Best way to learn guitar for beginners

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Back2PA

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For literally 40 years I have told myself I'd like to play the guitar. It turns out, if you don't buy a guitar and do something about it, it doesn't happen. So that's about to change.


In the 'old' days, one would take guitar lessons. And while I'm sure this is still be a good idea, there are now lots of other options. So many in fact, it's hard to choose. I'm sure there's standalone software, plus online courses such as Center Stage (which seems reasonably priced if it's any good). Other online sites I've seen recommended are GuitarTricks, JamPlay, Fender Play, TrueFire and ArtistsWorks. I'm sure there are many others.


So I'm looking for guidance. Best lessons, online, software, etc. Thing to get (other than the guitar of course ::) ). For example, I had a suggestion to temporarily get the little string markers to assist in finger placement. Also, while the prevailing guidance seems to be "just learn a few chords" I've also read that while this may get a beginner playing a couple easy songs early, it will limit the ability to continue to get better down the road (vs doing it the more 'old fashioned way' practicing scales and other more technical but not so fun aspects).


I believe I've chosen this guitar. Very highly rated as sounding excellent and being a good beginner's guitar, solid spruce top (which I've read in several places is a good thing) and reasonably priced. Plus a recognized name if that means anything.


What say you virtuosos?
 

SeilerBird

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That is a nice guitar Scott but I would recommend this one:

https://www.amazon.com/ADM-Acoustic-Electric-Dreadnought-Handmade/dp/B07D11J72W/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=guitar+with+tuner+built+in&qid=1571576726&s=musical-instruments&sr=1-5

The reason being is it has a built in tuner. Most people are using clip on tuners but after you use a guitar with a built in tuner it really spoils you. This one also comes with a gig bag which I feel is a necessity. It is also able to be plugged into an amplifier which you will eventually find useful.

There are two basic ways to learn to play guitar. One is to learn to play your favorite songs by watching YouTube videos and the other way is to learn to play the guitar by learning music theory and learning what chords are and how they are built. Most take the easy way and just learn songs. The problem with this method is that with every song you start over from scratch and you never really learn how to play the guitar, just a few songs on the guitar.

But in all honesty I recommend you do not try and learn how to play guitar. The guitar is a very difficult instrument for a beginner to get started on. If you don't practice often you will never get good. If you do practice often your fingers will be in a lot of pain. Either way you will probably give up after a month or two and the guitar will stay in the closet. It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of pain to get past the raw beginner stage. If I had a dollar for every unplayed guitar in a baby boomer closet I could probably buy Microsoft.

What I do recommend it buying a ukulele and learning to play it. If you were here with me I could have you playing songs in less than a half an hour and your fingers would not hurt. Ukuleles have only four strings as opposed to six and the strings are plastic rather than metal. Here is a tenor ukulele that come with all the extras you need and is a lot less expensive than a guitar. You odds of success are many times higher. And most communities have ukulele meet up groups that get together regularly to practice and play songs. There are similar guitar groups but not nearly as many and the uke is a lot easier to transport.

https://www.amazon.com/Caramel-Electric-Ukulele-Professional-Beginner/dp/B07R2KHSMH/ref=sr_1_12?keywords=tenor+ukulele+with+tuner+built+in&qid=1571577334&s=musical-instruments&sr=1-12

Then after you have been playing the ukulele for a year and have built up some finger strength you can buy a guitar. And when shopping for a guitar or a uke don't even think about quality. The quality of the cheapest Chinese guitars on the market today are very high. Only after you have been playing a long time will you notice the quality differences.
 

Back2PA

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SeilerBird said:
the other way is to learn to play the guitar by learning music theory and learning what chords are and how they are built. Most take the easy way and just learn songs.

How would you suggest one best do this?
SeilerBird said:
But in all honesty I recommend you do not try and learn how to play guitar. The guitar is a very difficult instrument for a beginner to get started on. If you don't practice often you will never get good. If you do practice often your fingers will be in a lot of pain. Either way you will probably give up after a month or two and the guitar will stay in the closet.

What I do recommend it buying a ukulele and learning to play it. Then after you have been playing the ukulele for a year and have built up some finger strength you can buy a guitar.

I have heard the "start with a ukulele" advice before. For a beginner who has played for a year, what's the transition like to a guitar? And where/how (online, software, etc) would you suggest a rank beginner learn to play the ukulele? Wouldn't it still be best to learn theory, or is the ukulele used more as just an exercise device and theory would come at the guitar transition?

Thanks for the advice.
 

UTTransplant

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Scott, are you a traveler or do you stay in one place a lot? If you stay in one place, go look for a good, small guitar/music shop and talk to them. Yes, you will pay for more a guitar there than mail order, but you can get good advice. For example, not all guitars have steel strings, and a good guitar shop can even adjust the neck of a steel string guitar to take nylon strings. The sound isn?t as loud, but you are still playing. I started using the online Justin guitar beginner course, and it works for me. However I played violin for 3 years, oboe for 5 years, and piano for time immemorial. I know lots of music theory, so I just wanted something to help me translate that knowledge to the guitar. I even played guitar back in my HS and college days (no picking, just chords), but it has been over 35 since I restarted. And Tom is right about steel strings hurting! Short bouts of practice if you go that way. After about 10 minutes my fingers get numb and it doesn?t hurt as much LOL!
 

Back2PA

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SeilerBird said:

I note that several reviews refer to it as a baritone ukulele, I suspect it's Amazon mismatching reviews. But what about that, baritone vs tenor. Seems like I might like the lower sound (more guitar-like?? ??? ). Why did you suggest the tenor?
 

Back2PA

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UTTransplant said:
Scott, are you a traveler or do you stay in one place a lot?

Currently I'm only moving 2-3 times per year. I may throw in a trip here and there but don't expect that to change a lot
 

LarsMac

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Back2PA said:
How would you suggest one best do this?
I have heard the "start with a ukulele" advice before. For a beginner who has played for a year, what's the transition like to a guitar? And where/how (online, software, etc) would you suggest a rank beginner learn to play the ukulele? Wouldn't it still be best to learn theory, or is the ukulele used more as just an exercise device and theory would come at the guitar transition?

Thanks for the advice.

I am in the midst of learning music theory. 
start with doing a web search for Music theory classes.
There are a number of them. The one I am taking is from udemy.com
Look for special prices and such, because there are a number of very expensive courses.

Here is one I found recently, though, that looks promising, and the price is right. https://www.musictheory.net/lessons



 

SeilerBird

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Back2PA said:
How would you suggest one best do this?
I don't really know the best way to do it. Music theory is a huge subject and there are lots of books and videos available. YouTube would be my choice to start.
I have heard the "start with a ukulele" advice before. For a beginner who has played for a year, what's the transition like to a guitar? And where/how (online, software, etc) would you suggest a rank beginner learn to play the ukulele?
YouTube has thousands of beginner videos. I started with the guitar in the 60s when there were no videos, DVDs, books, magazines or in my town even guitar teachers. I only knew one person who played guitar and he was not very good. I had to learn by listening to a song and trying to copy it. Think of the lead to Day Tripper. It was easy to figure out and impressive for a first year guy to be playing. I learned the basic chords and tried to play my favorite songs. Sometimes I was even successful. Then after 50 years of playing guitar I became jealous of Tom's ukulele club and found one locally and joined it. I hardly even touched my guitar after that.
Wouldn't it still be best to learn theory, or is the ukulele used more as just an exercise device and theory would come at the guitar transition?
The more you know about music theory the better you  will be at being a musician. Most people think of the ukulele as a rinky dink little thing that plays ticky tacky melodies. The uke is a lot more than you would ever imagine. It is a very serious instrument and just as legit as a guitar. Check out this video to see what I mean.

https://youtu.be/puSkP3uym5k

My favorite Jake video is Dragon, where he plays a rhythm part on stage and records it and then puts it in a loop and plays with himself. Jimi Hendrix would be jealous.

Check out this gem from the UOGB whom are as funny as they are good.

https://youtu.be/pLgJ7pk0X-s

Or Highway To Hell.

https://youtu.be/F5-z1c-9QmE
 

Back2PA

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LarsMac said:
I am in the midst of learning music theory. 
start with doing a web search for Music theory classes.
There are a number of them. The one I am taking is from udemy.com
Look for special prices and such, because there are a number of very expensive courses.

Here is one I found recently, though, that looks promising, and the price is right. https://www.musictheory.net/lessons


Excellent resources thx
 

SeilerBird

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Back2PA said:
I note that several reviews refer to it as a baritone ukulele, I suspect it's Amazon mismatching reviews. But what about that, baritone vs tenor. Seems like I might like the lower sound (more guitar-like?? ??? ). Why did you suggest the tenor?
There are four basic uke sizes. Soprano, the tiny one most people think of when they think of a uke. Concert, slightly larger than a soprano. Tenor, slightly larger than a concert. And a baritone. A baritone isn't really a uke it is a small guitar. It is not tuned like a uke and doesn't sound like a uke. It is tuned like a guitar. I recommend a tenor because your fingers will fit the frets better and be easier to play. If you have a large music store in your area go check out the different size ukes and guitars.

Do a search on YouTube of a song you would like to learn to play. Doesn't matter which song it is, this will work for almost any song. Search something like "Stand By Me ukulele lesson" and watch it. Then do a search on "Stand By Me guitar lesson" and watch it to compare the differences in playing.
 

SeilerBird

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LarsMac said:
I am in the midst of learning music theory. 
start with doing a web search for Music theory classes.
There are a number of them. The one I am taking is from udemy.com
Look for special prices and such, because there are a number of very expensive courses.

Here is one I found recently, though, that looks promising, and the price is right. https://www.musictheory.net/lessons
Excellent resource. Remember you can never be too rich, too beautiful, have too much memory of know to much music theory. You do not need to spend money to learn an instrument.
 

Tom

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Hopefully, Russ (8muddypaws) will jump into the conversation and add his guitar playing and teaching experience.

I'm not a serious player, nor am I in any way skilled at playing, so I make my simple comments with all due respect to the experts. IMHO how you approach this depends on what you expect to be able to do down the road.

I started playing ukulele before adding (not moving to) guitar and banjo. My initial ukulele lessons essentially taught chord shapes, strumming and switching between chords. Playing only chords (on guitar or ukulele), the melody comes from your mouth i.e. you or someone else sings. Recent vocal challenges aside, I've sung a capella all my life, and strumming on a uke or guitar allowed me to accompany myself. Knowing how to play just 4 chords will allow you to play many hundreds of songs by merely changing the strum and the beat. This is illustrated by the Australian rock comedy group Axis Of Awesome (heads up - there's a small amount of profanity in their spoken comments).

If you decide to start with a uke with the intention of later switching to guitar, I'd suggest you buy a baritone ukulele; It's tuned like the four musically-highest strings on a guitar, which would make the transition somewhat easier; The chord shapes on a guitar are the same, with the addition of the two additional strings . The description of the uke you looked at on amazon mentions G-C-E-A tuning, whereas a baritone would be tuned D-G-B-E and a guitar is usually tuned E-A-D-G-B-E.

Picking a melody is a whole different ballgame. I really have a tough time picking, partly because of what I believe is a dexterity issue.

I'd forgotten what little music theory I learned at school (you'll see/hear me say I didn't take music theory), but have re-visited that subject a couple of times in retirement. It has done little to nothing for my ability to play and switch between chords. Yes, it helps to understand the formation of chords (i.e. which notes are included in a chord), but there are countless online resources to help with the fingering without needing to know which notes you're strumming in the chord.

One thing that helped me (maybe a tiny bit) was that I bought a keyboard years before thinking of a uke or guitar. I'll occasionally hop over to the keyboard to look at/listen to the composition of a chord. But this is so rare. OTOH if you decided to do this, there are "rollup" keyboards available that take up little storage space.
 

Back2PA

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SeilerBird said:
There are four basic uke sizes. Soprano, the tiny one most people think of when they think of a uke. Concert, slightly larger than a soprano. Tenor, slightly larger than a concert. And a baritone. A baritone isn't really a uke it is a small guitar. It is not tuned like a uke and doesn't sound like a uke. It is tuned like a guitar. I recommend a tenor because your fingers will fit the frets better and be easier to play. If you have a large music store in your area go check out the different size ukes and guitars.

Unfortunately I don't have a large anything nearby  :-\

I was curious about the ukulele size thing and found this. One of the things that I noted was some opinions that because the baritone is tuned like a guitar that could be an advantage  for those eventually transitioning to the guitar. In another comment someone opined that the smaller ukes were harder to play. I guess it depends on the size of your hands. I understand and appreciate your experience and well considered advice but given the similarities of the baritone and guitar, and that it sounds guitar-like, it seems like that might be worth considering. Is your tenor advice like "you really really need to get a tenor" or more like "a tenor would be somewhat easier but even a baritone would be a good way to start vs a guitar"??

Thanks again.
 

Back2PA

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Tom said:
If you decide to start with a uke with the intention of later switching to guitar, I'd suggest you buy a baritone ukulele; It's tuned like the four musically-highest strings on a guitar, which would make the transition somewhat easier; The chord shapes on a guitar are the same, with the addition of the two additional strings . The description of the uke you looked at on amazon mentions G-C-E-A tuning, whereas a baritone would be tuned D-G-B-E and a guitar is usually tuned E-A-D-G-B-E.

Thanks for weighing in Tom, I think we were both typing together. This was my thought too but I appreciate Tom's advice to make this as easy as possible. Lots of food for thought
 

Tom

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smaller ukes were harder to play. I guess it depends on the size of your hands.
For me, it was (initially) the length of my forearm. I first bought a soprano, and found it difficult/awkward because my forearm was "too long", and soon changed to concert and tenor sizes. We've found in our beginners classes that folks were initially being told to buy sopranos, but we've changed that advice to buy concert size.
 

Tom

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Scott, FWIW I've found that buying instruments on a budget is not worth it in the long run. I don't have very expensive instruments, but have what I believe are decent quality, rather than starter/beginner instruments. I prefer not to get into a 'mine is better than yours' discussion, but feel free to let me know if you'd like me to share via PM what I have and why I bought/like (or dislike) them.
 

SeilerBird

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Back2PA said:
Unfortunately I don't have a large anything nearby  :-\

I was curious about the ukulele size thing and found this. One of the things that I noted was some opinions that because the baritone is tuned like a guitar that could be an advantage  for those eventually transitioning to the guitar. In another comment someone opined that the smaller ukes were harder to play. I guess it depends on the size of your hands. I understand and appreciate your experience and well considered advice but given the similarities of the baritone and guitar, and that it sounds guitar-like, it seems like that might be worth considering. Is your tenor advice like "you really really need to get a tenor" or more like "a tenor would be somewhat easier but even a baritone would be a good way to start vs a guitar"??

Thanks again.
No my advice is to find a music store and play a bunch of different ones to see what fits you best. It really depends on the size of your hands. All the opinions in the article are valid opinions. A tenor would be easier but even a baritone would be a great way to start since it has plastic strings and will not hurt your hands as much.

But it really boils down to how much time you wish to devote. If you only want to play a few minutes a week then a tenor would be much better. If you plan on playing a lot and then switching to guitar a baritone would be better. But you won't really know the answers to these questions until you buy one and start playing. The big advantage to cheaper instruments is that it is easier to buy an second and a third one and then let the first one sit. And just about everyone that plays a while ends up with several.

As an alternative you could buy several from Amazon and you have 30 days to send it back. Order a couple and keep the one you like.
 

Tom

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Like Tom, I think you need to 'play' some instruments to see which feels and sounds 'better' to you. Learn a couple of chord shapes (copy a few from a chord chart) and take along with you to the store. Hadn't thought of the amazon suggestion, and not sure I'd openly promote it.
 

SeilerBird

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I feel that buying your first instrument is a lot like buying your first RV. You know what you want but you don't know exactly which one and which style you want. The only way you will know is to get one and try it. This is why I always recommend to both that you start off inexpensive and then you can easily trade up once you get a better idea of what you want. A more expensive instrument is not going to be easier for a beginner to play and it won't sound better to you. The differences are too subtle. As you gain experience you will discover differences.
 

Oldgator73

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I?m glad somebody brought this subject up. I was considering taking up guitar but after reading here I think I will try piano. I hand cancer in my left hand and arthritis in my right so maybe guitar would not be a good fit.
 
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