After teaching guitar for a number of years, you start to see a pattern questions asked by beginners.

I’ve decided to compile these questions in the post below.  In some cases the questions are answered in this article, in others I’ll direct you to previous articles (with more in depth and better answers.

Here are the questions we’ll cover (scroll down for responses)

  • What is a capo for?
  • Do you need to use picks?
  • When do I change strings?
  • How much are guitar lessons?
  • What happens if a string breaks?
  • Do I have to learn to read music?
  • How much should a practice guitar?
  • How long does it take to learn a song on guitar?
  • Is it better for a child to learn on electric or acoustic?
  • Do I need a guitar teacher? (or Should I take guitar lessons)

Answers below:

 

What is a capo for?

 

A capo is basically a clamp for the neck of the guitar.

It’s most commonly used to change the key of song, without changing the chord shapes you play.

For example:  When we play a G chord without a capo… we’re playing a G chord (duh).

However, when we place the capo on the 2nd fret and then play a G chord relative to the capo, we’re actually playing a A chord.

I realize that this is a little difficult to understand without actually using a capo.   I have a detailed write-up on the best capos and best uses for capos here.

Practically speaking, most guitar players will use a capo to change the key of the song without having to play different chord shapes.

This can be amazing for singers since it allows us to play a song in a key that best suits our voice.

Capos are great for beginners as well because they allow us to play a broader range of songs without having to learn advanced chord shapes.

 

Do you need to use picks?

 

No.

Well… sometimes.

I guess it depends.

If you’re a beginner (especially a kid), I don’t usually recommend using picks – they’re just another thing to worry about.

Once you start getting comfortable with the guitar (after a lesson or two), then maybe start to use a pick.

The use of a pick will vary from song to song.

It will also vary from person to person.

When I first started playing the guitar I did a lot of fingerpicking.

I’m super comfortable playing with my fingers, but not so much with a pick.

If you’re playing speed metal – use a pick.

If you’re playing punk or hard rock – use a pick.

If you’re playing a lot of songs with strumming – use a pick.

So do you need a pick?  I think it depends on the song.

 

When do I change strings?

 

It depends how much you play and the type of strings you have.

On average, changing strings once a month is probably good for your average guitar player.

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to changing strings and tend to go for months at a time without changing them.

If you notice the strings are dirty, corroded, and/or rusty…. change them.

If you notice the sound isn’t as bright as it once was…. change them.

 

How much are guitar lessons?

 

I’ve written about this in depth.  Lessons can range anywhere between $15 – $150.

If you want a good idea of what to expect in terms of cost, read this:

How much are guitar lessons?

 

What happens if a string breaks?

 

Replace it!

You can either do it yourself or take the guitar to a music store and have the folks there change it.

If you’re planning on playing the guitar for awhile, you should really learn to change your strings.

 

Do I have to learn to read music?

 

No.

You don’t have to.

In my experience there are two schools of thought on this:

  1. Guitar teachers who were in a traditional setting and were taught to read music are advocates of learning to read music. 
  2. Guitar teachers who were self taught do not care about learning to read music. 

Either way, it’s not necessary.

However, learning to read music will give you a greater understanding of what you’re playing.

But learning to read music is difficult (especially for adults with no previous experience).

Here’s what I do:

Unless the student specifically wants to learn to read music: I do not teach how to read music.

I will however, pepper in pieces of music theory (including reading some notation) as the student becomes more comfortable with the guitar itself.

In other words, after the student has a basic level of guitar competency (can play chords and some basic riffs) I will help them learn to read music.

Again: not necessary, but it can be helpful.

 

How much should a practice guitar?

 

Short answer: A few minutes (5 – 20 minutes) every day. 

Long answer:  Read this article about how much to practice the guitar.

 

How long does it take to learn a song on guitar?

 

This is the most popular question about guitar playing.

Fortunately, I’ve got a detailed write up (with specific examples from real students) here.

 

Is it better for a child to learn on electric or acoustic?

 

Short answer: Whatever guitar they can physically handle the best…. and… whichever guitar best matches the style of music they want to learn.

Long answer: Read this, Is it better for a child to learn on electric or acoustic?

 

Do I need a guitar teacher? (or Should I take guitar lessons)

 

No.

But having a teacher will help you learn to play the guitar faster.

However, there are so many awesome online guitar resources that it is possible to teach yourself guitar.

This is my favorite online guitar resource.

That’s it!

If you have a question, leave it in the comments below and I’ll add it to the post above!