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The 5 Best Ways to Learn to Play Guitar

The 5 Best Ways to Learn to Play Guitar

Has that dusty guitar been sitting in your attic for years? Or has it been standing in the corner of your living room as a tasteful decoration? Maybe hanging on your wall?

Or maybe you just heard Steve Vai for the first time. Or Jimi Hendrix. And you went out and bought a brand spankin’ new guitar. You couldn’t resist.

Regardless of how you got here, this much is clear – it’s time to learn to play guitar.

But how exactly do you get started?

Luckily there are a number of ways to learn a new instrument and some great options for all of you aspiring rock-and-rollers out there.

Below are the absolute best ways to learn the instrument and to begin your journey to become the next Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Tony Rice, Django Reinhardt, or Eric Clapton.

1. Take Private Lessons


One of the most popular ways to learn any instrument is to take private lessons. Private lessons are a great option since they will allow you to have guidance every step of the way. You’ll get specialized attention and will be able to progress at your own pace.

If you’re someone who can’t be motivated to teach yourself, then the steadiness and structure of private lessons will likely be great for you.

One drawback however is that private lessons are also one of the more expensive ways to learn. If you can’t afford to spend money on lessons each week, then continue reading on for some cheaper alternatives.

2. Take a Class

Similar to private lessons, taking a full-fledged group class is another great possibility. Although not as common as private lessons, classes will be considerably cheaper since you will be sharing the cost with other students.

Many community colleges offer continuing education classes for beginning guitar players, as do some larger music lesson studios.

The drawback with group classes however is that you may not get as much individualized feedback and direction as you would in a private lesson.

3. Book Learning


In private lessons or in a classroom setting, you’ll likely be using a guitar lesson book such as the Hal Leonard Guitar Method series. So why not cut out the middleman and simply purchase the book?

A guitar method book will take you step by step and give you a well-rounded education, teaching you how to read music notation and tablature, and how to play basic chords.

If you have the dedication and drive, using books and teaching yourself in this way may be just right for you. It’s also a cheap alternative to a more formal education.

4. Youtube

Another great (and cheap) way to learn to play guitar is by using Youtube. Youtube is one of the best modern luxuries we have for learning pretty much anything, including guitar. Simply search for “guitar lessons” on the site and a nearly endless string of results will appear.

For the visual learners out there, Youtube is great and will allow you to see exactly how various notes and techniques are played as your virtual instructor or instructors walk you through their lessons step by step.

5. Other Internet Resources

Although Youtube is one of the best websites for learning a new instrument, don’t forget that there’s a whole World Wide Web out there. A simple Google search will deliver an abundance of online guitar websites, each featuring articles and lessons that will help you learn the instrument.

Websites such as have lessons, articles, chord charts, and guitar tabs that will allow you to study the instrument and learn songs by your favorite artists – all without spending a dime.

It’s easy to see that there are plenty of options and methods for learning to play guitar, but remember that you don’t have to pick just one. By combining some of the methods above, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can learn to play guitar.

Take a private lesson and then go home and build on what you’ve learned by browsing guitar lessons on the internet. Learn a new technique in a guitar method book and then watch a Youtube video to get the full visual. The possibilities are endless.

Now you know how to get started. So stop reading, grab that guitar, and get to playing!

Small Instruments for Musicians Who Love to Travel

Small Instruments for Musicians Who Love to Travel

beach-musician-300x199Backpacking with a large instrument like a guitar, a keyboard, a bass guitar, a tuba, or heck, a cello, can be difficult. Although guitars are fairly portable, they can still be a bit too bulky for the constant traveler. Luckily, there are many small instruments that are perfectly travel-sized and ready for any journey. Not only that, many of them are also super cool in their own right.

I’m preparing to take some trips of my own over the next few months and although I’m pretty darn sentimental about my guitar, I’ve decided to leave it behind for now and track down a small instrument to call my new best friend.

This is a great list for guitar players who are looking to scale down, but it’s also worth a look for other musicians who are looking for a more portable option. A lot of skills transfer over between instruments, so don’t be afraid. Many instruments can be easier to learn than you may think.

Whether you’re brand new to music and looking to learn an instrument for the very first time, or you’re looking to travel light while doing some street performing, or you just want to jam with your many hostel-mates and Couchsurfing hosts, one of the below instruments may just be the perfect fit for you.


The King of Small Instruments


The ukulele is one of the smallest stringed instruments out there, and is great for traveling musicians who want to carry light. Many ukuleles are also available at great prices, many for under $50. On the other hand, if you’re a singer/songwriter who is accustomed to singing emotional ballads you might have some adjusting to do. It’s pretty difficult to make any song sound too sad when the ukulele is backing you up.


The Folk-Lovers Ukulele on Steroids

The mandolin is another small instrument that’s a great choice for travelers, especially if you’re into folk music. The instrument has one of the most unique sounds you’ve heard and works great as a solo instrument or as accompaniment for your voice. Compared to the ukulele, the mandolin has a lot of versatility and can create a much more diverse array of sounds.


The Classic Travelers Sidekick


If you don’t have any interest in singing while playing, then the harmonica is a great choice for you. It’s also probably the easiest small instrument to carry around. On the cheaper side you can get a harmonica for under $10, but if you’re looking for something that’s higher quality you’ll probably want to go with something like the Hohner Marine Band harmonica.  The only drawback is that you’ll need different harmonicas for different keys, which can become an issue if you want to do a lot of jamming with your hostel-mates or anyone you meet on the road.


A Piano Lover’s Strange Mistress

The melodica is a little less well-known, but is a really cool sounding instrument that kind of sounds like a cross between a harmonica and an accordion. This also happens to be one of the best small instruments for piano players who want to keep playing while on the road. Believe me, it’s going to be a heck of a lot better than carrying a keyboard, or god forbid, a piano around.


For the Cultured Professional


Depending on how you play it, you may either call this a violin or a fiddle, but regardless, there’s no denying that it can be one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in the world when in the hand of an expert. However it can also be one of the most terrible sounding if you’re not quite up to par. The learning curve for this instrument is a bit higher than many of the others on this list,  but if you’re up to the task, a violin (or fiddle) may be a great small instrument to carry around with you while you trot around the globe.

Backpacker Guitar

For Guitarists Resistant to Change


If you’re a guitarist and REALLY can’t stand to leave your guitar behind, you do have the option of getting a Martin backpacker guitar. They’re portable, lightweight, and a perfect way to get your guitar playing fix while on the road. Although truth be told, they are a little funny looking.

How have you guys dealt with carrying instruments while traveling? Any tips, methods, or interesting small instruments that you would like to share with the class?

Let me know in the comments below.

5 Cool Works of Art and Media To Check Out

5 Cool Works of Art and Media To Check Out

Too much television, too many movies, too many video games, probably even excessive reading can be detrimental to your health and well-being.

But nevertheless, I love watching a great TV show. Movies are awesome. I’m a little addicted to self-help books. This year, for the first time in a while, I’ve started really getting into fiction too.

Not all creative works and media are created equally, however. A few have really stood out to me over the past few months, and I’ve found these rattling around in my brain long after I’ve completed them, and in some cases, I’ve ended up going in for seconds.

Here are a few of the movies, television shows, fiction and non-fiction books, music, media, and artistic creations that have influenced me in a spectacular way lately, and I highly suggest you check some of these out.

1. You’re the Worst (Television Show)


You’re the Worst is one of the most interesting television shows I’ve seen in a while, and is also one of the funniest. Although the show kicks off with a great premise, two horrible people who don’t do relationships hook up and kinda sorta start seeing each other, the show’s exceptional writing pushes the show into even greater unique, hilarious, and emotional places.

Laugh out loud moments, quirkiness, and realistic depictions of modern relationships, are fueled by clever writing and great characters. Some of the episodes in the second season, like LCD Soundsystem, are so unique and well-written that I just want to watch  them and study them over and over again, in hopes of becoming a better writer.

Unlike many current and recent shows, the writers know not only when to tear the characters apart, and induce conflict, but they also know when to bring the characters back together, and the show is all the better for it.

2. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (NOVEL)


If you don’t count Haruki Murakami novels, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is probably the strangest novel I’ve ever read. The story follows two strange sisters who live together in a small village, and the story develops slowly and precisely into an unsettling little tale. The protagonist, Merricat, is probably one of the most interesting narrators of all time. She begins like this:

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had.”

I don’t want to give away too much, but the way the story develops over the course of the novel is pretty great and super strange. I highly suggest you check it out. I couldn’t put it down while reading and this is definitely on the top of my “re-read” list.

The author, Shirley Jackson, is a bit better known for her novel The Haunting of Hill House and her short story The Lottery, but to me, this one takes the cake.

3. Les Miserables (FILM/MUSICAL)

I know the film version of Les Miserables has been around for almost four years now, but I’ve only just now gotten around to watching it. I saw a stage version a long time ago, so I knew that when I finally watched the film I was going to need to be prepared for an emotional experience.

Anne Hathaway’s performance as Fantine and her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” particularly stood out as a heart-wrenching moment of the film, but so many different characters’ stories throughout the course of the film packed huge depressing punches.

On the lighter side however, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s rendition of “Master of the House” is absolutely hilarious.

The nearly three-hour long film punched me in the gut over and over again while making me question the human condition, sing along, and yes, also sorta kinda ball my eyes out…

But yet… I loved every second of it.

4. Singles (FILM)

“My dad left home when I was eight. You know what he said to me? Have fun, stay single. I was eight.” – Steve

This early 90s film by Cameron Crowe takes place in grunge-era Seattle and stars Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon, Bridget Fonda, and Campbell Scott.

Singles is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a while and although it’s a bit older, it’s a nice look into relationships, single-ness, and becoming an adult. There are some really laugh-out-loud funny moments, and this is a film that everyone needs to see at least once.

I’ve already re-watched it a few times, and I’m sure I’ll continually be watching it over and over again for years to come.

5. Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway (NON-FICTION BOOK)


While the title alone is a great suggestion for living life, this self-help book delves even further into great suggestions for persevering and embracing the things that we’re afraid of.

The author, Susan Jeffers, goes into various methods for pushing through fear and inaction, changing how we think about things we’re afraid of and worry about, and simply living life more fully.

Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway makes a lot of great points and although many of Susan Jeffers’ ideas seem obvious after reading them, they are incredibly helpful. Many of her ideas and simple mindset tricks are not only smart, but easy to implement.

For example, she suggests that instead of living in hope (i.e. “Hoping things will work out” or “Hoping I won’t get fired”) to simply say to yourself “I’ll handle it.” when something goes wrong. I find myself thinking this often, and this tactic has made a great and immediate impact on my thinking throughout the day.

If you ever get stressed out, or find yourself living in fear and inaction, I highly suggest you check this one out.

I hope you’ve found this list helpful and if you haven’t checked some of these out before I hope that you will soon. Almost anything can be bad in excess but I’ve found that television, movies, and books can sometimes be incredibly helpful in improving our awareness of the world and to expand our thinking, while also getting a little entertainment value.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you have differing opinions on the above? Do you have any suggestions for what I should add to my watching/reading lists?

I would love to hear from you.