Wanting to Learn the Guitar?
Whether teaching yourself or
learning with a teacher
Don’t Waste Time,
Do it Right First Time!
"The pace of learning within these books by renowned teacher and guitarist Peter Altmeier-Mort has been superbly controlled. The material here is brilliant by virtue of its simplicity, and is entirely effective and musical."
(The Australian Music Teacher Journal on 'The Art of Classical Guitar' series)
Learn the Foundations of
Classical Guitar & Open the Door to all Styles of Guitar Playing
The technical and music literacy skills acquired in learning the traditional classic guitar method are the best foundation for any worthwhile study of the instrument.
From this knowledge base, you the guitarist will have easy access to any other acoustic or electric guitar style you might later choose to follow and explore.
Learning any instrument properly from the beginning makes it a totally fulfilling experience for you, the player!
Learning Guitar FAQ
Getting Started on Guitar
Getting Started On Guitar
How does one learn the guitar?
Mostly, people take up and begin to learn guitar in one of 3 ways;
(a) they learn things shown to them by other guitarists,
(b) they decide to teach themselves with a book, like The Art of Classical Guitar Volume 1, or
(c) they have formal lessons with a teacher.
As well, students may over time use all 3 of these learning possibilities and all have a valid place in the learning process. However the question that many never think of is, what is the best sequence of these possibilities to follow from the beginning?
The recommended points are:
- Begin with formal lessons from a good teacher and learn to read music (one-to-one tuition or even a correspondence course) - build a solid and correct foundation from the start! This would avoid time wasted in acquiring bad habits, poor technique and wrong musical knowledge from others.
- As confidence and ability increase from the teacher-based education on guitar, get out and mix, watch, listen, and learn directly from other players. One is now in a position to more accurately evaluate the merit of, and interact with, what other guitarists are doing (or not doing).
- Teaching yourself usually comes last in the creative process, and with the experience from the above 2 points comes the hardest part - pursuing one's own style, language and originality in music, and/or maybe becoming a professional in the industry.
With very few exceptions, it's a fact that the greatest guitarists in any style have had some formal tuition, have learnt from others, and have continued teaching themselves through individual research, experimentation and creativity - in that order.
What guitar should I buy to learn on?
The average well-stocked musical instrument store is full of gleaming guitars of all shapes and sizes, but the first-time guitar buyer is not always aware that the majority of this stock is mostly suitable for the "seasoned amateur" guitarist, the semi-pro and the pro players. As well, the first-time buyer can have confused ideas about musical style and the sort of guitar they (and the salesman) think they should buy. If one has never played guitar before but wants to "eventually play rock music and be in a band" then an electric rock-guitar might seem to be the correct purchase, but is it? Or the buyer might want to "eventually write and perform songs as a solo artist" and so a steel-string guitar might seem to be the correct purchase.
Its great to have a goal about one's music and guitar playing but that goal is rather further down the track than just now - beginning to learn the guitar! Really, the correct purchase for the musical style and goal should come later, when the student can actually apply some of the guitar skills necessary for that longer-term aim (long term goals can change too). Many a student has given up music purely through bad or unhelpful advice on the appropriate instrument to begin with.
The recommended points for beginners buying a guitar are:
1. If you are planning to have lessons with a teacher, always get their advice first, before even going into a shop! Many a teacher has welcomed new students into their first lesson only to tell them that they have unknowingly bought the wrong type of guitar to begin tuition upon.
2. Steel-string guitars are not user-friendly for beginner guitarists. The very high tension in the strings makes it tough going for left-hand fretting of notes - this is especially true for children and most adults too. The fingers become unduly sore, and a lack of muscular development in the hand tends to produce unclear and malformed notes (fret-rattle). The large body-shape of many steel-string guitars also creates posture problems for the beginner, all of which adds up to an uncomfortable experience with the instrument.
3. Children should always begin on a nylon-string guitar (or classic guitar) because of the relative ease of forming fretted notes and plucking the strings with fingers or a plectrum (pick). Unlike most other types of guitars, these come in ½, ¾, and full-size models and should be chosen according to a child's age and physical build - seek a teacher's advice for the best decision here too. The wide neck and 'soft' string action of the nylon-string guitar give the fingers of both hands plenty of room to move and are the ideal beginner's instrument.
4. The electric guitar is never usually a good choice for a student's first guitar. The narrow neck of the electric guitar gives beginners' left-hand fingers little room for error, tends to cramp technique, and produce many muted notes. Above all, the electric guitar tends to sound best with the playing of bar chords and lead solo melodies, and the physical dexterity needed to do this well is quite beyond beginners.
5. In summary, many teachers advise enthusiastic beginners of all ages to forget about musical styles until good basic technique and musical skills have had a chance to develop. Begin with a nylon-string guitar (one can play any style using fingers or a pick on this kind of guitar anyway) and later make a choice about changing to a specific guitar type for style purposes.
6. When shopping before buying, ask to see the student-model guitars (which tend to be the lower end of the market range), get their brand names, prices, and confer with a teacher or an experienced guitarist before deciding which one to purchase.
What teaching methods exist for learning guitar?
It has been said that 3 years of haphazard guitar playing with no particular method behind it is lucky to equal the progress made in 1 year of focussed study with a teaching method. In music publishing many guitar books are given the title of being a "method" and for some this is true, and for others it is totally untrue - and again the buyer cannot always know this because publishing often confuses style with substance. There really is no such thing as a "rock method" of guitar playing (although there may be one day), only a rock style of guitar playing. Historically there are only two methods for learning guitar, where the word "method" actually refers to a long and established tradition of guitar playing and evolution of best playing practices - they are the classical guitar method, and the plectrum guitar method.
The classical guitar tradition covers the past 500 years of guitar composition and playing development (the classical repertoire), and the relatively new plectrum guitar tradition covers the past 75 years of popular music guitar development. In formal teaching, both methods give students an excellent foundation for any other guitar style they might want to pursue later on.
What books do I buy for learning guitar?
When beginning guitar lessons with a good teacher, one of the two broad methods described above will usually be recommended as the path to follow - both involve sound technical and music-reading development. If a student is more interested in popular music styles including rock or blues, then the plectrum guitar method best supports this goal. All basic education on the guitar where style is not particularly an issue is exceptionally well served by the classical method.
The teacher then advises a good, appropriate book on the relevant method for purchase. It is not uncommon for students to begin with one method and then change to the other, either way, it has not been a waste of time. If learning without a teacher, try to purchase a well-known, widely used book that is related to either the plectrum method or the classical method. Books on chords, or tab playing, or blues playing etc are useful supplementary books to have, but in themselves do not represent any method of guitar playing.
2011 WM Guitar Music
Note: the ideas expressed herein are not necessarily the opinions of this company, but are based upon research from numerous professional teachers and guitarists across the world.