How Easy is Learning Guitar?
“Is playing the guitar difficult?” – a question we get asked a lot. Like everything in life, playing the guitar takes time, effort and commitment. Of course a natural ability helps, but how easy you find it really comes down to how much time you can commit.
The good news is that with a bit of time in the bank, you should start to gain traction pretty quickly. By having a structured approach to your learning and setting yourself some clear goals, there is no reason why you can’t start playing a few simple tunes almost immediately.
Sadly, most people get discouraged by not seeing progress they expect to see, or because their fingers just seem to fumble all over the place. Of course it’s going to feel like that for a little bit!
So – back to the question, how easy is it to play the guitar, what should you set your sights on, and where should you get started?
If we were to set aside three key points for the easiest path to getting going it would be these:
- Commit a small amount of time to regular practice. Enough to get things moving, but not too much so you get frustrated
- Set realistic expectations. Give yourself a clear and achievable goal for example, to be able to play a simple tune by the end of the first week
- Get a teacher / friend to *show* you the basics. Nothing can substitute face to face help when getting started
With that, here are a few really easy things to consider working on in your first few weeks of playing guitar.
Get those fingers moving…
Your fingers are your number one tool when playing guitar. At first, they are going to probably feel completely disconnected from your brain, doing everything but what you want them to!
The trick to getting control of your finger movements is to do small repetitive exercises. By doing this, you’ll start to connect up what you want to happen with what your fingers actually do. Simple repetition really is the key here.
A great simple exercise that uses all four fingers is the ‘spider exercise’ below. To start playing it, you simply play the first four notes (frets) on each string using your first to fourth fingers, and once complete move on to the next string.
It’s dead simple, and is also hugely effective at improving control:
Learn a scale
It sounds like a super dull thing to recommend, but learning a scale teaches you two things. Firstly, as with the exercise above, it’s a great repetitive exercise to get your finger control in shape. Secondly, learning the relationship between notes (and what that sounds like) will be a fundamental part of the learning process in the future.
The classic first scale to learn is the C major scale. The TAB below shows a one octave version of the scale starting on the third fret of the 5th string. When practicing the scale, try to be really disciplined with the fingers you use, only using the appropriate finger for each fret.
Keep the speed nice and steady, aim for really clear notes, and you’ll start to feel in control of your instrument pretty quickly. Again, repetition is the key:
Pick a simple song to aim for
Picking a simple tune to aim for is about setting your expectations at a realistic level. If you think you’ll be playing the Hotel California solo within a month of first picking up your guitar, then you’ll probably be disappointed (although it’s actually not all that hard!).
But what about Smoke on the Water or Seven Nation Army? Sure! Both are super easy to play and make great initial targets for a new guitar player.
Here’s the TAB for both below:
Smoke on the Water – Guitar TAB:
Seven Nation Army – Guitar TAB: