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8/28/07

Play Guitar with ease when you get off to a good start

To play Guitar, for most people who have discovered the joy of this instrument, is a life long journey that starts with a dream, or the beginnings of a passion inspired by music and the musicians who play Guitar in the style that moves them. When the passion to play Guitar takes hold we realise that the journey is an on going learning process where we consistently challenge ourselves to master new techniques and styles and discover the excitement when what once seemed imposable is now easy.

But, perhaps the biggest challenge is right at the outset, when for whatever reason, we decide to play Guitar and set off on our first mission, to actually begin the learning process, the newbie phase. Here the initial passion and enthusiasm associated with deciding to play guitar can be fragile. Gaining dexterity and coordination between hands and fingers can be frustrating, so it's important to have a positive experience at this time.

Let's face it, we all hate being a newbie, whatever we choose to learn, and we want to get past this stage quickly. To learn to play Guitar there are several factors that contribute towards breaking through the initial learning curve. Here are three of them.

First is the instrument itself. The passion and motivation to play Guitar goes hand in hand with the quest for tone and a good sounding instrument is one that's going to get played a lot. A passionate player will develop an understanding of how the instrument is constructed, the types of wood used and how this determines the resonance and tone of the instrument. When beginning to play Guitar the temptation is often to start with a cheap one, just in case the passion doesn't take hold, but considering that the quest is for tone, this is not a realistic approach. Cheap Guitars, acoustic or electric, sound cheap; they are normally constructed from laminated wood, a fancy name for plywood, so imagine what we can expect in terms of resonance and tone. That's right, not much. It's better to spend a little more and get an instrument that's going to sound good, and there are some great, reasonably priced, ones out there.

Next is to get a handle on tuning the instrument. Whenever we play Guitar we want the instrument sounding its best so we enjoy what we're hearing, and anyone listening does too. Tuning the instrument is relatively easy, once you know how, but it relies on developing your ear to recognise when the strings are at the right pitch, individually and to each other. The good news is that electronic tuners are cheap and readily available. However, electronic tuners should be seen as a convenience as they only tell you when the string is at the right pitch. They don't handle the other aspect of tuning, which is keeping the instrument in tune no matter how hard you play it.

Third, and very important, is gaining an understanding, and appreciation for basic music harmony and, to a similar extent, timing. Typically our journey starts with a motivation to play Guitar like the musicians who inspire us and the desire to play their songs. While learning songs is a great way to learn, develop dexterity and timing, and have fun, the key to being able to play any song is understanding harmony, or in other words the relationship between the notes. When you understand this, and it's not that complicated, you will quickly see, and be surprised by, the simple and repetitive patterns that make up all the popular forms of music we listen to today.

In summary, to make a quick transition through the initial learning curve and play Guitar with confidence get a quality instrument that sounds good, learn to tune, and keep it in tune, and while having fun learning your favourite songs, learn basic music harmony so you know where all those scales and chords come from.

Thank you to Damian Saunders

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