So you want to learn the Acoustic Guitar but don’t know where to start? Here are a few things to consider…
Mastering the acoustic guitar is about patience. It’s about becoming competent not simply at physically playing the musical instrument, but additionally having a technique of how you can progress faster, more effective, and much stronger than others expect of you.
So how will you get going?
How will you make sure you have a great time whilst gaining progress?
The solution: Having an effective practice technique. You certainly were not born with the information of HOW to practice properly, therefore it’s something that you’ll need to find out…
So below is a set of 10 great tips for mastering the Acoustic Guitar.
Having The Right Guitar Teacher Makes A Difference
The very first tip is the most vital: A good teacher is the most important thing in the world. They can identify your deficiencies but most essentially, teach you tips on how to improve them. They will direct you to the best method book for your personal style of learning. So if you can pay for it, get private lessons.
But how can you determine when you’ve got a good Acoustic Guitar tutor? Well, the easy answer is to seek out simple things:
- Do you like the way they describe ideas to you?
- Do they really enthuse you?
- Do they give you uncomplicated recommendations that can make the world of difference to your playing?
Provided that your answer is yes to most or all of these questions, then you’ve got an awesome teacher that is definitely working for you and your individual situation.
But have you struggled to find that guitar teacher? That inspiration? Where should you really be looking to search for the teacher of your hopes and dreams?
My first ‘port of call’ is always to get personal recommendations from your local area. Perform a little research on Facebook as well as Linkedin to check out who the local guitar teachers are, and what kind of support they have from their students.
And if you’re having trouble finding a teacher, apply to become a member of the Ted’s List VIP Facebook Group, where we have many, many guitar teachers, as well as like-minded players, who may be able to help you out…
Whatever transpires, don’t freak out, or stress. Nothing is forever, so if you find a guitar teacher and it doesn’t work out, just search for the next teacher! You can never be 100% sure in regards to a connection between two individuals, so just go for it!
Finger Exercises On Your Guitar
Tip number 2 is important for all guitarists, although they may seem mundane at times… Doing finger exercises – even for a few minutes each day – will make you a much better player.
All good acoustic guitarists need to be able to get the most out of their hands and this means having a few weaknesses and technical blind spots as possible.
Think of finger exercises as being similar to general conditioning that athletes do. Learn how to play your finger exercises, and you’ll progress faster. Consistent practice of them will make it easier to learn songs and play difficult chords.
Yes, you’re unlikely to ever play a piece of music that is a finger exercises from start to finish but that would be to miss the point of the exercises entirely. They are there to give you a general level of ability that you can then apply to the music you play.
Try to play these exercises once a day. Your fingers will get stronger, you’ll be able to play at a faster speed, and it’ll help everything from your strumming technique through to how you position your hand on the fretboard.
Oh, and don’t forget to use a metronome when you can. It helps enormously. And once you find the finger exercises that you’re doing easy, find some more that you find hard. This really is a sure-fire way of improving your technique, and you’ll start playing more complicated pieces in no time…
Make Sure You Get The Perfect Music Stand
It’s not alright to balance your sheet music over your crossed leg as you sit down to practice your acoustic guitar! You’ll develop bad habits and aches and pains will set in. All professional guitarists learnt this early on…
Out of all the things in this article, getting a music stand is undoubtedly the easiest thing to achieve, and thus the most convenient tip to follow!
A good music stand will encourage good posture when playing the guitar, and trying to balance sheet music on your knee. But it also means you can have your music where you can best see, you can actually spread out several sheets so that you don’t have uncomfortable page turns and a good music stand is something you can actually easily take to a lesson, band practice, or even performance.
Learning to play guitar is challenging enough as it is, so don’t make it more difficult by having cheap equipment that breaks…
Personally, I always think it’s worth getting something that’s well built and that will last longer. The inexpensive collapsible music stands are acceptable for whenever you need a transportable one for gigs – and the brand we suggest for foldable stands is this; however, for learning at home, get something that won’t collapse every five minutes!
Sure, it costs a bit more initially, but it will be such a beneficial investment, and many good music stands can last as long as ten years. For comparison, a poorly built one can break in a few weeks.
Overall, this is actually the best style of music stand I’ve ever tried. It’s reliable, has loads of awesome testimonials, and I have one at home that I love…
Get Creative In Your Guitar Practice
Practice doesn’t have to be just scales and endless arpeggios. But, whatever a practice session consists of, it does have to be done.
If you find yourself getting bored of the same guitar scales, arpeggios, and material you’ve been working on over and over for the last few weeks and months then take your boredom as a chance to get creative with the way you practice.
Here are some examples.
- Try to learn a new song every day for a week
- Try and learn one new minor chord each week for a month
- Could you write a short piece with the scales you’ve learned?
- Can you use the scales and arpeggios you know to work out your favourite song?
- Do you have any friends you can practice and swap ideas with?
- Try a difficult passage with a metronome
All these things will add a fresh perspective to the work that you’re doing and help you to see it in a new light. When you find what you want to play, start slow and you’ll eventually commit it to muscle memory. Try to learn songs and new, difficult chords as this will help you progress quicker.
Perform Music You Like On The Instrument You Love
This really is an uncomplicated tip, but also among the most useful. Simply put, playing the guitar will likely be ten times more enjoyable if you’re studying the music that encouraged you to pick up the acoustic guitar, in the first place. Don’t forget, you became a guitarist to make music!
This is applicable if you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced player.
Many guitarists – jazz musicians especially – will allocate a substantial part of their practice time to learning music that motivates them. This is especially good advice for newbies – even in the classical world.
Not only does this increase each musician’s repertoire but also keeps them motivated and makes such that the joy of performing music is never lost.
If you only ever play your guitar exercises so you end up being the most technically excellent musician on this planet, you’re going to get fed up quickly! You may know how to play the guitar, but you won’t love it!
Having said that, when you can pick up and play the guitar after a tough day in school or work and relax for the evening by playing through your favourite music, then you’ll associate playing the guitar with enjoyment.
And this sensation will invariably keep you coming back to the acoustic guitar for more.
Learn Basic Guitar Chords
As your teacher will be able to show you, there are literally thousands of incredible songs that can be played with a few simple chords. It’s one of the reasons there are so many guitarists in the world! If you learn the simple C chord, you’ll already know 25% of the chords for most songs!
This means that you could play that great song your found last week on Spotify or in a YouTube video with only a small amount of knowledge about chords.
Learning chords is part of learning your music theory. You may think it’s unimportant to a beginner guitarist – but the better you are at music theory, the quicker you’ll move from a beginner guitar player to a pro!
On the guitar, chords are played by learning a number of fretting handshapes which you can apply to the neck. Knowing what fret is what, what string is what and getting to grips with strumming patterns is guitar 101. Every beginner guitarist gets confused by this at the start – so don’t let it worry you!
The great thing about the guitar though is that it’s a pattern instrument. This means that nearly every chord shape you learn can be recycled and moved to a different part of the neck to produce a totally new chord. It’s part of understanding music theory.
What all this means is that when it comes to chords, a little knowledge really does go a long way. So choose your first guitar carefully, then learn some chords. Guitar players all over the world are doing the same thing right now!
Sort Out Your Guitar Practice
Learning guitar is fun. But in order to play well, you’ll have to practice well, and it’s tips like this that’ll help make the world of difference to your playing. If you want to practice well, then you’ll need to find out exactly what to practice!
A well-structured practice schedule can provide support and focus during those valuable practice hours. It is going to ensure that you don’t waste your energy and time trying to figure out what you should practice, checking out Twitter, or just generally wasting time.
To start with, shut down your telephone (or at the least, place it on DND).
Second of all, get yourself comfy. Have your cup of water, your cup of green tea (or whatever beverage you like) prepared, and waiting.
After that, structure your practice routine. Have a seat and tell yourself “today I’m intending to focus on my tone”, or “I need to pay attention to practicing my left-hand placement”. Or even “My technique has to improve, so I’m not going to play my favorite piece today until I work towards getting my fingers more independent”.
It doesn’t really matter what it is, providing it’s a conscious thought from you that has a macro-aim.
Bear in mind, macro goals and objectives are the way forward. Lots of mini things to target, then when you accomplish them, you’ll get a feeling of self-assurance and a boost in your time and effort.
It’s often best if you allocate some time to each factor you should practice within your routine. The more you need to concentrate on something – scales for example – then the more time you must allocate it.
One of the better methods that will help you with your practicing is to video yourself. Not only can you play it back and check your technique, but you can also check you focused entirely on accomplishing whatever objective you set yourself. Your progress will improve. You’ll spot all of the problems novices often make. Your technique will get far better, more rapidly. You’ll build a better sound. Oh yeah, and did I say the speed of your progress will rocket you from a beginner to an intermediate player in no time!
Out of all of these tips on learning the acoustic guitar, this one is the element that can make a massive difference fast.
Learn Guitar Fingerstyle And Plectrum Technique
The two main techniques you’ll learn as a budding acoustic guitarist are fingerstyle technique and plectrum technique.
As the name suggests, fingerstyle technique involves using the fingers and thumb on your plucking hand (whichever hand you use to pluck the strings) to activate the strings.
Most acoustic guitar students find this technique quite natural. It involves using the thumb, index, middle, and sometimes ring fingers to play the strings.
Fingerstyle technique can be used to play many styles from pop, rock, soul, and singer-songwriter because it’s such a versatile technique.
Plectrum technique involves using a small piece of plastic known as a plectrum to pluck the strings.
It’s worth always stocking up on extra plectrums because no matter how carefully you keep track of them, sooner or later your plectrums will go missing. But the good news is they are cheap. I’d recommend buying a bulk load of these – they don’t break easily and look cool.
Neither of these techniques is better than the other. They are just different but both equally important.
Trying to say you should do one or the other is like saying “should I buy a new car that has an engine or wheels?”.
The reality is they are both important and you need both for the car to work!
Why should your guitar playing be any different?
Discover Something Totally New Every Day
To start learning a musical instrument like the acoustic guitar is similar to going exploring. It only truly seems like it’s been worth it when you find a new challenge.
However, to uncover a new challenge you must look in new places, tune in to new things and talk to new people.
A great motivator for improvement would be joining a guitar community via a regular magazine, online forum, or YouTube channel. Our Ted’s List Facebook VIP Group has a lot of musicians that support each other; so come and join that.
A magazine, for example, will have new columns and tips for you to read every month and many of the writers give out small weekly lessons complete with completely new exercises to try and help you to improve.
Online message boards will have debates between different players on a wide range of subjects. Watch out though. These can get pretty heated sometimes!
And a decent YouTube channel will post brand new video lessons weekly for you to work through. If you haven’t tried it yet, take a look at Ted’s List YouTube channel, where we now have 100’s of video clips on all instruments.
Discovering something totally new will broaden your horizons whilst keeping you enthusiastic to further improve.
Learn Music And Love Your Guitar!
This might sound like a contrary point. Especially after I’ve spent large portions of this article stressing the importance of scales, chords, arpeggios, and the like. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say those things are bad.
What I’m saying is they’re stepping stones to something bigger.
To be able to play actual pieces of music.
Learning to play songs in a group or on your own is ultimately the destination where many, if not all, aspiring musicians want to end up.
Playing actual songs with others or performing solo gives you a new and challenging context to put yourself in. It’s a much harder test of your mettle but it’s also one that is far more rewarding in the long run.
You’ll learn the most by having this performance-based context to apply your hard-earned knowledge gained from hours of practice and you’ll have a great time entertaining your friends with the great songs you can play.
Playing acoustic guitar - top 10 tips
A clever beginner guitar player is one that takes all these guitar tips, puts them into action so the instrument is easier to play. It doesn’t matter if you are looking to learn chords, play something whilst singing, get a better strumming technique, or just generally become a good guitarist; you’ll need to practice.
Now, do you have to follow all ten of these tips to learn the guitar effectively? No, of course not. Just follow those that appeal to you and make you inspired to play and you won’t go far wrong.
We all play the guitar because we love the music. You’ll improve your guitar playing by figuring out your music theory and barre chords. You’ll learn to play better by using a metronome and practicing your chord progressions. You’ll progress quicker when you practice playing the hard things, and not just the things you can play easily! You’ll become a better guitarist and move from a beginner to an intermediate player by understanding the old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’.
But most importantly, above all of these top 10 tips to playing acoustic guitar, remember to have fun! It’s why you started in the first place…