A Beginner's Guide to Guitar Strings and Picks

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Sometimes it’s all about the little things. When it comes to playing the guitar, there are a multitude of details that, when added up, can make a huge difference in how you play and the sound you produce. Choosing the correct strings and picks are a perfect example of this.Artilce 10.1 As a beginner, you are going to want to make sure that the tools that you use are helping rather than hindering you… and we’re here to help you figure it out. Before taking off to your local music store to hit up the accessories department, check out these tips for finding your perfect picks and strings.

Picking Your Pick

There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to picks. As you build your skills, you’ll find that there may be different picks that work better for the different types of music you want to play, but for now let’s focus on the basics.  Here’s a simple checklist of things to look for when you’re shopping for this very important tool.

1. Size Makes A Difference: Picks come in many different sizes and, as a beginner, you want to make sure that you’re not overwhelmed by a pick that is too large, or challenged by a pick that is too small. A good rule of thumb (no pun intended) is to start with a standard-sized pick, which is large enough to grip solidly, while allowing you room to avoid accidental finger contact with the strings.

2. It’s All In the Grip: Obviously, there is no point in buying a pick if you can’t hold on to it while you play! As a rule, thicker, harder, (read: less flexible) picks are typically more difficult to grip and to keep in place. As a beginner, you probably want to opt for a medium pick that is made of softer plastic. This will allow you to get used to playing with a pick without it slipping too much.

3. Wide vs. Skinny: When choosing the width of your pick, a good thing to keep in mind is the kind of guitar you are playing.Black While thin picks are a great choice for strumming an acoustic guitar, thicker picks (medium to extra heavy gauge) are more appropriate for playing the electric guitar.

4. Material Matters: Most picks are made of some sort of plastic — nylon, polyethylene, celluloid.. you get the picture. What this really affects (besides the grip we discussed earlier) is the tone you want to achieve. In general, it’s as simple as this: the harder the material, the brighter the tone, so think about what sound you are shooting for and choose your pick accordingly.

Odds are you are going to try out several different types of picks before you find exactly what you’re looking for. The important thing is that you start with a pick you can manage, and then adjust to your style and the sound that you want as you progress as a musician.

Picking Your Strings

The strings you choose for your guitar will directly affect the sound that you produce when you are playing. The gauge (string size) and material you choose will depend greatly on what kind of music you want to play, but the most important thing to consider is what kind of guitar you are playing: acoustic or electric.

The first thing to look at, whether you’re playing acoustic or electric, is the type of strings that your guitar came with. Generally, guitars will come with light-gauge strings, which is a common choice for guitarists, because they produce less tension and are easier — especially for beginners — to work with.  In many cases, this is a great string to stick with while you get started. Now let’s talk about specific choices for electric vs. acoustic guitars.Article 10 Image 2

Electric Guitar Strings for Beginners

The biggest difference between the strings on an acoustic vs. electric guitar is the materials the strings are made of (the pickups on electric guitars require strings to be made with magnetic alloys). Your electric guitar most likely came with strings that are made of either nickel or stainless steel; here’s the difference:

  • Stainless Steel: Stainless steel electric guitar strings feel smooth on your fingers and are ideal for long practice sessions. They reduce the noise your fingers make when moving your fingers up and down the fret board and generally hold out better against corrosion. Stainless steel strings are often used by rock and metal musicians.
  • Nickel Strings: Nickel electric guitar strings are nickel-plated and they deliver a clear, captivating sound that is popular with metal, funk and jazz players. (Although some rock musicians favor them as well.

As far as the gauge of your strings (if you decide to deviate from the light-gauge strings), keep in mind that a heavier gauge produces more tension from the guitar, and produces a louder sound and fuller tone — something that is particularly important to rhythm guitarists.

Acoustic Guitar Strings for Beginners

Your acoustic guitar, most likely, came to you with bronze strings that provide a very bright, crisp sound. Other popular options are nylon and brass strings. The tone of your guitar is impacted greatly by the material you choose, so here’s the breakdown that will help you make the most informed decision:

  • Nylon Strings: It’s often assumed that nylon strings are the gentlest choice for beginners, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Beginner musicians, regardless of the choice of string material, will experience some level of discomfort, so it’s best to consider the sound that you want to produce rather than assuming that a certain  material will be easier to play. The mellow tone and responsiveness that come with nylon strings make them a perfect choice for classical and folk guitarists.
  • Brass Strings: Brass strings create a bright, metallic sound that is a bit sharper than bronze strings… they are also more brittle. Both brass and bronze are popular with rock, country and blues guitarists.Article 10 Image 4

Again, the light-gauge strings are probably the best choice for you, as a beginner, however, if you find that you are a heavy strummer that keeps breaking your strings, you might want to go for a heavier gauge to keep yourself from constantly having to replace them!

Remember that learning to play the guitar is a journey and you are going to constantly be adjusting your course as you grow as a musician. As you find your sound, you’ll figure out exactly what strings and picks work best for you, but, in the meantime, enjoy testing things out, seeing what works for you and constantly evolving as you become the guitarist you were born to be.


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How to Combat Hand and Finger Pain When Learning Guitar

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There’s no doubt about it… playing guitar is a blast. There is nothing better then seeing — and hearing — yourself progress as you work through notes, and then chords, and then, finally, songs. There is, however, one unpleasant reality that comes with the territory for beginners, and that reality is hand and, more specifically, finger pain. How to Combat Finger PainWhile it’s virtually impossible to avoid all discomfort, there are several things you can do to get through it and get on with playing like a rock star. 

First and foremost, you need to remember to warm up. Beginners expect the pain of calluses when they are learning, but often are surprised at the hand, and even arm pain that they experience in the first few months of playing. This is to be expected. Remember that there are a multitude of bones, tendons and muscles involved in moving your fingers around, so you’ll want to get them warmed up before you start shredding. There are a wealth of resources, like JamPlay, out there that feature great warm-ups for beginners. An exercise like this one from our YouTube channel will help to wake up those guitar-playing muscles and prepare them for the even the most rigorous practice session or performance.

Another way to ensure that you’re being kind to your hands is to simply check your strings. As simple as it sounds, it can make a HUGE difference when you sit down to play. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Check the Action: Action on a guitar is simply the space between the fretboard and the strings… the farther the strings are from the fretboard, the higher the action. The higher the action, the more force is required to press down on the strings. SeeWarming Up To Alleviate Pain where we’re going here? By having the action on your guitar lowered, you’ll make it easier to play, with less strain on your fingers.  The good news is  any guitar’s action can be adjusted at your local music store. A good rule of thumb is to set the action at about 1/16″ at the 1st fret and 3/16″ at the 12th fret. Once the action is adjusted you’ll be amazed at how much easier playing becomes.
  • Make Sure You Have The Right Strings: Guitar strings come in different gauges (diameters). Light gauge strings are much easier to play than medium or heavy gauge strings, helping to alleviate some of the pain in your fingers.
  • Don’t Press Too Hard: It is common for beginners to press down on the strings too hard… remember, you don’t have to try so hard. Relax your fingers and press down just hard enough to make sure the string firmly contacts the fret. How do you know if you are pressing too hard? Simple. Fret a chord or string as you normally would and then let off the pressure just a little bit. Does it sound the same, or even better? If so, you’re probably pressing too hard, which can make your fingers ache.

(NOTE: Want to MASTER barre chords once and for all? Get JamPlay’s Barre Chord Cheat Sheet here for free!)

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The last tip we have for you involves practice. Odds are that, as you grow more and more excited about learning, you’re going to want to play more often. That’s great! Practice to fight painBy playing regularly, you’ll be building the calluses on your fingers, which, in turn, will protect your fingertips from soreness. The trick here is not to practice too much. If you dive in and don’t give your fingers time to adjust, you may end up with blisters instead of calluses, which will need to heal before you can continue playing.

The truth of the matter is that your fingers are going to hurt, but it’ s going to be worth it. Don’t get discouraged and definitely don’t use it as an excuse to quit. Remember that you started playing guitar in the first place because you love music, plain and simple. The discomfort of these first few months will pass, but in the meantime, follow these tips, keep playing and pushing through, and use the pain to motivate you to persevere and move to your next stage of playing: the pain-free one! Good luck!


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How To Make Your Guitar Practice Sessions Fun

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There’s one ugly truth about practicing guitar… it’s not always fun. In fact, sometimes it can be downright tedious. Obviously you need to do it to get better, but sometimes the idea of sitting down and playing scales or working through a difficult song can be nothing short of torture. We’ve all been there and, luckily, there are ways to make practice both fun and productive. Check out these five tips for turning boring practice sessions into a rewarding and enjoyable part of your day.

Tip One: Structure Your Sessions:  Okay, so structure doesn’t normally equal fun, but stay with us here.Making Guitar Practice Fun

Does this sound familiar? You sit down to practice and waste time thinking about how you’re going to organize your session instead of actually playing. By the time you actually get down to practicing, you’ve got yourself jumping between warm-up exercises, songs and improvisation, which isn’t the most productive way to go about things. Rather than planning practice sessions on the fly, why not set up a structure that works for you and then stick to it? The benefit here is that you can balance the things you have to do with the things you like to do. For example, you may dread playing scales, so get those out of the way and then reward yourself with some time to improvise before you tackle that elusive Blues piece you’ve been trying to master.

Tip Two: Learn One New Thing: This is a great piece of advice that we hear from teachers over and over again. Challenge yourself to learn one new thing during your practice session. We’re not suggesting that you sit down and learn a new song every day — that is absolutely unrealistic. Rather, why not add a new scale to your repertoire, or exploreFun Guitar Practice some new strumming patterns? By adding variety, you’re spicing up your practice and making it a more rewarding experience.

Tip Three: Choose the Right Time and Place: Everyone has a time of day when they’re most productive. Try scheduling your practice sessions when you’re likely to feel relaxed, calm and ready to focus. For example, if you’re not a morning person, it doesn’t make sense to force yourself to sit down and play while you’re still half asleep. While this seems like a no-brainer, it really makes a huge difference. It’s impossible to enjoy a session you have to rush through, and who wants to feel like they’re cramming yet another obligation into their day?

On this same track, make sure you have a designated practice space that allows you to focus. Keep your guitar out, on a stand, in that space so you see it all of the time. This will not only remind you to practice, but will mentally connect you to that space as your designated guitar-practice area.

Tip Four: Give Yourself a Break: Give yourself permission to skip a day every once in a while. We’re not suggesting that you make a habit of blowing off practice but, sometimes, it helps to re-motivate you. A day off can be refreshing, and can re-inspire you if you find yourself in a practice rut. 

Tip Five: Make Your Sessions Interactive: There are tons of online resources for guitarists, and a wealth of videos that you canFun Guitar Practice Tips play along with on sites like YouTube and JamPlay. Schedule some time in your practice sessions to explore new exercises and techniques by logging in and finding a style or teacher you like, and then using their lessons as a practice tool. This fresh material will make your lessons much more exciting and will keep you motivated to keep trying and mastering new things.

The simple fact that you have to practice doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. By choosing just one or two of these tips and implementing them into your practice sessions, you can shift the experience of practicing guitar from tedious to terrific. Enjoy!

Want to get better at guitar?

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Guitar Amps for Beginners

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So, you found your perfect electric guitar and you’re ready to rock it out, but first you need something to plug it in to. Just like buying a guitar, finding the right amp can be confusing for a beginner. Never fear… we’ve got your back. Here’s the lowdown on all the things you need to know to get to rocking.

First things first. Just like you need to do your research when buying your guitar, you need to make sure you know what you’re looking for before you go amp shopping. Best Guitar Amps BeginnersIt might be a good idea to do this research at the same time that you’re looking into your guitar in order to make sure that you’re keeping your goals — and your budget — aligned.

There are a handful of things you want to keep in mind while you’re going through this process. Remember that this is your opportunity to set yourself up for success, so take your time and don’t let yourself get distracted or overwhelmed.

Combo Amps

When you think about a beginner or a practice amp, you’re most likely thinking of a combo amp (short for combination), which is a guitar amp and speaker cabinet in one unit. Combo amps are ideal for beginners for a couple of  reasons. First, it’s more compact, making it much easier to transport between practice or lessons. Also, you can guarantee that the amp and the speakers have been balanced to work well together, ensuring you’re going to get great sound (and the most bang for your buck). 

Built-In Effects

Another great feature to look for when researching and shopping for an amp is built-in effects. Many amps on the market today have  in-built reverb and overdrive, which can be operated by a foot switch (you’ll need to buy that separately). If you can find an amp with these two effects included, you’ll save yourself the expense of buying a pair of effect pedals.

Power Rating

There is a common misconception that the guitar amp with the highest wattage in going to be the loudest. This isn’t necessarily true. The power of an amp is only one factor that plays into the volume of the sound produced, so don’t be mislead by the simple numbers in this case. As a beginner, a 40-60 watt amp is a great choice. Not only will it give you sufficient volume to play at home, but it will even be sufficient for you to play in smaller venues, if you want to try playing for a crowd.

 Budget

A great rule of thumb, especially when buying your guitar and amp at the same time, is that 60 percent of your budget should go Best Guitar Ampstoward your guitar, and 40 percent should go to your amp. Let’s be honest: If you spend a fortune on your guitar and then plug it in to a cheap amp, it’s going to sound like a cheap guitar. Do yourself a favor and give your amp the same consideration you do your guitar… you’ll be glad you did.

Tube Amps vs. Solid State Amps

When you’re doing your research, you’ll see that there are basically two types of amps: tube amps and solid state amps. Tube amps use vacuum tubes while solid state amps use semiconductor circuits to amplify sound. It used to be that there was a marked difference between the two, with tube amps offering superior sound, however modern solid state amps have caught up and sound equally as good. (In fact most people can’t tell the difference in the sound.) Solid state amps are also considerably less expensive. A tube amp will be an asset later on if you play with bands in large venues(they have warmer tone at higher volume levels) but, for beginners, they simply aren’t as practical.

Once you’ve identified the kind of amp you want, be sure to go to your local music store and try it out before you buy it (even if you find a sweet deal online). You’ll learn a lot about your options from online reviews, but you really won’t know if it’s the right amp for you — and your guitar — until you’ve taken the time to listen to it.

Remember to take your time and enjoy the process of getting hooked up with the perfect equipment for you. You’re going to be spending  a lot of time with your guitar — and your amp — so be sure to set yourself up for success from the start!


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Training Your Ear: Three Easy Tips for Beginner Guitarists

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Every guitarist needs a handful of things to be successful that have nothing to do with their instrument or equipment. Drive and focus are no-brainers, but there is one thing that sometimes gets overlooked: the ability to really listen to music — to the intervals, chords, scales, and rhythms. Ear TrainingListening in this way trains your ears, making it easier to learn and retain musical ideas and, later, to compose music, interact with other musicians and to improvise. So, as a new guitarist, how are you supposed to hone these mad listening skills to get those ears up to par? Simple… you follow these three easy tips to get started:

Tip Number One: Listen and Identify What is Playing Around You. One of the best ways to exercise your ears is to listen the the music that is playing around you during the day. Whether it’s a song on the radio or a jingle on TV, you’re surrounded by music that can teach you.

Start asking yourself questions. Can you pick out the key the song is written in? Is that key a major or minor key? What is the tempo of the song, and where and when (if ever) does the tempo change? Can you identify the intervals between the notes in the melody? What are the chords? What chord does the song start on and where does the harmony go from there?

Once you get comfortable with listening to music in this way, grab your guitar and start getting interactive by playing along, which leads us to tip number two…

Tip Number Two: Transcribe Music. Another great way to train yourself to really hear what your playing is to practice transcribing music. When you do this, you are depending entirely on your ears to guide you through a song. Learning to do this well takes time and discipline, but it’s an invaluable skill that is key to your success as a guitarist. Here’s what you need to know to get started.Article 6 Image 2

First, pick a song — it’s best to start out with something easy, such as “Happy Birthday” — and sit down with your guitar. Start by playing a random note and then work your way through the  rest of the melody from there. Keep playing the song until you’ve got it mastered. Once that happens, try to figure out the melody again starting from another starting note.

Take the time to identify what the names of the intervals are that make up the melody, listening to each specific interval as go work through the melody. Try to do this with a couple songs every day. When you’re comfortable working through the melodies, start trying to figure out what chords would go with that melody.

After you’ve mastered familiar songs, start transcribing guitar solos by ear. Keep challenging yourself with more difficult material and, eventually, this connection with music will become as natural as breathing!

Tip Number Three: Sing! Sing! Sing!

Singing is a great way to connect your ears with the music, Yes, you need to sing out loud, but don’t worry if you don’t have the greatest voice. The idea isn’t to record your next hit single, it’s to build an understanding of how the music is put together and how to associate that with the sounds you hear.  Here’s what you need to do:

Start by simply singing the major scales. Once you’ve become comfortable doing that, add the natural minor scale, the harmonic minor, the pentatonic scale… you get the idea. You can also test your skills by singing intervals and arpeggios. If you are able to read music, sight singing is also a great way to teach yourself how to understand and identify musical concepts.

Here’s the bottom line: If you want to become a solid guitarist, you simply have to learn to exercise your ears as much as you exercise your fingers. Use these tips to get you started and, remember to lean on the JamPlay community if you need help… that’s what we’re here for! Have fun, good luck, and keep learning!


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When Your Bucket List Calls: Four Great Reasons to Start Taking Guitar Lessons NOW

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Call it what you want: a “Lifetime To-Do List”, the “Things I’ll Get Around To Someday List” or, simply, your “Bucket List”. It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone has one, and odds are pretty good that learning to play an instrument is on it.
How can we be so certain? Article 4 Image 3Well, a Gallup Poll revealed that 85 percent of Americans who don’t play a musical instrument wish that they did, and 67 percent are still interested in learning, so we’re pretty confident that we’re right.

How many times have you said, “I’ll look into lessons tomorrow” or “I’ll get started right after <insert feat of greatness (that’s probably also on your bucket list too) here>”.  You may even have gone out and bought yourself a guitar or announced “I’m doing it!” at your New Year’s Eve party. Good for you… just not good enough. Look, that guitar you bought isn’t going to play itself, so let’s discuss the top four reasons you should just buckle down and start playing now.

Reason #1: You’re Not Getting Any Younger.  None of us are. As glib as this sounds, it’s really one of the best reasons we can think of. Putting things off just gives you less time to enjoy them and music, for most of us, tips the enjoyment scales.

Besides, you’re never too old to aspire to new things… how about today you aspire to playing guitar?

Reason #2: It’s Good For You. It’s a fact that playing music reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, music is one of the top 10 stress relievers, along with sleep and laughter, which we’re pretty fond of too.  We can get into the really scientific reasons this all works, but the gist is this:  Music provides a mental distraction, reduces muscle tension and decreases stress hormones… all of this adds up to you feeling more relaxed when you pick up your guitar and get to playing.Article 4 Image 4

As if stress relief isn’t enough, music also keeps your mind sharp, enhances your coordination, and can increase the capacity of your memory. All of this, of course, contributes to a better and more enjoyable quality of life, which we all know, is priceless!

Reason #3: All the Cool Kids are Doing It. Okay, maybe not all of the cool kids, but a lot of them are. How do we know? Well, they’re hanging out on our forums and inspiring us every day.

People are focusing more and more on the things that make them happy, and we’re seeing it all throughout our JamPlay community. The number of people starting their lessons “later in life” are climbing and they are, without knowing it, motivating the rest of us to take the plunge and strike one more thing off our list.

Reason #4: It’s Easier Than Ever To Get Started. A lot of us use the “I’m too busy” excuse when it comes to really picking up the guitar and learning. The fact is that the days of having to load up your instrument and head to your music teacher’s studio are over. While there are a lot of benefits to traditional music lessons, there are also some great reasons to jump on your computer and take advantage of the awesome online music lessons that are now available.   JP Article 4 Image 1More and more people are choosing online lessons because of their affordability and convenience. No matter how busy you are, you’re be able to learn on your terms at your own pace.  Kind of takes away most of the excuses you can come up with, doesn’t it?

Feeling inspired yet? No matter whether you choose to teach yourself or to take lessons, the point here is that it’s time to get started. Pick up that guitar and start enjoying the process of learning. You have nothing to lose except one less item on your bucket list!


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Top Five Questions Asked By Beginner Guitarists

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So you’ve decided to take up the guitar – great choice! As with any new adventure, there are going to be a lot of questions that arise as you get started, and in your first few months of playing and learning. That’s what we’re here for! Let’s take a look at the questions that are most frequently asked by beginners so you can get down to your real job: learning to play and having fun.

Question #1: What is The Right Age to Get Started/Am I Too Late?  The short answer here is that music lessons are for Article 5 Image 1everyone. While we wouldn’t recommend guitar lessons for your toddler, some music teachers will take students as young as five with great results. If a child has the attention span to sit through the lesson and to focus on practicing, they’re great candidates for lessons.

For the adults who feel that they may be too old… that’s just crazy talk. As long as you have the desire and motivation to pick up the guitar, you’re the perfect age to get started.

Question #2: What Kind of Guitar Should I Start With and How Do I Choose One? Okay, we know, that’s two questions, but they can be answered together, so here we go.

The first thing that you’re going to want to do is decide whether you want to start with an acoustic or an electric guitar.  Both have their benefits, but the general difference, other than the overall sound they create, can be summed up by the following:

Due to thinner strings, smaller necks, and an amplified sound, electric guitars are generally a bit easier to play while acoustic guitars can be played anywhere and are often more affordable, since they don’t require extra equipment like amps.

Once you choose the type of guitar you want, you need to go shopping. There are a ton of options out there, so be sure to check out ourArticle 5 Image 2 tips for buying the best acoustic and best electric guitars for beginners. Remember that the most important things are to stick to your budget and to do your homework — keep those two things in mind and you’re sure to find the perfect guitar just for you!

Question #3: How Important Are Lessons When I’m Starting Out? We won’t deny it, there are people out there who have successfully taught themselves how to play guitar, but most of us need a little help. Luckily, there are a ton of options out there to get you playing in no time.

There are a lot of great things about private lessons. The one-on-one time with your teacher, coupled with the consistency of scheduled lessons are a great way to stay focused and to get personal guidance and correction. Even a few months of private lessons can jump start your playing and get you on the right track.

For many people, however, private lessons aren’t practical — be it for financial reasons, or simply because they don’t have time. The good news is that online guitar lessons are becoming a great option for guitar students who want convenient, affordable lessons that allow them learn at their own pace.  In fact, Article 5 Image 3sites like JamPlay supplement their pre-recorded lessons with daily live group sessions via Skype, which allow students the opportunity to get feedback from instructors just as they would during traditional lessons.  An additional benefit of online lessons is the ability to access a variety of teachers and styles until you find what clicks for you.

Question #4: How Long Should I Practice? Perhaps more important than how long you practice is how often you practice. When it comes to improving, consistency is key. We recommend that, whenever possible, you practice once a day for at least 30 minutes.

We find that, even if you choose to take private lessons, online lessons sessions are great practice tools as well. Find exercises that complement what you are trying to accomplish in your lessons. For example, if you’re working on barre chords, find a lesson that helps you improve. Want to try different strumming patterns? There are videos out there that can help with those as well. YouTube is a great resource for these types of videos and the variety of exercises will make you practice time more fun and interesting.

Question #5: Will My Fingers Hurt and What Should I Do About It? Again, two questions, but they belong together. Yes, odds are great that your fingers are going to hurt. As your fingertips get calloused and the muscles in your hands get used to playing, the pain will subside. People rarely find themselves so sore that they can’t play through the pain, but here are a couple of tips to make things a bit more comfortable:

  1. Keep playing consistently. If you wait until all of the discomfort goes away, you’ll be back at square one, so try to play every day so that your hands can become accustomed to playing.
  2. Give yourself a break. If you really need to, take a day off, however don’t make a habit of this… again, it will actually impede your progress, so stick with it… we promise, it gets better!

Now that you’re armed with the basics, the next step is to jump on in and enjoy yourself. Remember that even the greatest guitarists were beginners once and odds are they faced the same challenges you will. Stay focused, stay positive and remember that there are endless resources at your fingertips to help you meet your musical goals!

 


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Best Electric Guitars for Beginners

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(NOTE: Want unbiased comparisons of the top guitar brands and models? Get JamPlay’s 2017 Guitar Buyer’s Guide here for free!)

So, you want to play guitar and you want it to be loud. We like that about you. While a lot of beginning guitar players choose an acoustic guitar as their first instrument, there’s something to be said for plugging in and rocking out from the get-go. We’re going to help you get started.

In our last article we talked about best acoustic guitars for beginners. Now, let’s look at electric guitars and talk about the things you want to look for when you’re in the market to rock.

First Things First: The Difference Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars

Sure, acoustic and electric guitars tend to look different, but the key difference is JamPlay Electric Guitar Factthe way that they produce sound. Basically, an acoustic guitar depends on the top of the guitar (where the sound hole is), to pick up the vibrations of the stings and resonate to create the sound.

An electric guitar, on the other hand, relies on electronics and amplification to produce its sound. Electric guitar bodies have electromagnetic pickups that convert string vibration into electric signals. These electric signals then pass through an external amplifier, which produces the sound.

Of course, there are other differences that may sway you in one direction or another, so we suggest looking at both options and seeing what is right for you.

Next Step: Do Your Homework

Narrow Your OptionsLet’s quickly review the things you need to look at when shopping for any guitar – acoustic or electric:

  1. Set your budget and think about your goals.
  2. Look at online manufacturer and retail sites and check out the reviews. Odds are good that other beginners have done some of your research for you and have shared their experiences. Use it.
  3. Go to a local music store and try out the guitars that interested you online.

Options, Options and More Options

When it comes to electric guitars, there are great options in every price range. Finding a guitar that is comfortable to play and that sounds good are really the two main things you should be looking for. Remember, as you are learning to play the guitar, you are also training your ear, so you want to make sure that your guitar holds its tuning and feels good to play.

That being said, there are several things that will come up when you are looking at electric guitars that may seem confusing, so let’s break them down so you can go in with the knowledge to make the best choice for you:

Solid Body vs. Hollow Body Guitars: Simply put, solid body electric guitars are probably what you are thinking of when you picture an electric guitar, since it is the most common type. Solid body guitars are exactly that: a solid wood body that has the electronics mounted on the guitar to create the sound. A Hollow Body Guitar has all of the characteristics of an acoustic guitar (sound hole, hollowed out body), but it is fitted with electronics that allow its sound to be amplified while retaining its “acoustic sound”.

Wood Type: The wood that is used in manufacturing guitars varies and can be anything from rosewood to mahogany to ash. The type of wood used not only affects the sound of the guitar, but also the price. We suggest that, for your first guitar, you focus less on what it’s made of and more on how it sounds. Of course, if you are looking to make a serious investment, you’ll want to consider the materials that are used, but if your goal is to simply start playing (and learning) go for the sound that you like and don’t sweat the details as much.

Pickups: Pickups are the tone-producing hardware on your guitar. The type of pickup you choose will impact the sound greatly, so be sure to consider what (or who) you would like to sound like when you are selecting your hardware.  Odds are that, for your first guitar, you’ll be choosing between a single-coil pickup or a humbucker pickup. Here’s the difference: The single coil pickup creates more of a “twangy” sound and are suitable for any player, but is often favored by fans of blues-rock, country and roots-rock. Humbuckers are simply double coil pickups. They have a fatter, warmer tone and are often favored by hard rock, metal players and jazzers.

(NOTE: Want unbiased comparisons of the top guitar brands and models? Get JamPlay’s 2017 Guitar Buyer’s Guide here for free!)

Some Final Tips

Remember that buying your first guitar should be fun. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the options that are out there. Your mission is to find the best Beginner Electric Guitarsguitar for you. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can start thinking about all of the cool bells and whistles that can help you evolve your sound as your skills advance. Again, comfort and sound quality are your two most important factors for your first electric guitar… nail those two things and you can’t make a wrong choice.

Once you’ve purchased your guitar, you’re going to be ready to start shredding right away. Online lessons are a great way to get rocking immediately. Join us on JamPlay.com for access to guitar lessons for all ages and skills levels. Learn to play like your favorite musicians, or join us for a live group session with one of our awesome instructors. It’s the fastest way to go from wanting to play to actually doing it!

Learning anything new can be a challenge, but those challenges can be fun and rewarding, especially if you set yourself up to succeed. The right guitar and the right guidance are keys to your success so find what is right for you and go for it. We look forward to seeing you rocking out soon!


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Best Acoustic Guitar for Beginners

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(NOTE: Want unbiased comparisons of the top guitar brands and models? Get JamPlay’s 2017 Guitar Buyer’s Guide here for free!)

When you find yourself in the market for a guitar the options can be mind-bending. There are a lot of great guitars out there and it’s really easy to get distracted. The simple fact is you want to learn to play the guitar and for that, you need an instrument. Although it’s tempting to find the best deal online and click “buy”, a little research can go a long way.

We know, we know: you just want to play. We’ve got you covered. Here are three easy steps that will help you cut through the chaos and get you playing.

Beginner Guitar Tip 1

Step One: Beginner Guitar Search

Before you make any investment – and for a lot of people a guitar is just that – you need to set your goals and do your research. (Don’t worry, it’s not as intense as it sounds.)

The first thing you’ll want to do is to think about your budget. Here are a few things to keep in mind: there are great guitars in every price point. Two guitars can look exactly the same, but can be in two completely different price ranges. Don’t let this throw you off. The fact is, everything about a guitar, from the wood it’s made of to its shape and size affect the price. Don’t let all of the options distract you. For your first guitar, you want to make sure that the instrument is comfortable to play and that it sounds good. While you are learning, you will be training your ear as well, so having a guitar that helps you do that is key.

Not only will a budget keep you focused on what you can afford, but this will, naturally, narrow your options, making the process less overwhelming. (Why get your heart set on a $600 instrument when your budget is half that?!)

Best Beginner Guitar Tip 3

Next, consider your goals: Are you picking up the guitar to play for fun, or do you want to parlay your interest into a career? What or who do you want to sound like? You may not know the answers to these questions out of the gate, but they are great things to think about as you start doing your research.

Once you’ve got your budget set and your goals in mind, a great next step is to go online and search some retail or manufacturer websites to see what is out there. Why not just go to the nearest music store and start strumming? Simple: online retail and manufacturer sites can provide priceless reviews that you won’t get in a store. You’ll be able to get a feeling for the quality of the instrument and whether it’s suitable for a beginner. Odds are if countless other people love playing a particular guitar, you will too.

Once you’ve narrowed your list to the types of guitar you think you want, it’s time to go shopping.

Step Two: Buying the Best Beginner Guitar

Even if you find an amazing deal online, you’ll want to go check out your options in person before you hit “purchase.” Visit your local guitar retailer and take your wish list with you.

This is where it gets fun. Take the time to look at the guitars, listen to their sound and make sure they are comfortable for you to play. Ask questions of the salespeople and make sure that your budget and goals are clear. Beginner Guitar Tip 2

Not sure what to look for? Here’s a checklist to take along to help you out:

  1. Is the guitar the right size? As you hold the guitar, is it comfortable in your hands and as it sits in your lap? Is it a good width?
  2. Is the neck straight? With one eye open, look down the neck from the bottom of the guitar to make sure that it isn’t bent, crooked, or warped in any way.
  3. Does the guitar stay in tune? Make sure that the guitar stays in tune as you play. Ask a salesperson to help you listen for changes in tuning, or better yet, take a friend along who already plays and have them help you.
  4. Are there any cracks or scratches? Scratches can give a guitar character, but cracks can severely impact the sound, so make sure to give the guitar a good once over.
  5. Are any of the frets sticking out? Those metal strips down the neck of the guitar are called frets and you want to make sure they’re not poking out when you play. Run your hand down the neck to make sure that they are smooth.
  6. Is the action (space between the strings and the fretboard) good? If it’s too high it can make playing harder, and if it’s too low, it can cause buzzing when you play. Make sure that it feels and sounds right for you.

Once you’ve checked out your options, it’s time to choose your instrument! It’s an exciting moment for every musician so enjoy this step in your musical quest. (Psst: If you found a deal on your chosen guitar online, now would be the time to go home and click on that “buy” button!)

P.S. Don’t forget to ask about strings, picks and a strap for your guitar. We also suggest getting a nice sturdy case to protect your investment.

Step Three: The Payoff

Of course, the payoff is when you get home with your guitar and start playing…. and we know you want to start playing NOW! Good news: online lessons are becoming more and more popular and are a pretty cool option if we do say so ourselves. Even if you choose to take private lessons, we suggest that you find some online lessons that will keep you motivated between your sessions and will help you expand your skills and try out new things!

We’d be thrilled to see you and your new guitar rocking out on JamPlay with our awesome instructors and amazing community of guitarists. Not only can you access hours and hours of lessons with some of your favorite artists, but you can join live online lessons 8 hours a day with the best instructors in the business.

(NOTE: Want unbiased comparisons of the top guitar brands and models? Get JamPlay’s 2017 Guitar Buyer’s Guide here for free!)

The Bottom Line

So, here’s the thing: Regardless of what you spend on a guitar, or where you choose to buy it, the important thing is that you’re taking the steps to learn to play… and we think that’s pretty awesome. Explore your options and make them your own. And remember, whatever your path, stay focused, stay positive and keep rocking out!

 


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Four Reasons You Should Learn to Play Guitar Online

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So, you’re thinking about taking guitar lessons. Great idea! You’ve got the list covered: Guitar: Check! Amp: Check! Picks, cables and a bad-ass (Super-Cool?) guitar-playing stance: Check! Check! Check!

Now What?

Tradition would most likely dictate that you go out and find the best local teacher to show you the ropes and turn you into the Rock God you were born to be… you know, with all that free time you have…

Now, let us be clear: private lessons are great. Anyone who has taken traditional lessons would likely agree that those afternoons with their teachers, one-on-one, taught them not only the fundamentals of music, but an appreciation for the hard work and dedication that it takes to become an accomplished musician. They taught them the value of putting down the video games and actually practicing. They taught them discipline.

That being said, we’d like you to take tradition and stick it on a shelf for a few minutes because, as much as private music lessons rock, they simply aren’t the only answer any more.

Here are some simple facts about online guitar lessons that may just be music to your ears:

Fact #1: Online lessons work.

There’s a good reason lessons have become the most sought-after content on YouTube, and online lessons websites are becoming the go-to place for aspiring musicians: They work.

First of all, the volume of content that you have access to can’t be matched in the traditional lessons format. JamPlay.com offers over 1,000 hours of pre-recorded lessons for musicians of all ages. With the ability to structure their learning their way, students are seeing the kind of progress that keeps them motivated and excited about working toward their musical goals.

Additionally, sites like JamPlay offer students all of the perks of traditional lessons, including access to instructors and downloadable sheet music and tablature, with tools that only make sense in an online environment, such as an online metronome, a comment section where you can ask questions of the instructor or other students, and a progress tracker. These tools not only help you improve individually, but provide you with a community of students that you can learn with.

Fact #2: Online music lessons are convenient.

C’mon, you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas. If you’re anything like us, your life is busy, your time is valuable and the idea of getting into the car and having to be anywhere after work or school is enough to make you hide in the nearest armchair.

This brings us to one of our favorite online lessons benefits: They’re convenient. You log in when you have time, you spend as much time as you need to learn what you want… and you don’t have to leave home to do it. Bonus!

Fact #3: Online lessons are more affordable than traditional lessons.

When you search for online lessons, no doubt you’ll find a broad range of prices, from free lessons on YouTube that provide pre-recorded tutorials for guitarists of all levels, to upwards of $60 an hour for private one-on-one lessons via interactive software, like Skype. If you choose the traditional route, you’ll find that you’re going to invest anywhere from $40 to $60 an hour per weekly lesson, depending on where you live.

The good news is that there is a happy medium with sites like JamPlay that provide the convenience of online lessons with access to instructors and group lessons for a nominal monthly fee. For around $20 a month, you gain unlimited access to hundreds of hours of lessons as well as daily live online group instruction.

Fact #4: Open doors to different teachers, genres, and styles

This flexibility allows you to explore guitar lessons in your own unique way. Odds are you don’t just like one kind of music. Online lessons give you the opportunity to try out new teachers and new styles to see what’s right for you. Membership offers you endless opportunities to work with different teachers and explore new genres.

Want to learn from rock stars? You can do that too. Celebrity Guitarists are regulars in the JamPlay studio.

Additionally, live online group sessions give you the opportunity to work directly with instructors who can help you refine your skills, no matter what genre you want to learn.

One Final Fact: Don’t Forget to Practice!

No matter what kind of lessons you choose, you’re only as good as the time you commit to your goals. Practice will be the key to your success, so stay focused, try new things, and keep rocking out!


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