried about form.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
do you have any experience... by gzt (2.00 / 0) #2 Fri May 24, 2013 at 11:41:35 AM EST
...with stringed instruments? Music in general? If you played violin or something for even a couple years as a kid, you can maybe get away with not having an instructor because you're familiar with the idea of stringed instruments. Guitars are easier than violins and whatevs because they have frets, too.

Involvement with music at all in the past is also a helpful prerequisite.

If you've never played any stringed instrument and especially if you've never played any instrument or sung in a choir or whatever at all, an instructor or a class might be helpful. Otherwise, who knows?

As for cheap guitars: if it's a really cheap ass guitar, you're going to outgrow it quickly and hate it. I mean, a great musician can make whatever s/he has on hand sound pretty nice, but the preference is going to be for a better one. You also don't want to splurge on something very very nice because that's a waste. In short, you want something that you'll still want to play in 3 years.

fair bit of choir as a kid by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #3 Fri May 24, 2013 at 12:17:54 PM EST
wasn't particularly good at it. I have no string experience.

I'll probably fool around with youtube / whatever books for a bit. I won't have money for lessons for a while anyway.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

[ Parent ]
well, what's the worst that can happen? by gzt (2.00 / 0) #4 Fri May 24, 2013 at 12:24:17 PM EST
go for it.

[ Parent ]
Depends... by ana (2.00 / 0) #5 Fri May 24, 2013 at 01:39:31 PM EST
of course; most things do.

If you want to do chords to sing along to, you can probably teach yourself. Learning a dozen or so chords and which ones tend to go together is pretty straightforward. If you want to do classical guitar, actually play tunes on the guitar itself, you could probably profit from somebody showing you how.

You'll also need to develop callouses on your fingertips. Nylon strings are easier on the fingers, but maybe you won't like the sound as much. And that'll be a temporary problem anyway. Don't play too much too soon (so you develop blisters).

I'm sure clock can give sager advice (and lessons! You should go to philly and learn from the master!).

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

what style by barooo (2.00 / 0) #6 Fri May 24, 2013 at 02:51:03 PM EST
what do you want to be able to play?  That could influence the answer a lot.

I learned bad habits, I have no idea what I'm doing, I basically only play by ear or from tablature and literally have no idea what chord I'm playing half the time.  Don't be me.  Unless that suits your goals. 

man, i need a beefy taco now.
-gzt
bad form? by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #7 Fri May 24, 2013 at 05:33:49 PM EST
I wouldn't worry about it until it holds you back. I know professional players that still can't quote you which chord they are playing - only that "it sounds right" or "I've always played it like this".

Given enough time they'll deduce the usual suspects of chords, but while some musicians are theory-heavy (and bound) others shine through performance and no theory.

Neither is right or wrong, it just a different way of learning and performing. Some theory is always helpful, but it's always something you can pick up later.

If you list 10 of your "guitar heroes", you are bound to find plenty of "bad form" - but a lot of great playing.
-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
if possible by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #8 Fri May 24, 2013 at 05:35:22 PM EST
I would borrow a guitar from someone, buying an instrument is almost like getting a pet. If you decide it's not for you, it is a shame to keep an instrument around like a prop.

I say lay your hands on a guitar and go nuts on youtube - that will quickly give you an idea of how you learn.
-- The revolution will not be televised.

yeah, but it's also nice by lm (2.00 / 0) #9 Fri May 24, 2013 at 05:43:55 PM EST
Even if you haven't played in months, or years, it's nice to be able to pick up the guitar out of the stand and strum for a bit.

Not to mention that passable instruments are so darned cheap these days relative to back in the day.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
A cheap guitar is a good friend by clock (4.00 / 2) #10 Fri May 24, 2013 at 07:37:24 PM EST
Pick one up, get a book, and then take 5 lessons. Those lessons are to teach you just enough to avoid RSI and to point you in the right direction. Lessons are also good because learning to play should have some social element. Music comes from tradition and some things have to be taught. But maybe I'm just a dirty hippy.


I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

Seconding this by motty (4.00 / 2) #11 Fri May 24, 2013 at 10:24:02 PM EST
At the beginning, anything with six strings that will actually stay in tune is fine. That plus a book plus a few lessons will set you on your way. Plenty of free online lessons as well.

If you get into it, you'll be wanting to buy a new and better (or just different) guitar for the rest of your life, no matter how many you already have.

Lots of people start with a Spanish / classical guitar even if they don't want to play flamenco / classical, just because the cheap ones are pretty damn cheap. The advantage is that the strings don't cut into your fingers so much at the beginning, so you can practise more and get yourself ready to upgrade to something more rock'n'roll with steel strings with less pain. Also the strings are spread slightly more widely so it's easier to learn your first few chords while you're training your fingers to bend in the right way on demand.

You can perfectly well start with a steel string, but until you develop pads on your fingertips they will hurt. Depends how into it you get and how much you practise. Also, the strings are slightly closer together so you'll be forced to learn both chord shapes and more rigorous left-hand technique both at once at the beginning. Totally doable but maybe more frustrating. Depends how determined you are to crack it.

One more thing: I don't care if you're left-handed. Get a right-handed guitar. I'm left-handed. I play right-handed. Now I can play 95% of guitars out there, and my guitars don't have the 'lefty' premium on the price-tag. You still need to be pretty adept with both hands and I don't buy any of the pro-left-hand-guitar arguments, which are mainly made by lefty players trying to defend their 'I can play guitar but I can't play that guitar and also all my guitars are more expensive' position.

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T

[ Parent ]
It's probably a great idea by technician (2.00 / 0) #12 Sat May 25, 2013 at 12:57:43 PM EST
to get a few lessons (and there are lots of hungry guitar teachers, so fees are probably reasonable).

It is also a great idea to get a guitar with nylon strings. One of the many reasons I can't play as well as I should is, I learned on a steel stringed acoustic. Those strings are tough...at the time I started playing, I was a viola player, and my callouses were pretty well developed, but the guitar required callouses and a lot of pressure. That pressure requirement made me far less flexible, and over time I stopped having any sort of speed or flexibility. Chords, no problem. Anything that isn't a chord, problem.

All that said, I was given a guitar and a Mel Bay book at like 11 years of age, along with a bunch of guitar tabulature books, so I learned by playing chords to Beatles tunes. Which is why I can't play guitar, but I can pretend to play guitar pretty well.

can I swap nylon and steel strings at will? by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #13 Sat May 25, 2013 at 02:48:05 PM EST
or are there mechanical differences in guitars that feature each type of string?

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

[ Parent ]
Nope. by technician (2.00 / 0) #14 Sat May 25, 2013 at 03:21:25 PM EST
And yep. Classical guitars have wider necks, more prone to twisting....and the neck is thinner, more prone to warping....with the strain of steel strings. Plus the bridges are different, the tuning machines are often different. So, yeah.

But if you start with a decent classical (Ibanez have cheap models that sound good, and have pickups to connect to an amp), you can eventually trade up to a steel string acoustic if you'd like.

[ Parent ]
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