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Best Electric Guitar Guide

The Guitar Pal gives you some of the best electric guitars and a handy buying guide to help you choose the right one for your needs.

Introduction

Electric guitars are a recent invention compared to the long history of the acoustic guitar. Unlike an acoustic guitar, from which it evolved, the electric guitar has a solid body with no soundhole. Although there are hollow-body and semi-hollow electric guitars that are quite common as well. It is also electrically amplified with special devices called pickups, fitted onto the body. The pickups convert vibrations from the strings into a signal. This signal is passed into an amplifier and then out of a loudspeaker.

Electric guitars can be given different tones through dials on the guitar as well as amplifiers and special devices such as electric guitar pedals. Effects such as distortion, overdrive, and reverb are now highly common elements in most music genres, especially rock, metal, blues, and even jazz.

Many people think that electric guitars are only for expert guitarists, but this is not the case. Even relative beginners can advance with an electric guitar. However, it is important not to buy one without knowing either that you have developed enough skill on an acoustic guitar first, or that you are committed to mastering the electric guitar. Buying the best electric guitar will just be a poor investment and a waste if you don’t use it to develop your skills.

Here is a helpful guide to help you understand what you should look at when considering which electric guitar to buy, along with some of the best picks from The Guitar Pal.

Best Electric Guitar

The best electric guitar is really a personal choice that should be based on preference, purpose, budget, and several other factors. It is not a purchase you should just make on a whim. Ideally, you should try to test the guitar out yourself before buying it. You need to hear the tone, feel the guitar on you, and so on.

On this list, the top choice is the Schecter Omen-6. This is because it is a largely versatile guitar and has had a lot of research go into its construction. It also has the full 24-fret fingerboard, it’s lightweight, it comes at a good price, and it is of pro quality.

ModelFretsWoodPickupsTremolo BridgeTonal QualitiesIdeal forRatingCheck Price
Schecter Omen-624Basswood, rosewood, mapleDual humbuckersNoBassy, rich, warmRock, heavy metal10/10 Price
Fender Standard Stratocaster22Alder, maple, rosewoodThree single-coilYesBright, resonantAny, especially classic rock9/10 Price
Epiphone Les Paul 10022Rosewood, mahogany, mapleDual humbuckersNoDeep, richRock, jazz, blues9/10 Price
Fender Modern Player Telecaster22MapleCombination humbucker bridge and single-coilNoBrightAny, especially classic rock9/10 Price
Dean Vendetta XM24Paulownia, maple, rosewoodDual humbuckersYesWarm, resonant-8/10 Price

Guide to Buying Electric Guitars

Buying an electric guitar requires some thought and effort. You should not just buy the first one you see off the rack because there are several factors that can affect your experience and playing. Let’s go through the main factors that you should be considering during your selection process.

Your Budget

The best electric guitars, the kinds used by the pros, can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Unless you are an intermediate looking to make a serious investment, you might want to spend a lot less. However, if you do have the money to spend, a good, albeit expensive, guitar will never let you down.

Unlike with an acoustic guitar, electric guitars require several other accessories like an amplifier, cables, straps, picks, tuners, and even effects pedals. Electric guitar strings also tend to cost more than acoustic guitar strings. So, remember that your budget should include these. If you are a first-time buyer, there are dozens of good quality starter packs that you can buy.

Remember, you can always purchase a second-hand electric guitar if you are unsure about how far you will be pursuing your playing.

Your Purpose

You need to think about why you are buying an electric guitar before you do. What are you planning to use it for? An electric guitar is great for starting a band, even if it’s not a heavy metal band! Electric guitars afford you a lot more sound options because amps and effects pedals can give you a ton of different tones. Moreover, with various types of software and even apps, you can achieve totally different sounds, especially if your goal is to record songs. You can also buy a semi-acoustic guitar and a good effects pedal and be a one-person band like Ed Sheeran. If you are a total beginner, however, it may be best to learn on an acoustic first before deciding whether you want to move onto an electric.

Your Taste

Different electric guitars and brands are geared towards certain kinds of music like blues or heavy metal. You may even have some guitar idols whom you want to emulate with your style of playing. Now, if you want to closely emulate certain guitarists, you’d have to spend a small fortune to get the kind of guitars they play. But you can get pretty close with a decent budget choice along with a good amplifier and pedal. The important thing is that the guitar inspires you.

The Size

If you are buying the guitar for a child, then you may want to buy a scale electric guitar, usually about ¾. This kind of guitar would have low action, a narrow neck, and easy grip and reach. Of course, size is less of a limiting factor for the highly determined little guitarist, as this little girl will show you.

One thing that does matter is the scale length, however. If you want a warmer tone, you should go for a shorter scale length, which is also better for smaller hands.

Body types

No, not yours, the guitar’s. As mentioned, there solid body types are much more common, and though they are not very resonant compared to their counterparts, the wood they are made of will affect their sound. Hollow body electric guitars are similar to acoustic guitars but do not have the typical soundhole. They are more resonant than a solid body electric guitar, and produce a bigger, bassier sound. These guitars tend to also produce a bit more feedback. the semi-hollow body also is a little more resonant than a solid body, and has a solid center which reduces feedback and gives better sustain. These can be especially good for blues, jazz, and rock.

Pickups

There are three main types of pickups a guitar can have, and they can come in one, two, or three on a guitar. You can switch between them, how many of them you use, and how loud each of them are. The traditional single-coil pickup tends to have some fuzzy, humming sounds, but generally produce a very bright and treblish sound. Humbucker pickups are in essence two single-coils together, and are common to classic rock music and heavy metal. They produce a lot more power in their sound. Finally, the most recent development, active pickups have a much cleaner sound.

The Wood

Now, as mentioned, the wood a guitar is made of will affect the sound you get. Ash, for instance, adds to the resonance, sustain, and mid-range. Rosewood is rather heavy, but is excellent for a bassier sound. Maple has a very bright, treblish tone. Mahogany is highly resonant and beautiful. These are just the most common woods used to make electric guitars. The best way to understand how a guitar sounds is to play it before you buy it. Even if you are planning to buy online (which will cut down the price), try to find a store nearby where you can test it out first.

Strings

One more thing to think about is whether you want to up the number of strings. Traditionally, electric guitars have had six strings. However, heavy metal musicians and even certain other newly emerging genres have opted for seven and eight-string guitars. It is not advisable to go straight into a seven or eight-string electric if you have no experience. But if you are serious, hardworking, and disciplined (and if you have the money to spare), then there is no reason why you shouldn’t get a good seven string. After all, it can be played as a regular guitar too.

Reviews

1.      Schecter Omen-6

I’ve talked before about my love for Fender, but if there is one brand that beats everything to a pulp, in my opinion, it’s Schecter. Schecter is new to the scene compared to the other brands on this list, but the difference is only a few decades. And I’ll tell you why I say they’re the best, at least for electric guitars.

Schecter started out as a repair shop that catered to various guitar manufacturers, supplying parts to guitar plays throughout California back in the 70s. When they did finally venture into making their own fully-fledged axes, they imitated the greats. Heck, they even signed up Yngwie Malmsteen. THE Yngwie Malmsteen. But none of this is why I think they’re amazing.

Schecter today is the Schecter Guitar Research company. They put so much into their guitars now that every single model they put out is pretty pro level. Of course, if you’re looking vintage, this is not your brand. But most modern players will benefit from any one of their guitars.

The Omen-6 is actually one of their lower end guitars, made from basswood, rosewood, and maple. This is actually a great combination for such an affordable price. It comes with the Schecter Diamond Plus pickups to give you an extremely rich and booming sound. That is ideal for rockers and metalheads, just not so much for pop music. The 24 frets and cutaways make this guitar perfect for shredding. There’s almost nothing you can’t play comfortably on this guitar, and that’s why its number 1 on this list.

+Pros:

  • High-Quality construction
  • Heavy and rich tone
  • Ideal for rockers and metalheads
  • Cutaways for full reach
  • 24 frets
  • Sleek, modern look

-Cons:

  • Limited to deeper sounds (not ideal for pop)
  • No tremolo

 

2.      Fender Standard Stratocaster

Fender has been around for a long time, in fact, as one of the pioneers in the industry. It’s actually very hard to go wrong with Fender guitar. This one is an icon of the company, and the shape with the double cutaway has been imitated by countless other companies.

Different models in the Strat line have been used by some of the greats in the music world, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood, and many others. Where tradition and vintage are concerned, this is one to go for.

The three single-coil pickups and synchronize tremolo bridge work together to create the signature sound. The alder body wood of the solid body will give you a bright but resonant sound. You can get either maple or rosewood fingerboards with this guitar, depending on the sound you want.

The slim neck with 22 medium jumbo frets is flat and easy to play, making this perfect for novice and pro alike. This is pretty much a pro guitar at an affordable price.

+Pros:

  • Pro level guitar
  • Bright sound, ideal for classic rock lovers
  • Versatile with three single-coil pickups
  • Comes with a tremolo bar
  • Cutaways allow full reach
  • Slim neck
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable

-Cons:

  • Only 22 frets, so can’t get too wild
  • Not so great on the low end

 

3.      Epiphone Les Paul 100

This is yet another classic and at a great price. Les Paul was one of the reasons you’re sitting there and reading this article right now. He helped pioneer the electric guitar as well as effects and recording equipment that are still used today. This guitar is made to the specs of his original models, and you can be sure it’s still one of the best.

The Epiphone Les Paul 100 is known for its rich sound, with a mahogany body and a rosewood fretboard. So if you’re looking for the resonant, rich, and deep sound of rock n roll, this is what you want to get.

the cutaway allows more reach to all 22 frets. The humbucker pickups will give you a little bit of extra oomph. You’ll love this guitar if you want to play blues, rock, or jazz.

+Pros:

  • Ideal for rock, jazz, or blues
  • Cutaway for better reach
  • Humbuckers provide bigger sound
  • Mahogany and rosewood construction
  • Rich and resonant, heavy tone
  • Slender neck easy to play

-Cons:

  • Bit on the heavy side
  • Only 22 frets, so not ideal for super high solos
  • No tremolo

 

4.      Fender Modern Player Telecaster

This guitar is one of the best electric guitars for under $500. This is a normal price for a good guitar and Fender is one of the best manufacturers of all time. This is a solid body guitar made of maple wood, so you can be sure you’ll get a bright sound.

It comes with one bridge humbucker and a single-coil to balance out the sound. This is a great guitar because it is highly versatile, so you can use it for pretty much anything. The triple pickup system is largely responsible for this. You can easily get a very vintage sound out of this guitar and play some Led Zeppelin, or you could go 90s grunge with some distortion and play Smells Like Teen Spirit.

It’s an excellent choice for a more laid back sound as well, so this is great option for various genres you  might like to play.

+Pros:

  • Highly balanced sound
  • Versatile so you can play pretty much anything
  • Best suited to classic rock but can produce a pretty wide range of tones
  • Highly quality construction
  • Combination pickups

-Cons:

  • Can’t play heavy stuff
  • 22 frets only
  • No tremolo

 

5.      Dean Vendetta XM

This is the cheapest guitar on this list and definitely the best electric guitar for under $100. Dean Guitars has sponsored some of the most well known guitarists including the legendary Dimebag Darrel, and Dave Mustaine who has his own signature model.

The Dean Vendetta XM is affordable and convenient to play. It’s made of paulownia, a mahogany substitute, that offers resonance and warmth, and maple and rosewood for the neck. It also comes with dual humbuckers to give you an extra bassy sound.

This guitar is great because it’s lightweight, slender, and plays amazingly well for a guitar this cheap. It certainly helps that the fretboard comes with 24 frets. You also get a whammy bar to get that old school sound.

This is a great choice because it will let you totally rock out for an easy price.

+Pros:

  • Totally affordable
  • 24 frets
  • Cutaway offers more reach
  • Lightweight
  • Slender design
  • Warm and resonant sound
  • Comes with a tremolo

-Cons:

  • Substitute wood
  • Need pedals to really make it shine

 

Best Cheap Electric Guitars

Since the best electric guitars won’t come cheap, and especially if you are a relatively new player, you might want your first electric guitar to be cheap. That’s why TGP has put together a small list of some of the best cheap electric guitars between $100 and $200. Remember, there are used electric guitars and electric guitars for sale you can buy for even cheaper if you aren’t sure if what you’re planning to do in the future.

  1. C-1 SGR by Schecter: this maple and rosewood, gorgeous guitar is great for beginners but also for pros. It comes with a gig bag, dual humbucker pickups, and 24 frets.
  2. Oscar Schmidt OE20: with maple and rosewood, and dual humbuckers, this guitar is a truly vintage guitar with an equally vintage sound.
  3. Epiphone Les Paul: this is really the full package for a steal. The vintage guitar comes with an amp, a tuner, a chromatic tuner, a cable, picks, a gig bag, and free guitar lessons.
  4. Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster: this Fender classic is maple and rosewood with a whammy bar and comes with everything you need as well. The entire package include all Fender items – a gig bag, amp, picks, cable, strap, picks, tuner, and instructional DVD.
  5. Ibanez GRX 70: this basswood, rosewood, and maple guitar with humbucker and single-coil pickups is versatile and handsome. It packs a huge, powerful punch. It also has a tremolo arm for those Eddie Van Halen solos.

Best Left Handed Electric Guitar

Unfortunately, most electric guitars are designed in such a way that, unlike acoustic guitars, you can’t switch the strings around and play them left handed. So if you are a lefty, here are the top three picks for left-handed electric guitars.

TGP’s top pick is the ESP LTD EC256. ESP is an excellent brand and this rosewood and mahogany guitar with dual humbuckers for lefthanders has an incredible and versatile sound. It’s got a classic look with a modern feel.

There is also the Squire by Fender Affinity Telecaster, a high-quality brand and alder/maple model, has two single-coil pickups with a three-way selector. It has a cutaway to offer you full access to the frets and it’s got a classic look. If that doesn’t work for you, try the Legacy Solid Body with the alder, maple, and rosewood construction and Stratocaster style. With three single-coil pickups and a tremolo bridge, you can do it all with this.

Best Electric Guitar for Beginners

If you are a beginner, the best way to go about picking up your first guitar is to get a starter pack. The top pick here would be the Epiphone Les Paul beginner package mentioned earlier because it has everything you will need and more. The price is easily affordable and it’s a brand and model that has stood the test of time.

Alternatively, the Squire by Fender Affinity Stratocaster, also mentioned earlier, has all the same stuff and is another highly respected brand. If you want to get something even more affordable, however, try this Rise by Sawtooth model that comes with most of the stuff you will need.

Best Electric Guitar for Kids

As discussed earlier, even kids can handle a full-sized guitar if you have one around the house. But if you want to make it easier on them, then there are numerous scaled models you can get for your kid to cut their teeth on.

Your little one could have their very own Squier by Fender Mini Stratocaster and become the next Jimi Hendrix (talent-wise, not behavior-wise!). It’s certainly of master quality and is a scaled down version of the Squier mentioned earlier.

Alternatively, you could get an SX RST ¾ scaled strat-like guitar with amp, instructions, and accessories. Or buy a ¾ Electric Guitar with gig bag, strap, mini-amp, and a few other accessories for the same price as the Squier.

Best Seven-String Electric Guitar

With seven-strings becoming more and more popular, TGP’s top picks are well-known brands, none of which you can go wrong with. The top pick would have to be the Schecter Omen-7, however. This is a brand that is known for their 7-strings, and the Omen-7 is 24 frets of quality. Made from basswood and rosewood with humbucker pickups, you will definitely get the sound you want.

A good second choice is the very affordable ESP LTD M-17, with basswood, maple, and rosewood. It also comes with humbucker pickups, but only 22 frets. It will still give you a great sound, though. Alternatively, the Jackson JS22-7 Dinky is also a good choice with dual humbuckers, 24 frets, and construction of maple, rosewood, and basswood.

Conclusion

Ultimately, your choice should depend on a multitude of factors, and this is one selection that requires research. Don’t just blindly pick out a guitar. Any experienced guitarist will tell you that a guitar is not an object. You bond with a guitar, you connect with a guitar. So take your time, try to get a chance to try out the guitars you’re picking out, and then decide. Remember though, it’s not just the guitar that makes the guitarist. It’s what you do with it.

Five Apps Guitar Players Should Have

Thanks to the popularity of smartphones and the advances of app development, you can get pretty much everything you need for your guitar playing onto your phone. Here are some guitar apps that you really should have on your phone or tablet.

1.      GuitarTuna

guitartuna

Every guitarist needs to be able to quickly and accurately tune their instrument. Every now and then, you might forget your guitar tuner, but chances are that you wouldn’t have forgotten your phone. GuitarTuna is a great app that you can download for free. It’s ideal for several other instruments as well, including seven-string guitars and instruments with different tunings. One of the best parts about this app though, the thing that sets it apart from a lot of others, is that it works even in noisy places. This app has other features too, including a metronome to help you with speed training and keeping time, and a chord library.

2.      Guitar Pro

guitar-pro

This app will cost you a couple of bucks, but it’s well worth it if you rely on tabs a lot for learning and writing songs. This app is the mobile version of the software that guitarists (and several other musicians) all over the world have depended on since the early 2000s. An extensive library of songs is at your fingertips so you can learn all your favorites. You can even create your own tabs and import them into the library. This is perfect for beginners and experts alike.

3.      RecForge Pro

recforge-pro

If you like writing songs and composing music, then RecForge is for you. Songwriters are always coming up with little riffs, lyrics, and tunes, and you need to be able to record them quickly and with high quality. That’s where this app is especially handy. You can record, edit, export and convert file, and share your music through a multitude of platforms, among other features. And it’ll only cost you a couple of bucks.

4.      GuitarTricks

guitartricks

GuitarTricks is a guitar lesson app that you can download for absolutely free. The app has lessons and tutorials taught by real guitar players, with special lessons for beginners. There are tutorials for some of the most popular songs, lessons on the fundamentals, and the easiest songs to play for beginners. There are also plenty of tips for practicing, tuning, maintenance, and tones, to name a few of the features. Even more experienced players can benefit from this free service. Since it’s free, download it and see for yourself.

5.      Ultimate Guitar Tabs and Chords

ultimate-guitar-tabs-and-chords

If you’ve ever used the Ultimate Guitar website, you should have this app. It’s perfect for players who prefer learning songs by chords with the words rather than by reading music or tablature. This app will give you the simplest ways of playing the songs you love, along with several other versions of them in case you want to it just a little different. Find versions with and without capos, chord variants, and transpositions. It only costs a couple of bucks, so it’s well worth it.

All of these apps are good to have in your arsenal. With these, you’ll have a comprehensive guitar guide in your pocket!

Five Crazy Guitar World Records

You might think that the only guitar world record to be at all interesting is to do with who is the fastest. Well, not so much. There are tons of world records set by famous guitarists and (somewhat) regular people. These range from the truly amazing to the truly ridiculous. Here are some of the most interesting ones.

1.      World’s Fastest Guitar Player

Of course, we have to start with THE record. The world records for fastest guitar player have always been measured on the basis of one song. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee has been used as the standard for setting this record, and ever note needs to be discernible upon slowing down the playing. Here is Nirvana Bista, an Indian teenager, setting the record in 2015 at an insane 1600 beats per minute. He gradually speeds up until he reaches the recorded tempo, and while it may seem like noise, remember, it only qualifies because you have to be able to slow it down and see that every note is played precisely. The previous record was 1300 BPM

2.      Loudest Band in the World

Okay, so it’s not quite just a guitar record, but it’s worth noting because it’s such a crazy record. This record was based on decibel level, and many famous bands have, at some point, held it. Deep Purple and The Who may be the most notable, with their gigs reaching decibel levels of 117dB and 126dB respectively. Deep Purple’s gig even knocked a few people out. Just so you know, that’s louder than a jet taking off 300m away (100dB) and enough to severely cause pain. The band Manowar held the record for a long time, but this was beaten by good old KISS with 136dB (2009). And that is louder than a military jet taking off just 50 feet away. The record is no longer being listed because it is too dangerous to try and break!

3.      Longest Time Balancing Metal Wine Glass on Top of an Acoustic Guitar on Chin While Kneeling

That’s a mouthful! And apparently a chinful. Here is Canadian Doug McManaman doing just that for just over a minute. Doug has managed to pull off several of these kinds of records, balancing acoustic and electric guitars on his chin while sitting, standing, kneeling, and lying down. Much like him, Suresh Gaur of India has heaped on the records, pulling off an incredible 13+ minutes balancing an acoustic guitar on his thumb!

4.      Largest Assembly of Air Guitarists

When I first heard about air guitar championships, I rolled my eyes. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but air guitar playing has come a long way since the early days of Sabbath and Maiden. This new competitive sport (?) now involves participants having to really sell it and convince viewers that they’re actually playing an invisible guitar. This is one of my favorites. And here’s last year’s winner. I’m not sure I quite get it, but if it works, it works. In the largest assembly of air guitarists, over 2,300 people played Ozzy’s Crazy Train in California to take the record.

5.      Smallest Replica of a Guitar

One of my favorite guitar-related records has not been broken since 1997, when Harold Craighead and Dustin Carr, two Cornell scientists, created a working replica of a Fender Stratocaster out of silicon. The size? Ten micrometers. That’s 1/20th of a human hair’s thickness. Each string is about the width of 100 atoms in a row! When the strings are plucked, their frequencies are too high for human hearing.

Let’s end on something special. Though this isn’t an official record, it’s certainly a lot of fun and shows some amazing dedication. Here are a thousand musicians playing Learn to Fly by the Foo Fighters in an effort to convince the band to play in their city, Cesena, Italy. When the band responded and played for them, frontman Dave Grohl was injured but played anyway. Here he is thanking everyone.

How to Learn Guitar Fast

Almost every beginner and intermediate player wants to see speedy improvements, but the truth is that no matter how quickly you pick it up, becoming a pro guitarist is going to take time. You first need to accept that and learn to be patient. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to put up with improving slowly. Becoming the next Yngwie Malmsteen is going to take years of practice, but with a few simple tricks, you can figure out how to learn guitar fast. Here are a few to get you started.

First, the Pep Talk (That I Wish I Had)

Some people have a bit of an edge over others. If you have perfect pitch, for instance, you’re lucky. If you worked with your hands a lot prior to picking up a guitar, you probably have a lot of finger and hand strength already. But most people don’t have this to work with. It’s important to understand that there are no barriers to learning guitar. If you think your hands are too small, like I did, or if you think your fingers are crooked, like I did, you’ve gotten it all wrong. There are little kids who play like pros. And even one-handed guitarists.

It just takes time and practice. If you’re looking for immediate results, you won’t get it, but when you do, all that hard work will have paid off. Remember, nothing good ever comes easy. Malcolm Gladwell says that anything, ANYTHING, takes at least 10,000 hours to master. Just ask Steve Vai. You think he got that good because he’s a prodigy? No, the guy practiced fifteen hours a day. So never give up.

Warm Ups and Exercises

Okay, pep talks aside now. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to warm up before a practice session. Your arms and fingers are the same as any other muscle. You need to warm them up before practice and warm down afterwards, like with sports. Start and finish your sessions with scales or finger training exercises. This will help to reduce stiffness in the joints and muscles and get the blood circulating.

Workout with Dumbbells for Your Fingers

Well, something like that anyway. When you’re not playing guitar, there’s plenty of time spent with at least your fretting hand free. Use these times to work out the fingers, individually and together. You don’t need a guitar for this. You can do strength training for your fingers with a hand exerciser. GripMaster has plenty of different strength to suit your level, from the extra light at 3lb, best suited for kids, to the heavy duty at 9lb, best suited for, well, rock climbers. These are ideal for working out your entire hands, from fingers to wrists to forearms. You won’t really need these if you’re not planning to become the next Michael Angelo Batio, but if you’re looking for faster results, these will help. It will largely help you to improve your dexterity, flexibility, and strength overall.

Use a Metronome

If you haven’t started learning with a metronome, it’s about time you started. A metronome is a device that makes a sort of ticking sound like a clock. Nowadays there are plenty of apps that you can get for free instead of the device. The metronome is used by all types of musicians to learn to keep time. I used to practice my finger exercises without the metronome and a pro guitarist friend of mine pointed out how I kept speeding up and slowing down at times without realizing. This may not seem like a major problem at first, but when you start playing with a band, you’ll find it hard to keep time. Or your bandmates will find it hard to keep up with you. Using a metronome, you learn to intuitively keep time, making your notes and chords even. It will also help when you’re struggling to learn a song that’s a little too fast for your skill level. Start the metronome at a slower tempo than the original and learn to play it carefully at that pace. Then gradually increase tempo till your reach your target. Even with learning scales and finger exercises, start slow. You can get speed trainers to help you improve your speed even as an expert. I still use the old school GuitarPro for this (which also has a metronome).

Learn Correct Positioning and Grip Early

This is one mistake I made when I first picked up the guitar and I still have trouble shaking it. As with anything, bad habits are hard to break. So if you start off learning with the wrong grips and techniques, you’re going to have to relearn a lot of the right stuff later on when the songs and chords you play demand it. For instance, how do you press down on the strings with your fretting hand? With the pads of your fingers, or on the tips? The right way is on the tips. I started learning with the pads of my fingertips, and always got a buzzing sound because the flesh of my fingers would touch the other strings. Another thing is the way you hold the pick, if you use one. Here’s a picture of the correct way to hold the pick.

holding-the-pick-1

Learn Chord Variants (by Name)

I used to avoid barre chords because I have tiny fingers and this was one of the things I had a major issue with. The neck of my first guitar was narrow enough, but I couldn’t stretch my fingers to make those big chords. Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. It’s not just several different ways to play the same F chord. Each root chord also has dozens of other modified versions that fit better with different styles of music, different scales, and different feels. More importantly though, learning the variations gives you a lot of versatility, especially when working with other musicians. When someone says, “Can you try that with an F# augmented, you need to be able to play it without having to fumble around for that chord dictionary app! Of course, if you’re not planning on becoming a pro or a sessions player, this shouldn’t be an issue. But it helps to speed up your development nonetheless, because you’re going to encounter dozens of songs with weird chords that you’ve never heard of. And they’re not all difficult chords, mind you. There are plenty of apps and books with chord dictionaries you can keep handy for practice. Try learning a new chord every day. Just be sure to practice them.

Practice Daily, Even for a Short Time

Don’t make the mistake of ever taking a break from your guitar. I learned the hard way that fifteen minutes of practice each day is better than one or two hours a week. Always spend some time each day doing a few scales and finger exercises, no matter how busy you might get with school or work. If you have time to check your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you have time for guitar practice. Your muscles need to get used to playing, and it takes time and consistent playing to develop muscle memory. So the more frequently you play, the more quickly you get used to it. The less time between practice sessions, the less time you have to forget what you learned.

Record Your Sessions

Sometimes, you might find yourself a few weeks down the line feeling like you’ve gotten nowhere with a particular song or lick. This is one of the reasons it can help to have a video recording of your first practice of it. You might be surprised to see how much progress you’ve made. Video recordings can help you recognize observable results and progress, and it can help you to notice mistakes you might be making. While hearing yourself practice can help you identify mistakes in the chords or notes, and other similar elements, seeing yourself can help in identifying mistakes in positioning, posture, and grip, among other things. Use these videos to regularly review and correct yourself, and remember to remind yourself how much you’ve improved.

The important thing to remember is that there are no instant results for learning anything new. The tips above can help to catalyze your progress, but it won’t make it happen overnight. It takes time, practice, and commitment, but it is achievable if you persist.