5 things you wish you had done as a beginner guitarist
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as they say and we all wish we had practised X better, spent more time learning how to do Y etc etc. But, if we were to distill the things which have made us the mature players we are now, into 5 key points; small wisdoms to pass onto to new players, what would they be? We’ve looked at some common guitar enlightenment moments which experienced players really wish they had known back when they started to kick out those first licks & riffs!
1. Play the simple stuff really well
It is almost a cliche to say this, but those cliches are there for a reason! Many experienced players have found themselves, at various points in their life, revisiting the basics all with the intention of making themselves sound more musical and appealing to the average listener.
Areas such as being able to play simple licks and melodies with great timing and feel, laying down solid sounding rhythm guitar parts, and the ability to simply improvise a catchy melody have all come in at the top.
2. Learn songs from start to finish
How much time, as a beginner, did you spend learning fragments of songs? When it came time to join a band or jam session you only had the first riff or half the solo to offer! It is always fun picking up a riff or your favourite solo and that should never change, but many seasoned players extol the virtues of having a good repertoire of songs which you can play note for note from top to bottom; giving you the ability to jam with others and jump on stage with a band at a moments notice!
Be honest, who learnt ‘Smoke On The Water’ or ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’ in our early years but never gave much attention to anything beyond those opening famous riffs?!
3. Listen … I mean really listen!!
Not to be confused with the simple need to work on our ear training (bah again to those boring grown ups!), this refers to the attention we give to listening to ourselves - being honest with yourself about the sound of our own playing. In the early stages of learning the guitar, overcoming the difficult physical nature of the instrument always wins; putting your fingers in the right place and getting everything to sound half good classed as a victory!
Casting a critical ear over the actual sound and quality of the notes you are creating is something many pros have stated as a skill they wished they had developed much earlier in their lives. Listening to the dynamics of their playing, the accuracy of their bends, vibrato etc all rank highly.
4. Learn your neck
A daunting task for many early learners but an essential for being able to learn, transpose and communicate with other players. This forms a sound knowledge of the notes on your neck and how they relate to each other.
So many pro players report that, understanding the intervals in a key all over the fretboard or simply knowing the names of every note on the neck has got them out of some tricky musical situations, plus made learning, memorising and rearranging parts infinitely easier.
5. Play with the musicians as much as you can!
It is not unusual for newer starters to be nervous about the prospect of getting together to make noise with other players and, as a result, many formative years are spent in a hermit-like existence, honing our skills before we feel we are ready to let the world hear our efforts. With time comes the realisation that you will always have an element of self doubt and a very common regret amongst older players is that they didn’t take the plunge and join a band or meet up with other players sooner!
The skills learnt from sharing ideas with other guitarists or putting what you know into practise at top volume with the full backing of other musicians is a feeling that, once experienced, we wonder why we didn’t do sooner!
If only there was a time machine which would give us the chance drop in on our younger selves and pass on some tips! It makes you wonder what advice you would give yourself ten years or so from now!