I've never done this before...help?

I’ve trained on the piano. I’ve had my voice lessons. I learned to play various band instruments. Now I want to learn guitar. I have one. It’s awful. Don’t even ask me to go into the details–it would hurt you and I like you all way too much to inflict that kind of torture upon you. Let’s just say that it makes sound, has (most) of the necessary parts and will work for me until I can afford to get a real one.
Thing is, I’ve never…NEVER…really tried to play and quite frankly, I’m seriously intimidated. I’m not asking for personal tutorials. I know I’ll probably need lessons at some point. But can I ask for some tips?
Is there any sage advice out there? Any seeds of wisdom? How about some old picks?


First off, YAY! Learning new instruments as you well know from the looks of it is always fun.

Second: You know how to read music, so you’re ahead of the game in that way. Hold onto that during the bouts you’re going to have with frustration.

Third: I am sure you know this already, but don’t beat yourself up when you can’t learn how to play it EXACTLY RIGHT, RIGHT NOW. I fall into this trap. I have been classically trained vocally, I play saxophone, flute, some tuba, and the larger clarinets. I have a guitar I inherited from my uncle…a beautifully kept 1967 or -68 Gibson acoustic. I would love to learn to play it, but because I can’t get the sounds in my head out through my fingers as quickly as I can with the instruments I ALREADY know how to play, I get frustrated and give up too easily. Do as I say, not as I do. :slight_smile:

Fourth: START SLOW. It will take time and patience to develop the callouses you’re going to need, both for fingering it and for plucking/strumming it. Do too much at once and your fingers WILL talk to you, and they won’t be very nice about it.

Hope any of this helped.

Four words:

“Mel Bay’s Guitar Chords”

Forgot this part…blush…teach me to reply without looking directly at the OP while I’m typing…

Don’t let it intimidate you. All right, TRY not to let it intimidate you. Play around on it. Run your fingers up and down the strings; try to pick out “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on one string at a time, to get a feel for how the pitch changes. Listen to different strings in the same fret (I’m assuming you know what the frets are, since you’re a musician already), and see how they relate to each other. Find the octaves. Just PLAY with it. The more you familirize yourself with it casually, the easier it will be to learn to play it properly, because it won’t intimidate you. It won’t bite you and no one will think you look or sound stupid. If it does bite you, sell your story to “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not,” and make a buck or two. See? Win/win situation. :slight_smile:

Thanks, Hama and Farris. I just decided the other day that since my childhood dreams of being a hand model are pretty much over, I could go ahead and give the guitar a whirl. The few times I have ever picked up a guitar I was put off by how painful I figured it was going to be to learn. I am a weenie. I make no excuses. So I practice for 20 or so minutes at a time and go slow.

I got a book from the library that is a source of both frustration and inspiration to me. The 11-year-old just smiled at me last night and patted me on the shoulder, “You played some notes there, Mom. I could hear them. You’re doing just fine…” Smart ass. But I think–or I CHOOSE to think–that he was being supportive.

Look at it this way struuter: No matter how poorly you play the guitar, it is still hundreds of times better than I can play it. So go for it with the full confidence that you are not the suckiest guitar player on the planet. I’m behind you all the way (enjoying the view as always :wink: )

xizor, I’ll never be Clapton butI intend upon having a good time. You ARE a good time. :smiley:

Strutter! Kudos on taking up this great instruments.

first thing to learn.

Learn to play the scale of E on the top string.
then learn the coressponding notes from the tonic upwards on the second string.
finally, learn the coressponding notes on the third string.

then, learn to play the scale using the three strings.

by the time you have learned how to do this, your fingers will hurt.

this pain is a good pain.

after a while, your fingers will get used to the movements you will need to learn.
then, get a chord book (I would recomend Russ Shipton’s Complete Guitar Player, volume 1 to start with. very basic, very easy, but will teach you the absolute basics you will need to learn. after that, its a simple step of going up a level when you feel you’re ready for it.

Good luck and Stick In There!

I also recommend learning the accordion…

Thanks Twist. I will make sure I follow those directions. I went so far as to mark notes on the fretboard (do NOT cringe–this guitar was given to me, which should be some indication of its worth–the body is cracked, it’s been painted, and certain parts are missing. I would not even call it a fixer-upper) so I have some idea where everything is. It’s going to slow going with me, as I am a stickler for doing it right. But I don’t want to invest in a nice instrument until I’m worthy of it.

Farris, the 11-year-old would LOVE that. Weird Al…and all.

Just think of those gentle curves and that long slender neck that loves to be caressed as you stroke the body. Do it right and she will sing in a beautiful voice for you.

Sure there will be a little pain at first and she will frustrate you to no end, when you displease her she will talk to you in a harsh voice until you learn the error of your ways and do her right.

Eventually you will come to an understanding and if you don’t, you can always get a different guitar or take up the kazoo…

What did you think I was talking about?


First of all, your piano experience will go a long way in helping you to learn the guitar. Things will come easier to you than they would to a first-time music student.

Some tips for you.

  1. Practice on acoustic. Many new guitar players are tempted to go out and buy a brand-new snazzy electric guitar right off the bat. Don’t. Start out on an acoustic.

  2. Buy one of the Mel Bay books to get you started.

  3. As TwistofFate mentioned, your fingers will hurt after you’ve played for any length of time. Roll with it. After a couple months your calluses will have built up to the point where you won’t feel this anymore.

  4. Do not be intimidated. Many incredible guitarists are self-taught (including my personal hero, Eddie Van Halen) and they started out just like you.

You guys rock. Totally. What great support you are. Yeah, I’d have to say that knowing the keyboard has helped dramatically. So, calluses are good? I’m going to need them…right now it hurts like a you-know-what when I first sit down, but after a while it…dear God, help me…it feels kinda good. A weird kind of pain. An earned pain? Does that make sense?

I taught myself how to play guitar in college (with a little help from others) . Here are my 3 tips.

1 - Chord Book! Learn all major and minor chords, and practice going from one to the other (progressions). And probably a scales book would help (I never learned my scales, so I gotta fake it most of the time).

2 - Never play on old strings. They sound like shit and can be very discouraging.

3 - Seek others to play with. The most I ever learned on guitar is by jamming with others.

Once you’ve got all that down. String three or four chords together, thrown in some unintelligable lyrics on top of them along with an “Oooh, Baby” or two, lay it down on DAT, and start ignoring the little people. You’ll be on the top of the charts in no time.

I always found that finding the music to songs I liked (ok , the TAB for the song, I can’t read music) and learning parts of it helped. Always a little more motivating when you’re playing something you like.

You guys are great. I can’t wait to go home and torture my family… I probably won’t be able to type tomorrow. heehee.

struuter, that’s so cool! I’m trying to teach myself too!

I too can read music, sing a little, play a little pianny and some band instruments. None of this helps with the guitar, it’s like learning to walk again. It’s fun!

I’ve been using a few books, downloading chords of songs I like from OLGA and trying from there, but I’m at the point where I feel like I need a teacher to show me a few things. I’m shopping around for a place to take classes right now - I can’t afford private lessons although a friend suggested putting a sign up at local universities and trying to get some starving student to teach me.

Let’s stay in touch about this, okay? I need someone to keep encouraging me and telling me I CAN do it.

Definitely! I’m up that. And if I can do it, anyone can. Good for you!

I know OLGA very well. I have lots of stuff from there that I use on the pianny (as you so cleverly put it). I’m very lazy with sheet music, but I know all my chords so I just sit and play chords and sing. Yes, lazy. Yes, fun.

My kids love it.

You’d laugh if you saw this guitar…it’s sooo bad. hehe. And I’ve got little labels here and there to tell me what note I’m playing. I’m hopeless. I guess I just got sick of looking at the thing and thinking how I should pick it up. I had a dream last night that I was playing–without looking at the frets–my hand deftly moving around and I look down and there’s blood all over. So I think I’m worried subconsciously about cutting my fingers. How dumb is that?

I’m back in college taking one class, a music class. My professor has two degrees in classical guitar. For a week I’ve been thinking about taking guitar lessons, then I see your thread, struuter, and it seals the deal.

I just bought a guitar on ebay - a Sears Cameo from 1979 - $46.00.

I took piano as a child but am amazed at how much I’ve forgotten… Anyone have a book/video/whatever recommendation for me?

This is kinda skeeeery!

Hurray for us! Wow…and I was thinking what a no-good, lousy, waste of…I was this morning. My life has worth!

E-bay?! Cripes! I never thought of that. I may have to start looking and dropping hints. :smiley:

You are more than welcome to anything you can get by way of this thread. I went to the library and got a few books to help me…they’re very old, but very remedial. Just my speed. hehe.