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Introduction to Guitar (coursera.org)
205 points by interconnector on Mar 30, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 109 comments



I have this deeper in the thread, but I'll repeat myself: go take a good look at http://justinguitar.com/ He offers beginners [1] and intermediate course [2], technical stuff, jazz staff and much more. There you will also find recommendations on how to learn, what and how to practice. Justin has been teaching guitar for a long time so he knows what's important, what people struggle with and what to pay attention to. You will also find some songbooks for purchase and some free video lessons to accompany them. Highly recommended. No affiliation :)

[1] http://justinguitar.com/en/BC-000-BeginnersCourse.php [2] http://justinguitar.com/en/IM-000-IntermediateMethod.php


This is the definitive site if you want to learn guitar.

And it's not another scammy website where you have 2 free videos and then have to pay for everything else, or where you're promised to learn the secret technique that will make you play faster than Satriani in 2 weeks... Just take a look at the lesson index: http://justinguitar.com/en/AA-000-LessonIndex.php (all these are free except the PR category).

By all means though, if you like the lessons, consider buying stuff to support him!


Agreed, I like justinguitar a lot. If this is all this guy ever does, he's improved the world.


I would second this. justinguitar.com is a great resource for learning the guitar.


Is there an equivalent for piano?


Applicable for many here on HN: for analytical, curious thinkers learning any instrument, I recommend the following approach in combination with other resources:

Learn and play simple chords (e.g. take a-minor on a guitar), and then identify the individual notes that are played by using any fretboard diagram or guitar chord finder app.

Obviously chords are not magic but consist mainly of a root note, a third and a fifth (look up "minor chords" and "major chords" if needed). You can find other occurences of the relevant notes all over the fretboard and make your own chords or at least understand what you are doing.

Example: For example, check out "Drive" from Incubus. What the heck is the guitarist playing at the beginning and how did he ever come up with that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpwsuhOUAkk

You can check out what he plays here and identify the names of the first notes: http://www.songsterr.com/a/wsa/incubus-drive-tab-s327t0

It's just another way to play e-minor!

The intros to Stairway to heaven, Nothing else matters, Bach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6haO4rO7rk? That's all just chord notes played one by one. Don't hesitate, compose a legendary rock ballad intro TODAY!

I'm writing that because most teachers and students feel that this is too theoretical and complicated, and the classicaly trained musicians I know read their sheet music, but don't usually identify nor instantly recognize the chord that they're in while playing Vivaldi either.

I found it really helpful to understand that all that wonderful music is made of basic bulding blocks that I can understand and play, and it's a nice excercise that you can do while your hands recover from those little beginner muscular cramps or pain in the finger tips cut by steel strings.

Then however switch it all off and just play :-)


Yes, I find a lot of guitar books and training to be quite weird and backwards with all the classical stuff, notes etc. A lot of extra stuff is piled on that is just fluff. People with just some basic analytical skills could learn a lot, if taught a little differently, about how the structures work instead of the endless "push this string here". Maybe it's because the tradition is just to play music other people wrote, not to compose it yourself. That seems to be even worse with piano. At least people are expected to have some skill in improvising solos with guitar...


One good and obscure pamphlet (basically) for this: http://www.amazon.com/Fretboard-Logic-Reasoning-Behind-Guita...

Any other recommendations in this vain?


Justin has a series of videos on the fretboard organization [1]. From looking at the contents of the linked book, I think it covers similar material. And he sells an ebook Chord Construction Guide [2].

[1] http://www.justinguitar.com/en/TB-030-CAGEDsystemVid.php

[2] http://www.justinguitar.com/en/PR-011-ChordConstructionGuide...


Really? No appearance from Zed Shaw? This is like a perfect storm of his interests.


Does it show you how to write a web server?


Zed Shaw does other stuff besides programming you know...


Which guitar model would the community recommend to a beginner who is used only to computer keyboards ;-). Can we start with an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar will work better for learning.


I may sound counterintuitive, but if you really want to learn, I'd recommend a high-end acoustic guitar for the following reasons:

- you make a big investment (upwards of $2000) and it motivates you not to give up

- it sounds good, it looks good, it even smells good (rosewood, mahogany, spruce, ebony - that kind of thing). If you're into guitars (or simply beautiful things) it's hard to put down and you find yourself spending more time with it than you'd initially planned. And that's the single best thing for getting better at it :)

- you get no excuse (like, "it's not the real thing, it sucks, that's why it doesn't sound right even after many hours of practice"); it helps to remove doubts and concentrate on practicing

- if nothing else, it will make a decent long-term investment (high-end guitars tend to depreciate in the first years after the purchase and appreciate afterward). Some people even claim that it's a better investment than real estate, but I don't know about that

Ask somebody to play it for you, ask their opinion of how easy it is to play, have it set up by a good guitar technician... And keep on picking :)

Also, somebody mentioned justinguitar.com; it is a great site; the guy is a great teacher and a wonderful guitar player. It's got a bunch of theory lessons, but also lessons where Justin picks apart famous guitar songs and teaches you to play them in a "dumb" way - some might say it's cheating, but it surely helps to keep the fire burning when you can learn a tune or two without pulling your hair out trying to transcribe without the required experience (it's very hard, although that's what every guitar player should try to learn eventually).


'you make a big investment (upwards of $2000) and it motivates you not to give up'

I've been playing semi-pro for quite a while, and In My Opinion, this is just as likely to fail as help. Also, I've never owned a guitar that cost more than 700 (except my Tom Anderson Tele which I inherited). And I have a lot of guitars and play quite a bit.

I've seen guys do that -- buy a really expensive Taylor or Larivee or some Guitar Center Shiny and then stare at it with guilt for the next five years, unable to part with it and admit defeat, nor pick it up and practice because it reminds them how much time they've wasted not working with this beautiful neglected instrument.

My advice: buy a serviceable, good acoustic. Find a real musician friend if you have one, a real guitar nut and take him/her to the pawn shops, and as a last resort even Guitar Center (LAST resort) and have him pick something out for you. And stay under 600 bucks for the love of God.

Then a year or two later, when you've decided that you love this guitar thing and want to get serious, you'll spend that 2K+ far, far better -- you'll know to avoid the glossy Taylor-ish nonsense and get a nice LG-1 or LG-2 (I've seen 60s models pop up at pawns shops for < 1500$, seriously twice in the last year) or a nice 70s Martin with creamy-sparkly high ends, warm and well-defined lows, and a gorgeous, aged-in finish that you will sit and stare at with pride for the next 25 years.


Taylor makes great guitars for most people. Sure, not everybody is going to like them (esp. Martin freaks), but they are high-quality and playable, which is why they're so popular.


I'm just burnt out on that sound. To my ears they lack personality and expressiveness. They have a full sound, they're radio-friendly and they "play like an electric!" so I get why they're so popular and why so many new guitarists walk out of Guitar Center with one, but to me they're the Yellow Tail Shiraz of acoustic guitars.


A lot of people play Taylors for a reason. I agree they've flooded the market in 2013, but even 10 or 15 years ago, that wasn't the case. Back then, the CW was that what you said above applied to Martin (don't misunderstand-- I love Martins for what they represent, too). It's the guitar circle of life. Some people just wanna be different and don't want to play what everybody else is playing. I get that, but ten years from now it won't be Taylor, it will be some other maker. It's the nature of the business.


Enh...the thing is, a $300 Fender acoustic sounds good enough that you can get away with playing shows on it - you probably shouldn't, but you absolutely can. As a beginner, you're really not going to appreciate the difference between that and a high end model anyways, so why spend more?

If you're the type that needs to blow money to feel motivated, sure, you can do better, but there's a lot to be said for learning to sound good on a shitty instrument before you are good enough that spending more will actually make you sound better. That's how most pros start out...


A $300 Fender acoustic is going to frustrate a beginner. They're crap, with low QC. A beginner would be better off getting a playable electric or waiting until they can spend around $1500-$2k and get themselves a playable acoustic.


I agree that I probably wouldn't go with Fender low-end (they are crap), but there's plenty of good bargains in the 300-400 range that won't frustrate a beginner. There's probably 4 or 5 Epiphone, Seagull, Alvarez or Ibanez low/mid-range guitars hanging up at your local pawn/small guitar shop right now. Even some old Harmonys, Kays or Silvertones can work out real well, depending on the guitar. My favorite acoustic to play right now is my '53 Kay arch top that I picked up for $400.


I like this advice, but I don't necessarily believe that it has to be a high end guitar. My first real guitar was a Seagull Cedar Maritime, and it's basically what I taught myself on. I like it for a number of reasons, namely

- It's pretty cheap. The SWS models can get up there (and I've since picked one up) but you can get a decent Seagull for under $500, and it won't break the bank.

- Seagulls generally have wider nut widths, which gives a little more breathing room between the strings, and is great for finger style and the 'fat finger' feeling new guitarists have.

- They sound AMAZING. For my last guitar, I was dead set on buying a Taylor 514CE, but playing it side by side next to Martins and solid body Seagulls, I ended up getting another Seagull. Obviously, this is as subjective as the ongoing 'Martin vs Taylor' holy war, but I took a neutral party to blind listen to me playing so as to mitigate the confirmation bias, and they picked the Seagull too (though obviously, I was more keen on the Seagull architecture, which I'm sure did bias things).

All that aside, I don't think I got really serious about learning guitar until I ultimately picked myself up a Les Paul (per your advice) to effectively "get more skin in the game", as well as to know that whatever mistakes I made were mine, and couldn't be blamed on the guitar.

Also, in addition to justinguitar.com, I would add Marty Schwartz, who has a Youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/guitarjamzdotcom.

He teaches a lot of beginner level, few-chord songs that people know and recognize, and even though I know that it's a Youtube video, and not interactive, the videos are recorded with a great deal of patience.


I'm also a big fan of Marty Schwartz's, and I've learned a lot of great Blues licks and soloing techniques from him. Most recently I've been working on combining major and minor pentatonic licks and runs into my improvisations, and I'm loving my progress. Thanks Marty!

I love YouTube, I really do, besides great resources like justinguitar and Mary Schwartz, there are a huge number of excellent backing tracks you can use improvise over, here are a few of my favorite favorites

Happy Blues in E (great for mixing major/minor pentatonic) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dxo2bEX45KI

Acoustic Rock Style Backing Track - D Major http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohbtYFRe-xc

Marty teaching 'Fly me to the moon' (great jazz standard) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lr3fa1NDVB4


Second the vote for Seagull. I'm pretty sure they're all made with solid tops, but are still affordable (last time I looked starting in the $300 range. I think you need a "good enough" guitar that will stay in tune properly and sound decent, but that doesn't need to be a $2000 guitar. There are a bunch of big brands that fit this, but I think the Seagulls are some of the ones that don't feel cheap while actually being affordable.

EDIT: for those not aware, a solid top is preferred to a plywood top for tonal quality. Most of the cheaper guitars use a plywood top. That said, a lot of plywood tops sound pretty good these days, but I tend to be a purist in these sorts of things so greatly prefer the solid tops. :)


Completely agreed. My first acoustic was a "made in Cambodia" Fender that wasn't horrible, but really didn't compare well to pretty much any other guitar of any quality.

My second purchase was aiming for something with a solid top, and the tonal quality was apparent from the very first note I played.

My third purchase was aimed at getting a solid body guitar, which is trickier because there isn't necessarily a noticeable difference between a guitar with a laminate body and one with a solid body, though you can certainly find guitars that sound different, neither is clearly better (by sound) on a new guitar.

That said, as I'm told, the tone of a solid body guitar will age, like wine, and sound better and better over time, so long as it's taken care of. A laminate will, at best, stay the same, and more likely will dull over time.

This (and nostalgia, history, etc.) is the reason old, good guitars tend to fetch so much money, because they were likely made from great stock to begin with, and have since aged to sound even better. (I say with only anecdotal evidence).


That's like buying a Porsche to learn how to drive. Sure, you can drive it around, look cool and feel good but you won't know what to do when you break something.

Also, you're going to sound like shit if you're forced to play a cheap, badly setup guitar. (oh-this-guitar-sucks-so-i-cant-play is a terrible excuse, trust me.)

Another reason why I think this is a bad idea - you have no idea what kind of guitar you want when you're starting out. You dont know what wood you want, if you want humbuckers or single coils, floating or fixed bridge. You don't want to buy a 5000$ custom shop Les Paul and realize you're not comfortable playing it.


Maybe if you have tons of disposable income, but you can get a damn good sounding acoustic guitar for under a grand that sounds better than most that cost twice that if you don't mind shopping around.

I've found a classical that sounded better than everything else in the (rather large) store. That one cost 600 while the cheapest competitor was 1700. This is taking string age, etc into account. Similar for acoustics if you add a few hundred to both ends. It really comes down to the luck of the draw on wood quality and combinations of different trees an instrument is made of.

Now, you can get an electric of craigslist for three hundred that'll play like butter after a competent setup with some 9 gauge strings on it. You do have to buy an amp, but if you don't want really nice metal distortion it shouldn't cost you too much. Distortion and effects can get costly.

And then, we could always talk about how if you really want to understand music you should just learn to play bass.....


I agree with some of the things you've said. I actually ordered myself a Fender Jazz Bass just yesterday and I've never even played any type of guitar in my life. But even though I went with that "buy the expensive guitar then it wouldn't be easy for you to give up on it" route, I don't necessarily think that's the only way to go. I live in a small town where I don't have the option to test a lot of guitars and see whether they sound good or they're a good fit for my hands (plus I'm left handed so that doesn't help). If anyone lives in a big city where there's a big music shop, I think the safest and the cheapest way to go is to go to that shop and try as many instruments as possible.

Just because you pay a guitar more money than the other one, it doesn't mean the expensive one would sound better than the cheaper one and most importantly it doesn't mean you'd be comfortable playing it.

However, if you don't have an option to try different guitars, Fender is the way to go. Their Standard Mexican made model Strats are not that expensive, in my opinion.


A thought on the price of a guitar... People often cringe at the thought of spending several thousand dollars on a guitar (or I guess other instruments too), but for myself and probably most of this crowd, I spend that much every 3-5 years replacing computers as they age and become outdated. A nice guitar will last you a lifetime if you take care of it. You can even pass it onto your kids. I tell myself it's a wise investment!


That's crazy. Crazy crazy crazy.

Spend $400 and you can get a really nice guitar. Totally sufficient for anything you need as a beginner.

Take the other $1600 and book yourself lessons for the next 18 months. That qualifies as the same "cost commitment", but actually adds value.


A nice electric, yeah. But not a nice acoustic. He's right that (give or take a few hundred) $2k is about the threshold for a playable acoustic that has good action and isn't going to make you cry. $400 doesn't buy much acoustic guitar at all these days.


UPDATE to my parent post: YMMV. I described what worked for me. As a teenager I learned a few chords/songs on a simple guitar that sounded dull, because I lived in a place where I didn't have any choice. Eventually I decided that guitar playing is probably not for me, since I had not been able to progress.

But I noticed that I still loved to listen to the folk/blue grass/blues acoustic guitar and would spend literally hours on youtube watching people play. So I kind of always had an idea in the back of my mind what kind of guitar I'd like to play.

3 months ago I ended up buying a slightly used Martin dred. It was a difficult decision, because I remembered that I'd already given up once. But it turned out to be the most gratifying purchase I made in my life - I love it and it's hard to put down. I've made more progress in 3 months than I had in 3 years the last time I had a guitar.

So, what I'm trying to say, knowing what you want is probably essential before buying a high end guitar, but you certainly don't have to be an advanced player to make the most out of it. Also, by all means try a lot of guitars, if you can. You may decide that that Takamine sitting in front of the shop is more to you liking than the beautiful Guild hanging in the back under the ceiling.


(I've been playing the guitar for 16 years) - beginners should definitely start with a classical guitar, not an acoustic or an electric guitar. Acoustic is the hardest to play correctly, while electric has more setup and cost involved (amplifier, cables, etc). A basic classical guitar is the simplest way to start playing and producing decent sounds.


Definitely not a classical guitar unless you intend to play classical only. It's a whole different style of play, and you'll have to relearn everything if you change over to a steel string acoustic or electric. The fretboard is much wider and the nylon strings are stretchy and play differently.

I suggest going for a moderately-priced decent-quality imported steel-string acoustic like a Yamaha or Sigma (low-end line of the Martin Company, made in Korea).

It's good to start with acoustic even if you plan on mainly playing electric. It's the common denominator of the guitar world, and you'll be so glad you can just pick one up and play something cool on it at will.

You might want to consider starting with lighter gauge strings than the ones that come of the guitar while you are developing calluses and learning bar chords.


I'm sorry, but that's complete BS. Playing any type of guitar does not limit you to a specific style of play - you can play any style you want on any type of guitar. Some advanced techniques and progressions (i.e, solos or conversly fingerstyle) will be more comfortable on specific guitar types, but there's no technical limitation from playing anything on every guitar type. Those distinctions are mostly meaningless to beginners who will be mostly playing simple chords and melodies (to which I would say, a classical guitar is the most comfortable form factor).


I don't know who's downvoting you, but this is right. You're inspiration is the only thing that determines what will come out of any instrument.

I love my Cordoba classical guitar, but I never actually play classical stuff on it. Hell, I usually end up playing crazy metal on it most of the time. I just really like how it sounds, so I experiment with it. It is more intuitive to play fingerstyle on it given the soft strings and the string spacing, but I could still maneuver a fat 2mm pick on it just fine...


You're partially right. For a beginner a classical guitar is definitely better (more space in the neck to put the fingers, the nylon strings in 1-3 are easier/less painful for untrained fingers, no need to plug it in an amp, etc), but the guitar type will limit you in certain styles (try playing a solo at some speed on a classic guitar getting to the 14th fret).

Sure, I learnt to play guitar with a classical guitar and I totally recommend it for a beginner, but there are obvious things like my Fendler Telecaster not having a tremolo bar: I can't use it :) Definitely you can play any style with it, but it really shines when jamming some blues with the neck pick.


I would argue a beginner should start with an acoustic for precisely the same reason. Transitioning from electric or classical to acoustic is difficult, but from acoustic to the other two is very simple.


It's certainly not difficult once you are proficient enough. I got my first acoustic after 2 years playing a classical guitar and 1 year playing an electric one. It was very similar to playing a classical guitar once your fingers are broken in.

On the other hand, for beginners which usually struggle at first producing clean sounds, an acoustic presents a much bigger challenge and for no added benefits.


Isn't this a similar argument to "people should learn to program with machine code/assembler/C because it's easy to move to other languages then"?


Yes, something like that. If you are proficient with the acoustic guitar, you'll probably be able to pick up an electric for the first time in your life and play.

On the other hand, if all you've ever played is an electric (with its low action and lighter strings), playing an acoustic will probably require some time getting used to.

I would compare electric to something like Python and acoustic to C :)


The difference isn't really as big as that. It'd be like starting with Perl and then moving onto Ruby or Python.


I would say its like starting with Python and moving to JavaScript. It really isn't that much more difficult.


So I bought an acoustic guitar a couple years ago because I've always wanted to learn to play. After sitting in storage for a year and a half I picked it up again a couple months ago. It's fine and all but then I bought an electric (Epiphone SG Cherry Red), an amp and a good set of headphones.

The electric is way more fun to play[1]! If you really want to learn and are willing to "put in the work" I recommend justinguitar.com. It's all boring stuff, scales, fundamentals, etc., but I pick up my electric at least once a day for an hour just to practice. I'll never be a musician but it's a heck of a lot of fun just jamming out in my headphones.

[1] "fun" is of course subjective. Acoustic guitars require more hand strength and coordination since the action is a bit higher, the strings a bit thicker than electric. But it has a beautiful sound I really love. But in an apartment, electric + headphones is the best.


Electrics are often much more fun to play, but I found, early on, that the acoustic gave me better habits, and made me a better all around guitarist.

I bought probably the exact same cherry Epi SG a long time ago to start off with, and I can still remember how embarrassed I was the first time I tried to play an acoustic.

Conversely, for a long time, whenever I was having trouble learning something on the acoustic, I could swap it out for an electric and usually just bang it out. Perhaps psychosomatically, this then made it easier to play on acoustic, just knowing that it was playable.


As an absolute novice, I bought a $30 acoustic after a $150 electric. My goal with the guitar is to just learn Asturias, I don't really care about other things. I have the intro down, it does feel like I'm fighting the guitar and it doesn't make as good a sound as some friends' more expensive ones I've tried, but it's great for seeing whether you like it and will stick with it rather than stick it in a shelf.

Also, I have more fun with the acoustic, due to Asturias, so I guess it's relative.


Find a friend who really knows their guitar, and buy them lunch in exchange for a run-around of the second-hand and/or pawn shops. If you have gobs of cash to spend, sure, buy an expensive new one, but you can find decent guitars for cheap in the secondhand stores. I got my guitar (a kramer zx30) this way from a secondhand store that sells on consignment.

If you're going to get a cheap new guitar, again, take that friend if you can - cheap guitars can have a number of problems - the first one I ever tried couldn't even hold its tuning during the six-meter walk from behind the counter to hand it to me :)

I'd certainly recommend the lower end of the price spectrum and not the high end - what if you buy a pricey acoustic but the stuff you want to play turns out to be electric? Or vice versa. I thought I liked acoustic more and ended up loving the electric much more. And when you're learning, you really can't tell the subtle difference between models - slapping down a ton of money to find out it's not quite what you want might be a little off-putting. Start with a stepping stone, says I.


There's a huge amount of guitars out there that people have bought and never played or played very little (a few hundred hours or so) so they are just as good as new. Musical instruments don't wear out much under use, so they are a smart thing to buy used. They also hold their value.


I'd say don't buy a guitar right away. Ask around among your friends, I'm sure someone will have an old unused acoustic lying around.. use that. When you get good, you'll have a better idea about the kind of guitar you want to buy. Its also a good way to check if the guitar is your thing (if it isn't, that shiny 300$ Les Paul copy you just bought is going to become the ultimate source of guilt. This has happened to far too many people I know.) Also, its quite likely the old beat up guitar isn't setup perfectly - the upside of this is that its going to help you build calluses like magic.


My brother and dad play guitar like crazy, combined they have over 20 guitars of all types. My dad has built 6 or 7 of them, both acoustic and electric. My dad recommended Yamaha as a good beginner guitar, simply based on the value (quality/cost), and they have pretty good QA so the beginner guitars are very consistent.

I recently decided to pick up guitar as well. I specifically wanted to learn acoustic (electric is a bit easier to learn), so this recommendation is narrowed to acoustic only. I read a bunch online and was leaning towards the Seagull S6 ($359) and the Yamaha FG700S ($199). I went to a couple guitar stores in NYC with my brother and he played a bunch of different acoustic guitars under $400. I didn't tell him my preference for the Seagull and the Yamaha (after all, I know nothing, he has been playing for 30 years) - and he ended up picking the Yamaha FG700s as the best option for a beginner. I'm very happy with it so far. The Seagull is another great option, but it is a bit more money.

I would avoid the Yamaha "starter" packs. A tuner is $9, picks are generally free, a bag is cheap, and you don't need the DVD. So the junk they throw into their "gigmaker" packs isn't worth the lower quality guitar.


+ 1 for Yamaha . For amplification have a look at Roland Cube series. Cheap but good quality for beginners.


I have two acoustic guitars: my favorite to play is a Takimine I bought off a random dude for $175 over 20 years ago. A few years a decided to "upgrade" with an $1800 Taylor. It's not a bad guitar, somehow the cheaper one is just more fun to play.

If I had to draw a lesson from this: when you play a guitar you will have a "feeling" about whether you like it, and I think that's the most important thing.

Which also means don't buy a guitar without playing it!


That's important, don't buy your guitar online! Find one that sounds and feels good when you actually play it. Don't assume that the same model means the same guitar, and bring along someone with experience if possible.


An electric guitar is physically easier to play (easier on the fingertips, finger muscles, etc.) and more forgiving of technical mistakes, IMO. Whether that means you'd like it more for starting out is up to you. :)


Preface: I've been playing guitar for 9ish months now... I started on an acoustic and I've played quite a bit with my roommate's electric.

I've always seen the electric guitar as being far less forgiving than the acoustic when it comes to technical mistakes. Missing the fret by a little bit, strumming the bass strings a tad louder than you were expecting: big problems with an electric, but not really problems I've faced on the acoustic.

Perhaps you are coming from a place of far more experience than I am, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but at least that's what I've noticed in my practicing.


I should point out that both statements are true, depending on whether or not you are playing with amplification.

An electric guitar, unplugged, is perhaps the most forgiving variety of guitars, but play it too often unplugged and you'll develop bad habits that are painfully noticeable when plugged in.

I pretty much played acoustics exclusively for a couple of years, only to find out when I picked up my Les Paul that I had developed a lot of 'acoustic-only' bad habits that I had to unlearn. Little things like muting with my fretting hand -- great cheat on an acoustic, but basically acts like a double-tap on an electric.


I am an indifferent player, and shortly after getting my electric, I said to a friend that it was a lie that electrics hide mistakes. He replied "you're not playing with enough distortion"...


Yea, I should have written the disclaimer that it all depends on what you're playing, what kind of amplification, etc. One instance of where electric exposes technical mistakes more is with accidental string bending, like when you're trying to hit an awkward chord, or any chord at all as a beginner. Overall, I'd still go with electric being more forgiving. A sort-of-proof of this is that the set of songs you can play on acoustic is a subset of the songs you can play on electric. Think of a ridiculous Jimi Page solo as being in the electric-only set. Many acoustic songs might not suit electric, but you can still play them with electric. Eh, maybe it's not a proof, but it sounds clever. :)

I personally ended up doing mostly finger-style acoustic with all kinds of weird alternate tunings, so probably nobody should take my word for it.


I second the recommendation for a basic classical (i.e. nylon-string) guitar. Keep it simple. In the US, you can find a perfectly decent made-in-China classical guitar new for under $100, or used on Craigslist.


It does not matter. My first guitar was some entry level model of Les Paul made by Epiphone. Best way is to drag some friend who knows how to play guitar to the music store and try a few models. Pick something cheap and make sure that neck is not twisted, which is reason why you dragging guitar friend.

This cheap guitar should be fine for first year (or five).


Got the same advice from some of my friends. Sounds right- try something cheap, learn the various pros and cons and the thing that suits us the best and then go for a more professional guitar.


this thread is an exhaustive list of things to examine on used bass, most applies to guitars

http://www.reddit.com/r/Bass/comments/mbbn9/things_to_look_f...

The most important thing on a used or inexpensive instrument is checking that the frets aren't deeply worn and are level (put a capo on at frets 3,6,9,12 and play chromatic scales), uneven forces a choice of fret buzz or high action.

At big dealers e.g. Guitar Center, you'll see used $150 guitars that are playable, and brand new Les Paul Studios and American strats ($650 and up) that need fretwork if you want really low action(full recrown is around $150)

You also want to check trussrod works, neck is not twisted or warped, and the neck joint is sound (no big shims in a bolt-on, no separation between the pieces of a "set" neck, like a Les Paul or acoustic).

Most other defects can be fixed at reasonable cost.


Contrary to some sibling comments in this tread, I'll recommend getting the type of guitar that you want to play to learn on as well. There are several kinds of guitar. The three most distinct types are classical guitar (nylon or gut strings), acoustic (steel strings) and electric guitars, which again can be divided into hollow and solid bodied types.

All these istruments are pretty different, both in physical appearance, sound and of couse also playing technique, required skills, reportoire and so on. Of course, if you are really good at one you can pick up another type more easily. However, the guitars sound and play so different that it's impossible to get good at electric guitar by only practicing classical guitar. All these types of guitars are really distinct instruments.

If you want to play electric rock, get a strat or tele of maybe even an LP. If you want to play electric jazz, get an electric hollowbody guitar. If you want to play folk-rock singer-songwriter or country types, get a steel stringed guitar. If you want to play classical guitar, get a classical guitar. I've seen countless of times people being handed cheap classical guitars when they want to play like Bob Dylan and Neil Young (etc) do. The result is almost always that the guitar goes in the closet after a few weeks and the interest dies down, which is pretty damn sad.

More expensive guitars will likely be much easier to play on and might sound better. However, I woudn't recommend spending great amounts of money on your first guitar. It is certainly possible to get great guitars for less than 1000$.


Also: consider finding a good teacher. An actual music teacher, not a guitarist hawking lessons for beer money. A proper teacher will be able to see you making mistakes in technique before they become habit and be motivated to fix it. You don't have to go weekly, you can ask for monthly or whatever times. Be upfront with them, say you're going through some self-teaching materials, but at the same time want to catch bad technique.


As a guitar teacher I recommend the basic Yamaha Pacifica models, 012 and 112, to students.

They are reliably well made, and fairly no-frills, you get a lot for your money.


I learned with a Squier starter pack (Squier is Fender's low-end brand if that name rings a bell). Basically anything on this page: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/guitar-value-packages

Those kits are nice because they come with a cheap guitar, case, and amp, plus usually an instructional book/DVD. This means that if you bail you're not out too much money, and at an intro skill level you likely won't notice the difference in quality anyway.

I took a few lessons, but honestly I kind of bailed on those and moved on to teaching myself through tabs online. Go to http://ultimate-guitar.com/ and find simple songs you like (Iron Man, Smoke on the Water, etc.) and just keep trying them til you learn. Eventually you move on to chords (my first song with chords was American Pie) and you just going from there. I'm in the process of teaching myself music theory on the guitar to help myself, but I've gotten busy and it's kind of petered off.


if you're looking for a good deal on an electric, I recommend checking out http://www.rondomusic.com/electricguitar.html . Their guitars are surprisingly good quality for the price, especially once you get into their 'Agile' brand. If for whatever reason you want a more 'well-known' brand, I've found Ibanez, Dean, and Schecter to have pretty consistent quality on their budget guitars, and the PRS SE series is excellent if you can afford to go that route.

Otherwise if you don't want an electric, I would recommend a good nylon string guitar. Yamaha makes pretty good ones, but as with any acoustic, it's a lot harder to judge how you'll like them without actually trying them first.


First off. You can learn on anything, so get whatever guitar you feel most comfortable playing (comfortable playing is the utmost requirement here). You absolutely have to go to guitar stores and have the guitar in your hands and in your lap. If you can't play, make sure to take a friend that can, as they'll be able to tell you if the guitar is "meh" or not.

Spend as much as you comfortably can, but don't kill your bank account. If you can, $500-$1000 is a good range and you have lots of good-quality options in both electric and acoustic.

I'm totally biased on the electric/acoustic debate. I've played almost exclusively acoustic for 20 years, and obviously prefer them. So from here, I'll dive into acoustic specific stuff if you decide to go that way.

Size/Nut Considerations: Two important things to pay attention to are the body shape/size (Dreadnaught/OM/000/00/ etc), and the width of the fingerboard at the nut. These are just some huge generalizations, but if you play a lot of fingerstyle, a OM/000 with a 1 3/4" nut may be what you're looking for. Whereas if you like playing bluegrass, you'd probably like a Dreadnaught with a 1 11/16" nut.

Woods: In addition, pay attention to woods the guitar is made of. Spruce and Cedar are going to probably be the two most common top woods, and Rosewood and Mahogany are going to be the most common back woods. Make sure to play combinations of these woods and figure out what you like. Most importantly, if you are paying more than $500 for a guitar, make sure that the top, back, and sides of the guitar are made of solid wood (no HPL, carbon fibre, laminates, plastic, etc.) If you are spending less than 500, make sure you at least get a solid top on the guitar.

Suggestions: In the 500-1000 range check out Loar, Recording King, Blueridge and Larrivee guitars. I've also heard good things about the Epiphone Masterbilt guitars. Some specific models to check out: Loar LH-250, Blueridge BR-140 (or BR-160), Recording King RD-310, Larrivee OM-03, Martin MMV (if you can find one), Martin 000-15 (or 00-15 or OM-15 or D-15),

In the 1000-2000 range Martin 18-series, Taylor 300 and 400 series, and Larrivee 5-series guitars are great choices. Some specific models to check out: Taylor 312/314, Martin OM-16GT. Martin OM-18 (or D-18)


Any model that plays reasonably music. Does it matter if you learn programming on a i386 or i7, on a PC or a Mac?

What matters is not the tool but the time, love and patience you put into learning to play music.


I know this is true in case of programming for a lot of languages. I am not sure whether this applies to learning guitar as well, I don't have any experience playing a guitar myself so, I can take your point as valid until I try out something and see for myself if there is a difference.


One difference is that each musical instrument has its own personality like each person/player. Classical, acoustic and electrical guitar are totally different. It is important that _you_ like the instrument. That is a matter of personal taste. Important is the joy to play. Therefore pick that up that you like most, whatever this is.


I started with an acoustic guitar about ten years ago, but that's only because my father had one laying around. Approach learning the guitar like how most people learn new programming languages: just dive right into it. If you like acoustic guitar music more than electric guitar, then learn it and vice versa.

For acoustic: Seagull, Simon Patrick, and Art and Luthrie solid top guitars make solid learner guitars. They can be had for $300-500.

For electric guitars: visit the SevenString forums. That community is more knowledgeable about it than me.


Personally on the electric front (I have no idea about acoustics) I'd recommend a mid-level guitar to start with as the lower-end guitars sound bad enough to be counterproductive, even for a beginner IMO.

You can get a really decent sound out of a £300+ guitar (~$450+ but perhaps pricing varies in the US vs. UK pricing) and it'll be good enough to take you to the point where a more expensive guitar will be worthwhile.


Buy a cheap acoustic. Unless you're Eric Clapton you really don't need to belabor this decision. Buy whatever feels right. Learn on an acoustic first, it'll make the electric more enjoyable because most of the sound is being produced by your fingers and the strings, the electricity just makes it louder, and if you suck the electricity will only amplify the suckiness.


Sorry, but this is awful advice, and sets up a beginner for failure. Don't buy a crappy low-end acoustic. If you don't have much money, get a cheap playable electric first. Cheap acoustics are the #1 reason people quit playing guitar.


I recognize him from an incredible blues trio I saw in this tiny bar in Harvard Square last fall.

The guy's got some serious chops. Had no idea he also taught across the river. Check out his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/thaddeushogarth

This class should be very interesting...


Any such a course/link for Ukulele?


I have been playing the guitar for some time now, and wanted to offer my advice for people looking to get a beginner guitar.

I would recommend a solid body electric guitar that has either a Tune-o-matic or hipshot bridge (non floating bridge). The Ibanez RGA121 is an example of a great beginner guitar: http://tinyurl.com/dyjybwa and they go for fairly cheap on ebay.

This is for a number of reasons.

#1 Lighter string gauges and lower action makes it easier to fret notes, bend strings, make chords.

#2 16 inch neck radius really helps with getting a comfortable feel and starting to understand vibrato and legato techniques.

#3 Easy to tune / change strings / set up.

Unlike an acoustic guitar that uses thicker strings, with higher action, and has limited access to frets you can get started fairly easily with an electric, and you can pretty much play any style with it.


Ignore all the advice about what books and what model of guitar to buy. Get a guitar, whatever you can, then play as much as possible. Play with other people if you can and often. I'm at my happiest when jamming with other good musicians, I'm pretty sure, once you've got the muscle stuff down, you'll feel the same.

A guitar is just a convenient way to express music. It's the music that you make and the enjoyment that you derive from it that truly matters.


> Get a guitar, whatever you can

I'm not qualified to judge this, but I've heard people say the opposite: to get a good guitar, as a poor quality instrument is a big factor that tends to put people off.

> Ignore all the advice about what books and what model of guitar to buy... Get a guitar... then play as much as possible

What does that mean? randomly mash fret positions and twang strings? Surely you have to learn from something, and you don't say what.


Yeah, a lot of people get distracted about the gear because its easier to be a gear expert than it is to be a great player. In reality there are lots of guitars that are perfectly good for learning at many price brackets and getting hung up in what to buy is a mostly meaningless distraction.

It's like a sport at this stage, you're going to suck, but with everything you do you get better, so the best thing is to just play whatever as much as possible. It really is just a fitness thing at the start, well fitness and musical awareness.

Just for clarification: I've been playin since I was 12 and have graduated university with a music degree and still play consistently in bands and solo projects. The biggest thing I've learned thus far is that the the guitar is just a tool for making good music and lives at the service of the music being made, not the other way around.


If you're just starting out playing guitar, you can get a perfectly serviceable electric guitar off Craigslist for $100-$200. You can probably find used acoustics for even less money. Cut your teeth on a cheap acoustic guitar, and when you pick up a cheap electric guitar, it'll be so much easier to play. Build up your skill on that, and if you feel comfortable, head to guitar center and try out more expensive instruments. If the difference is notable enough to drop $2,000 on an upgrade, go for it.


Listen to Justin: don't get a cheap acoustic. His reasoning is totally sound. Acoustic guitars are a lot harder to make than electrics and require much more hand craftsmanship, and cheap ones are really hard to play. If you can't afford a good acoustic, take his advice and get a cheap electric. A cheap, unplayable acoustic guitar will just frustrate you, and you'll quit playing.

How can you tell a cheapo acoustic from others? The main thing is the action. You should be able to easily play a barre chord at the 12th fret, and open E and the fretted E (on the 12th fret) should be in tune. The neck should have a uniform playability and there shouldn't be any dead spots when you play all over the neck, and no fret buzz. Forget about fancy abalone or mother-of-pearl inlays and elaborate finishes. Pick up the guitar and hold it right up to your face and look in the soundhole at the inside of the guitar. If you see any glue oozing between the joints inside it's sloppy and cheap workmanship, pass on it and get another guitar. The inside should be clean and dry. You shouldn't buy any instrument sight-unseen, before you can play it first or (if you are a beginner) get another player to check out for you.

It's a lot easier to find a playable AND cheap electric, like Justin recommends. But if you want an acoustic, spending more money is really, really worth it. There's something at every price point, but once you get around $2k (depends on make/model and YMMV) you start getting into good quality.


ToysRus sells a First Act acoustic for $80. Plenty adequate for beginners.


I bought a first act acoustic for my daughter to learn on. It was untune-able.

I've been learning the uke for a year now, and after a few months, I've been irritated by my uke on some chords. Talked about it with my uke teacher, she pointed out that the string (the E string) isn't quite right (if it's in tune on the open string, then the G on that string is sharp). These things matter more than you might think.


All true. Like I said, getting a cheap, toy guitar is only going to frustrate you. It might even frustrate a kid, and you'll be tempted to stop playing. What you want are two things: 1. Easy to play all over the fretboard, and 2. Stays in tune.


With I would add the proviso that a good guitar can help you avoid bad habits. Possibilities present themselves with good playable instruments that may not occur to you otherwise.

That doesn't necessarily mean paying a lot of money. I have a guitar that I paid about $5000 for, but a favourite Spanish guitar cost $20 in a second hand shop, and is just as useable.


>With I would add the proviso that a good guitar can help you avoid bad habits.

Sounds like old wives tales.

Besides getting out of tune or sounding a little hollow, is there any _specific_ habit you can get out of a "bad guitar"?


"muscle stuff"?


I'm pretty sure te_chris means this: Once you have the basic movements in muscle memory and can do them without concentrating, then you can really play.


This is fantastic, I love the content moocs are creating.


Actually I'm a bit confused by this one, because this looks nothing different from 100 books you can find at Guitar center (or your local music store) or any of the many introductory lessons to various instruments on YouTube. In fact, there's quite a few excellent private courses on YT with an abundance of free material to get you started, so I'm having difficulty seeing the rationale for this course.


I'm sorry, but by that logic there would seem to be little rationale for any of the courses on Coursera. As someone who has dabbled in myriad mooc offerings let me point out that signing up for a multi-week course that follows a syllabus that's been thought through by someone who actually makes a living teaching at an institutional level with regular assignments and quizzes as reinforcement tools, it's a format of learning that's proved to be pretty successful. Is it the only way to learn something? No. But I for one think it's great that Coursera is branching into other subject areas.

And by the way, can you please explain how a video on youtube is a "private course"? I'm also having trouble understanding the relevance of this abundance of free material you speak of - last I checked, Coursera courses don't cost money...


I meant private courses that also publish some free material to YouTube. Just go to that site and search for 'guitar lessons' and you'll see many videos that link to structured offerings, both free and paid-for.

I know perfectly well what MOOCs are and what the attraction is. I'm pointing out that I don't see anything especially distinctive or valuable about this particular offering; rather it seems to lower the bar somewhat, by offering rather less than existing alternatives.

Put another way, enrolling in a MOOC is an excellent way to participate in a course that might not otherwise be accessible for reasons of cost or geography. There's great value in learning about Machine Learning from professors at Stanford or economics from the University of Chicago or (fill in your own example here). But it's not hard to find lessons in things like playing the guitar. And because playing music is so interactive and performance-oriented as opposed to abstract and cerebral, I actually think most people would be rather better off studying it with a real person than by enrolling in a MOOC. Even if one doesn't want to do that, this particular Coursera offering looks worse than existing internet resources for musical instruction.


Well, I tried that. I had to click through four videos before finding one that actually linked to any external site of "lessons". Once I did find it, it linked me here: http://www.guitarjamz.com/ytblues/

You've got to be kidding me. Surely, you actually have some real examples of learning guitar online that actually do compete, even a little, with what Coursera is offering.


There are some rather poor 'lessons' out there, but the best ones I've found anywhere, have been from Pebber Brown's youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/pebberbrown/videos?view=0

and his site, which has all the materials and lessons organized, albeit straight from 1995: http://www.pbguitarstudio.com/GuitarVideoLessons.html

(Also note, that this guy is the very instructor that taught Buckethead. If that doesn't serve as a legit teaching credential, I don't know what does.)


Wow, that's pretty awesome.


Take a look at http://justinguitar.com/ Justin offers a lot.


I have a very hard time believing that you're not able to find any kind of structured guitar lessons via YouTube. I play bass* and I've found it to be awash in quality resources, but I'll take your word for it that it's a complete wasteland for guitar players.

Well, I don't want to seem to be promoting any commercial courses, but here's a good free one - which, incidentally, was the top web result for a search on 'guitar lessons'. http://youtubeguitarlessons.net/

* very very badly


I don't know much about this class, so I can't really say what's the difference between this class and watching a video on YouTube, but I took a couple of courses on Coursera and I have to say, there's a big difference (generally speaking). I'm not an MOOC expert, but some differences that I've noticed from my experiences:

- You can engage with people who want to learn the same thing as you do via discussion forums. Those people are basically your class mates. You have the same teacher, same assignments, you get to watch the same lectures etc. If you have a question you'd like to ask, you get to ask those questions to your class mates and you can have discussions on that very subject. Sometimes teachers get involved too and if they don't, you can ask them to get involved.

- Teachers provide course materials. Some of them are transcripts of video lectures but some of them contain some really good information that you probably can't find anywhere else, because they're mostly written by your teacher specifically for that class.

- Sense of accomplishment. Now this may differ from person to person, but it's nice to get some acknowledgment once you finish your course.

- Quizzes. You actually get to test your knowledge. If the course requires an assignment for you to finish the course, that's even better. For example, you take a class on International Law, you may be required to write an essay on the subject with X amount of word limit. They give you a hard deadline and that becomes your homework. You actually feel like you're a student. Plus, teachers actually read what you've written and some of them even give notes.

- You can get verified certificate, but I believe they announced that fairly early and I'm not exactly sure how that works. But seems self-explanatory.

- And the best thing is, I get to have all these things for free. I'm thousands of miles away from the US or the UK, but I can still take classes from Princeton University or University of Edinburgh, and that's just so cool. I realize the quality of education is not the same as taking an actual class by attending the school, but who cares? You watch the same lectures from the same professors (most of the time) and it's for free, in the comfort of my home and at my own convenience.


For musicians who can read music and have to spend time organizing their sheet music etc, check out http://woodshed.e7mac.com - a tool I built for myself that has saved me a tremendous amount of time. The goal was to put everything you need for a practice session i.e.metronome, sheet music, spotify play for original - on a single page.


If you're not an absolute beginner, you should check out all the REH/HotLicks videos. Some really amazing lessons there - Petrucci's Rock Discipline, Paul Gilbert's Intense Rock/Terrifying Guitar Trip etc.. lots of advanced jazz stuff too. (Scott Henderson, Joe Pass, John Scofield's videos come to mind)

I doubt they're still available to buy online though. You should be able to find them on youtube or torrent them.

If you're looking for a good book, check out Guthrie Govan's Creative Guitar series[1]. They're wonderful!

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Guitar-Cutting-Edge-Tech/dp/1...


I'm interested in what people think of this type of course vs. some of the interactive guitar learning software out there?

Rocksmith - http://rocksmith.ubi.com

Rock Prodigy - http://rockprodigy.com

Ovelin - http://ovelin.com

Jamstar - http://jamstar.co

Miso Media - http://misomedia.com

Instinct - http://getinstinct.com

Disclaimer, I'm a cofounder at Instinct.


I was about to post a link to Instinct [1]. I've recommended your site to a couple of people after seeing it on HN when it launched, and both of them have loved it. Congratulations on building a great looking site with a novel approach to learning to play guitar from scratch! [1] http://getinstinct.com


Awesome! Thanks so much for the kind feedback.


Take this with a pinch of salt but this is my ideal way of starting to play guitar.

You'll need:

A starter Eletric guitar & Amplifer - Cheapest way is to buy a combined Guitar/Amp package from the likes of Fender sold under their Squier range. Now others may hate them but for the beginner they are ideal. At worst if you hate it, stick on ebay or craigslist or if you handy with a soldering iron, upgrade the pickups. Also makes sure the amplifer has a headphone socket and use headphones for late night jams.

An electronic tuner - Guitars go out of tune. It will get you consistant results sound wise. There is nothing more off putting for a beginner for a guitar that is out of tune.

Now this is optional - get your guitar setup at your local guitar shop. It will help sound wise and playability.

Buy strings - Don't worry about breaking strings. They are cheap. Easy to replace. If you can upgrade the ram in your PC, you are competant enough to change a guitar string. It's easy, nothing to be afraid of.

For instant results, learn how to play the intro riff to the Deep Purple song, Smoke on the Water. It is easy and will give you an instant results. Then learn "Power Chords". Will get you results that will please your ears.

There are tons of youtube tutorials on how to play the guitar. Start easy, don't worry about not getting it right. Just take your time, relax and enjoy it. The chords, scales will come in time. The main thing is to practise rhythum.

An electric will give you results quickly compared to Acoustic and Classical, which due to the way they are setup. Are harder to learn on. If you are not sure, try them in your local guitar shop.

Some may hate what I suggest but I believe for a beginner, simple results will encourage you further and make it enjoyable so when you do the course above, it is not as scary.

A course like the above would be great and I believe if you add it in with what I suggest, you'll be happy.

Remember nothing is set in stone. You can learn acoustic, electric and classical at anytime in your life. Just have fun and enjoy it.

One last thing, /r/guitar sub Reddit is great if you have questions or your local music shop. Don't be afraid of asking questions. That is how we learn.


There's a reason why this can be more effective than many other online free guitar courses: it requires you to put 6 to 8 hours every week, which is actually a reasonable time to effectively learn to play an instrument.

When you spend only a couple of hours a week practicing, the progress is often glacial or non-existent, which can be demotivating.


I believe this course may give just a brief outline of what exactly music is. 6 weeks to master Music is really a short time. He may teach you alphabet, words or even grammar.

But you will have to find your own way to write your own novel.


Unknowky i as waiting for long this long time. I am really very happy




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