I started playing the guitar in about September 2008 at a very young age and since then I have garnered some wisdom through calloused fingers and the wrath of musical melodies that the guitar gods have bestowed upon me. The gods I worship in this instance are David Gilmour, BB King, a plethora of random blues musicians and David Gilmour once again, because he’s just that good.
1) Keep practicing
It sounds really simple and stupid, and perhaps quite like a butterfly telling a caterpillar that the only way to get pretty wings is to wrap yourself up in your own saliva and digest yourself inside your own cocoon. And that’s just till you learn your first scale, or if you’re a butterfly, grow your first scale. After that process comes the inevitable monotony of practicing the same thing over and over till you’ve got it down to a literal science (not a figurative one like they teach in school).
The truth is, the first year of playing the guitar is really rough, if you practice regularly for about five hours a week, which you should to become proeficient enough to play songs and not end up being the bass player in your band. Your fingers will hurt quite a bit and you’re going to have to spend money replacing strings every month when the B string breaks for no reason when you try to bend little E (which will happen atleast 20 times in your lifetime) .
2) Recognise when to make a fool of yourself
The bane of every guitar player’s existence is the violent fervour at a semi-drunk party when you’re the only guy with a guitar and there’s 17 girls and 133 guys telling you to play Wonderwall. Oh, damn, you think. You’ve never even heard Wonderwall, though you know the song has something to do with Coldplay or something like that and your other guitar-playing friends hate it.
But hey, there’s still a chance that that one girl who smiled at you for two seconds at the bus stop last year might like Wonderwall, and she’s here at the party, so you might as well. At this point it would really be helpful if you whipped out your phone from your heavily pocketed cargo shorts and looked up the chords for it. “Sing along, guys, I’m not very good at singing,” is what you say, before you play E minor and G major really loudly, bleeting the lyrics at the top of your voice. At that point you have gotten approximately 67% of the party to sing Wonderwall so your job is just to look good and ocassionally strum a not-discordant chord.
3) Learn to read music
A lot of guitarists I know can’t read tabs. So that’s the first place you should start because it’s really easy. The number = the fret, and the strings are visually represented. Once you get a feel of what playing using tabs is like, you can imagine the rest of the song in your head when reading a few numbers, which on the coolness spectrum is somewhere between building an ikea desk yourself and painting a raven using brown paint only.
Classical musical notation is very helpful too, though it’s not used that much if you’re not playing… well, classical music. If you know any good piano players you’ll be good to go for a collaboration since the only thing piano players can do is read sheet music. Also they can only play either Fur Elise or London Bridge, so impressing them with your knowledge about the next point will be easy.
4) Engross yourself with music theory
If you’re an entry level guitarist like a Micromax mobile then you probably have no clue what music theory is, but sadly to get really good you need to understand some arbitrary words invented by either literally prehistoric people or Catholic priests in the middle ages spreading propaganda across Europe through choir recitals. Knowing the ‘Circle of Fifths’ is the key to knowing which, uh, key to play songs in. You can then move on to the Cycle of Fourths, and no, these are not demonic cults or Black Sabbath albums.
The way I got around to understanding a little bit about music theory was motivating myself to create new music. In the back of my mind I knew that Pink Floyd sounded good and that David Gilmour loved playing in the key of B Minor, but if I wanted to compose my own song in that key I would end up having to learn some theory to understand which chords go well together, and where I can ensconce things like harmonics. If you’re playing lead guitar knowing music theory is vital to understand the different modes, which is a prerequisite to reach school band level playing.
5) Form a band (and find a drummer)
Nothing screams bad guitarist like not having bad guitarists around you to call your collective selves a ‘band’. Saying you’re in a band is a lot better than saying ‘me and my mates know some chords so we get together on Saturday afternoons and strum some stuff before we give up and watch football’. A band is instrumental in becoming good at a musical instrument. More so for a guitarist, because it helps them boost their ego by not being the worst at guitar (that’d be the bassist).
Aside from being bassist racist, you should be looking for a drummer, because that species of musician is more rare than a proper poet in arts college. Drummers will help you keep the beat and play an instrument called the drums, because at this point I’m done with the article and just wasting words on describing what a drummer does to fill an imaginary quota.