At one point in my life I wanted to play guitar more than anything. During concerts, I’d get close to the stage; working my way to the right side. When the band walked out, I’d focus on the lead guitarist. As soon as the first note leapt from the giant speakers, it was me on stage.
Fast-forward fifteen years and I’m still the day-dreamer.
Today I want to share with you what helped me learn to play the guitar. No matter what your age, life sometimes gets in the way keeping you from your dreams and aspirations. But with intentional focus and practice, you can become a virtuoso.
I can guarantee this one thing: If you take the time to master the fundamentals first, the learning curve straightens in ways you couldn’t imagine.
Knowing How to Hold Your Guitar
This may seem trivial, and often overlooked, but knowing how to hold your guitar will help your playing. Everything from foot position to hand position will determine how fast you learn.
As you grab your guitar, sit with both feet flat on the ground a comfortable distance apart. Place the waist (the curved part of the guitar by your strumming hand) on your thigh when sitting. Keep your back straight and keep the guitar’s neck horizontal with the floor. From here you can grab anywhere on the guitar’s neck and start forming chords.
When standing, again keep your feet shoulder width apart. Make sure your strap is set keeping the guitar at arms length. The key is limiting the bend in your arms. Over time, hanging your guitar too low will create wrist and finger problems. No matter how cool it looks on stage, later it will cause pain.
Learn Your Chords
When I first learned to play, I wanted to rip solo after solo. Be that lead guy on stage making the rest of the band look good. But little did I know, without learning chords, my solos fell flat.
A guitar chord is when you play at least three notes together. Chords come in various tones and difficulty levels. But learning which strings, when combined, makes the most ear-pleasing sounds is critical to your learning speed.
Anyone can grab a guitar, hold it somewhat correctly and strum the strings. However, until you learn chords, and their shapes, your playing will not reach its full potential.
The seven basic chords are: Em, C, D, G, Am, E, and A.
Learn To Listen
Half the learning curve is knowing what you’re listening to. Do you know someone who can play by sound? Meaning, they listen to a song and start playing along without music as if they wrote the song.
Learning to play is as much listening as it is practicing. I learned this the hard way. Whenever I hear a song, I focus on all the lead guitar parts. I know what the chords sound like and recognize most of them as soon as I hear them. Then I can grab my guitar and play along with the song.
Don’t get discouraged. It takes time to develop this listening ear. But when you do, you’ll impress your friends making them envious of your new-formed skill.