Common Questions The Guitar Factory School gets asked -
The Best Age To Start ?
Comprehension and concentration usually kick in around 8 or 9 years of age. This is a realistic early age to start - but some are able to pick it up at 6 or 7 years.
The reality is most of us start well after 8 or 9 without any real handicap. With the right motivation people can learn at any age. Our students have ranged from 6 through to the mid 80's - most adults falling within the 30 to 65 year age group.
How Long Does It Take To Play ?
For most it usually takes a few months to strum a few simple songs - but it really depends on how far down the 'rabbit hole' you want to go. It 's going to take longer to play Jazz, Classical or Metal than it does to play Nirvana or Greenday covers.
What style you choose will come along with different skill sets needed to nail it.
The more in depth you go, the more there is, it can be a life long thing but superficially, you should sound reasonably convincing after a few years.
Can I Play Without Reading Music ?
The short answer is yes ! Many think to play guitar you must learn how to read treble clef - the same notation system for violin, flute and piano (right hand). A lot are quite shocked and pleasantly surprised to realize you can learn a lot about music - theory - ear training - technique - etc.. without being a reader.
Having said that, I urge people to learn to read music if they're serious about playing the guitar as a means of opening up new options of learning, particularly music from other instruments .
Steel String or Nylon ?
Acoustic guitars fall into 2 main categories - Nylon String ( Classical ) and Steel string ( known generically as Acoustic ).
Entry level Nylon Strings are cheaper, gentler on the fingers and tend to have the same size body and neck, in other words they all feel pretty much the same. They also come in 1/2 size and 3/4 size versions - a good option for the kids.
Entry level Steel Strings are usually more expensive and have larger bodies. Some Steel Strings come straight off the shelf with thick strings which may be great for a seasoned Steel Stringer but for a beginner they'll shred the fingers to pieces. TIP- Light gauge strings give you a fighting chance and a lot less pain.
Steel String tone and volume can also vary greatly from one model to the next. They have a louder more brassy sound and are the " go to " choice for acoustic rock, pop and blues .
Bottom line - Nylon Strings are a safe bet to get going while Steel Strings have more variables to consider when starting off.
Costs and Brands ?
Okay the pointy end ! Entry Level Prices starting at
Nylon String (Classical) Guitars:- Full size @ $190 AUD Rec. - Yamaha or Katoh.
Steel String Guitars:- @ $300 AUD Rec.- Cort or LAG.
Electric Guitars:- @ $480 AUD Rec. - Cort , Yamaha or Fender.
These are all generalized prices and the recommendations aren't necessarily the lowest priced options listed but they do represent good value and quality.
Sore Fingers ?
Fretting hand fingertips get tender when first starting off - that's normal. The fingertips can blister and after time they develop callouses. These callouses buffer the fingertips against any soreness. Nylon classical guitars and electrics are initially gentler on fingertips than the average steel string.
Pick or Fingers ?
This is a broad generalization but most Rock and Metal players tend towards picks, while Classical and Fingerstyle instrumentalists (as the names suggests) use fingers. Blues, Jazz and Country players often use both.
Why not do both, that way you're more versatile - surely not a bad thing to be ?
Acoustic vs Electric ?
Many get a nylon or steel string as a stepping stone to an electric. The reasons -
Cost - The perception that outlaying for a decent acoustic is going to be less than an electric . This can be true up to a point, an entry level nylon string can be cheaper, while a respectable entry level steel string will be at least the same as a lower range electric.
Level - The perception that an electric is for more advanced players and you need to be really good on acoustic first before even thinking about an electric. This is a big misperception - it's simply not true.
Earning It - Buying an acoustic first then getting an electric as a reward for improvement. A reward orientated approach is a fair enough argument and can serve as a good bargaining chip for parents wanting to give their kids some incentive to practice.
What About Lefties ?
If you're a leftie and starting totally from scratch I would suggest playing right handed i.e. the Right hand strums or picks - the Left hand frets. It's going to feel weird anyway one way or the other but here's the rationale -
Lefties are a discriminated minority, the choice of Left Handed Cutaway model acoustics and particularly Left Handed Electrics is limited. Left Handed models that are available cost more. So it's about budget and choice into the future.
That's just my opinion and you're entitled to tell me to go jump and fly your freak flag high the way all good lefties should !
How Much Practice Should I Do ?
You're better off with mini sessions of 5 to 10 minutes a couple of times a day instead of a single 30 - 60 minute practice session. The thinking behind this is -
Concentration - concentrating over longer sessions when first starting is hard - the mind is likely to wander.
Stamina - building up finger strength takes time, trying to force it can cause strain.
Finger Memory - you're training fingers (via the nervous system) to carry out specific movements. While it's initially frustrating because the intellect understands what to do - the fingers take a little longer to obey orders. Finger memory kicks in after several weeks of rote repetition.
Small sessions of rote repetition are simply more bearable.
Do I Need A Tuner ?
An electronic tuner is a must have for both beginners and professionals . You can get clamp on tuners that attach to the headstock for acoustics and the traditional output-input units for electrics and of course mobile phone tuning apps.
What's A Metronome ?
A metronome is a time keeper that's set up to mostly create a click on each beat of a bar. The click speed - Beats Per Minute (b.p.m.) can be set to different tempos from slow (@40 b.p.m.) to fast (@200 b.p.m.).
They're a ' must have ' for people past a certain level . Get one , but only after you can put some chords and/or scales together otherwise it's just an unwelcome distraction. So if you're a beginner, get one down the track.