I Want to Take Up the Guitar...

Merely as a hobby. I’m not unfamiliar with the instrument, as I had many friends over the years who play and thus have had some very limited exposure.

I’m 36 now, and it’s always something I’ve wanted to learn, but pursuing my career has never allowed the time for. Now, things are a bit slower and balanced, and I feel I can bend some determination and discipline toward becoming a beginner.

So I ask thee, for a beginner and n00b like me, what would be a decent, cheap-ish guitar to pick up and learn on?* Also, are there any good online sites for guys like me? Pick up some chords and practice techniques?

*One thing I’ve always struggled with is getting my very unmanly hands to contort to the necessary positions. Not sure if that has to do with my hands in particular, or a certain limberness of phalanges I don’t have or haven’t worked up to yet. Are there certain guitars that lend themselves to different hand types?

If you want to play electric, a Squier Strat might be a good entry-level guitar.

I started with an acoustic, then received an electric (a standard Strat) as a gift, and I’ve been playing it ever since… I find that it’s just a whole lot easier to play.

It will come in time. When I started I had to push my fingers into the right place with the other hand for some chords. Keep at it and swear a lot and eventually you’ll be able to just put your hand in the right place with no problem. I’m not positive that the swearing is important but it’s how I did it.

As for what to buy, it depends on what you’re looking to play. Do you want an acoustic guitar or an electric? What kind of music are you into?

Hey, I’m also thinking of lessons and I’m 62. I learned how to finger chords long ago, but never learned picking or strumming techniques properly, which is frustrating. I hope I’m not taking on too much at this advanced point. I would suspect that learning to read music well enough to pick may be very frustrating.

Regardless of what kind of music you are into, I would strongly strongly strongly suggest starting with an electric guitar.

Why? Because they are easier for a beginner to play, the necks will be less wide and the strings will be easier to press down on, and a cheep one is less likely to be a total piece of crap.

They will be a very little bit more expensive to get started with than the cheepest possible acoustic guitar, but the initial cost difference is really minimal and an entry level electric will (likely) be much less expensive than an equivalent quality acoustic. But the single biggest reason to go electric right off the bat is the ease of playing. In my totally biased and unscientific polling of people I know who have learned to play or attempted to learn to play guitar, most people I know who started playing with electrics actually learned how to play. Most people I know who started to learn on acoustics gave up after only learning a few chords.

I will generally tell you that Squires are a waste of money because they have horrific quality control issues. Look into thisYamaha guitar as a good starter strat style or a guitar by Epiphone if you are more into the Gibson styling. Both are very solid entry level guitars.

Oh, and take some lessons. At least a few. It is very very easy to form bad habits early on that will be very hard to break later or even cause you to injure your wrist. You don’t have to commit to years of lessons if you don’t want, but take at least 3 one on one lessons with a qualified guitar teacher.

Damn, sorry for the double post. The edit window closed up on me.

I don’t think this will be as hard as you think. I learned to read music when I was learning to play piano, and can read fairly well, but I don’t read at all when I play guitar. Sheet music doesn’t really fit guitar playing very well, IMO and I think you can learn how to do almost anything you want to without using it. Finger picking is a lot of fun. You should totally go for it.

Bass teacher here. I know it’s not guitar, but some things cross over.

Get the best instrument you can afford. Look up online reviews, talk to guitarists you know. Try some guitars in a proper guitar shop with an informed staff. Not a staff that’s there for the employee discount.

As far as learning, IME, adults tend to learn a bit harder than kids. They ask an awful lot of questions when what they should do is just practice more. The questions will get answered eventually.

Another vote for finding a good teacher. You don’t have to take lessons for life, but it will help you get a good start and not develop bad or harmful habits. Carpal tunnel, anyone?

Don’t get discouraged. You can do it. The sax teacher where I work has a sign on his studio wall. It reads: “Nothing is difficult, just unfamiliar.”

There is that to it, but my old teacher and a few others I’ve spoke to suggest starting with an acoustic as it builds better technique - you pretty much have to play with the elbow free of the body, you can’t rely on over distortion to cover bum-notes and it builds better finger strength, just for a few examples.
Plus reasonable electric guitar and a reasonable amp often costs more than a reasonable acoustic.

And I’d also recommend getting lessons, just to build good technique, and learn good finger exercises and just to have someone there to ask questions, and to watch your technique, even the best online course can’t do this. Also you’ll feel more obligated to practice, which you wouldn’t get learning online.

and lastly DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR FINGER EXERCISES!!!1elventyone.

A few points - and then unfortunately I gotta run:

  • The SDMB is your friend - search in Cafe Society and there are a bunch of “how should I get started in Guitar?” type threads that a number of player-Dopers have contributed to.

  • Electric guitars ARE typically easier to play, per **NAF1138 **typically due to lighter-gauge strings and lower actions (string-to-neck distance) on a solidbody.
    However, if you are planning to mainly play acoustic (e.g., home/campfire type stuff) then play an acoustic. It’s a pain to build the calluses but they happen over time…

  • As for your comment I quoted above - the other posters are right: you will be able to form chord shapes over time. The one additional comment I would make is that if you get a cheaper guitar or an electric guitar, they may have a thinner neck. I tend to prefer bigger necks and almost can’t play thin, fast-necked guitars. Make sure you try necks with different “grip” sizes and see if thin, average or chunky appeals to you more…

I know how to read music (as I was in band in school, but played trumpet), so I do have some rhythm/coordination. Tabulation I’ll likely want to learn though… but… baby steps. :wink:

Yes! Definitely electric. Sorry I didn’t specify in the OP. I’ve always really dug the classic Strat style over the Gibson, but I don’t deny the Gibsons are damn sexy. I’ll take a look at the Yamaha and still might just hold a Squire, just to see the difference. I don’t mind dropping a little more, if it’ll mean a relatively easier time to learn on.

FWIW, I’m into alt-rock, indie-rock, hard rock, grunge, and some metal.

Thanks for the suggestions so far, everyone!

Squiers (note the correct spelling ;)) have some quality issues, but are damn fine instruments and are really affordable. I have a Squier Strat and a Mexican Standard Strat, and half of the time I prefer playing the Squier. I had one major issue with it, but a trip to the repair shop cleared that right up.

Go to youtube and search for guitar lessons - there are bazillions of wannabee teachers out there - and you know what? Some are really great - check out their lessons. Or pick a song you want to learn and search on it - I guarantee that there are vids of folks trying to teach it or at the very least folks who want to show how they play it and you can grab licks from them…

Great idea. Thanks!

I was thinking about finding a teacher, but I’m also prone to self-learning. Of course, I don’t want to pick up bad habits, so I might go the tutor route for a bit, if it’s something I can afford to drop coin on.

Also, like I said, I do have friends that play, so perhaps I can bug them to offer a couple lessons, or at least go to the guitar shop with me to pick one out.

(And thanks for the spelling correction, tdn… you may have saved me some embarrassment down the road. :wink: )

reading tab is actually easier than reading music! and is totally the way to get started (I think).

I preferred starting with acoustic, but by this time, I have almost completely abandoned electric. (have and used to play both). I just enjoy classical guitar music so much that it is what I play.

Electric does have considerable ease, but your fingers will actually hurt more, because the nylon strings on the acoustic are thicker and won’t make your fingers hurt as much. The electric strings are just thinner and you can feel the difference, initially.

As far as reading tablature: one line for each string, and the number that’s printed on the line is the fret you play on the string. Bottom line = bass string. It don’t get much easier than that! especially when you start getting into 5th fret and higher on the first string - I always have a hard time reading those in regular sheet music. extra plus - no having to read sharps flats and all that crap!

I think, and I might be wrong, but I do think that most people starting with acoustic guitar will be starting with a steel string one. Nylon String guitars are great, but are almost a different instrument in terms of sound quality.

Once you start getting some technique under your fingers, another cool thing to do is get some an audio recording program where you can record your favorite guitar parts, then slow them way down (any decent program will do this without changing pitch), loop them, and figure out the part that way instead of falling back on tab all the time. Develop your ear.

You can turn anything into a picking exercise.

If it sounds good (when you’re fiddling around and you go “ah!”), stick with it, follow it, see where it goes.

I also agree that a teacher, at least at first, will be a big help. Just to get the basic mechanics down.

Keep a realistic and consistent practice schedule, even if it’s a half hour a day.

Don’t get discouraged. You WILL get better, but not if you don’t play.

I started with nylon. But I completely agree that it is a completely different sound quality. Mostly, now when I half-heartedly pick up my electric, I notice how my fingers hurt because I am used to the nylon, but don’t have sufficient callouses.

cmyk–good on you for taking up the electric guitar. I just did a few months ago (I am 43) and it has been a blast. I have found some really great sites on the 'net that I have been working with and a few books and have picked up a lot. I will try to post the sites later–no time right now. But, talk about embarrassment–I did my research and decided that I wanted to purchase an epiphone guitar. I even picked out the specific model after researching on the internet. I went into the guitar shop and requested an ee-pif-an-ee instead of an epi-fone. The sales guys paused before realizing what I wanted and gently corrected me. I called the store manager later on to compliment his employee on handling me with such diplomacy. He was sweet. Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself–I am sure they have heard it all! Good luck on your playing and I will try to get those good sites to you later!

I picked up a very nice Yamaha acoustic guitar and case from Costco for a really good price. Nice guitar, great sound, easy to play.

I have several friends who didn’t learn to play guitar until their 40’s or later and are good enough to perform on local stages.

I don’t play guitar (but I’ve been thinking about it), and I’ve read that what the newbie should do is buy the best amplifier he can afford, since it’s the quality of the amp that determines 90% of what you hear. It was on another board, but the poster was adamant that you’re better off with a decent amp and a crappola guitar than vice-versa.

On a related note, what do you guys think of the site Ultimate Guitar Forum (oddly, not the board I was just referring to)?