Acoustic guitar pickers corner: beginners tips

Added on Tuesday 11 May 2010

I love to play my guitar - loved it when I played electric, still love it now that I play acoustic. Having said that, I'm not really a 'student' of guitar playing and don't tend to buy records by people who are principally guitarists. I'm more interested in players who know how to groove - and how to serve the needs of the song - than technical displays of virtuosity.

I like Sea sick Steve with his thumping grooves more than say Steve Hicks with his unimaginably complex and accomplished playing; both are of course great guitar players.

Put me up against technical guitar players and they'll leave me beaten and bloodied and lying in the dirt thoroughly shredded. However, in my own carefully defined (i.e. to suit my own prejudices) world of groove and feel my ego survives long enough for me to pick my guitar up again, write some more songs and keep on picking.

So - I'm not qualified to write about technically accomplished guitar playing - however, I play guitar so I'll take the liberty of expressing some of my own thoughts on the matter. I'll start with some beginners tips.

Guitar players beginners tips

  • Play firmly and with resolution: there is nothing worse that half-hearted slapping of strings that fails to extract any tone from the guitar. Limply strumming the guitar is like a limp handshake; it reflects badly on your character.
  • Think about how you are finishing notes more than about how you are starting them; learn to control when a note finishes (damping with your hands) - so that your playing is servicing the rhythm and mood of the song and not getting in the way of it. Practice hitting a note then lifting your finger (while still keeping it touching the string) to stop the note or placing your hand over the note to stop it; a nice quick and sharp stop is what you are after.
  • Forget the idea that there is a magic ingredient to guitar playing that good guitars know and that you have yet to learn. There is no secrets; you already know enough to play well; do what you already do - but do it as well as you can.
  • Learn to play other people's songs; you will learn a store of techniques, chord progressions, and styles that will serve you well when creating your own songs and guitar tunes.
  • Make up your own songs and guitar tunes. Don't for a minute think your songs are not as good as anyone else's. Believe me - if you like it - it's good. conversely if you think it's crap - it's crap. Just keep the good one's. :-)
  • Learn to play rhythm guitar; playing good rhythm is the hardest skill to master; the groove's the thing. Get your groove on first; think about the pretty bits later. With good groove you can have a house party; with only twiddly bits you have a bedroom party with only one guest.
  • Play with other people; you'll enjoy it more and learn lots. As soon as you can play a few chords get together to play with other musicians. The other important lesson this will teach you is how to accommodate those you are playing with; which you do by listening to what they are playing. Playing with other people is like having a conversion; you don't talk over other people unless you want to end up with no friends.

That's all for now. Keep picking up that guitar.

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