Learning the Western guitar? From home? Wonderful! I’m excited for you. So, you must have realised by now that it takes more than a strap, a pick, and an instrument to sound like those guitarists you were inspired by!
Of course, learning to play the guitar or any stringed instrument, for that matter, is both exciting and challenging at the same time. If you are trying to learn to play the Western acoustic guitar online and from home, you will have your hands full (literally and figuratively) as you try to figure out how to hold the guitar, the pick, how to position your left hand and right hand, understand the fretboard, learn to read the tablature, and last and definitely not the least, interpret those complicated Western notations. Phew! There is a lot to learn and by the looks of it many technical aspects are involved. You’re right, there are!
Online guitar classes can help break it down for you. In the meanwhile, as you are trying to learn to play the Western acoustic guitar online and from home, we can start you off with some tips.
Tips to learn the guitar at home – for beginners
- Listen to different songs featuring the guitar
- Maintain correct posture
- Hold the guitar comfortably
- Learn the art of strumming correctly
- Learn sequentially
- Practice makes perfect
- Follow the ‘slow and steady’ mantra
1. Listen to different songs featuring the guitar
It always helps to have an objective. When you have an idea of how you want to sound and what sounds this instrument can produce, you will work with a goal and direction. Did you hope to play Sweet Home Alabama or were you more ambitious with Stairway to Heaven in mind? Or was it Bollywood films that hooked you?
The more you listen and internalise the music, the better you will sound as you have the tune in your head as you practice. Also, without having a larger aim of playing songs you know and like, and perhaps, one day, even composing your own songs, you might be restricted to playing just the lessons from your classes. It would improve learning if you expanded your knowledge by listening and trying out new songs. Here are some popular guitar songs.
2. Maintain correct posture
If you are a beginner, you would be more comfortable sitting than standing while playing the Western guitar. But how should you sit? Not cross-legged on the floor or bed for now. You need a stool – without a backrest and without arms to allow you free movement without bumping into these contraptions of comfort. Keep your back upright (avoid hunching) and your feet should be placed firmly on the ground, not dangling.
3. Hold the guitar comfortably
Rest the guitar horizontally with its side on your lap at a close to a 90-degree angle with your upper body. If you are right-handed, the neck of the guitar will face towards your left. Your right leg will predominantly support the weight of the guitar. If you don’t feel that the guitar is propped up comfortably enough, you can use the strap even while sitting. Use your non-strumming hand to cradle the neck of the guitar. Don’t grip the guitar with your thumb too tightly as this will restrict the movement and reach of your other four fingers. As a beginner, you will be seated on a stool. If you feel some discomfort after practice, give it some time. Repeated practice will resolve these niggling aches.
You may like to watch a video on how to hold your guitar.
4. Learn the art of strumming correctly
a. Strum from the wrist rather than the elbow – It is important that you do not angle your wrists. The wrist should be in a resting state rather than in a tense position to enable you to play for a longer time and also to avoid getting injuries.
b. Strum on all strings evenly – timing is important – you could also strum only on one string and practise that till you get it right.
c. Use a pick to strum – This is particularly necessary when you play on harsher, nylon strings – playing directly with your fingers can limit progress.
5. Learn sequentially
There is so much to learn. And you might feel baffled at first – should you read up or practise? We would suggest that
- You start off with our beginner’s guide to playing the Western acoustic guitar. You can get a hold of some of the technical jargon of learning the guitar as well as familiarise yourself with different parts of the guitar and the accessories from there.
- Once you feel more at home with the instrument and commonly used terms in guitar lessons, practise fingering and technical exercises, major and minor scales, and basic chords in that order. Practising the natural notes – A, B, C, D, E, F, and G will be easiest. So, start from there and memorise the scales well as your fingers will remember the relative positions. A solid foundation can help you progress steadily and blossom when playing the guitar at home so you don’t find yourself going back and forth with lessons.
6. Practice makes perfect
Rome was not built in a day and neither were guitarists born rockstars. As with everything else in life, practice is the only secret you need to be in on as far as playing the guitar is concerned as well. There is no substitute for it.
- What should you practise? Both the theory and practical. Spend time reading the musical notations as well. Once you learn it thoroughly, you can focus more on playing.
- How much should you practise? Till you develop muscle memory – so that you can play in your sleep even! As a beginner, try 30 minutes to an hour. Increase this organically as you advance in your online guitar lessons.
7. Follow the ‘slow and steady’ mantra
There is no need to play at breakneck speed when you practise. It is important to get the accurate placement of fingers and corresponding right sounds when you strum rather than speed at first. So, prioritise the correct technique to fast fingering. Technique means using the right fingers to play certain notes and the correct combination of fingers to play chords and scales. Make sure you ace this right at the beginning. It will make a big difference in your speed as you advance in your online guitar course.
All this would be best done with online guitar classes. A good teacher will be able to correct your techniques, clarify your doubts (you might wonder if it is normal for your fingers to hurt – especially your non-strumming fingers – yes, it does hurt sometimes!), motivate you when you are feeling hopeless (it happens!), and point you in the right direction. Meet SaPa’s educators who are also performers. A great opportunity to take your guitar goals forward. Don’t miss it!
When you join SaPa, you join a family!