Learn the guitar with acoustic guitar lessons

The acoustic guitar, is one of the most popular instruments, many times covered with dust in the corner of a room. It is almost like a piece of furniture, it looks cool and often it is a great conversation starter ‘so, you play the guitar’, and many times the response is ‘noooo, it is my flatmate’s guitar’ or ‘my brother gave it to me when he left’. It is really interesting that the acoustic guitar is one of the most easily accessible instruments and yet, not so many people choose to learn it.

So how long will it take to be able to play a couple of songs? Honestly, two lessons! One song per lesson. You do not have to spend months learning new chords, you can learn a few, and start playing songs straight away. Many popular songs consist of the same chords.

How many chords do you need to know? Armed with 10 chords (you can learn them in a few lessons) you will be able to play a lot of songs. It doesn’t sound difficult, right? I hope I have convinced you to pick up the instrument.

You do not have to take private lessons to start playing the guitar, just go to YouTube and you will find thousands of lessons. Choosing the right ones might be a little bit tricky, but the knowledge is in front of you.

Once you pass the initial learning stage and gain some knowledge of the guitar, a whole new world will open for you. You will be able to play your favourite songs, join jamming sessions and write your own music! You can really awaken your creative side.

Here are a few examples of guitar techniques that you can learn. The video examples are a little ancient – I think back from 2013 – but … the message is still the same 🙂

In this example, I’m going to use the fingerpicking technique. Fingerpicking simply means that I will use my fingers to get sound from the guitar. Another way of getting sound from the guitar is by using a guitar pick – the next two examples are played using a guitar pick.

Here I play the same chord progression twice, but arrange it with two different fingerpicking techniques to achieve a different feel to the song. The first example has a nice soft sound, and the other one is more percussive:

Let’s move on. How about writing a song? It may sound like it is a mission impossible for the beginner guitarist, but it is not that difficult. I always encourage my students to use the knowledge that they have more creatively.

Just take a few chords that you know and arrange them in a random way, listen to how they sound together. A lot of great songs consist of only a few simple chords!

In this example, I took four chords: Cmaj7, Amin9, F and G and tried to arrange them into a song. Here is the result:

One thing that I always stress is that even the best guitarists were in the same place that you are now. Nobody becomes great overnight. Good guitar skills are just results of practicing and having fun with the guitar.

In this last example, I just improvised using different strumming variations and arpeggios. It is a more advanced way of playing the guitar and requires some experience.

Here we go:

Some of these examples are a little bit advanced, but I wanted to show you what you can aim to achieve on the guitar. It all comes down to practicing the right things in the right order.

So which songs do you want to learn to play? Get in touch if you would like to study with me on my one to one guitar lessons or subscribe to my online guitar lessons.

Playing the guitar is fun and the best way to spend your free time. Undust your guitar and lets rock 🙂

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Do we still need guitar teachers?

These days, the Internet dominates our lives. We search for new information, news, exciting places to visit, interesting blogs and also for guitar related articles and videos. The Internet and You Tube look like the natural place to start learning how to play the guitar. 

I think it is an awesome resource – in a few clicks, we can get access to enormous amounts of information on how to learn the guitar. Countless hours of video guitar lessons are just in front of us. This abundance of information can also be very time consuming and confusing. It takes a lot of time to get through this huge library of instructional materials. You land on an awesome page and then you realise that the explanations are not very good or the video does not cover the subject advertised in the title.

Even once you find a resource that looks legitimate, you may not know how to use and implement it. What I mean by this is that: you do not know what you do not know. Simple, you may not know how to link the information and how to systemise the knowledge in a way that will be easy to use and will take you to the next level.

The internet is open to everybody, you, me and our neighbours can publish instructional materials on the web. And this is the danger; it is difficult to verify the content.

There are tons of great articles and tons of very bad ones. This is why I think traditional one to one guitar lessons are still important in today’s world because:

  • A good music instructor will identify and correct all your mistakes
  • Interaction with somebody who is better than you on the instrument will stimulate your passion
  • Customised lesson plans will make your practicing time more efficient
  • You can ask questions

A good guitar teacher is much more than just a tutor. He or she can mentor you, suggest solutions and enhance your creativity.

There are also plenty of great websites with structured guitar lessons and knowledgeable tutors. This a great way of learning to play the guitar, when you do not have time for private guitar lessons.

So what is the answer to the question in the title? I think a combination of both will be the best solution. Taking private guitar lessons and trying to learn from the internet. You can always verify the information with your teacher.

Happy searching!

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5 Tips – How to start playing the guitar?

When it comes to learning how to play the guitar, many people’s stories are the same; I have always dreamed about playing, I have tried to teach myself, I love the sound of the guitar, It’s so cool… 

Great, you have taken the first step – you have the desire to play the instrument. Now, let’s discuss the steps required to start learning how to play the guitar.

1. Buy a guitar.

Quite an obvious one! You need to practice, so having a decent quality instrument is essential. Check my other article on how to buy your first guitar. But in a nutshell:
Depending on the style you want to play, you may want to buy an acoustic or an electric guitar. I would suggest to start from an acoustic guitar. The size of the body, general feel of the instrument, no need for any amplification and cables, make the acoustic a pretty good choice. The electric guitar is also good to start from, but I have noticed that it is a lot easier for students to develop a good foundation and strumming habits on the acoustic. Remember to check my article on how to buy your first guitar.

2. Learn a few simply chords.

A minor, C major and E major are perfect chords to start from. As a beginner, these names may not mean much to you, however theses mysterious symbols are labels for the shapes we are going to play on the guitar. In the chords section on this website you will find theses shapes.

3. Learn a few simply songs.

At the end of the day, you want to play songs. Chords and strummings are just the ingredients required in order to play a song. A very easy song to start from is “Zombie” by The Cranberries. It has just four very simple chords and has extremely easy strumming (unfortunately the chords A minor C and E are not in this song, but the chords are so easy you will be able to play this song in no time – the chords from my point in #2 are really important because they are commonly used in many songs).

In the How To Play section of this website, you will find this song with chord diagrams and a full explanation. If rock music is not your thing, I would still suggest to try to learn this song. Think about it as a learning tool rather than me trying to turn you into a Cranberries fan. As soon as you can play this song, go the the next one – which is Oasis “I’m outta time”. Once you learn theses songs you will have a basic understanding of the guitar and you will know what it is all about.

4. Learn some more difficult songs

At this stage you may notice that if you are struggling you may have to go to step number 5, which is ….

5. Find a guitar teacher or invest in some kind of educational materials

Let me clarify something, I have never studied with a guitar teacher. Everything I have learned is a result of my own searches, studying and playing with others. So you will be absolutely fine on your own. But you may save a lot of time and frustration by having clear guidance.

Good guitar teacher can accelerate your learning process. What is important is he / she may help you get through difficult times. A lot of beginners quit because they reach a wall and don’t know how to break through it.

If you cannot afford a guitar teacher, try to find some beginner guitar books with accompanying ads or mp3s. Books can be a little dry, but if you commit to studying it, you will definite learn something from it! It is a little bit old school but skill a cool way of studying.

A more modern method is to study online. If you type “how to play the guitar” into your browser you will find thousands of results. The web can also be a little overwhelming, knowing where to start and also overloading you with information.

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Too afraid to buy your first guitar?

Choosing the right first guitar when you are a beginner guitar player is almost impossible. There are so many different guitars. Just go to a music shop and you will see walls full of instruments. Which one would be good for you? The fact that you cannot really play on the guitar does not help.

Imagine this scenario: you walk into a music shop, there is a suspicious looking carbon copy of Eddie Van Halen behind the counter, and this guy looks so cool. In the far left corner, there is a 10 year old kid shredding like Slash, and the sales assistant comes up to you with a cool look on his face – “what’s up bro? ….. “ And your response – “errrr…. I am looking to buy a guitar, an acoustic one ….”

When you go to a good music shop, ( a good example is Anderton’s in Guildford UK), the sales assistant will take you to a private room, or at least somewhere where it is quiet, will bring you a bunch of guitars and explain the differences between them. Usually it is not that easy. Some of the folks in guitar shops refuse to even look at you! Not to mention give you any help.

So let’s build some basic knowledge that will help you choose the right first guitar for you. Guitars come in different sizes, colours, etc. The first thing you need to decide on is whether you want to buy an acoustic guitar (this one has metal strings) or a classical guitar (sometimes called Spanish, with nylon strings).  The acoustic guitar is the way to go, at least in the long run. Let me explain the differences. Of course, this is my personal opinion.

The classical guitar has for a long time been suggested as a beginner guitar; it seems to be a little bit easier to play on it. The Spanish guitar has nylon strings which are quite soft and do not hurt fingers as much as metal ones (on the acoustic). But, the neck is very wide, (the neck is where you play the chords- the long timber stick attached to the guitar with those metal frets on it), and it does not sound particularly good. Like most of my students, you will probably sell this guitar within one year (if you last for that long!)

Now the acoustic guitar is a little bit different. It has metal strings and they hurt! But only for a few weeks, after that initial pain time frame, your chords and everything you play on it will start to sound better and better. The neck also is a little bit narrower – now here is interesting point to consider.

A wider neck may feel like a good choice for the beginner (this is why music shops usually recommend them). The spaces between the strings are bigger and you will be less likely to mute adjustment strings while you play the chords. But here is the down side – you have to stretch your hand much more for certain chords. On the other hand, a narrower neck on the acoustic guitar will make playing the chords a little bit easier, but you are more likely to mute adjacent strings.

In my personal opinion, practising on an narrower neck (acoustic guitar) will make you progress faster because it will make you more aware of where you place your fingers and it will help the transition from acoustic to electric guitar. The rest of this article will focus on the acoustic guitar.

The body of the guitar is responsible for creating / amplifying the sound. The bigger it is, the louder and more bassy it will sound. Smaller bodied guitars are quieter, but the sound can be more balanced. The size of the body will determine how comfortable it will feel. You need to remember that you will wrap your strumming hand around the guitar, so if it is too big, it will feel awkward.

I like medium sized guitars because they are a little bit smaller, feel better and more importantly, are easier to carry around. You do not want to feel like you are walking with a double bass (a double bass is the huge upright instrument with four strings that you may see in jazz bands).

We are back in our music shop, now look around you, can you recognise the differences between the guitars?

Choose a few guitars that you like and start to test them.  Does it feel right when you play the guitar?  Do you feel comfortable holding it? One very important point is to pay attention to how far the strings are from the fretboard. If the strings are too
far away, it will make playing the chords very difficult.  It can be adjusted in some guitars, but honestly a guitar straight off the shelf should play well.  Do not be ashamed to swap between the guitars, you are the boss; you are bringing your money to the shop, so you have the right to test different options.  The sales assistant is here for you and not to look cool and wait for the end of his or her shift.  Trust your instinct.  Does the guitar feel right, do you like the colour, does it sound good?  You will spend a lot of time together with your instrument, you do not want to hang out with something ugly – you’ve got the point.

Some guitars have a built -in preamp and tuner system. We called these guitars “acoustic-electric”. The easy way to think about it is that it is more acoustic than electric, this is why it is not called an “electric-acoustic”.

It is a very handy feature, if you can get one with a build in system, then go for it. Later, you will be able to amplify the guitar and force the world to listen to your music – do you remember the beginning of the old Michael Jackson clip? – The young boy destroying the wall with an electric guitar.

Hopefully you will understand a little bit more now.

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How to practice when you do not have time to practice?

One of the most asked questions that bothers beginner guitarists, is how to practice. You have heard stories about musicians practicing for hours every single day, hour after hour, until their fingers bleed.

A no-pain no-gain approach, almost like some kind of army training. The problem is that, with that frame of mind, you will not survive for too long.  Eventually you will burn out, lose motivation and stop playing the guitar. But it does not have to be that way. Let me show you my approach, where you can practice, have fun, have results and a social life outside of the guitar.

A week has 7 days. If you divide it by two, you will have 3.5 days. My philosophy is simple; practice for 4 days every week. To be clear, this article is for beginners only.

I would not recommend practicing for 4 days in a row and then taking three days off. Try to spread it across the week. There is no difference between going to the gym to workout and practicing the guitar. In order to progress, you need a good workout and reasonable recovery time. During your recovery time, you will give your mind time to digest the information and structure it in a way that will be easy to retrieve needed skills. The skin on your fingers
(calluses) and tendons also require some time to recover from the practice session. You need to learn to walk before you learn to run. You would not try running a marathon before trying to walk, right? So why would you do this on the guitar? Having too high expectations may kill your passion.

Now lets get into the details. I would try to do 10 minutes of practice each time. Some people may say that this is not enough! Let me explain.

Imagine this scenario. You have decided that you are going to practice every day for 1 hour. You have had a very busy day at work, you need to cook dinner, walk your dog, do some paperwork and practice for 1 hour. PRACTICE FOR 1 HOUR! Your mind will say “no way mate, tomorrow, not today, you will be fine …“

Now imagine the same scenario but you need to practice for 10 minutes. This becomes easily manageable, right? You may force yourself to do it, but it is a realistic goal. And maybe you will be so happy after the 10 minutes that actually you will play for 1 hour!

At the beginning everything is extremely exciting. It’s easy to think we can do everything that we planned. The problem is, that after some time we lose motivation, the once new and exciting things, are not new anymore, and we lose our passion. This is not always the case, but I know that it definitely happens to the majority of my guitar students. Tricking your mind is the way to go. The bottom line is, it is easy to do 5-10 minutes of a workout than 1 hour.

Which brings us to the second part of the article; the quality of the practice session, in other words, what to practice? This is the key to understanding how yon can be effective in 10 minutes rather than in one hour. Just to remind you, we are talking about beginners right now.

In order to be effective, you will need to focus on four areas:

  • Chords and how to transition between them
  • Strumming hand, rhythm – being able to make sense in a musical way
  • Learning new songs (integrating the two previous points)
  • Basic knowledge of the instrument – reading articles and watching instructional videos

I would always start my practice session with tuning the guitar . It is very important that your guitar is in tune. You will train your ears to recognise and understand what you play if you are in tune. Secondly, I would focus on the chords. Let’s say I know 2 chords. On every session you will need to refresh your memory, take things very slowly and do not rush. I would try to remember the shape of the first chord. Put your fingers in position, strum it. Does it sound ok? Relax your hand, and try again, find the chord, play it, relax your hand. Now we repeat the same steps for the second chord.

Take some breaks, shake your hands, do some stretches and remember to relax your body. Then, I would try to change between the two shapes. In other words, transition from one chord to the other. Slowly, make sure you always land on the correct chord. Repeat it a few times. Now you have warmed up and you remember your chords. You are ready to work on your strumming’s.

Try to do some sequences of down strokes and up strokes (for example: down, down, up). At first, try doing this without any chords. I know it sounds terrible, but, you will give your fretting hand a break and time to recover.

Now you are ready to integrate these two things together, you can try to play simple chord sequences. For example, strum the first chord twice and then the second chord twice. Then repeat. Or if you know three chords, strum the first and second chords once, and the third two times.

This is a nice easy way to gradually warm up your hands. Work through the chords and finish with something really musical.

If you have very limited time, you can try to practice in front of the tv, so at least you can benefit from both. I would do this only with the content that I am confident with and know well (mainly because you don’t have to concentrate too much on remembering the chords). This is a controversial way of practising, but sometimes it may be the only way to get your work out done that day. We are only human, and we need to live and have fun.  The last thing you want to do is feel guilty that you haven’t practiced at all or that you have to practice in a particular way.

Happy practicing!

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Did you know that a lot of successful people play an instrument?

You can look at this from two perspectives. One is that as a successful person, you will get an extra creative edge if you play an instrument (for example the guitar). It acts as a tool to relax you after a heavy day at work and enhance the creative part of you, which leads to bigger professional success.

The other way of looking at this interesting link between success and playing an instrument is that by playing the instrument; maybe you have more chance of success because you use the same tools that high achievers use.

People who study music, develop the following skills: patience, creativity, pattern connection and perseverance … Can you see that these skills project into our every day lives? By practicing these qualities every day, you will not only become a better guitarist but also a more successful person. By successful, I don’t necessarily mean huge success and mega bucks, it could be success at your own level.

Did you know that Google’s CEO Larry Page played saxophone and studied music composition? He says that being a musician was integral to Google’s success. Also the CEO of Microsoft, Paul Allen is an avid guitar player and in 2013 released an album with his band The Underthinkers called “Everywhere At Once”. Even Albert Einstein played classical music as a brainstorming technique. He could play the violin and the piano. He would play a little bit of music in between his study and work on revolutionary theories.

I think there is a strong connection between playing an instrument and success! So if you are still thinking about learning the guitar, start today – Online Guitar Lessons.

If you are already playing the guitar, you can be proud that you belong to that elite group. Use music to enhance your creativity, and enrich your potential.

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What is that strange squeaky sound when I slide my fingers on the guitar?

Have you ever noticed that strange squeaky sound coming from your strings when you move your fingers between the chords or when you do slides? Are you doing something wrong or is it normal?

One answer to calm your mind is that it is normal. When you do a slide from one fret to the next one, there is some friction between your fingers and the string and that is what causes this squeaky sound. When you look at the anatomy of the guitar strings, you will notice that some strings have something wound around the core of the string. They are like small bumps on the string. This is the biggest source of that squeaky sound. The sound is more audible on some strings rather than others, so it really depends on the types of the strings you are using.

A lot of guitarists consider this extra squeaky sound as part of their music creation. Listen to acoustic music performances, you will hear it all the time. Some guitar players like it, some don’t. I really love it, and in my opinion it adds some kind of the human touch to our playing.

When you watch my video lessons you may not hear that strange sound so much because I don’t use the microphone to capture the sound of my guitar. I use the built-in piezo and magnetic pickup to catch the sound of my guitar (it is a combination of both). It picks up the vibration of the string rather than the overall acoustic sound. That way, it is easier for me to separate the voice and the guitar sound during the recording process, although I lose a little bit of that natural acoustic sound.. As a result, when you try to play along to my videos, these sounds are more prominent on your guitar than they are on mine. However, if you would be in my teaching studio, you would hear it all the time.

To wrap it up: I would consider this squeaky sound as a natural part of our guitar playing. Some people try to apply a lighter touch to the strings to get rid of it. For sure it may work, but it may sometimes affect the way you play the guitar. I would ignore it and just focus on the music itself.

Even if you apply excessive tension to the strings, over time as you get more experienced you will get better with controlling it, so don’t worry too much.

Enjoy your squeaky sound 🙂

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Don’t try to be too perfect

I teach a lot of beginners not only online, but also on one to one guitar lessons. Many of my students have one thing in common; they want to be perfect. But this is something that can actually hijack your guitar playing progress. Striving for perfection is a glorious thing, we want to do things in the “right way”, but abusing this approach will only lead to frustration.

Here is a typical scenario: a student comes for a lesson and tries to show me the song that he or she has learned. They play the first few chords, something goes wrong with the strumming or chord transition and they stop and then start all over again. The same thing applies to scales. My students will make one mistake and then start playing the scale from the beginning again. This is definitely not the way to get good results.

You need to learn how to correct your mistakes on the fly. You should of course, acknowledge that you made a mistake, but keep going, don’t stop and start again. The moment you stop and try to start from the beginning again, you disturb the flow of the song. It’s almost like you are only practicing the first few bars of the song, but what about the rest of the song? You don’t even give yourself a chance to get to the middle of the song, not to mention the whole tune.

Try to do a ‘live’ practice session. Pick up the guitar, tune it up and play one song from the beginning till the end. Don’t stop, ignore the mistakes, just keep playing. This is a great way to develop a more natural / performance approach to your guitar playing. That way, you will learn how to get yourself out of the mistakes and it will also give you more confidence to perform in front of others.

I should really mention that this is one of the components of practicing. Of course, you also need to work on learning songs in sections. You should work on the chords, strumming, than you connect it into the verse and chorus. The method described in this article is another approach that you can add to your practice routine.

So basically you can approach your songs from the perspective of detail practicing and then live/performance practicing. It is like having another tool to fine tune your guitar skills.

Let me know if it works for you!

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You should practice the guitar in front of the TV… sometimes

Holiday season is always great because I have a little bit more time than usual to play the guitar … but in front of the TV! This is my perfect holiday emergency practice. I simply sit on my sofa, watch the TV and practice the guitar! It is my little secret to finding extra time to practice the guitar and be more social at the same time.

When I practice in this way, I only work on very simple exercises, such as scales or chords and watch the TV with my family. My goal isn’t to learn anything new, it is just about being more in touch with my guitar, so I only ever play what I have already memorised in the past.

For example, I might be struggling with some chord changes, so I just try to do some silent transitions between two chords. I also do simple chromatic runs up and down the neck. These are really simple exercises, but they give your hands a really great workout, especially if you are talking and you can’t concentrate fully.

If you are into soloing, watching movies and playing the guitar is an awesome way to train your improvisation skills. These days, movies are full of music. I use them as my backing tracks for improvisation and it really is awesome! If you try this, it will train you to find the key and corresponding scales.

For example, if there is a new song playing in a movie, I try to identify the key of the song and then I will try to match it with the scale. I don’t try to use any fancy scales, I simply use the pentatonic scale. So after I find the key, I then ask myself whether the song is in a major or minor scale. I usually play the minor scale first and then the major and my ear will tell me which one it is. After that, I just play some simple licks to the music I hear! It is a great way to train your ear, gain knowledge about scales in different positions and also improve your ability – all just by watching TV! (By the way, if that sounds a little bit blurry to you, I explain all of this in detail in my Online Guitar Lessons at guitar couch).

I found this to be my perfect ‘NO TIME FOR PRACTICE” practice routine. It keeps me motivated and gives me the feeling of achievement. My family is also happy, as I spend more time with them and my hands feel like they did a workout, so I feel more motivated to play! It is a great win-win situation. So don’t forget to go get your guitar and have a practice session, even when you are watching the tv or sitting on the couch 🙂

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Long breaks in between practicing the guitar

A lot of guitar players have phases of very intense focused practicing and then long breaks of nothingness. They have moments when they play and practice a lot and then it drops. A lot of times, it is caused by our day to day life. We have additional work to do, it is spring and we have to work in the gardens and so on ….

But a lot of time, it is caused by setting our achievement bar too high. Our excitement for practicing may be triggered by seeing some very cool live performance, or some gig you watched on TV. We feel inspired and make a decision that we are going to be really good on the guitar by practicing from today for 2 hours a day. The problem with that is, that it may work for the first week, or even the next three weeks but after this time we may be disappointed with our results.

The guitar is a beast that brings awesome results but … very slowly. As a result, we feel that we are not reaching our full potential and we drop our practice regime. Then a few months later the circle repeats again.

One cure for this problem is trying to practice for less but more frequently. A lot of times we feel like we need to practice for significant amounts of time. It feels like if we don’t practice for 30, 40 mins, or one hour it’s not worth picking up the guitar. This statement can’t be further from the truth.

Even picking up the guitar for 5 minutes will bring you results. Not amazing ones obviously, but it will give you something. You will progress at a much slower pace, but you will still progress. Isn’t that better than not doing anything?

I have noticed that the guitarist who picks up the guitar with the intention to play for a little bit ends up practicing much more than the desired amount of time. Also, if you practice like that, you will be more connected with what you’re working on. You will remember strumming and chords better and you will be in much better overall musical shape.

One of the reasons that I have structured my online guitar lessons into small chunks, is to help you with your guitar playing by presenting the knowledge in manageable portions. You may aim for one unit a day, or one unit every second day with one revision day in between.

I always repeat that the guitar should be this nice addition to our life, not something that you feel obliged to practice. One of the ways to reinforce this feeling is by playing a little bit every day, or every second day. Keep your guitar outside of the gig bag, in a place where you can see it. You can alway pick it up for 1 minute to play one song, then put it down. Even that way, you will feel good about your guitar skills!

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