Tag Archives: Learn to play guitar

How to get kids interested in music Part 3 – Teenagers

If your child already plays but is finding it increasingly hard to stay interested, read our top tips for getting them to practice here.

If you’re still hoping to get a teenager to take up the opportunity to learn an instrument before adult life takes over, some serious inspiration is required! Young people aged 11-16 have many more pre-conceived ideas about music than younger children. Any barriers they create are normally driven by peer pressure and the need to fit in. Playing an instrument is often labelled uncool or swotty and it can be hard to keep up when what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ changes daily.

Live music is probably the biggest inspiration so tickets to a favourite band are a good place to start. This can be very expensive however so if you can’t stretch to it, remember that local bands usually play covers and find someone who is playing music that your teen will enjoy. This often works out well as most musicians you will see playing in coffee houses, shopping areas and pubs/clubs are really approachable and would be very happy to have a chat about what started them off in music and offer some tips. If you’re in the North-East of England, check out On The Case Music’s Gig Guide.

Often, teenagers who take up an instrument are motivated by a desire to learn to play a particular song that they love. You can definitely implant this as a goal if you suggest it casually and/or respond positively if they mention it. Find an online video tutorial if you can which covers the song or artist they’re interested in and offer to rent an instrument or buy a cheap one so they can have a go. Or speak to a teacher about booking a starter block of lessons as a birthday or Christmas gift. If a teenager is going to start taking lessons, it’s really important to find a teacher who is sensitive to their student’s goals and knows how to keep them interested. Your local music shop will be able to help you with this.

If you already have instruments at home, it can seem most economical to try to push your child into learning one of those (especially if you’ve always had a vision of them doing so!). However, teenagers who don’t feel really connected to the instrument they play hardly ever continue long term. If they have a real interest in a particular instrument, try to accommodate it by borrowing or renting initially.

Choosing a guitar for an adult beginner

Opinion is split as to whether an electric or an acoustic guitar is better to begin with so if you don’t feel strongly about which you prefer, try both before you decide. Don’t buy a classical (nylon string) guitar unless you intend to play classical/folk music. Although the strings are kinder to your fingers, they tend to have a very wide fret board which isn’t ideal for most styles of music and the sound quality is very different from steel strings.

Electric Guitar: The Pros:

The strings are closer to the neck than the average acoustic meaning you don’t need to press as hard. This also makes it easier to change chords at first.

Many amps have headphone sockets so, although one of the main concerns about electric guitar is the noise, in practice, they can be significantly quieter than an acoustic. More practical if you have small children or grumpy neighbours!

You can add effects pedals to recreate the exact sound you are looking for.

A small amount of ability can sound very impressive!

Electric Guitar: The Cons:

Due to the need for amp/lead etc as well as your guitar, the initial spend is significantly higher.

They are much heavier than an acoustic because the body is solid. The weight also varies massively between brands and body shapes so don’t buy one without holding it first.

If you’re going to lessons, bear in mind that, unless you can just take your guitar and use your teacher’s amp, there is a lot of gear to lug around. This also applies to taking your guitar away with you or going to buskers nights etc. (Although, for portable practice, Vox Headphone amps are pretty cool!).

In general, greater accuracy of playing is required as everything is magnified by the amplifier.

What to check before you buy:

What do you get with it? Although many electric guitars, particularly beginner ones, come with everything you need, don’t assume it’s included, or that it’s not! If it’s not included, is there a discount available for accessories?

Does the shop test the amp when it arrives? Most shops test and tweak guitars on arrival but if the amp hasn’t been tested, ask if it can be checked before you leave to avoid any potential issues.

Acoustic Guitar: The Pros

You can pick up a decent quality starter acoustic guitar for less than £60.

Acoustic guitars are far more convenient and portable. This applies both to playing at home and to taking it out and about.

They encourage good technique and start strengthening your fingers straightaway.

There are several different body sizes including Dreadnought, Folk, Cutaway and slimline among others so there’s a good chance of finding one that’s comfortable for you to play.

Acoustic Guitar: The Cons

It’s a bit harder to pull fancy moves in the beginning.

The tone quality is harder to play around with (unless you have an electro-acoustic).

If you do need to play louder, you can use a mic or a clip-on pick-up but the sound is never as good as a built in pick-up. Again, if you think you’re likely to want to do this, consider investing in an electro-acoustic guitar to avoid any inconvenience.

What to check before you buy

The more you spend, the better you can expect the action to be. Make sure that you can press the strings down all the way up the frets and they aren’t too high (too far from the fret board) to play comfortably.

As you go higher up the price scale, the quality of the workmanship and the component parts should be higher too.

If you are spending £150 plus, the guitar should probably have a solid top.

Do you get any accessories or can you get a discount on extras like a gig bag, strap and tuner?

Ready to buy your first guitar? Pop into enjoymuzic – your North East Music Shop to try some and let us help you choose the right guitar for you today!

How to use a digital tuner

 

We always encourage you to buy a tuner with any stringed instrument – most often a guitar or a ukulele. Many phones and tablets have a download app you can use and obviously something is better than nothing but there are a few reasons why a clip-on tuner is a better option.

The first is that, because they work by vibration, a clip-on tuner is significantly more accurate than either an app or a desk tuner for stringed instruments. The second positive about a clip-on tuner is that they aren’t disturbed by external noise eg: other people tuning around you or the TV.

So, what’s the best and easiest way to use a clip-on tuner to get the maximum results? Just follow the easy steps below, ideally every time you play, to keep your instrument sounding great:

– Make sure your tuner is set up correctly for the instrument you are tuning. You may have options for mode – eg which instrument and notes you need so make sure you’ve selected an appropriate option first. Also there may be a choice of pitch. In normal circumstances, this should be set to 440, which is standard concert pitch.

– Attach your tuner in a way that gets the best reception. This is the headstock of a guitar, ukulele, banjo or mandolin and the middle of the back of the neck on a violin. Try slightly different angles and positions until you find your perfect positioning where you get a good signal, you can see the display clearly and you can comfortably reach the tuning pegs.

– It sounds obvious, but make sure the peg you are turning relates to the string you are trying to tune! If in doubt, follow the string along to find the peg it’s attached to. Even experienced musicians sometimes snap a string by turning the wrong peg and not stopping to wonder why the pitch of the string isn’t changing :-).

– New strings go further out of tune and a lot more often so don’t worry if you seem to spend a lot of time tuning at first. As long as you store your instrument away from changing heat (not near a radiator or in the loft/conservatory/shed!) then it should settle down so you can tune once or twice a week.

We have a great selection of tuners for all instruments in store at Royal Quays, or you can see them here:

http://www.enjoymuzic.com/acatalog/musical-instrument-tuners.html

TGI 81 Digital Tuner

How to fit a guitar strap

If you play an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar with two strap buttons, fitting your guitar strap is as simple as pushing the leather ends onto the buttons and adjusting the length.

If you have an acoustic or nylon string guitar, it isn’t always obvious what to do – in fact, it’s one of the questions we get asked most often.

Start by pushing one end onto the strap button* on the bottom of your guitar. If there is writing or a picture on your strap, at this point it should be upside down.

You will need a shoe lace or something similar to tackle the other end. (Often, guitar straps will come with one.) Fold it in half and thread the folded end through the hole in the strap then pop the two ends through and pull to form a loop.

guitar strap with lace attached

Now take one of the ends and thread it through the guitar strings at the machine head end. It should be just behind the top nut, not on the main fretboard.

guitar neck showing position for lace to attach

Tie a good knot underneath the headstock – a reef knot is perfect. Check your knot for the first week or so to make sure it’s staying nice and tight and supporting your guitar safely.

If you prefer, you can use a leather strap button like this Martin one which threads through in the same place and offers extra support…Martin Guitar Strap Button CloseupMartin Guitar Strap Button Attached

There’s more info about the Martin Guitar Strap Button here.

* Some guitars, particularly classical ones, don’t have a strap button on the bottom. You can fit one yourself and most good music shops sell them separately or in pairs.

Learning music is cheaper than you think!

This time of year is a worry for many parents whose children are fired up with the idea of starting to play an instrument. There’s no need to spend a fortune however. Here’s a quick idea of the starting prices for beginner instruments at enjoymuzic this year. And remember, a bit of friendly advice is free so if you have any questions before you buy, just pop in!

Ukulele packages from £16.99
Recorders from £3.50
3/4 Guitars from £34.70
Flute & Clarinet outfits from £120 (or rent for just £36 for 3 months!)
Trumpet outfits from £135 (also available to rent)
Violin outfits from £79.99
Touch Sensitive Electronic Keyboard outfits from £139
Digital Pianos outfits from £324

There’s loads more to see instore and we’re open every day!

Check out our more detailed tips on buying a guitar, choosing a beginner flute or which ukulele to buy!

Top 10 music blogs and review sites

1) If you play ukulele, check out this fab blog packed full of tips, tricks and reviews by the well-known ukulele author and teacher Brett McQueen. http://www.ukuleletricks.com/blog/

Being the online presence The Guitarist magazine, it seems only natural that Music Radar would host some of the best guitar resources online, including these two….

2) Learn something new and improve your technique at http://www.musicradar.com/guitartechniques

3) Don’t buy an expensive piece of kit until you’ve read the reviews at http://www.musicradar.com/reviews/guitars

4) Everything you need to know to be a healthy and happy gigging musician from http://www.musicianwages.com/

5) Everything from creating a fab website for your band to tips on dealing with an agent http://www.musicthinktank.com/ deals with the big issues of the day affecting both professional and amateur band members.

6) If you enjoy supporting new artists and want to know about the next rising star before everyone else, surprisingly one of the best places to be is the BBC! http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/introducing

7) Stay in touch with the Classical music scene at http://www.theartsdesk.com/classical-music – CD reviews, performer interviews and brilliant snippets of trivia.

8) All the latest gossip from the Jazz world http://thejazzbreakfast.com/

9) Although it’s the blog of Alex Ross (the music critic at the New Yorker), http://www.therestisnoise.com/ also features reviews of the most influential productions and performances happening around Europe, as well as fascinating articles about musicians old and new.

10) http://www.soundonsound.com/ is one of the most informative music technology websites with an active and friendly forum for all your questions on set-ups, recording and software.

Picking the right pick – plectrums for beginner guitarists

At enjoymuzic we stock a varied range of plectrums and for new players it can be confusing as to what plectrums to use.

Let’s start with guitar plectrums (there are plenty of them!). Also called picks, plectrums come in different shapes, sizes and thickness. There is no official right or wrong plectrum but you have to decide what suits your playing style and what feels comfortable.

Tortex guitar picks are my favourite (after 10 years of using a wide variety of plectrums), they are plastic picks and come in different gauges (thickness). The textured surface provides a good grip even if your fingers are slippy.

Dunlop also make plenty of different plectrums, make sure to check them out. Ernie Ball have a plain plastic plectrum range and also have a nylon style that offers more grip for those (like myself) who like something to hang on to. My colleague loves Planet Waves Picks because they’re cheap, good quality and come in loads of different designs from tortoiseshell to rainbow!

Sharkfin plectrums are shaped like a shark fin. The green sharkfin is so flexible you can bend it completely over on itself. The black ones are the heaviest and provide no give at all. Acoustic players often like to use the thin plectrums as they can control dynamics, whilst still maintaining their tone whereas thicker picks give a louder, brighter sound.

If you have a favourite band, film or television programme the chances are you will be able to get them on a guitar pick. See our selection of character and rock band plectrums here – we even have Spongebob Squarepants picks! Many of them come in pick tins – a very handy way to keep them safe!

If you don’t know what plectrums to use I would advise to buy 6 – 10 different ones that vary in both shape and gauge. Have a try of them all and hopefully you will find out which plectrum suits you. Starting at 3 for £1 for good quality, branded picks, you can’t really go wrong!

Other picks and accessories you might need…

Bass players tend to use a very heavy gauge of plecs as the strings are much thicker. Big Stubbys are popular with bass players ranging from 1mm to 5 mm in thickness.

Folk instrument plectrums

Some players like to use guitar plectrums for their folk instrument whilst others believe that the strings on folk instruments will be damaged from the use of plastic plectrums and the tone will be poorer.

Felt plectrums are commonly used on ukuleles as they are soft on the strings and reduce the clicking sound on the strings that you get with plastic picks. We sell both thick and thin felt plectrums. We also stock leather plectrums that are designed to give you a bright sound yet it doesn’t compromise playability. These can be used on ukes and mandolins.

Banjo players use finger and thumb picks. These are normally made of nickel or plastic and help to produce a clear picking sound. They come in different sizes to help find the ones that snuggly fit onto fingers and thumb. You can try a plastic thumb pick on your guitar if you find it difficult to grip a normal plectrum.

Plectrum holders

Where to keep them without losing them?! The problem with guitar picks is that even if you put them in your wallet/pocket/a special place at home, they do mysteriously disappear.

Dadi pick holders are great as they are small and store a good amount of plectrums for the size and price. They even have a sticky patch on the back so you can stick it to your instrument case or music stand.

Keep rockin’

Joe

Top ten guitar accessories (part two)…

More top tools and gadgets to help you always sound your best and perfect gift ideas for your favourite guitarist.  If you haven’t seen part one yet, here it is… Top ten guitar accessories (part one)

6)  Capo – barre chords made easy!

Play in any key whatever your ability. Cover all 6 strings to change the pitch and make it more suitable for singing or playing. There are loads of different styles and price brackets of capo. We love the ‘quick change’ designs.

7)  Fast fret – for ease of movement!

Don’t get stuck to your fretboard! Keeping your fingerboard well maintained with Fast Fret will improve your speed and make your playing smoother and more comfortable. All the best guitarists use it – give it a try today and feel the difference!

8)  Music Stand – seeing your music makes it easier to play!

It’s easy to ‘get along’ without a stand for your music. However, being able to put your tutor book in a comfortable position AND maintain a good playing posture can catapult your playing forward.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a music stand. Our range start at £8.99.

9)  Foot stool – great posture starts at the bottom!

Guitar footstools are aimed at Classical or Spanish guitar players and if you have a nylon string guitar with no strap, a foot stool will make you much more comfortable when you play. However, if you need a bit of extra support, try a footstool with your steel string or electric guitar to take the pressure off your neck and shoulders and help you to position your wrist better.

10) Slide – sustain & glide!

If you’re a country or blues music enthusiast, a good slide is essential. If you haven’t used one before, a glass one is lighter and easier to control but for full-on resonance, a metal guitar slide is ideal for intermediate and advanced players.

If the guitarist in your life has all these accessories (and more!), have a look at our great range of gifts for guitarists for some brilliant birthday and Christmas ideas.

Top ten guitar accessories (part one)…

The top tools and gadgets to help you always sound your best and perfect gift ideas for your favourite guitarist.

1)  Tuner – because your guitar won’t sound right without it!

Unless you’re one of the 1 in 10,000 people who have perfect pitch, a tuning device is essential. Strings stretch and contract while you’re playing and also with changes in temperature so even if your guitar is tuned once a week by a teacher, you should ideally tune every time you play. If you’re using learning aids with a backing CD, your guitar needs to be bang in tune to sound right, even if you’re hitting the correct notes! This also applies if you play with other people, either in a class or a band.

Tuning with a tuner is easy, particularly with one like the Snark clip-on tuner which has a nice, easy-to-follow display.

NB: Many people use the ‘fifth fret rule’ so your guitar will sound ok. However, if your guitar is never checked on a tuner, you still risk snapping a string through over-tightening.

2)  Gig bag – because your guitar deserves protection!

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a carry bag. How much you choose to spend will depend on the value of your guitar. We prefer bags with a side opening zip (less chance of damage to the tuning pegs!) and back-pack straps make it easy to carry. We offer a budget price TGI student guitar gig bag and also a more padded version.

3)  Stand – got 5 minutes? Spend it playing your guitar!

One of the main reasons people don’t play their guitar is that they feel they must set aside a long period of time for practice. However, if your guitar is standing safely and easily accessible, you can achieve a lot in short bursts of 5 – 10 minutes. Also, guitars tend to get left out anyway and being knocked over whilst leaning against a wall or sofa is the biggest cause of damaged instruments.

There are many styles of guitar stand including lightweight (ideal for taking to gigs and also in smaller spaces), stands with a backrest and we even offer the Hercules guitar hanger to store your guitar on the wall!

4)  Pick selection – different pick, different sound!

The pick you choose will depend what music you want to play. A harder pick will make a louder, brasher sound whereas the thinner ones create a gentler tone. The different gauges also feel different in your hand, so your grip is a factor too. Musician and Band or character picks make a great gift for a guitarist.

Guitar picks are pretty cheap, so grab a few different ones and see what works best for you!

5)  Strap – for posture, support and character!

Your guitar strap is a great accessory as the price range and variety of designs is enormous. From bands and artists, to cartoon characters, slogans, leather, suede – they all do the job, although a little extra padding is a great idea if you play a lot.

See our selection of guitar straps, from less than £6.

Click here to see part two…

 

How to re-string your guitar

I have many customers that bring their guitars in to be restrung and I would like to post a little blog on how to restring your guitar to pass on my knowledge.

There are plenty of tools to help you restring your guitar. I personally use the Planet Waves Pro Winder. It’s a 3 in 1 tool that is able to cut your strings, remove any bridge pins, wind your strings, and is well worth the reasonable price we sell it for. I would also recommend a neck rest (Planet Waves Headstand), which secures the neck of the guitar giving you both hands to work on the guitar.

First things to do is remove the old strings. I loosen the strings first so they cannot cause any injury or damage when cutting them, which is the next thing to do. After that, remove the strings from either end of the guitar. At this point in time you might want to clean the guitar where the strings normally cover. We use Kyser polish to do so, it always cleans up guitars very nicely.

Now take your lowest ‘E’ string and feed it through string hole normally located on or near the bridge of the guitar. Take the guitar string all way up to the correct tuning peg and pull it tight. Then put 3 fingers together and place them above the tuning peg, this is the amount of extra string you will want to keep (but do not cut any string at this point). Now bend the string when it is at the end of the 3 finger measure. Feed the string into the tuning peg with the bend sitting directly under the tuning peg’s hole. Now make bend the rest of the string above the tuning peg in the opposite direction to the first bend. This should now lock the string in place if you gently pull on it. Next take your peg winder and start winding the string making sure it wraps around nice and neatly and the right way, until it is near in tune. Then stop and move onto the next string.

Repeat the process until all 6 strings are in place.

It may take a while to become fast at replacing the strings however patience is key here. Here is a little video we’ve found to show you how.

If you would like any advice on choosing strings or would like us to restring your guitar for you, you’re welcome to bring your guitar along to enjoymuzic. We’re open every day at Royal Quays Shopping Centre, North Shields.

Keep Rockin’, Joe

Our guide to how to restring classical guitar is coming soon!