Number 1: Get a nice new guitar strap that has strap-locks on it, our friends at D’Addario make the very best guitar straps that have locks built in, and they are a bargain! There are two main reasons to invest in a strap with locks. The first is that when you start playing, it takes a bit of time to get used to your guitar and the chances are, you’re going to drop it a few times. Well, if you have a strap with strap-locks, this isn’t going to happen, the guitar is going to stay attached to you! The second reason is that when you are sitting down with your guitar, it can slide its way about your lap and basically end up lying flat on your knees. Yes, you can see where you want to put your fingers, but you will have to twist into some very unnatural positions to get your fingers in to place. If you have a strap, it will hold your guitar in the correct position against your body and prevent you from needing spinal surgery any time soon! This is a very important tip that we strongly recommend!
Number 2: Always wash your hands before you play your guitar! Now, there may be other guitar teachers out there shaking their heads thinking “that’s not going to make any difference!”, we would gracefully disagree. Your fingers have been through all sorts, all day, then you pick your guitar up, and guess what, all the stuff on your hands that you maybe can’t see, is going to end up ingrained into your fret board and on your strings. I am speaking as a guitarist and a guitar technician who has seen thousands of guitars in my life. The necks and strings can be vulgarly disgusting! Truly vile with the following: Sweat, dead skin cells, grease from skin, bacteria, food, more sweat, rust, dust, condensation, tar from tobacco, some more sweat… you get the picture! Try doing this right now… rub your thumb and third finger together as hard as you can for a few seconds, do you feel that, the sweat and grease? Our hands perspire sweat, and sweat is salty water, right? What happens when you put salty water on metal? It rusts! Your strings are metal. Not a very good combination. So what can you do? Have surgery to stop your hands getting sweaty or… WASH YOUR HANDS! Your strings will last much longer, the fret board won’t get clogged up as quickly and the frets themselves will stay shinier for longer, meaning nicer, smoother bends!
Number 3: Practice with and without a plectrum (guitar pick). Why? Well, because if you want to play a heavy rock song, you will have the pick to give you the rawness, and if you want a smoother, slightly more muted sound, you have your fingers. Fingers also come in for finger-picking too. We see to many guitarist that are either/or. Some who only use the guitar pick and “can’t finger pick” and those who maybe have had a slightly classical approach and are scarred to try something new. The more things you can do, makes you a more flexible musician. Definitely do both indeed!
Number 4: Have your guitar set-up correctly. This can mean the difference between you loving your guitar and you despising your guitar! If the strings look too far away from the neck up at the 12th fret, then that usually means that your guitar needs set-up! A set-up with not only bring your strings closer to the neck, but it will make the guitar feel ‘easier’ and smoother to play. Even brand new guitars usually don’t come set-up, it’s something you need to organise when you buy the instrument. Even the more expensive brands need to be set-up for your own personal configuration. To have your guitar set-up to make it completely playable again, contact your local guitar repair centre and have the job done by a fully trained expert technician.
Number 5: Always, always, always… warm-up before you play!!! Your practice will go ten times better if you do! So what is a warm-up? Easy! All you need to do is play the top four frets on the thick ‘E’ string using the correct fingers. Finger 1 for the first fret, finger 2 for the 2nd fret, finger 3 for the third fret and the pinky for the 4th fret. Once you have played these four notes, try the next string and the next string and so on. Try and not have any gaps between strings, it should be a continuos flow down to the thin ‘E’ string. Once you reach this, you need to work back up the way.