Should I start on electric or acoustic?

A question I often get asked by beginners is whether to start on an electric or acoustic guitar.

Whether you start on an acoustic or electric guitar will depend on a few things:

  • The sort of music you wish to play
  • Budget

In terms of whether you should start on an electric or an acoustic your first consideration should be: which one will help me play the music that I want to play? If you want to play rock and lead guitar solos then electric is the way to go. If your favourite artists use acoustics, then you will need one to replicate that sound. It used to be that people started out on an acoustic before progressing onto an electric. The guitar market is now flooded with low cost electrics, which means some people skip out learning on acoustic. The one downside of starting out on electric is you may find it harder playing acoustic later on. Below is a summary of the pros and cons of acoustics vs electrics.

steel

 

Steel strung acoustic

Pros:

  • There is an abundance of cheap models
  • No need for any other equipment eg. Amplifiers
  • Great for fingerpicking
  • Steel string acoustics have a nice and bright sound (more so than a nylon strung guitar).
  • Harder to play lead guitar on (guitar solos)
  • Strings are slightly tougher on the fingers than electric guitar strings. You therefore have to apply more pressure to sound a note than on an electric guitar
Nylon strung acoustic Pros:

  • Again, there are plenty of cheap models available
  • Strings are soft on the fingers and require less pressure than a steel strung guitar
  • Good for fingerpicking/classical
  • No need for any other equipment
Cons:

  • These guitars have quite a mellow tone, on cheaper examples this could be described as ‘dull’!
  • They have quite a wide neck radius to get your hands around
  • Changing the strings on a nylon guitar is a bit fiddly
Electric Guitar

 

 

Pros:

  • Less pressure is required to play notes, meaning it is easier than an acoustic guitar.
  • Neck radius isn’t as large , which for some people makes it easier to play
  • Work better for guitar solos than acoustic.
Cons:

  • You will need some additional equipment ( a lead, amplifier and strap)
  • Depending on what you buy, can be a bit more expensive than starting on acoustic.
  • You may find it hard to play acoustic if you start on an electric as you won’t be used to the required pressure needed to play notes.

Fingerstyle guitar: pinch picking

Here is another example of the kind of materials I use with students in lessons.  I will often devise an etude/exercise to focus on a particular technique, as it not always possible to find songs that cover what’s needed.

This exercise is designed to improve a student’s pinch picking. This when to notes are played at the same time with the right hand in fingerstyle guitar. It is often the thumb and either the middle or index finger. Below is the etude and pinch pick exercises.

Pinch pattern ex

Pinch Pick Etude 1

If you’re interested in learning the guitar and you are in the Stroud area (Gloucestershire), then get in touch to arrange your free introductory lesson

stroudguitar@gmail.com

How to approach learning a song

notes

 

One of the skills I often find myself teaching is how to approach learning a song from notation/tab. Take the wrong approach and you can end up frustrated and wondering why a piece of music is eluding you. Before diving into a piece of music I would suggest the following strategies:

  1. Listen to the piece of music several times. This is particularly important if the song has any tricky rhythms. If there are different versions of the song by other artists then listen to them also. You may also find it useful to find out more about the band/songwriter and the context in which the song was written. This may help you put the required feeling into playing the piece.
  2. Divide the piece up into sections. Learning a piece in chunks is a proven way to commit something to memory.  Some music will have titles for each section eg. section A,B,C etc or Verse, Chorus. If this hasn’t been done for you then look for double bar lines. Double bar lines are used to indicate the end of a section. Once you have done this take it section by section.
  3. Isolate any technically difficult parts. A phrase might be a bit quick for you or have a challenging rhythm, whatever the difficulty isolate such passages and practice them independent of the piece. If possible play them to a metronome and gradually increase the speed by no more than 5bpm. If you have the technology you could also slow down the recording and loop it. Picking is often the main barrier to the effective playing of a lead guitar parts, make sure you’ve opted for the optimum picking pattern.
  4. Look at the notation as well as the tab. If both notation and tab are present then you need to look at both. Tab is a very accessible but limited method for writing music. Ideally you should be looking to the tab to guide you on rhythm and expressive techniques/dynamics.
  5. Deal with frustration positively. Instead of feeling like giving up, ask questions to help you overcome problems. If you can’t execute a passage at speed or keep making mistakes, then ask what technical issues could be the cause of the problem rather than allowing negative self-talk to fill your head.
  6. Perform! Practice performing it at home or record it to listen back to.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all fellow guitar players out there! I always find this time of year is a great time to take stock of progress and thrash out a new practice routine. Part of my teaching involves guiding students on how to practice effectively. A lot of musicians learn the hard way! Less can sometimes be more, and more often than not we find ourselves running over material we’re already comfortable with or rushing through new material. If you’re looking for guitar lessons in the Stroud (Gloucestershire) area I have limited spaces for 2014, so get in touch! Best of luck achieving your musical goals in 2014.

Guitar for Sale

Before it heads onto Ebay, thought I’d put it out there that I am selling one of my guitars.

I’m selling my Hofner H17 contemporary series archtop. I’ve had this for 2 years now, and have only gigged it a handful of times. It’s in fantastic condition and is currently setup with flatwounds.  It’s in a stunning red finish. Below is a picture.  I am looking for £350 for this guitar. For further info email me at: stroudguitar@gmail.com

If you’d like to try before you buy you are more than welcome to pop round.  I do teach jazz guitar, so if you’re into jazz in the Stroud/Dursley/Nailsworth area then feel free to enquire about lessons too.

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Local Guitar Shops: Dursley

In my recent post about local guitar shops I neglected to include Intersound Guitars in Dursley. I’ve not managed to make it over there yet, but heard good things about the shop from students. Their website is: http://intersoundguitars.co.uk/

In this age of internet shopping I think buying a guitar is one item you can’t buy without trying. You need to feel the playability, size of the instrument and also the sound. If you are looking for guitar lessons in the Stroud/ 5 valleys area in Gloucestershire and need some advice on what guitar to get as a beginner then I offer this kind of advice to students. Most guitar shops are friendly places and will also offer help and guidance when buying your first guitar!