Being able to play a musical instrument or sing has always felt like a great gift and I would even describe it as a great privilege. The personal rewards of making music are well worth the investment of time and energy, especially when you get to the point where you can play with other musicians that are at your level or at a higher level. The rewards I am talking about are hard to describe in words. There is nothing like the feeling you get from performing any musical style at a high level of accuracy and creativity, not to mention the joy you get from playing with others when everyone is synchronized and in perfect harmony with each other. It is not uncommon for musicians to describe this feeling as “magical”, “spiritual” or “profound”. Others might describe it simply as “fun fun fun!”.
As a professional musician with years of experience playing with lots of different musicians in many different styles, I can attest to the fact that playing music is one of the most satisfying experiences that a person can enjoy, when it’s done right and with the right attitude. If you are about to embark on this exciting journey of discovery, Congratulations! You too can reap the rewards of your decision to accept the challenge and stay the course of learning a musical instrument or to learn how to use your own voice. Although this article is focused on learning guitar, the principles I will cover really apply to any instrument.
My first advice for any beginner on any instrument is this: don’t get discouraged! You might be thinking that playing music is easy. The really great musicians make it look that way, and it does become easy after a certain amount of time put in on both the physical and psychological aspects of learning. Just like with any activity you try for the first time, there will be challenges and obstacles to overcome. It might be harder than you thought it would be. Or it might come naturally to you. Either way, keep looking ahead and take one step at a time. Small setbacks and minor frustrations will become irrelevant when you make progress, and indeed, real progress only comes from your determination to put the difficulties behind you.
For beginner guitarists, one such problem is dealing with the pain that comes from pressing the strings down on the guitar fingerboard. Usually this is not a deal breaker, and sometimes it is the result of playing a less expensive instrument or one that hasn’t been “set up” properly, which is when an experienced guitar technician “fine tunes” the instrument. Most guitars are playable right off the shelf, but making adjustments to lower the distance between the strings and the fingerboard can go a long way to make playing easier and more comfortable. Regardless, over time and consistent practice, your fingers will develop calluses that will protect your fingertips and virtually eliminate any pain you might experience. This is why regular practice is important.
Finger pain is probably the main complaint for beginners. There are very few other obstacles for guitarists provided you have a competent teacher to help you. And keep in mind that with only rudimentary knowledge and playing ability, you will have access to hundreds of cool songs and fun riffs that you will enjoy for a lifetime. We all want to be great at whatever we do, and there will always be people that will be able to play better than us. But remember that music is mainly an art that allows for individual expression. With a bit of creativity, you will make what you play your own by playing it in your own unique way.
Think of the first efforts you put in on your new endeavour as the building blocks for what you really want which will come a bit later. A beautiful house needs a good solid foundation to rest on. You might think of it as the “boring” part of the building process, but it is so important to get it right before you get into the upper structure. When you put the time in at the beginning, you won’t be disappointed. Also keep in mind that even if you take a break from learning, what you have learned will stay with you, and when you return to it your mind will quickly recall the things you previously acquired.
Stay tuned for more tips for beginners in future posts. And welcome to the world of learning music!