A few weeks ago, I passed my tenth anniversary of taking up the guitar and what a decade it’s been! My only regret is that I didn’t pick it up sooner, because these days I see kids as young as 7-8 years old picking up and sticking to playing the guitar.
So, even though it’s been quite a while since I spent the first year of playing the guitar, I’ll try to list 9 important realizations about that period in this post. Even though I’d loved the experience, it wasn’t perfect. In fact, sometimes it was downright frustrating.
Since passing my 10th musical birthday, I’ve had some time to self-reflect, and I’ve decided to share some of the most important things I’ve learned during this time. If you’re a first-time guitarist or planning on taking it up, this is for you.
#1 – You’re Still Gonna Suck
Unfortunately, unless you practiced A LOT every single day, you’re still not going to be great at playing. When I first picked up the guitar, I knew it was going to take time to learn, but by the end of the first year, I didn’t shake the dreams of being up on stage rocking out like some of my idols.
However, even with several hours a week and several dedicated Sundays, I was still nowhere where I’d thought I would’ve been. In fact, I started practicing in silence using a pair of headphones instead of the loudspeaker on my amp for output. Nevertheless, I had fun, I’d learned far more details that I hadn’t known existed, and I was excited for what the future held.
#2 – You Don’t Need to Follow the Rules
When I’d bought my first guitar, I had this image in my head of a beautiful classical guitar that I wanted to own. The type I would practice and learn and then pull out during the early hours of the morning around a campfire with friends.
I felt like this was a stereotypical view of learning to play, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Whether you want an acoustic or an electric guitar, the only rule here is to buy the guitar you love, and you’ll adore owning.
#3 – Playing the Guitar is Amazing
After learning guitar for about six months, I decided to commit to learning a full song from start to finish. That’s after several failed attempts following online tabs when I started out. However, after about a week of dedicated learning and applying everything I’d learned, there was one attempt to my brother where everything sounded great.
This moment had been a highlight moment of the first year and was a session where I really knew how far I had come. I was so excited that I didn’t even finish playing, me and my brother were just shocked that it sounded like it did. Enjoy the journey and reap the results and the benefits of playing a musical instrument.
#4 – Other People Are Everything
For months after I started playing, I would hole up in my living room or back garden while grinding away trying to learn what I was doing with the only human contact coming from blog posts and YouTube videos.
One day, something changed, and I met up with my brother who also played guitar in a band. I sat and watched them play and had a go playing songs and learning different chords and techniques.
This was a life-changing event where I learned that networking with other people can open so many opportunities, so don’t be afraid to open up!
#5 – You Have Good & Bad Days
How you play one day is not going to be how you play the next day. If you’ve had a long day at school or work, sometimes practicing is a great way to unwind and relax, others it’s just going to make you angry.
Humans are not robots, and it’s important to remember that just because you’re playing bad one day, it doesn’t mean that you’ll play bad on the next day. Every creative passion has the same problem, you’ve just got to take a break, sleep on it and try again the next day.
#6 – Frustration Is Key
Naturally, I wouldn’t class myself as a hugely impatient person, but playing guitar had seriously pushed my limits in the first year, especially. Whether I was trying to learn a new chord, a new technique for fingerstyle or even trying to tune the guitar in the first place, there were times I was happy to give up.
Despite the times when I felt like smashing something, I always managed to calm down and pick it up again. There’s no gain without pain, and learning a guitar is just like learning any skill and requires patience.
#7 – Patience Is Essential
Following on from the point above, you need to have an outstanding amount of patience to learn guitar, or at least you need to develop this personality trait to succeed. We live in a world of instant gratification, and you’ll see a ton of online services claiming they can teach you guitar in three months or less. This isn’t the case.
Plant the seeds and have the patience to watch them grow up.
#8 – Lessons Aren’t Lame
Rewind to day one, and I was adamant that I was going to teach myself how to play, in the old-fashioned way. I was going to learn the things I wanted to learn, the songs I wanted to learn, and going to lessons was going to be far too slow and incredibly boring. I mean, who really enjoyed going to class?
However, after receiving five lessons for my birthday from a friend, I said “what the hell!” and gave them a shot. Wow. I started taking lessons about four months into my first year, and I learned more in the first few lessons than I had in the 120 days prior.
If you get the opportunity, search online or throughout your local area and see who can offer you lessons. Even if you’re searching Gumtree or Craig’s List, there’s bound to be someone who can show you the ropes and share their knowledge and experience. I guarantee it will get you places.
#9 – Don’t Forget to Congratulate Yourself
Investing in a guitar, picking it up, learning to play and having the self-discipline to continue to play it is an incredible thing, you should be very proud of yourself for continuing with your journey. There are so many friends and strangers I know who want to play but give up so quickly.
Don’t forget to take the time to look back after a month, three months, six months, a year and congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come. Honestly, you’re smashing it!
My first year of playing the guitar had been one of the most rock and roll years of my life. I hope my personal experience has offered some insight into what to expect in your own 365 days of musical adventures. If you take one thing away from this, remember to keep pushing on and enjoy your personal journey! You never know where it’s going to lead!
About the Author:
Gavin Whitner is a passionate musician and the primary blogger at MusicOomph. When he’s not playing the guitar for his alt-rock band, he can be caught watching all kinds of sports, except Golf.