We’re sharing just a portion of a post with Q&As about starting the guitar. Please visit http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BC-101-CommonQuestions.php for the full article.
Am I too old to start learning the guitar?
You are never too old to start playing and enjoying guitar. Sure, you will read about the guitar legends we all admire, and how they started when they were six months old and were playing the Albert Hall by the time they were two, but that’s not the case for most guitarists. It seems that about a quarter of the people using my website are over 50 years old and loving it. It’s a wonderful hobby and I have had a few students in their 50s that started gigging regularly after a few years practice; a couple even turned professional! So it is never too late.
One thing to be aware of however is that children do tend to learn faster than adults. I’ve been surprised time and time again at how quickly children between 12–18 learn stuff. I guess because they are still growing they develop the muscles in their hands faster, but they also have less pre-conceived ideas about what might be difficult to learn. Many grown-ups will hear a song and think “that sounds amazing, I bet it’s very hard to play” and struggle if they try, whereas an 18 year old will hear the same thing and think “that sounds amazing, I want to learn that” and then do it without thinking about how hard it might be. Just remember it’s mostly about practice time: put in a lot of time and you’ll get good, no matter what your age!
How quickly will I be able to play songs?
You should be able to play a basic song or two after about three to five hours of practice (over a week or more—not in one go). It probably won’t sound perfect, but it will at least be recognizable. How much time it takes you to learn the basics will depend almost totally on how much you practise. Note that if I give a recommended practice time—say, five minutes— it means five minutes of intense practice, not half-watching TV or answering phone calls or whatever. Try to stay focused when you practise, and then you can ‘free up’ when you play ‘for real’.
How often do I need to practice?
If you play for fifteen minutes a week, expect it to take at least a year to get the very basics under your fingers. However, if you practise for fifteen minutes a day, you will notice that things are getting easier after just one week. There is such a thing as ‘natural aptitude’ — so some people naturally learn things faster than others — but perseverance will always prevail. Lots of people who learn slowly at first learn better and faster in the long run (usually because those people are taking the time to figure out why they are doing).
Do I have to practice every day?
The best way (but not always possible) is to try and find a little time to practice every day. It is much better to do 10 minutes a day 6 days a week than an hour practice every Saturday. Aim for daily practice but if it is not possible, try to get in a little time often and then have one main practice time each week. Many of my students have found that playing at the same time (such as straight after dinner, when you first get home after work/school or just before you go to bed) is the best way to develop a consistent routine.
Do I have to follow your suggested practice routine?
Well, I’m suggesting it for a reason, and that is that most people need to work on similar things. However, everyone is different, and so if you feel the routine does not fit well for you, then change it. But try and keep to the general structure: it works!
My fingers hurt and have deep grooves in them, should I stop practicing?
Yes, if it is painful at all, then you should take a break. It’s normal for things to be a little sore at the beginning. Getting grooves in your fingers is quite normal, and they are just from the strings sitting in the same place under your fingers (which is good). They will toughen up after a short time and then you won’t notice it at all. The very first few times you play your fingertips are likely to get VERY sore, very quickly (in 5 minutes or even less!) but don’t worry: just put the guitar down for a while and come back to it later. It’s normal.
Sometimes the lines in your fingers can stay there for a whole day after you finish. Don’t worry about this! Some people like to start playing on a nylon string guitar when they’re starting out, for this very reason. It hurts a little less I guess, but it shouldn’t be long before your fingers toughen up enough to play for 10 or 15 minutes on a steel string guitar without crying!
Try not to let it get to the point of a blister, because then you need to take a few days off to let it heal. Also, make sure your hands are dry when you play; if you practise right after a shower or after doing the washing up then the skin will last hardly any time at all. If you get any pain in your hand or forearm you should stop straight away and see a doctor if the pain persists. Playing should be fun and enjoyable, not painful.
Does it matter if I’m left-handed?
No! But you’ll either need to buy a left-handed guitar, or string a right-hander upside down (like Jimi Hendrix). There’s advice on the forum about being a left-handed player. In this book we’ve tried to use ‘fretting hand’ and ‘strumming hand’ to avoid dictating which hand you’re using.
How do I know when to move onto the next stage?
Very common question this one, but the answer is a little vague I’m afraid. I have tried to give you as much advice as I can at the end of each stage about what to expect, but everyone has different goals, abilities, expectations and aspirations and all those things will come into play when you have to decide when to move on. My advice is “when you feel ready”. As a self learner you will have to make that decision, but if you are confident in most of the skills from each stage and can use them in a song or two (just bumbling along, not concert level just yet!) then you are probably ready!
Please visit their blog for more. Meanwhile, practice well so that your mom or dad (or santa claus will pick up a little present for you: musicians friend les paul 2015 premium quilt. We should always aspire to do our best in everything. If you choose to undertake music, know that it has healing power for the world and your playing will contribute to the good vibrations around the planet!