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Best way to learn to play the guitar

Before I give you some resources to learn to play the guitar, I'd like to share some thoughts with you first.

Whether you're picking the guitar for the first time or you want to improve the way you already play it, it is a fact: learning can be a real trouble. Maybe not because it is too hard, but because the learning proccess by itself IS monotonous and the learning curve IS steep. There's no point on sugar-coating it...

However, what is the point of playing the guitar? I will tell you, in case you can't recall it: it's HAVING FUN! ;) If you have fun playing the guitar, there is no such thing as learning to do it. Only some basics need to be learnt (being chords perhaps one of the main landmarks); the rest is just a matter of practice, and you gain experience by having fun - playing the guitar.

To be true, there is not much theory around how to play the guitar, actually. Well, if you want to be a classic world-class supreme know-all all-mighty guitar player, you might need to read a dozen guitar books. But that's not the point of anybody who plays the guitar.  I assure you: even the very best guitar players of all time didn't plan it like that. They just happened to become the best because they got a lot of experience playing the guitar, BECAUSE IT WAS AMUSING! You see, playing the guitar is not like, say, studying. You don't (or shouldn't) do it as an unpleasant means to achieve the goal (knowing more). The goal is playing the guitar by itself.

You never stop learning how to play the guitar. After you learn chords, you still don't know scales. After you learn scales, you still can't bend a string. After you learn how to bend strings, you still can't do vibrato. After you finally master vibrato, don't know how to sight read. After you learn how to sight read, you've lost scales practice. After you practice scales again, you've forgotten how to play your favorite songs. After you recall your favorite songs, you still can't chicken pick. After you learn how to chicken pick, you still don't do blues. After you do blues, you still can't do fancy "what-the-heck?" guitar tricks like bending after the nut... It would take three or four lifetimes to come across the last couple of lines I wrote, and you still wouldn't have finished learning how to play the guitar.

So, what is knowing to play the guitar after all? For me, it's knowing how to play songs you like and/or write using a guitar. Quite simple. But it's definitely NOT knowing everything about the guitar.

This is why I do not recommend taking courses to learn the guitar. Well, at least not a course where you're on a schedule. Learning guitar should be done at your own pace, when you feel like it, and oriented towards the genres/styles that match your interests. It is already stressing enough not being able to play a C chord and watching our teacher/collegue play a killer Jimi Hendrix solo like it was nothing; there's no need to add that to the stress of "Oh my, I must be able to play this chord by Tuesday, it's my next class!" or "I don't even like solos, who cares what key I'm playing at? Just let the string ring!" Courses are supposed to be helpful, but unfortunately their approach ends up being in a "Learn this subject now or never" shape... There may (and certainly will) be aspects of the guitar playing art that will not interest you at all in the beginning, but later on you will feel curious about.

Right. Now, just before I tell you about some resources, you need to understand that nowadays you can learn pretty much anything on your own, for free. Thanks to the Internet. In fact, this is perhaps the best resource of all. But it doesn't have a method by itself, does it? Well, you can find you own method... My opinion is...

...The very best way to learn how to play the guitar is think about your favorite songs. Learn how to play their chords - there's nothing as motivating as being able to play the tunes you really love. Be patient on yourself - learn to play the chords slowly. You can find the chords easily on the net. If need be, break the song(s) on segments, and learn one segment at a time. Don't make it overwhelming right from the start. Later on, if/when you feel like learning something else, go ahead and learn it. Look for it in the web.

I'm going to be honest: this was the way I learnt how to play the guitar. For months I didn't even know the names of the chords I was playing, I only knew their right shapes and positions lol! :D I only cared about the tune itself - I didn't know if I was going to keep playing the guitar after knowing my favorite songs. I just happened to keep playing, and eventually took the time to learn the chord names. Then some solos I loved. Then scales... When I felt curious about something, I went on and tried to learn about it. I stablished the goals as I'd go. It's a lot more fun this way, really!

But if you really need an official reference to learn from, I can suggest you Jamorama. It's one of the most talked-about courses on the internet, and it's not on a schedule. I'm not doing a metanalysis on this since almost every book or course will be a good one for you to learn... as long as you have the right motivation to take it seriously. As I've been stressing out, the main part on the learning process is not the reference, but the motivation you have to learn. After all, as I said, there's not much guitar theory to be learnt, so there are no correct or incorrect books neither... right? ;)

One of the most monotonous parts of learning to play the guitar is learning about scales. It really has to be monotonous, there's no way around. You have to practice fragments of scales over and over and over again until you dream about them. And learning this by books can bore you to death... you and your neighbours. :P For this I'd recommend you not a book but software. Particularly, Guitar Scales Method. I used it to learn scales and I can only tell you wonders about it. It makes the heroic feat of learning scales as bearable as it can get. It shows you a guitar neck with the various scales, explains them in a simple language, and comes with exercises for you to practice playing along the scales and guessing them before the program shows the answer. It's basically an e-book (electronic book) bundled with a play-along software package of scales exercises. Very good.

Finally, I'd like to mention another software from the same programmer of Guitar Scales Method. It's called Guitar Speed Trainer, and it helps a lot on your way to increase your guitar playing speed. It comes with several exercises, including only-downstrokes, only-upstrokes, downstrokes-and-upstrokes... It lets you increase the speed of the play-along exercises while you gradually become better and better at it.

Hope this article will help you. ;)

Guitar amps explained

A guitar amplifier (also called amp) receives the signal from your guitar pickups and turns it into a pleasant, audible sound.

Basically, there are two components in a guitar amplifier: the pre-amp and the power-amp.

The pre-amp is the first place the signal goes through. This is where it is processed by the knob settings. There is always at least one knob: the volume. But the knobs on the pre-amp can be several; the other most common are three: bass, middle and treble. These three knobs put together are also known as the tone stack, and are responsible for shaping 3 frequency bands of the sound to your taste. By other words, they give you control over the volume of the different components that make up your tone, so you can increase/decrease the volume of the notes you play on the lower octaves, the higher octaves and the ones in between. There are also other knobs on some pre-amps, such as distortion.

After the pre-amp, the signal is passed to the power-amp. This is where the speakers are; this is where the sound is ultimately reproduced.

Now, amplifiers are classified in two groups, depending on whether the pre-amp and the power-amp come physically stuck together or apart. If they are all in "one box", they are called combo. If they are two separated boxes, they are called head (pre-amp) and cabinet (power-amp). When the head and the respective cabinet are on top of each other, they are also called stack.

Combos are more portable and usually smaller than their head and cabinet cousins. They also usually attain lower maximum volumes. So, head and cabinet are more prepared for larger venues, such as outdoor concerts in stadiums. Nowadays, with the possibilities of PA systems (Public Address systems), combos can also be used for larger venues, with amplification of their sound using microphones and more powerful standalone cabinets than the one on the combo.

A PA has mainly a mixer (used as a control panel to manage the volume of each sound input, in cases where the PA is shared with other musicians), an amplifier (used to amplify the signal received from the mixer) and loudspeakers (responsible for reproducing the sound at the desired volume).

The power (expressed in watts) an amplifier needs to have depends on two factors: the circumstances it will be used in and wether it is a tube or a solid state amp. Tubes sound louder than solid states with the same wattage; one could say approximately (only a rule of thumb!) that 15 tube watts correspond to 50/60 solid state watts, and 30 tube watts correspond to 100 solid state watts. Now, for bedroom practice/studio recording, 15 tube watts are more than enough. For small/medium venues (on bars, pubs, etc...), 30 tube watts will do the trick. In case you need more power, keep in mind that the maximum sound volume doubles for each tenfold power increase - this means that, for example, an amp with 50 watts will sound "double-louder" than another one with 5 watts. Not ten times louder!!

Best clean-tone amp?

The clean sound of a guitar needs no explanation nor introducing. It is also quite often hand-in-hand with several effects such as chorus and reverb. But clean doesn't necessarily mean sterile. Even a "clean guitar" has a spectrum of tonal possibilities, from a chicken-pickin' Telecaster to an involving "reverbed" sequence of chords. Do not misjudge the "clean" meaning in this topic: a clean guitar (in this topic opposed to distorted guitar) in certain tracks can make you feel like you are listening to a lonely guitarist on an enormous gloomy church hall. Clean sound can be as involving as distorted sound, and is equally able to be used as a tool to express feelings.


(For an explanation of what this is all about, see This site explained.)


Ultimate Guitar forum topic
Original Post Date: December 2006
Original Poster Question: best cleans amp at any price
- Fender: 24
- Roland Jazz Chorus: 11
- VOX AC30: 6
- Carvin Legacy: 3
- Mesa-Boogie Lone Star: 3
- Peavey: 3
- Orange Reckerverb: 1

Home Recording forum topic
Original Post Date: December 2007
Original Poster Question: the best clean tube amp around $500-700 to run pedals through

- Fender: 10
- VOX: 4
- Carvin: 3
- MusicMan: 3
- Peavey: 3
- Ampeg: 2
- Crate: 1
- Gibson Lab Series: 1
- Laney: 1
- Matchless: 1
- Mesa-Boogie Lone Star: 1
- Roland Jazz Chorus: 1

Gear Slutz forum topic
Original Post Date: April 2008
Original Poster Question: guitar amplifier with best cleans

- Fender: 11
- Mesa-Boogie: 6
- Marshall: 3
- VOX: 3
- Matchless: 2
- Hiwatt: 1
- Roland Jazz Chorus: 1

Offset Guitars forum topic
Original Post Date: May 2009
Original Poster Question: the OP talks about a project of his which aims to build the ultimate hi-fi "clean-machine" tube amp, for jazz

- Fender: 6
- Hiwatt: 5
- Roland Jazz Chorus: 5
- Ampeg: 4
- VOX AC30: 2

Jemsite forum topic
Original Post Date: January 2010
Original Poster Question: amps with the best clean tone

- Fender: 4
- Mesa-Boogie: 3
- Carvin: 2
- Matchless: 1
- Peavey Classic: 1
- Rivera: 1
- Roland Jazz Chorus 120: 1

And the Clean Champion is...

1. Fender: 55
Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb® 22W 1x12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp

2. Roland Jazz Chorus: 19
Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus guitar amplifier

3. VOX: 15
VOX AC30VR VR Valve Reactor Combo Amplifier

4. Mesa-Boogie: 13
Mesa Boogie Express 5:25 1x10 Combo