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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

For average Joe, rock-stardom is only a guitar store away

Anybody can be a rock star. All it takes is a beat-up amp and an electric guitar. Or so the thousands of people who have taught themselves how to rock like Jimmi Hendrix would have you believe. Learning to play the guitar has become an increasingly easy task. With the resources of the Internet and the surplus of readily available instruments, guitar-godliness is just a strum or two away.

Naturally, learning the guitar starts with obtaining the instrument, and there are several ways to go about this. Start by checking with family members. You might be surprised to find your dad has a 1972 Fender Strat tucked away in the attic, proving to you that his college afro haircut wasn't just for show. If you're not so lucky to have a dad who is more rock 'n' roll than rocking chair, then your next best bet is a used-instrument store. Many places carry reasonably priced (think $75 - $125) guitars that will more than fulfill the needs of the fledgling guitarist. When, and more importantly if, you start to outplay your equipment, then you can spend the big bucks on a thousand dollar guitar and amp combo.

Whether you go acoustic or electric is up to you and your specific needs and musical preferences: Try acoustic for John Mayer-esque quad concerts for a lucky lady and electric for spine-tingling solos.

Now the next step: choosing lessons or the do-it-yourself approach. Lessons are always a pricey endeavor. Other problems include getting burnt out by not learning the music you really want to play and having to work around a difficult schedule. Often, teaching yourself is the best route for the new guitarist. Save lessons for when you are trying to get over a particular big plateau in your playing abilities that is preventing you from becoming the next Clapton or Satriani.

Find yourself an approach that suits your learning style. The best place to do this is, not surprisingly, the Internet. Some sites advocate finding a difficult piece and working with it until you can play it. This approach will only work for those people with a decent amount of musical talent and the patience of a saint.

Other sites say to start with the basics - finger position, simple chords, and scales - and work with them until they've been mastered. Then work your way onto easy songs like "Free Falling" by Tom Petty, "Take It Easy" by The Eagles, or any other work following a simple chord progression.

The next step is the longest - and the most trying. I'm talking 'bout practice.

Practice, practice, practice.

When you're done practicing, practice some more. Learning the guitar is a time-consuming and frustrating task, but the fruits of your labor will be great. All guitar enthusiasts get annoyed by difficult pieces and chords they can't quite play, but conquering that struggle will be immensely satisfying. Stick with it through the difficult times, and soon you'll be on your way to rock-star status.

Now, if only you can find those leather pants.

The views expressed in Scene and Heard are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Chris McGrady at