So you want to learn to play guitar. Learning guitar is not difficult, and it is not easy, and is basically a matter of degree: how good do you want to be? The higher your goals then the more work you have to do and the more difficult it becomes.
But even then it is not difficult as such, but more a matter of understanding your instrument. Its capabilities and how to use it to its maximum potential. And then there is your own attitude, and how you approach learning guitar and whether or not you commit yourself to learning to play guitar properly with the correct mental approach and learning how to use a guitar to its maximum capability as a tool for producing music.
In order to exemplify what is meant by that, here are some tips on how to become a good guitarist, split into two sections of 5. I say ‘good', because I am not sure that ‘great’ guitarists can be taught to be great. Good guitarists can be taught, and become even better with practice, but ‘great'? Well . . .
The first five tips are based on attitude and approach, and the other five are techniques that good guitarists must learn and master if they are to be better than the average player. I do not expect all guitarists to agree with my lists: they would likely come up with different ones, but in the absence of theirs, here is one opinion of what makes a great guitarist.
SECTION A: ATTITUDE
You must have a goal in mind when you learn to play guitar, and that goal is your motivation. It might be a simple goal, such as wanting to be able to learn a new chord each day, or to have mastered the Hotel California solo by next Saturday - it doesn't matter. Make your goals realistic when learning guitar, and make sure you meet them, but don't make them so simple that you don't have much work to do to meet them.
2. Have an End Point
Temporary goals are fine to keep you motivated and going from day to day, but you must have an end point to your guitar learning. You must a have a final target which could be to start up your own band, or it might be to play well enough to solo at your sister's wedding, or even your own. You decide, but make it an end point for your current course or project.
3. Self Belief and Positive Thinking
You must think positively and have belief that you will succeed: this is true in any walk of life. The most successful failures believe they will fail - they might as well never have started to learn to play guitar!
4. Be Flexible
Have a flexible approach to your guitar playing, and if you find that trying out some blue notes, or diminished sevenths, gets you hooked, then forget your desire to be able to cover all these heavy metal riffs, and get into a blue tune - you can still play rock, country, jazz and whatever get's ya baby! Even heavy metal uses blue notes and chords.
5. Resolve these Weaknesses
Everybody has a weakness in their guitar playing- mine is muscle memory when playing licks. My fingers do what they want to and by the time I realize it the note has been played. I work on that all the time, and it is slowly coming. Work on your weaknesses.
SECTION B: TECHNIQUE
As you learn to play guitar, you will find that there are some techniques that are essential to learn and other aspects of guitar playing that are not related to the mind. Your mind is around 50% of learning guitar and these following most of the other 50% (in no order).
Learn your scales without feeling wimpish. The pentatonic in particular is used by all guitarists in their solos and licks: without knowledge of the pentatonic scales none of the great soloists would ever have made a name, and even the blues players would be nothing without adding that minor note to convert the pentatonic to a ‘hexatonic’.
Without chords you will never be a guitarist. Chords are what teach you about music and how notes combine with each other; blues players know their minor and diminished sevenths well, and if you are learning so that you can accompany your singing, then knowledge of chords is essential.
Learning guitar without harmonics is like learning harmonica without the slidy thing. Is that why it's called a harmonica, I wonder? Harmonics are used in every type of guitar playing, and involve knowledge of how strings vibrate, and how to split the vibration into sections or nodes. You play harmonics by touching a string without actually fretting it, but they involve practice and understanding.
If you learn the pentatonic scale and harmonics, you can play just about any lick or guitar solo out there. However, to play them quickly in a way that will make your audience gasp, you must learn some fairly basic techniques that can speed up your play. I am not going to list all of these, such as hammer ons, sliding and sweep picking, but they have to be learned if you are to be successful in learning guitar the proper way.
10. Music Theory and Reading Music
When you learn to play guitar, you don't necessarily have to understand the theory behind what you are playing, but music theory enables you to understand blues, since how otherwise could you express minor As and diminished seventh chords? If you can read it, then even better.
So there you are. If I wrote this again, it would likely consist of a different ten. However, what is true is that if you follow the advice in Section A when you learn to play guitar, then you will have the mental capability to be successful, and if you also focus on your technique, of which Section B is intended only to provide some examples for discussion, then there is no reason why you cannot go all the way.
There are no reasons why you cannot learn to play guitar, and learning to play guitar can be both fun and rewarding if you have the right attitude and learn the correct techniques. However, they are not mandatory!
Tips can be useful, but nothing beats experienced teachers when you are learning guitar. Check out http://www.jamplaynow.com for a free introductory lesson in any style you choose from one of the top guitar memberships sites in the world. You can't lose with Jamplay's offer.