Anyone Can Play the Guitar

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That’s right. Anyone can play the guitar. Here’s the secret. Lose the long fingernails on your left hand. The lady with curly-cue fingernails can’t get there from here. Next, if you don’t own one, buy a guitar. Your local music shop will have a nice new or used nylon stringed (sometimes called a “classical”) guitar for one hundred to two hundred dollar. At the same time, invest in a twenty-dollar digital guitar tuner, which will allow you to either tune to a dial type pointer or light indicator. They also produce an actual tone that you can match to each of the six strings. Once you’ve done that, pick up a chord book, sometimes a pamphlet size booklet that shows you where to place your fingers on the fretboard to produce all the chords you can imagine.

Most songs you will want to play have three chords, more complicated ones no more than four to six. So by the time you’ve taught yourself to finger three chords and readily change from one to the other two without too much time elapsing, you’re a guitar player. Trust me, Eric Clapton, Andres Segovia, and John Mayer all started playing the instrument the same way. From there, I suggest you own the nicest instrument you can afford, because the better the guitar, the more inspired you’ll be to pick it up after your day at the salt mine and play it. Ask the same people you purchased it from to make sure the strings aren’t too high off the neck. The higher the strings, the more effort it takes to produce good sound, and the more discouraging it can be. On the other hand if the strings are too close to the fretboard they will buzz and fail to produce a clear ringing tone. In both cases a professional salesperson will be able to direct you to a technician who can inexpensively remedy both situations.

I started this process a little over forty years ago. Today I play well enough to amaze my friends, and even get work from time to time in night clubs. But there’s a much better reason to start playing the guitar. It’s portable, easy to put away in the closet when it’s not in use, a wonderful conversation piece when displayed on your wall, and the most cathartic thing you will ever do. I can’t tell you how well a guitar listens to you and reflects your moods in a way that makes you feel life is worthwhile when that feeling is otherwise hard to find.

Don’t be afraid to hire a competent teacher if you like, but you can get where you want to go in most cases without ever having a guitar lesson. Many of the players you love to listen to have developed their style and technique without ever taking a lesson.

Please don’t take my word for any of this. Do yourself one of the biggest favors you’ll ever do. Buy a guitar and get started.


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