Common Myths About Guitar Playing

Is your child interested in the guitar, but you’ve heard things about guitar playing that have put you off? Perhaps you’re concerned that it could be too difficult, time consuming or expensive. The good news is that these things are simply not true. Here are just a few of the most common guitar myths.

Myth #1: To be able to play guitar well, you need to know how to read music

This is completely untrue. So many people, children and adults alike, are put off learning or progressing with the guitar because of this myth. The truth is that many guitar players do not use traditional music notation at all, and instead use an alternative type of notation called guitar tablature (TAB for short). TAB notation has been around for as long as the guitar and it is a very straightforward system for anyone to learn, regardless of their age or experience. Children find guitar tab much easier to use and understand than traditional notation, particularly if they have not been taught the basics of music notation at school. Tablature allows them to get started and make progress on the guitar much faster than they would have otherwise, and removes any fear or dread associated with reading music!

Myth #2: To get good at the guitar, you need to practice for several hours a day

This is another common myth that discourages many children and adults from learning how to play the guitar. While it is true that lots of practice can lead to great results, the key thing is the type of practice. Let’s take an example of two students who are completely new to playing the guitar, and imagine that each of them engage in two very different types of practice. Student 1 spends at least 2-3 hours a day practicing, without a teacher, covering lots of different things at once. They may spend lots of time on guitar teaching websites, printing off lots of material, and trying their best to make sense of it all. They may practice like this for months on end and never get anywhere with their playing. Student 2, meanwhile, has the help of an experienced guitar teacher. They see their teacher once a week, and work on specific skills and short-term goals. Their teacher sets them exercises and things to practice each week, and they spend 10-20 minutes a day practicing. In terms of time, Student 2 is making a much smaller commitment to practicing than Student 1, yet they will definitely progress much more with their guitar playing.

Myth #3: You need to spend a lot of money on your first guitar

Many people who are looking to buy their first guitar think that if they buy a top-of-the-range instrument it will help them to play better.  While your first guitar should be ‘decent’, the truth is that guitar playing doesn’t work like this – there are no shortcuts or quick fixes that will make you significantly better while you are just starting out. These days, you can buy a good starter electric or acoustic guitar for around £100-£150. Generally speaking, expensive guitars do sound better than cheaper guitars, but an expensive guitar is not at all necessary to get started.

Myth #4: If you want to learn the electric guitar, you need to learn on acoustic guitar first

Many people believe that it is essential to learn the basics of guitar playing on an acoustic guitar before attempting to play the electric guitar. It is often suggested that playing the acoustic guitar is essential to develop strength in the fingers and to ‘toughen up’ the skin on fingertips. While it is true that frequent practice on an acoustic guitar will develop hand strength and callouses on the fingers, this does not mean that it must be played before learning the electric guitar. Even though the acoustic and electric guitar share similarities, they are different instruments, and those who have no interest in playing acoustic guitar should not feel the need to do so. This myth can have negative consequences for children who are interested in learning the electric guitar, whose well-meaning parents often buy them an acoustic guitar first to ‘learn the basics’. Acoustic guitars are larger and bulkier than electric guitars, which makes them difficult for younger children to hold. The steel strings on many acoustic guitars are also very difficult for young children to press down, and encountering a barrier like this so early on can put kids off the guitar very quickly.

Tip: If you want to buy a guitar (acoustic or electric) for a younger child (5-8), consider a 3/4 or 1/2 size version. You will be able to find these in most good music shops.