Student guitarist tells story, provides tips
By Luke Schultheis, Layout Editor
I was late to the “quarantine” party of trying new things when I bought my guitar last November. I always talked about playing, but never went through with it. Finally, my friend told me the company “Musician’s Friend” had a sale and the deal was too good to pass up. For $80, I began my musical journey.
The black acoustic guitar came in a cardboard box with one pick and a strap. I was excited for the arrival, but when I opened it, I had no idea where to start. My first instinct was to go to YouTube. I searched for something along the lines of “Beginner Guitar Lessons.” The first channel I found was “Marty Music,” a channel run by Marty Schwartz that is dedicated to guitar tutorials.
After watching the video, it became apparent that my guitar was not in tune. I downloaded an app called “GuitarTuna”and to this day, I still tune my guitars with it. The acronym “Eddie ate dynamite, goodbye, Eddie,” also helped me with standard tuning: EADGBE.
Additionally, Schwartz’s video taught me my first two chords, E minor and Asus 2.
One of the roadblocks I faced while playing the guitar was the lack of video tutorials for songs I wanted to learn. I went through my music library, searching for songs that sounded the easiest. If no video tutorials were present, I went to a website called “ultimate-guitar.com.”
From that point forward, I used “Ultimate Guitar” to learn every song. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel was the first full track I learned. It has a simple chord progression of G, E Minor, C, and D. The strumming pattern is slightly complicated, but I would still recommend it to a beginner.
I continued learning new chords by practicing more songs, but I struggled with transitions. I would place one finger on one string, then another finger on a different string and so on and so forth. This inhibited my progress because you should keep your fingers in the shape of the chord instead of putting them down one-by-one.
A month or so later, I shifted away from chords and tried something new. It was time to start plucking. I went back to “Marty Music”and looked up a tutorial of “Undone – The Sweater Song” by Weezer. My goal was playing the main riff, and to my surprise, it was easy. It is another song I would recommend to beginners.
After learning that, plucking became more interesting to me than just playing chords. As a kid, I loved guitar solos and I carried that passion into adulthood. I can play about ten different solos now – all of which are novice to intermediate difficulty – but I am still proud of myself. My favorite song to play is “Selfless” by The Strokes.
Now that I discussed my journey, I want to give some advice to anyone interested in picking up a six-string.
- Do not give up.
It is a simple message, but after a month of frustration, I almost stopped playing. Stick with it; practice for 20-30 minutes a day and your skills will improve in no time. Eventually it will be like riding a bike.
2. Practice transitions.
I mentioned earlier that I struggled with transitions. Because I taught myself incorrectly, I still struggle with them sometimes. Practice those chord shapes and it will make future playing easier.
3. Do not play so hard.
When I started playing, I strummed so hard that I am surprised my strings did not fall off. This is not necessary to get a good sound from the guitar. The same applies for holding down strings. Your fingers will be callused, but that does not mean you have to push down so hard.
4. Find your style.
Are you going to be more of a chord player or a note player? Both are important, but some people prefer one over the other. Practice each and see what you like more.
My next guitar-goal is to sing and play at the same time. Multitasking is nothing new to me, but this will be a new animal. I look forward to what obstacles await me.