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10 important tips to learn guitar

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Ten of the most important advice you need to know in order to properly learn guitar.

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In this lesson we're not gonna have the usual guitar lesson with technical stuff to learn. Instead we're gonna take a look at 10 advices that I consider very important to learn to play guitar (or any instrument for that matter).

It's not practical advices like "put your finger there to play a C", but more universal advices that everybody can use, whether you're a beginner or not.

1. Practice

This is the first and most important advice ever. You need to practice.

Everything you're gonna do with your guitar, whether it's technical or theoretical, requires practice. In order to improve, you need to repeat movements and exercises, again and again. And if you don't practice, you won't get better, plain and simple.

Of course we're not talking about forcing ourselves to practice for 12 hours a day. Ten to fifteen minutes per day is enough to make progress, if you practice seriously.

But in any case, practice is the most important part of learning an instrument, so don't be lazy!

2. Have fun

That being said, it's also very important to have fun. Practice is important, but it's not the goal. Exercising will just allow you to learn and master techniques that will be used to play music.

And this is the goal: playing music. Having fun while playing, writing or improvising music. So don't forget to have fun while learning and play some music. If you completely ignore that aspect, your learning will soon become a chore, you're gonna be frustrated and you will give up. And that's not cool.

So whenever you pick up your guitar, always try to keep a little time for yourself, to have fun playing things you like. It's not always easy to balance practice vs playing, but we'll probably talk about that in other lessons.

3. Hire a teacher

This third advice won't apply to everyone unfortunately, since it's about hiring a teaching. Not everyone can afford a private teacher or a music school, or even have the time to do so. And it's okay.

But if you can afford a teacher, then go for it. Guitar lessons with a good teacher will teach you a lot. A teacher will guide you in your learning, will answer to all your questions, and will prevent you from picking up bad habits. It's a priceless addition to your learning.

4. Learn rhythm

This one if very important, especially since it's often neglected by beginners (and sometimes by more advanced guitarists unfortunately). Keeping a good rhythm is vital to play music.

Music is mainly based on two things: the notes (that build chords, melodies, harmonies) and rhythm. Without rhythm, you only have half of the music. Playing without a good rhythm is just like playing the wrong notes.

Since rhythm can be learned with very little guitar technique (or even without a guitar), you really should learn that from the beginning. Once you'll know how to play three chords in rhythm, you'll know how to play music. But if you keep learning thousands of chords without an once of rhythm, you still won't be able to play music.

5. Don't neglect theory

This advice won't make everyone happy. That's why I'm not gonna say "force yourself to learn theory".

Musical theory is something is useful for any musician, whatever your level or favorite music style. Many beginners wrongly neglect theory because they think it's too hard or useless. But in both cases, it's just wrong. It's true that music theory can become very complex at a high level, but we're not talking about that here.

My advice is just that you learn a little bit of theory. With any luck, you'll like it and you'll learn more. And in any case it's very useful to write, improvise or simply having a better understanding of what you're playing.

Like everything else, you also need to have fun doing it. So don't force yourself learning too much. Go at your own pace, and try to find practical application to everything you learn.

6. Use your ears

This is a very important advice, but not easy to explain.

When you play music, everything you do is sound that is picked up by your ears. Ears are to the musician what eyes are to the painter. And there's not a whole lot of blind painters.

But now you probably ask, how to use your ears? You need to listen to music, a lot. Go to live shows, listen to the radio, and most importantly listen to what you're playing. We're not just talking about "hearing" what you play, but really listening. Focus on the sound, the way the notes ring, all the subtleties of the sound produced by your guitar.

At first it won't be easy, but with time your listening skill will improve, and you'll be able to pick up a lot of small details and really analyse what you're listening. And this is a very important skill to get, since it will allow you to critique yourself while you're playing, and know on what you should focus your practice.

And if you need some help, record yourself playing. Even if it's a very low quality recording it's better than nothing, and it will allow you to analyse your playing while you're not focused on your hands or rhythm. And if you do, you'll notice a lot of things that go wrong so that you can correct that.

7. Play with other people

This advice usually frighten beginners.

Many beginners are afraid of playing with others, because they think they're not good enough or that other musiciens are better than them and will be bored, or just because they're shy. And this is perfectly ok, almost everyone have gone through that. But you need to force yourself, or at least try to force yourself.

Playing with other musicians will teach you a lot, both personally speaking (since it's a very unique experience) and musically speaking (you'll quickly see how important it is to have a good rhythm). And you'll learn a lot by looking at other people playing or talking with them.

On that subject you should completely forget the idea that good musicians don't want to play with you just because you're a beginner. Apart from a few jackasses, there's not a whole lot of musicians that would refuse to jam with another musician, whatever the skill difference is.

If you don't know how to meet people to play with, try to talk with other musicians, ask your teacher if you have one, or just go in a music shop. You'll meet a lot of people that will be more than happy to play with you in those places. So just go for it, and once you've done it, you'll be hooked for life.

8. Keep an open mind

Music is a very vast subject, with many different music styles, techniques, and it's very important to keep an open mind. Try to not wall yourself in just one music style.

Even if there are music styles that you don't like a lot, force yourself to listen to them, or even learn some tunes. Go a little bit our of your musical bubble, push your limits, and work on new things. By opening yourself to new music styles you'll learn a lot of techniques and ideas that you can use in the music style you like. After all, if no guitarist was ever curious about rap music, we would never have Rage against the machine.

On top of that, it's a good way to fight the staleness that can creep up when you're always practicing the same thing. Go in a whole different direction, try a new style you know nothing about, and you'll feel like you're re-discovering music all over again.

9. Explore

When you're learning guitar, you usually have a specific goal with a very guided learning path. You'll have specific exercises and tunes you'll work on. And all of this is very important if you want to make good progress.

That being said, it's also very important to explore. Go out of your way and try new things, anything. If you stumble upon a new tunes that you like but isn't in your "path", go for it and learn it. You won't always succeed but who cares, the important thing is that you'll learn a lot by trying stuff.

And one of the best way to do that is to write music. Even if it's not your goal, you don't want to, or think you don't have the required knowledge, you can always try. And by writing music you'll ask yourself a whole lot of questions you wouldn't have otherwise. And by looking for answers to those questions, you'll learn a lot. And worse case scenario, you'll just lose a few hours of your life. But since you have your whole life in front of you, just go for it!

10. Take your time

This last advice is not very easy to explain, that's why I sum it up with just "take your time".

Many beginners rush to learn music. They are avid to learn and want to improve quickly. They want to get to their goal the fastest way possible. But I honestly think this is a very bad approach of music.

Music is a perpetual learning experience. There is not "end" so to speak, there will always be more to learn and explore. And the goal is not to learn the fastest. This is not a race nor a competition. Nobody cares about how fast you learn, the only thing that matters is that you have fun doing it. And if you try to rush through your learning, you'll miss a lot of very important expericences.

So if you recognise yourself in this kind of people who are in a hurry to learn, slow down. Take a step back, put things in perspective, and remember that you're here to have fun. So take your time.

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Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence
(Robert Fripp)