by Zander Boon
Think about why you want to learn to play guitar
You'll only become a good guitar player if you understand why you want to learn to play. So ask yourself, do you really want to do this? It might be that what you want to do is learn to play a musical instrument, and you think that the guitar is the easiest one to choose because there are so many books and websites showing you how. You might have chosen the guitar because guitars are cheaper and smaller than, say, a piano. These aren't really the right reasons - if in reality you want to play piano, but you chose the guitar because it seems more practical, your heart will never really be in your guitar playing, and even with a teaching system as good as Jamorama you'll never get very good at it.
Know your guitar playing goals
Once you're sure you really do want to play guitar, think about the sort of guitar player you want to be. Do you want to be the next Steve Vai or Yngwie Malmsteen? If so, you're going to get real sick, real quick of strumming along to "Michael Row the Boat Ashore". On the other hand, you might just want to be able to accompany yourself singing a few popular tunes, in which case you're going to lose interest fast if your teacher is trying to get you excited about Pentatonic Scales and Mixolydian Modes.
When I started playing years ago, all I wanted to do was play punk, but I got bogged down in scales and keys, and nearly gave up. If someone had just shown me a few power chords, I'd have been close to doing what I really wanted to do. I'd have started having fun, my confidence would have grown, and the rest would have followed.
Make sure you know what you want to learn to play, whether it's rock, classical, Spanish, or whatever. Then make sure your guitar teacher is happy to guide you down the right path, or that you buy the right book.
Try before you buy
Cupboards, wardrobes, closets and attics all over the world are full of unused guitars, bought by people, or for people, who didn't get very far before they gave up. (There are also plenty of music stores out there who will happily sell you just such a guitar, with no money-back guarantee if you simply get bored!) So don't rush out and buy a guitar, especially a new one.
If you can, find a friend who already plays. Ask your work colleagues, your school friends, your kids' friends. Chances are there'll be someone who will be willing to lend, or even give you their old "beginner" guitar. If you get along with the guitar, they might sell it to you, which will be much cheaper than buying new, and less hassle than buying from eBay - I know from personal experience that not everyone knows how to pack a guitar for posting.
Take a Friend for a Test Drive
Would you buy a car before you learned to drive? Almost definitely not. It's pretty hard to take it out for a test drive if you don't know how. But it's amazing how many people buy a guitar before they can play. You don't want to be one of those people. Before you make the plunge and buy your first guitar, talk to someone who already plays, and if possible, get him or her to go with you to the guitar store. That way, you can get the guitar "test-driven" for you.
Most musicians can still remember what it was like when they started out, and should stop you making the same mistakes. I remember the first electric guitar I ever had - the action was set so high, it was almost impossible to fret the string properly. I didn't know any better - I thought it was just because I was a beginner. Again, this nearly made me give up. Luckily, someone showed me what was wrong, and once I got it sorted out, my progress was much faster.