In 1962, a little-known Liverpool rock act called the Beatles auditioned for a recording contract with Decca Records, but were rejected on the grounds that “guitar groups were on the way out.” Besides the fact that Decca turned down the greatest rock band of all time, this anecdote has become one of the most oft-repeated in show business because of the gross musical miscalculation: five decades later, guitar groups, and guitars, are most certainly not on the way out. And countless music fans around the world harbor the ambition to play guitar.
It’s easy to get discouraged when learning to play the instrument, and long-time guitarists often take for granted the complex hand mechanics involved in playing. The first time you pick up the guitar, you don’t know how hard to press your fingers on the fretboard, how to move between chords, etc.
And to top it all off, the more you practice, the more your fingers can ache, at least until you form calluses, which help a lot. The lightest gauge strings can help here…
Here at Freya Guitars we don’t believe it has to be difficult. And there’s seriously good news for aspiring guitarists: with the internet and smartphones at your disposal, it’s never been easier – or faster – to gain a level of proficiency with the world’s favorite instrument.
Here’s the quickest way to get good, fast:
Step 1) Start by learning two chords
A “chord” is a set of notes played simultaneously. You can play a LOT of rock and pop songs knowing just a few chords. From Hank Snow to the Beatles, some of the most iconic figures in music have relied on just two or three chords to write some of their biggest hits.
If you like rock n’ roll, E-major and A-major are your best starting point, and if you throw in B-major too you can play the basic chord structure of just about any blues, 50’s rock, or AC/DC song you can think of.
More of a country and folk fan? G-major, C-major, and D-major, will do for just about any of these songs.
When you’re first learning chords, you need to have diagrams handy for your reference. Thankfully, there are lots of free smartphone apps that provide these.
You can get a poster to put on your bedroom wall with just about every guitar chord diagram. This is great for reference.
And don’t forget to keep that guitar in tune. Excepting Jimi Hendrix, I don’t know of anyone who can make an out-of-tune guitar sound good.
Step 2) Get rhythm
Once you learn a few chords, you might start wondering: what am I supposed to do with them?
Learning basic strumming patterns (and advancing into fingerpicking) takes time, but fear not, there’s an easy method: just play along with your favourite songs.
Put on your favorite song, pick up your guitar (making sure it’s in tune), and play along. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, just make something up. Find one note that you can hear in the song, play along, and build on from there. Try to pick out other notes, or even chords that you hear in the music. Pay attention to the rhythm, and try to mimic it.
You’re might not sound like Gary Moore overnight, but you’ll soon find that you can play along with some of your favorite guitarists.
One of the best-known riffs in rock n’ roll – The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” – is also probably the easiest to learn.
Playing along will help your technique and get you feeling more comfortable with your instrument.
And as long we’re talking about comfort, one final thought: hang out with your guitar. Seriously, just always have it near. When you’re watching television, or chatting with friends, or just sitting in your bedroom, hold it in your lap.
I used to actually sleep with my Tele, and sometimes do – when life seems bleak there’s one thing you can always call your friend – your guitar. Make it your friend, give it a name, make it personal. My favourite Tele’s name is Eleanore.
The Turtles song from 1968 contains these lines:
“You’ve got a thing about you
I just can’t live without you
I really want you, Eleanore, near me”.
See? Make it personal…….
Most musicians spend a lot of their spare time with their instrument, and you should too. Make stuff up, practice your chords, fool around, experiment. Over time you’ll become more and more comfortable with the guitar, and feel more and more confident in calling yourself a guitarist.