Acoustic Guitar for Beginners- Lesson 1 - Laying the foundation -
Playing the acoustic guitar is certainly no easy task for the beginner. The chords are difficult at first to master, the hands have to learn the proper coordination and strength, and the finger tips in the chording hand have to develop some resilience to the initial pain from pressing on the strings. However, just like any worthwhile endeavor, learning to play the guitar, like the piano or any instrument, is incredibly rewarding and becomes much easier and fluid once some initial hurdles are overcome.
For the first several weeks up to the first few months, these hurdles will discourage many “would-be” great players. Persistence is imperative to appreciate playing the acoustic guitar fluently. In this first lesson, we will help the beginner learn what to expect so he or she will become the best beginner acoustic guitar player he or she can be. This initial lesson will help a beginning guitar player in two major areas- getting comfortable with the guitar as soon as possible, and setting realistic expectations for maximum success.
Hurdle #1: Understanding the guitar – getting familiar and comfortable.
The beginning acoustic guitar player should quickly learn the basic part of the guitar. This part of the foundation will help the budding guitar player understand his or her instrument and become familiar with it to make other lessons understandable. The beginning student should learn the following about the anatomy of the acoustic guitar:
The Guitar is divided into 3 regions, the head, neck and body.
The head contains the tuning machines (tuning gears), and the tuning keys. These keys are attached to 1 end of the strings and are used to tighten the strings (increasing their pitch) or loosening the strings (lowering their pitch). The best way to understand this concept is to pluck a single string while slowly tightening and loosening the string.
The neck contains the fretboard, where all of the chording and fingering takes place. The neck and headstock or head are usually made out of 1 piece of hard wood, often mahogany, rosewood or maple. An incredible amount of tension is placed on the neck and the guitar from the strings. On the fretboard, certain frets are marked with inlaid dots (references) that help the player quickly recognize certain frets during play. The frets are numbered from # 1, starting near the head just after the nut. The nut is at the top of the fretboard, and is necessary for keeping the strings equally spaced, as well as creating a second point of suspension.
The body of the guitar is where the strumming happens, and where the sound is amplified. The parts of the acoustic guitar body include the top (surface), sides, back, pick guard, bridge, saddle, bridge pins, sound hole and end pin. When someone strums or plucks a guitar string, the vibration is transferred through the saddle and bridge to the top of the guitar, which vibrates in frequency of the strings that are strummed. This vibration becomes amplified in the body and projected through the sound hole. The pick guard is a layer of protection on the body to keep he pick from scratching and wearing down the top (surface). The bridge pins anchor the strings at the other end opposite of the tuning keys.
Hurdle # 2: Setting Realistic and Proper expectations:
A beginning acoustic guitar player (or electric for that matter) should have some realistic expectations in order to remain encouraged through the first few months. The first 2 or 3 months of practice are perhaps the most painful to the hands and to the ear. The beginning acoustic guitar player should realize that his or her sounds will be awkward at the beginning, but through perseverance and consistent practice, one can obtain great results.
The player should expect some pain in the hands, especially the chording hand (left hand for the right-handed player), and the fingertips of the chording hand. Initially, the chording hand will cramp and the fingertips will get sore quickly, while beginning to build up some callouses over the course of several weeks. It is not uncommon for a consistent and dedicated beginner to experience some peeling, pain and thickening of those fingertips.
The beginner acoustic guitar player should also expect some string buzzing (a strange sound produces when strings are not chorded with enough pressure or when the fingers brush against strings that they are not supposed to touch).
The beginner should also expect that chord will be hard to remember at first, and switching between chords will be slow at first as the player is beginning to learn. Additionally, the beginner might also expect a little ridicule or teasing from listeners, which might make an argument for beginning practice in privacy so as not to become too discouraged.
Every player, including the most advanced player, will also experience “plateauing” which is common in every learning endeavor. Plateauing is simply a sense in one's learning where he or she believes that continued practice is not providing any benefit. The reality is, that plateauing is actually a great signal that much has been learned, and that persistence will help the player become fine tuned and a more accomplished player. Plateaus are simply a foundation of accomplishment whereby the beginner has reached a level of mastery, and can continue to discover new skills if he or she persists. A great way to push past the plateaus is to simply find a new inspiration, study with a different player, or learn a new skill on guitar that has not been considered.
This initial guitar lesson for beginning acoustic guitar players was provided by Aaron Schulman, musician for over 26 years and an avid guitar player for over 20 years. Before purchasing your first guitar, consider reading more reviews on acoustic guitars on his website, StrumViews.com.