Acoustic and electric guitars are basically set up the same way…they have the same notes, frets, and strings. The “action” or playability of the two is the difference. It’s easier to play fast on an electric because the strings are more flexible and the notes are easier to press down. However, an electric guitar is more sensitive to the touch, and picks up every nuance of your hands. So it’s not necessarily an easier instrument to play. Although it’s a smarter move to start learning with an acoustic guitar, if the music you listen to and want to learn is all played on electric guitar, go for it! It’s ok to start learning on electric. You should be playing the type of music that you love.
All things that can be played on acoustic can be played on electric. They may sound quite different when translated from acoustic to electric, but they can be translated. You can fingerpick the electric guitar (play the strings with your picking hand fingers). You can play the same chords on electric as acoustic. You can play rhythm guitar on electric. There are also quite a few more things that you can do on an electric guitar. It’s much easier to bend strings on electric and also to sustain notes. Which is holding a note so that it continues to ring.
Due to the lighter action or easier playability of electric guitars, it’s also easier to play fast. Tone is easier to manipulate on electric guitar as well. That is, the sound of the guitar through the guitar amplifier. You can adjust different frequencies on the guitar amp to make your tone brighter, darker, fatter, thinner…as you can see this isn’t the easiest thing to describe in the English language. Try going to guitar center and playing through an amplifier, just turn the knobs and see how the sound changes. This will show you what I’m talking about.
There are usually two different channels on amplifiers, one is your clean channel and the other is your overdrive channel. With a plethora of effects pedals in existence, there are seemingly endless options for different sounds that one can produce with electric guitar. Remember though, real quality tone comes from a guitarist’s hands. Therefore, being able to produce a great sound through an unaffected amplifier should be first and foremost. Though it may be tempting, before buying pedals and acquiring “gear” you’ll want to practice with clean tone, to ensure you’re playing precisely and developing your own style.
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Once developing some dexterity and muscle memory with one and two finger voicings, it’s much easier to eventually expand one’s chordal vocabulary to full open chord voicings. Learning to read music from a guitar method book is also something I strongly encourage as part of lessons for young beginners. Kid’s minds are malleable at this age and the benefits of solidifying this skill and information early on, have great advantages as their proficiency on guitar develops.
Furthermore, learning from a guitar method book not only teaches them how to read music and understand rhythm, but it gets them playing simple melodies behind the third fret starting with just one string. I also incorporate melodies from pop songs like Demons – Imagine Dragons, Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes, Best day of my life – American Authors, and other songs that my students are interested in. I have plenty of songs to suggest, but If students do have particular songs that they’re interested in they should be learning them. Songs that students choose can be simplified to accommodate their playing ability if they need to be. I take into consideration… age, experience, and musical interests when assigning practice material. After 12 years of teaching and 21 years of playing experience, I can quickly assess a students skill level and tactfully move into proper lesson material.
I hope that all of this information helps you gain insight on how your child will generally learn guitar. I also want to state my understanding that different people learn differently and have different needs, goals, and interests. While this information is a general framework for guitar lessons, lessons are tailor made to fit the students needs. If someone wants specifically to learn lead guitar, or strictly the chords and rhythm of their favorite songs, I’m here to accommodate…and I’ll do this in a way that matches the difficulty of the music with my students’ current skill level.
Whether continuing their studies in guitar or just starting out, the teen years are a significant period when it comes to playing an instrument. Guitar lessons build confidence, give teens a sense of identity, open doors for social groups with other musicians, and improve test scores. Studies have shown this! Specifically related benefits include improved memory, language, and reasoning. Playing certain instruments grow the brain in a way that nothing else can, and guitar is one of them!
Teenagers are also very motivated/creative, and playing guitar is a fun activity that provides a healthy outlet. At this age teens have usually developed their own taste in music, and have a very clear idea of what music they’d like to learn. This makes guitar lessons naturally engaging for them. Some teenage students may already have experience playing guitar before they start lessons with me, and this is great. They’ll then have the opportunity to learn the underlying theoretical concepts in their favorite songs.
For example they’ll learn the answers to questions like…Which scale is this guitar solo derived from? Which notes make up this chord? What key is this song in and why? And perhaps the most important theoretical question of all…How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Answer: about 700 pounds on a good day with the wind at it’s back. Seriously.
If you’re an adult and you think it’s too late to learn guitar I have good news, it’s not! As long as you have step by step guidance, age doesn’t hinder you from learning guitar. In fact, as an adult you have greater dexterity, bigger hands, and a better ability to comprehend information than a younger student. It’s also quite alright if you’re learning guitar just for fun, and not interested in reading music or learning music theory. Most students feel this way and just want to learn their favorite songs. This is a great way to learn!
If adult students come to me and tell me their favorite bands or songs, we can pretty quickly move into playing this material. I also have adult students who aren’t sure what they want to learn, which is just fine. I have plenty of suggestions and I know just where to start. You may also want to work on learning scales or lead guitar parts, there is no shortage in variety when it comes to the guitar. Just remember that whatever the material, time spent practicing outside of lessons is where the real learning takes place. Now, everyone has plenty of adulting to do so there will be times when it’s difficult to make time for practice. That’s reality, but your weekly lesson will keep you engaged and moving forward.
So as long as you have a great guitar instructor..ahem! (clears throat), and you’re willing to practice, you’ll learn! You will inevitably become a better guitarist. Just consider me a much, much friendlier version of Mr. Miyagi, Daniel son! Show me…Strum on strum off! (soft friendly Miyagi voice).
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