Guitar

Wanting to play the guitar is something most musicians who are just starting out tend to aspire to and with very good reason. It's a cool instrument to play!

Aside from the obvious street cred associated with being a really good guitarist, the big attraction of this instrument is its versatility and the way it naturally lends itself to the way modern popular music is played. There is just something about standing on stage in front of a big crowd with a guitar strapped around you playing a scintillating lead break in a great song that has no equal.

So let's talk about this marvellous musical instrument and why it's my most cherished piece of hardware (and plenty of others' too I would imagine).

Learning to Play Guitar

guitarThe first place to start is to learn how to play the thing before you can get up there on stage and widdle with the best of 'em. It's the old, "You have to be able to walk before you can run," part of life that needs to be observed here.

Great guitarists became that way after many years of hard work and countless hours of practice. After all, Eddie Van Halen didn't just pick up that guitar and decide he was going to play Eruption and then as if by magic his fingers started doing that crazy stuff!

Same goes for every top name in the world of amazing fretting and soloing. They all had to learn the basics first and then progress onto doing cool stuff that each little run still took hours and hours to perfect.

But hey, I don't want to put anyone off learning how to play the guitar just because they are going to face a mountain of unglamorous scales and chord learning! The journey is a fascinating one that never ends until you decide to put the guitar down.

And take it from me, once you're bitten by this particular bug and you can say with hand on heart that you truly love and adore this beautiful instrument, there's no quitting until your body ceases to draw breath!

Where Do You Start?

You start the same place as everything new you undertake: at the beginning! There's no cheating this thing like you can with a synth and sequencer. You don't get to press a few buttons and hey, instant virtuoso!

I started with a cheap acoustic and a few chord books with simple songs I could learn without too much trouble. I was self taught, but you can get lessons from a guitar teacher of course and that will certainly speed your progress up a lot.

Once I could play the few basic chord shapes and change between them fast enough and without making those irritating dead string noises when the fingers don't quite make true contact with string and fret, I felt I was achieving something. I could play a song and what's more, I could even sing along with myself!

Now that's something you can't do with a lot of other instruments. I also started learning the clarinet as a kid and I can tell you from experience, there's no way you can play that and sing at the same time!

But now I'm just stating the obvious. It's probably why so many young musicians choose to play the six string or another kind of instrument you can sing along with, like piano or keyboard for example.

Which Style Should You Play?

The style you choose to play will usually be influenced heavily by what you're into at the time. I'll give you a heads up here. If you're into rap, the guitar is probably not for you!

The music has to be something that lends itself to the instrument you're going to play or you won't be able to play songs you like. At least not easily, anyway.

If you're into blues, rock, rock n roll, metal etc guess what? This is definitely the instrument for you! If you like soul, dance, 70s pop, reggae or ska, you can play it on a six string. If you prefer country, folk, or even jazz, yep, this is the right one for you too.

It also depends on what you intend using your axe for. Some people want to get up there and shred like a metal demigod or make their beast scream like a banshee. Others just want to make it cry and transmit hat emotion to the audience.

When you can do things like that, you will have mastered the important aspects of your tool of the trade.

But not everyone wants to be like Hendrix or Clapton. Some prefer to strum along to their favourite tunes or learn to finger-pick and become a great rhythm guitarist. Others prefer to branch out to more traditional styles like Spanish flamenco or "Sevillanas" or other Latin styles.

You can do any of these things with one type or other guitar and these things will be expanded upon in a series of articles for that purpose.

Why Type of Guitar Do You Want to Play?

That sort of leads us onto the different types that are available to play. Most gravitate to an electric to emulate their big stage stars but others go for acoustic variants to fulfil their own playing needs.

Within electrics, there are some sub-divisions that you should be aware of. The Les Paul type lends itself to a wide range of styles from blues to rock, jazz to funk. Big names that typified this instrument are Gary Moore (rock/blues), Zak Wylde (rock/metal), Jan Akkerman (jazz/rock).

The Strat type is different and has a very distinctively different tone to a Les Paul type. It is used a lot in heavy rock and metal thanks to its configuration and tremolo arm better known as the whammy bar although it turns up in everything from country and western to rock n roll (think Hank Marvin), produces that twangy sound in pop-rock bands like Dire Straits and killer soloing from the likes of Vai, Van Halen and Malmsteen.

Another sub-type is the semi-acoustic electric of which the best known is probably the Gibson E335 and its copies. These are often found in rock n roll or country bands because of their nice tone and lightweight body (good for being hung over the shoulder for lengthy gigs).

Acoustics vary in configuration too. Many beginners start in an acoustic for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they are generally cheaper to buy for cash-strapped parents of budding shredders and they don't need a separate amp (additional cost).

Of these types, standard jumbos are great for folk and traditional music, while slimmer classical models are perfect for, well, classical! Classical guitars also get worked into flamenco and other Latin strains, although their wide necks make them tough to learn on at first.

Then there are the hybrids in electro-acoustics that are really just slimmer bodied acoustics with electric hardware enabling them to be plugged into an amp for a louder stage sound. I have one and I really enjoy using it at home and on stage.

All in all, playing the guitar no matter where you are in the scale of expertise that starts right back at pure beginners, elevates through occasional strummers to good rhythm players right up to the expert coaches and amazing big name performers that we know and love (and in many cases want to be), is an amazing journey and pastime without equal.

Published Titles

So let's expand on all this with some more in-depth articles that you'll find in the list below: