10 things I’ve learned about guitars

My first guitar was an empty tissue box with elastic bands over it, a long time ago. I’ve recently acquired a proper one, a second-hand acoustic. Here are some things I’ve learned about these wonderful and versatile instruments:

  1. Learning to play the guitar is a lot harder than it looks. Folk singers and rock stars seem to play it effortlessly, their fingers flying over the strings. Meanwhile, us beginners get frustrated that it will take a long time to get even half as proficient.
  2. Already knowing some music theory and/or playing another instrument comes in handy, as there are some elements which cross over. As a piano player with some theory, I found that this was a little shortcut. If you have ‘piano player hands’ you’ll also be used to stretching to span those octaves, which again is useful for the guitar, where some of the chords are tricky.
  3. There is a handy, cheap accessory called a capo, which is like a tight clamp you can attach to the neck of the guitar. It changes the notes, raising the pitch. I bought one so I could learn to play ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis.
  4. Tuning a guitar for the first time seems like a scary prospect but actually it’s easy. You can buy a little electronic gadget called a Snark, which clips on to the guitar headstock and measures the vibrations. It tells you what note you’re playing and how flat or sharp it is. All you have to do is turn the tuning pegs to adjust the notes.
  5. Changing the strings is a scarier prospect and I confess that mine look a bit amateur. On the recommendation of the music shop man, I got ‘easy’ strings which have a tiny plastic ball at the end, meaning no knots have to be tied at the bridge. However, the high ‘E’ broke and I replaced it with a traditional string instead. Tying the knot was fiddly but it hasn’t snapped.
  6. There are thousands of YouTube tutorials on playing the guitar, many of which take you through how to play specific songs. It’s a case of finding a tutor that you like and who explains things at the right pace for you. My preference is Justin Guitar. I feel grateful for all these free resources, although undoubtedly they’re no substitute for actual one-to-one lessons.
  7. Picks (also known as plectrums) come in different materials and thicknesses. Strumming while holding one is trickier than you might think, as it can slip around when gripped between your finger and thumb.
  8. Guitars attract dust (or at least, mine does). I gave mine a clean when I’d taken the strings off but it was soon looking dusty again. I keep it in a case to protect it from insects / small children / leaks etc.
  9. As if coordinating your chord-playing hand with your strumming hand isn’t difficult enough, singing at the same time while keeping the tune and rhythm is really hard. You’d have to be well-rehearsed at the guitar piece before trying to sing over it.
  10. Playing the guitar toughens up your fingertips. This doesn’t sound particularly desirable (and it can hurt a little until your tender fingers are accustomed to pressing down the strings) but it goes with the territory.

8 thoughts on “10 things I’ve learned about guitars”

  1. Great blog post – I attempted to learn guitar a few years ago and I had quite a few lessons but I had no natural talent! I do still enjoy strumming some basic chords thou.

  2. As I am currently learning how to play the guitar, I relate to all of these points! My fingers look terrible and they are numb all the time ( although i would rather have them numb than in pain, like in the first few days) and the prospect of changing the strings is indeed scary to me.
    I am a bit annoyed at how everyone expects me to play like a rock star after a week of guitar learning because ” come one, guitar is easy”… coming from people who don’t play it. I must remind me that just like everything that matters, it takes time and practice. My fingers are really short too and so it takes some extra time to learn how to adjust my position and hold my hand in order to reach the strings
    It is a really fun activity though and I love it to see how my hands starts memorizing the chords and how it’s always a bit easier to transition between them

    1. I agree it’s fun! My fingers do tend to have stripes on them afterwards. As a short fingered person it’s a bit more difficult for you but I guess you learn the tricks. And yes it’s all about practice, I only do about 15 mins a day but I know I am improving all the time 🙂 Luckily there are so many YT videos out there which show you how to change strings etc. Thanks for reading 😀

  3. I just bought my husband a Zager guitar and he’s ecstatic. He used to play quite a bit when he was much younger, but hasn’t touched one in over 15 years. He has discovered that his fingers don’t move as nimbly as they used to, but he’s getting the hang of it again. He’s only been back at it for 3 days now and he sounds pretty darn good to me!

    About the picks – buy the picks with the holes stamped out of the center. This allows your fingers to actually touch from each side of the pick. This extra grip helps keep it in place! 😊

    1. That’s so great your husband is playing guitar again 🙂 The knowledge won’t go away, it’s just getting back into practice. I haven’t seen picks with holes in the centre, but then I haven’t actually bought any picks – all the ones I have came free with various other accessories. Sounds like a good idea!

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