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Learning the guitar/ukulele

mora1mora1 Registered User regular
edited September 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
So, for the longest time I've always wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument. I inherited a guitar from my mom and I actually received a ukulele as a gift a while ago. I have absolutely zero technical musical knowledge and the extent of my experience playing a musical instrument is rocking out on the recorder back in fourth grade.

I've heard that playing the ukulele is pretty easy if you already know how to play the guitar (not sure if that's accurate or not), so I figured I would just go for two birds with one stone here. Also, it's pretty handy that I already own both instruments.

Anyway, I have a couple basic questions that I was hoping to get some help with.

I think before I get started with the actual hands on learning I would first like to learn some of the basic theory and technical aspects. Is there a good book I could read, or perhaps something online that I can use to help me understand what the hell I am actually doing (preferably something not too dry)? Let me reiterate that I have no knowledge beyond being able to identify that what I own is, indeed, a guitar. Kinda like when a two year old sees a cat and says, "cat!", or a dog and says, "dog!"; I'm at "guitar!".

Once I have a decent grasp of the basics could I actually teach myself how to play? Or, is it just generally better and less painful if I take lessons from someone?

I don't know if this makes a difference or not, but I'm left handed. Does being left handed change anything in regards to the guitaring process?

That's all I can come up with for now. I appreciate any sort of help anyone can offer. Also, if you have any sort of advice or general info that would be very helpful too.

mora1 on

Posts

  • RookRook Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I learnt most of the basics from www.justinguitar.com it's a good site, and you can certainly go a long way just with online lessons I think.

    As for being left handed, you might be slightly screwed if you have a right handed guitar. I think your first step is finding that out. (is the biggest string at the top if you're holding it with the neck pointing out to your left). If it is a right handed guitar, you'll probably need to take it to a shop to get it fixed, or think about swapping it/ trading it in for a more suitable guitar.

    Rook on
  • TrentusTrentus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Rook wrote: »
    As for being left handed, you might be slightly screwed if you have a right handed guitar. I think your first step is finding that out. (is the biggest string at the top if you're holding it with the neck pointing out to your left). If it is a right handed guitar, you'll probably need to take it to a shop to get it fixed, or think about swapping it/ trading it in for a more suitable guitar.

    Can't you just like... rotate it 180° and then change the order of the strings?

    Disclaimer: Not a guitarist.

    Trentus on
  • KlorgnumKlorgnum Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    mora1 wrote: »
    I think before I get started with the actual hands on learning I would first like to learn some of the basic theory and technical aspects. Is there a good book I could read, or perhaps something online that I can use to help me understand what the hell I am actually doing (preferably something not too dry)? Let me reiterate that I have no knowledge beyond being able to identify that what I own is, indeed, a guitar. Kinda like when a two year old sees a cat and says, "cat!", or a dog and says, "dog!"; I'm at "guitar!".
    For music theory, try http://musictheory.net/
    For actually playing, give www.justinguitar.com a try like Rook said. Also check out www.guitarnoise.com
    Once I have a decent grasp of the basics could I actually teach myself how to play? Or, is it just generally better and less painful if I take lessons from someone?

    Yes and yes. It is possible to teach yourself to play. Lots of people have done it. It's also easier to get lessons and have someone that knows what they're doing help you out.
    I don't know if this makes a difference or not, but I'm left handed. Does being left handed change anything in regards to the guitaring process?
    It's up to you how you want to learn. Left handed guitars exist, but they're more expensive and somewhat less common than righties, so I'd recommend just learning right-handed (The neck should be in your left hand when you're playing). It's possible to convert a guitar to left-handed by flipping the bridge around and restringing it, or simply flipping it over, but these are both going to make it somewhat harder to learn.
    That's all I can come up with for now. I appreciate any sort of help anyone can offer. Also, if you have any sort of advice or general info that would be very helpful too.

    If it's a steel string guitar (the alternative is nylon strings), your fingertips are going to hurt when you start playing. It takes about a month to build callouses on your fingertips, so stick with it and don't give up. Once you get the callouses, you wont feel any more pain.

    Klorgnum on
  • RookRook Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Trentus wrote: »
    Rook wrote: »
    As for being left handed, you might be slightly screwed if you have a right handed guitar. I think your first step is finding that out. (is the biggest string at the top if you're holding it with the neck pointing out to your left). If it is a right handed guitar, you'll probably need to take it to a shop to get it fixed, or think about swapping it/ trading it in for a more suitable guitar.

    Can't you just like... rotate it 180° and then change the order of the strings?

    Disclaimer: Not a guitarist.

    You've basically got two problems. The first is the nut (the bit the strings in near the head stock), the grooves in them are generally cut for specific strings, so the groove the bass string (low E) at the top is much larger than the groove for the top treble string (high e). If you swap those around the bass string will like not fit and float above it, and the treble string will be so far down you'll be buzzing off the frets.

    The other problem is the bridge (the bit the strings sit in, at the body of the guitar. Too make sure notes change by exactly half a semi-tone at each fret, the string length needs to be adjusted so it's exactly right (intonation). Some guitars have adjustable bridges so you might be ok. Many acoustic guitars do not. So this means as you start playing notes and chords up the fret board they'll rapidly go out of tune.

    You may be lucky and not have these problems (I do recall my brother restringing a guitar just so he could learn to play left handed as well as right, but I can't remember what guitar he did that on).

    Rook on
  • KlorgnumKlorgnum Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Trentus wrote: »
    Rook wrote: »
    As for being left handed, you might be slightly screwed if you have a right handed guitar. I think your first step is finding that out. (is the biggest string at the top if you're holding it with the neck pointing out to your left). If it is a right handed guitar, you'll probably need to take it to a shop to get it fixed, or think about swapping it/ trading it in for a more suitable guitar.

    Can't you just like... rotate it 180° and then change the order of the strings?

    Disclaimer: Not a guitarist.

    You can, but it will need some extra adjustments. You'd need to take it to a tech, unless you know what you're doing.

    Also, there are a number of successful left-handed guitarists that play right handed.
    Like Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)
    Herman Li (Dragonforce)
    Joe Perry (Aerosmith)

    Klorgnum on
  • mora1mora1 Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Thanks for the links, they look like they will be very helpful.

    Rook: Yeah, it's a right handed guitar.

    Klorgnum: I think it will probably be better if I just try to learn left handed for now. If I actually get good at it I'll definitely try to learn how to play right handed as well. I priced some lefty guitars online and they don't seem too terrible, $40+. Also, what's the difference between steel strings vs nylon?



    I don't really want to modify my mom's guitar if I can help it. I don't have a problem buying a cheap one to learn on. If I did that would any guitar pretty much do or is there something specific I should be looking for?

    mora1 on
  • KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I'm left handed and I've never had a problem with playing right handed guitar. In fact, I'm still unsure as to why it's considered "right-handed" other than that rightys have all learned how to play it. The fingering hand is the left hand, so if you're better with your left it's not going to be a problem. you'll need R.H. control for picking and fingerpicking, but playing R.H. guitar as a lefty really isn't a problem, and it allows you to have more flexibility with guitars.

    Also, it's not a case of "I'll learn LH and once I'm good I'll learn RH too!" That's.... well it's pointless, and it's not the way it works. You'll serve yourself much better just picking a hand and learning it that way. If you already have a R.H. guitar unless you can't use your left hand(I have a friend who injured her left hand and couldn't play righty anymore, so relearned as a lefty), why not try it? Guitar is a really easy instrument to learn, and playing the guitar you have is a lot cheaper than buying a new one. Also getting a cheap guitar might not be a good idea...especially if you're ordering online(Don't ever buy a guitar online. Ever. Go to a store) my first electric had a problem where one of the frets on the 1st string was a little off where it should've been and the string would catch on it. Stupid that guitar.


    Also, you can self-teach. I'm self-taught on guitar, and the best guitarist I know is self-taught on guitar. However, we're also both music majors on different instruments. Also, I had help from my father who, before going psychology, was a classical guitar major his first year of college. Lessons do more than teach you just how to play the instrument, they also give you feedback on what you're doing to make sure you're doing it right, and they make sure you're not going to hurt yourself. Self-teaching is a lot harder, especially if you're coming from no musical experience. I've run into a lot of self-taught guitarists who don't know very, very basic things about playing. They'll sound ok when playing things they know, but they can't learn things, or they can't do simple techniques, or they don't know how to hold a pick, or any number of other things that you really need to have some way of checking how you're doing to make sure you can do it. I was halfway through playing a gig before I learned how to properly hold a pick, because I had an artificial harmonic in the music, and between nights of the performance I went to learn how to do that, and realized that oh shit that's how it works. I still rarely alt-pick while playing lead unless it's fast enough that I need to because I didn't learn alt-picking at first... something lessons would've helped so much. You can learn without lessons, but you'll either have a lot more work or need to get lessons eventually if you end up really wanting to learn how to play it.

    The bottom line with lessons is that:
    Lessons are and always will be the best way to learn an instrument. If you can, take lessons. Even if you just have a friend who plays guitar(who actually plays guitar, not who can almost play stairway poorly) who can help teach you, find time to do that. Again, lessons aren't the only way to learn an instrument, but they are the best.

    Also, if the guitar is a classical guitar, you'll want to use nylon, and if it's a steel-string you'll want steel strings. Also all electrics are going to be steel. You can tell if it's a classical many ways, but the biggest way for the non-guitarists is the headstock.
    Classical guitars look like this
    RAM125_headstock-front.jpg
    Steel-strings look like this
    MBP100T_headstock-front.jpg

    Also, if you want to learn rock guitar, playing on a classical is going to be a little weird, because the neck is wider and flat. It's not a big thing, but it'd be an adjustment(I started as rock, and after 3 years of it learned classical... wasn't the most natural transition and it felt a little weird, but it certainly wasn't a roadblock).

    So in conclusion: You really don't need to worry about learning guitar R.H, I would at least give it a try if you already have an R.H guitar. Never buy a guitar online. Take lessons if you can.

    Khavall on
  • KlorgnumKlorgnum Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    First, I agree 100% with everything Khavall said.
    mora1 wrote: »
    I priced some lefty guitars online and they don't seem too terrible, $40+.

    $40 for a guitar? No. Just... no. It's more than likely a piece of crap. I wouldn't spend under $200 on an acoustic, and even that's going to be iffy. If it's badly put together, it'll sound bad, or be hard to play, or both. Either of these things is really going to sap any interest you have in learning (especially if you go the self teaching route and have to rely on yourself to stay motivated). Don't buy a guitar anywhere that isn't a music store, either (well, maybe a pawn shop, but only if you know what you're doing).

    I don't understand why learning to play 'right handed' would be a problem for you. For most guitar playing (classical and fingerstyle excluded), it's the left hand that does the most intricate work. It's the left hand you want to be strong and dextrous. Who's good at using their left hand? A lefty! It seems to me like it could be an advantage for the early part of learning.
    If I did that would any guitar pretty much do or is there something specific I should be looking for?
    You should be looking for a good guitar. Go to a music store and ask for help. While there are plenty of overpriced guitars out there, "You get what you pay for" is pretty true at the low end of things.
    Also, what's the difference between steel strings vs nylon?

    Steel strings are made of steel and nylon strings are made of nylon. :P (actually, 'steel string' guitars are most often strung with phosphor bronze strings, which I don't think are technically steel. They're still called steel strings though)

    Seriously though, nylon strings have much less tension and wont hurt a newbies fingers as much to play. They sound significantly different then steel strings, and are much less common in popular music. If your guitar has nylon strings on it, DO NOT put steel strings on it. You'll wreck the instrument. I'm not sure if you could go the other way around. I'm not sure it would sound that great.
    You can tell if your guitar has steel or nylon strings by looking at it. If they're nylon, the treble (skinniest) strings will look like thick fishing line. The lower strings might look like they're made of metal, but they're just wire wrapped around a nylon core.

    Klorgnum on
  • MrMonroeMrMonroe passed out on the floor nowRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    learn to use a chord wheel:
    51E3SN8AXRL.jpg

    it allows you to see, at a glance, all the chords in any given key and how they relate to each other

    if you can figure out the musical principle it is based on, you can play rock music

    MrMonroe on
  • KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    learn to use a chord wheel:
    51E3SN8AXRL.jpg

    it allows you to see, at a glance, all the chords in any given key and how they relate to each other

    if you can figure out the musical principle it is based on, you can play rock music

    What the fuck is that shit, why is it all colored, and fucking wheel what the hell.

    In my day we didn't need any multi-colored wheels. We had to do theory uphill in the snow 10 miles with just our minds and by god we liked it.


    Seriously though, that seems really useful for really simple things, but I can't help but notice that if that's all you're using it's a little limiting and saves like a week of learning theory.

    Khavall on
  • mora1mora1 Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Khavall: I think I will look for someone to take lessons from. Justinguitar has been awesome so far, but having someone to help me in person would be great.
    Klorgnum wrote: »
    $40 for a guitar? No. Just... no. It's more than likely a piece of crap. I wouldn't spend under $200 on an acoustic, and even that's going to be iffy. If it's badly put together, it'll sound bad, or be hard to play, or both. Either of these things is really going to sap any interest you have in learning (especially if you go the self teaching route and have to rely on yourself to stay motivated). Don't buy a guitar anywhere that isn't a music store, either (well, maybe a pawn shop, but only if you know what you're doing).

    Yeah, I spent today looking over the information on justinguitar. I don't think I'll be wasting any money on a 40 dollar guitar anytime soon :P.
    Klorgnum wrote: »
    I don't understand why learning to play 'right handed' would be a problem for you.

    I don't think it will be either. I messed around with the guitar I have today and I think if I wanted to I could play it fine using my right hand. I have to say that I felt a lot more comfortable using my left though.
    Klorgnum wrote: »
    For most guitar playing (classical and fingerstyle excluded), it's the left hand that does the most intricate work. It's the left hand you want to be strong and dextrous. Who's good at using their left hand? A lefty! It seems to me like it could be an advantage for the early part of learning.

    I'm not really sure what this is, bolded part in particular.
    Klorgnum wrote: »
    You should be looking for a good guitar. Go to a music store and ask for help. While there are plenty of overpriced guitars out there, "You get what you pay for" is pretty true at the low end of things.

    Yeah, I think my decision right now is whether or not I want to stick with the guitar I have now (gibson classical guitar) or buy a "lefty" guitar. Then, if I did that, I'd need to find a solid guitar to start learning on.



    I really appreciate the help so far, guys. I've learned a lot over the last day or two.

    mora1 on
  • KlorgnumKlorgnum Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    mora1 wrote: »
    Klorgnum wrote: »
    For most guitar playing (classical and fingerstyle excluded), it's the left hand that does the most intricate work. It's the left hand you want to be strong and dextrous. Who's good at using their left hand? A lefty! It seems to me like it could be an advantage for the early part of learning.

    I'm not really sure what this is, bolded part in particular.

    Fingerstyle
    Classical
    It's kind of an arbitrary distinction, but you could say that classical technique is much stricter than fingerstyle (which has typically has some folk/country music connotations).
    Klorgnum wrote: »
    You should be looking for a good guitar. Go to a music store and ask for help. While there are plenty of overpriced guitars out there, "You get what you pay for" is pretty true at the low end of things.

    Yeah, I think my decision right now is whether or not I want to stick with the guitar I have now (gibson classical guitar) or buy a "lefty" guitar. Then, if I did that, I'd need to find a solid guitar to start learning on.

    Stick with what you have. Assuming it's in good repair, it'll be fine to learn on. Gibson makes high quality instruments. There's a good chance that what you have isn't just a beginners guitar.

    Klorgnum on
  • IogaIoga Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    For ukulele - there's not a huge difference between playing a ukulele and playing a ukulele well. It's tiny and easy to hold, so just tune it up, sit around and play. It's very fun and not much work.

    Ioga on
  • MrMonroeMrMonroe passed out on the floor nowRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Khavall wrote: »
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    learn to use a chord wheel:
    51E3SN8AXRL.jpg

    it allows you to see, at a glance, all the chords in any given key and how they relate to each other

    if you can figure out the musical principle it is based on, you can play rock music

    What the fuck is that shit, why is it all colored, and fucking wheel what the hell.

    In my day we didn't need any multi-colored wheels. We had to do theory uphill in the snow 10 miles with just our minds and by god we liked it.


    Seriously though, that seems really useful for really simple things, but I can't help but notice that if that's all you're using it's a little limiting and saves like a week of learning theory.

    it's a beginner's tool, clearly

    which is what the OP is

    the point is that you get one of these, use it for a while, figure out the principle behind it, and boom

    you know how to use the circle of fifths and you can basically throw the thing away and apply the principle without using it

    MrMonroe on
  • mora1mora1 Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Yeah, man, I'll take all the help I can get!

    Anyway, I'm going to get new strings for my guitar, then I'm going to look for someone to take guitar lessons from. I just wanted to say thanks again for those of you who helped me out. It definitely gave me a solid starting point and I'm really looking forward to learning how to play.

    mora1 on
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