One of my online students asked me how I learned to play the guitar, and I thought this would make a nice post for all to read.
It might motivate you, it might set you off, but anyhow, it will show you one thing most importantly: if I could do it, you can too. I was not born with a guitar in my hand, and I am not even very talented. I just loved it from the start and stuck with it.
You see, anybody can learn to play the guitar.
Be it, there are super talented guitarists, but unfortunately, I am not one of them.
If I was, you'd be watching me on MTV being harassed by hundreds of girls, not writing on my laptop 🙂
Ok, no more fantasizing, here is my guitar story...
The first time I held a guitar was late high school I believe. I could already play the trumpet well, since I've been learning it since the age of 8. I loved the trumpet as well, but the fact is that the trumpet is an instrument that you can't really play by yourself. You needed a band. But school was almost over, and there weren't too many bands looking for trumpet players.
This is sort of why I turned towards the guitar. Not entirely because I wanted to play in a band, but rather because I loved playing music, and wanted to keep on playing even after school band days were over.
So I bought a guitar and started learning. Now, remember, this was back in the last century, the Internet was not all that big, there were no DVDs yet, so my only choice was to buy guitar books, or get a personal teacher.
How I Taught Myself to Play Guitar
I started out with the first option, learning from a guitar book. And well, that didn't get me very far to say the least. I didn't understand chord diagrams and all the ramblings about the different techniques, so the book was a waste of money. I still have the book for some reason though, saw it the other day somewhere, but I don't know why I even kept it.
So after I realized that the book wasn't getting me anywhere, I somehow got hold of a guitar teaching software, the name I can't remember. That was better, since it had pictures and sounds as well (just MIDI back in those days). This was better than the book, and actually taught me the basic chords and fingerings, strumming, and very simple songs to start out with.
I finished the curriculum of the software fairly quickly and was again left with nothing to learn from. So I'm ashamed to admit it, but I stopped playing for about half a year altogether.
Then school ended, and I decided to pick it up again. And I haven't stopped since. I bought a set of VHS tapes (my first video guitar lessons I guess) which got me off on the right track and got me practicing more and more. The more I played, the more I loved it!
And that was the first time I realized that the guitar would stay with me for the rest of my life. I love the way the neck vibrated in my palm when I strummed a chord, I loved how my fingers started hurting after playing too much, and I loved the way people looked at me when I started playing.
I love everything about the guitar, and you will too! Remember that the more you play, the better you get, and the more you'll want to play.
I just had a conversation with a superb guitarist over the weekend, who's been playing for over 30 years. I asked him whether he remembers the beginning, and all he could say was the same. He's loved every moment of playing ever since the beginning (which is sort of weird, since I distinctly remember not enjoying it when I couldn't play anything yet 🙂 ).
So the moral of the story is that we all have different experiences with the guitar, but anybody could theoretically learn to play guitar. The thing that sets guitarists apart from regular people is that guitarists have the strength, patience, and perseverance to keep on going even if it seems hard at times. Remember that practice, makes perfect, and if I could learn to play, you can as well.
I am 70 years old, don’t know anything about music, but when I watched a 4 year old Peruvian play pajaro campana on the guitar, I vowed to learn to play the guitar. The question was deciding whether to get a book or learn from online sources. Your webpage was the third or fourth one and I am impressed with the sequence of instructions of the lessons followed by examples. Today was my first day. I am hopeful of coming back tomorrow and more. My only worry is that I have multiple joint osteoarthritis and wonder whether I shall reach my destination.
Rekha from Nottingham, UK
Hi Rekha, I am not sure how your arthritis will affect your learning, I’m sorry. It would be great if you could let me know in the future how it went!
Hey, I’m Leila, 25 and just started learning guitar. I’ve always wanted to because I love Rock music but chose to start with a traditional instrument, The “Oud”. I can say that I’m almost an Intermediate player at Oud which helped me pick up some things regarding the guitar since it is also a string instrument.
Now, that I’ve graduated, and inspired by Guns and Roses among many other classic rock bands, I’ll make time for both the electric guitar and Oud. Thanks for this beautiful and helpful website.
Let the journey begin!
Hey my name is nathan tewolde. I am 21 years old .and i am eritrean but now i am in khartuom sudan as a refugee i love guitar very much so i have bought one acoustic guitar before three monthes and have already started learning by getting a teacher in my house. He tried to teach me by the hal leonard guitar book and had finished book one. Can you tell me how much time i need to play a correct song
Hey there, here is a post that talks about this exact topic:
Hi. I am starting at 46 years old. I’ve always wanted to learn to play, but never made the time. I finally bit the bullet, bought an acoustic, and have been at it for about a month. It’s difficult to say the least (I don’t have any natural talent for this), but I’m really enjoying learning, and get excited when I do things right. I look forward to practicing, and the calluses are forming :). I hope to be able to play in front of other people some day, especially my three daughters.
I think the keys (non pun intended) are liking it (I’m loving it), giving yourself room or learn and to fail along the way, perseverance, commitment and taking a leap of faith that you’ll have breakthroughs and accomplishments.
Here’s to what I expect to make a lifelong journey!
Hi John, I’m right with you man! I am also 46 and just starting to learn the guitar. I took piano lessons when I was teen and young adult but never really mastered it. I’m got involved in my church’s youth group and want to get good at playing the guitar so I can play songs during our meetings. The guitar is also the perfect instrument to play around the camp fire!
I’m not playing for a couple of months, and i think i’ll start again.
Thanks for inspiration!!!