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Good guitar practise

Selection of tools

One phrase I often hear people say, is "never blame your tools" or "ah, I'm just a beginner so I won't spend too much money." When you are first learning to drive, you would not (through choice unless you're crazy) opt to drive a car that handles badly, whose brakes don't work and that chokes a lot). However, it is good to learn in a vehicle that behaves (on a quiet road) so that you can focus on the basic controls first, and once you have mastered those, then venture out to more difficult things once you have those basic skills. The same is true of learning how to play guitar.

Action

The distance between the strings and the fretboard is known as the action. A high action can make pressing the strings down seem very difficult, whereas a low action means that it is hard to get a clean sound.

Shape and weight

Guitars can vary a lot in shape, size and weight. An acoustic guitar is also considerably more difficult to hold than an electric guitar, purely because it is larger. However, electric guitars tend to be heavier because they are made of solid wood, whereas an acoustic guitar is hollow.

Electric or acoustic?

Many people say that it is easier to learn how to play guitar on an electric guitar. This is mostly because it is so much easier to hold and because the strings are much lighter, easier to press down and to bend etc. However, electric guitars are far more expensive (especially as it is useful to buy an amplifier too) than acoustic guitars and also make more noise (when the amplifier is plugged in, which is not always necessary during practise). The other view is that acoustic guitar strings are a bit tougher to use, and therefore learning on an acoustic guitar will mean that your fingers grow stronger and it will then be easier to play an electric guitar later on. Having access to both an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar is most beneficial as you can then have the challenge of learning how to play guitar with the tough acoustic strings, but reverting to the electric guitar for an 'easy' session, every now and again.

Try before you buy

Take a look around in guitar shops and practise carrying/holding the guitar and pressing the strings (ask a shop assistant to help you) and get the feel of many guitars before you buy one. By looking around in several guitar shops you will also receive lots of different opinions about what is good for you. Above all, make sure you are comfortable and that the guitar you buy is something that is not wholly unpleasant to hold and use.

What do I need to do to learn how to play guitar

Buy some books. Find somebody to help you. Stay positive. Practise often. Be aware that there will be hard days and easier days. Learn to play things that interest you as well as learning the boring things.

The first things to learn should be how to play a chord, then how to play three chords, and keep going until you have learned all fifteen of the basic guitar chords. After this, progress to barre chords. The best way to do this is to find songs that have those chords in, just to keep it interesting, or make up some of your own progressions. A list of books and easy songs to play, will be included in this guide at a later date.

Stay positive!

Learning to perform or studying a new subject, activity, language or new skill, can be quite a daunting task. One of the key things to remember when learning is that it does take time, but that it is possible. Anything's possible; given time, so don't allow yourself to think "I can't do this" or "it's too hard" or "I'll never succeed".

Once you are able to overcome those fears, your progress will speed up. One thing that may help you is to look back on other things that you can do very well, such as sing or dance or cook or build walls or drive, and remember that you were once a beginner in that topic too! This is especially important for people who have not taken up something new for a long time.

Another good tip is to record every other practise session you have, and at the beginning of each session listen to the previous recording. This will help you to monitor your progress, and help to encourage you when you are having an 'off' day. It is easy to forget how well you are doing when you don't feel well.

Above all, it is imperative that you practise often! It is far better to practise for ten minutes every day than it is to practise for two hours one day per week. Ten minutes is actually too short a time, but at the very least aim to play for thirty minutes three times per week. Set a timetable for practise sessions; make it something you WILL achieve and then STICK TO IT!