Frequently Asked Questions by Pre-Beginning Guitarists

Are you considering to learn how to play guitar? If you are, you might have quite a few questions rolling through your mind. These are some common questions that I’ve been asked by beginning guitar players.

Click on a question below to jump to the answer (or continue scrolling down the page):

If you’re thinking about starting to learn how to play guitar and have a question, post your question in a comment below!

How much time will I need to devote to practicing guitar?

The amount of time you devote to guitar practice each week will depend a lot on your goals and how fast you want to learn. Full-time music students here at university are required to practice as much as 20 hours a week! Yikes! But, really, who has that sort of time?!

I would say, if you are just starting out, it’s good to try to practice for a half hour to an hour a day for five days with two days off a week. I realize this is pretty ideal considering how busy life is. If you can’t manage to put that amount of time practicing, don’t worry.

The biggest thing with practicing is that you are consistent especially when you are starting out and learning the basics. So if you can only practice 15 minutes a day then that’s better than picking up your guitar for a couple hours once every week or two. Consistency is key, and obviously, you want to put as much time as you can towards practicing.

I’ve been told that when you first start playing guitar that your fingers hurt really bad. How bad does it really hurt?

It’s true that the tips of your fingers will be a bit sore when you first start playing guitar. Your fingers need time to develop callouses and build strength. Your wrist might also be a little sore to as you are trying to build up strength to play different chord positions. Again, this is why consistency is absolutely key when you’re first starting out.

Beginning guitar is a bit like training to run a race. It’s not very helpful to train once every couple weeks. You won’t only kill your muscles but you’ll never develop the technique and strength you get from consistent practice.

I’ve never experienced or heard of someone’s fingers hurting so bad that they aren’t able to carry out their daily activities. If your fingers hurt too bad to practice, just take a day off and come back. After a couple weeks of consistent practice, any soreness should be an afterthought.

Should I learn guitar with a pick or learn how to finger pick?

Again, you’ll want to consider your learning goals and what types of music you hope to play with guitar. At the same time, it’s equally important to learn both how to¬†strum and fingerpick.

Learning how to strum with a pick helps you develop a good sense of rhythm and time. Fingerpicking definitely gives you a greater awareness of the nuances and technicalities of playing guitar. All to say, as you approach learning guitar, keep an open mind to all different styles of guitar out there. There’s something to be learned from all of them.

Are private lessons absolutely necessary or can I learn everything I need to know through online guitar lessons?

If you can afford private lessons, there’s nothing like having someone in the same room as you able to give you feedback and tips right on the spot. However, it’s not uncommon for folks these days to learn guitar online.

The problem though with finding random articles and lessons online is that the information is often really disorganized and not really available to you in a way that gives you a step-by-step plan to success. If you want to go with the more self-taught, online lesson approach, I’d definitely recommend checking out some online guitar lessons that are specifically designed with a step-by-step plan for success.

What’s the difference between a nylon-stringed guitar vs. a steel-stringed guitar?

The difference between a nylon guitar vs. a steel guitar is hard to notice on the surface because the guitars look very much alike. The difference lies in the types of strings that you use: nylon or steel.

Steel-stringed guitars have a bit more of a brighter attack which makes them conducive for strumming, or if you’re an electric guitarist, for soloing or improvising. A nylon-stringed guitar will have a warmer and more round tone. Some might consider it sweeter. That’s why a lot of classical guitar players who fingerpick use nylon-stringed guitars. It’s not to say you can’t fingerpick using a steel-stringed guitar (in fact a lot of people do!) but the sound is going to be different. Some music styles prefer the steel-stringed sound.

Generally, you’ll find that most fingerstyle, classical, or flamenco guitarists prefer a nylon string guitar, whereas, most guitarists within popular music styles (e.g. pop, rock, blues, alternative, etc.) will play a steel stringed guitar.

So one is not necessarily better than the other. It just depends on the type of music your playing.

Is it better to learn on electric guitar or acoustic guitar?

You’ll notice I talk a lot about recognizing your learning goals. Part of what I mean by this is identifying the types of music you would want to be able to play.

If you are more into just being able to strum out a song and maybe even fingerpick a little bit, then you probably want to consider learning on acoustic first. However, if you want to learn how to solo and “rock-out,” then you probably want to go with an electric guitar.

Another consideration is that you might find it cheaper to learn on acoustic guitar first because all you need to buy to learn acoustic guitar is just the guitar and tuner. If you buy an electric guitar, you need to consider buying not only the guitar, but an amp, cables, effects, etc. This can all really add up.

How much is learning guitar going to cost me?

Playing guitar is not necessarily a cheap hobby but it doesn’t need to be a very expensive one either. Usually, the initial investment is a bit intimidating because you have to consider buying a guitar, accessories, and then your source of instruction.

The investment is usually worthwhile though. Even if you end up deciding guitar is not for you, if you’ve made a decent investment and have taken care of your guitar and equipment, you can always sell it and get some of your money back. It’s interesting… one of my acoustic guitars is worth more now than when I bought it 10 years ago.

If you’re looking to buy an acoustic guitar, you want to check out our guide on buying your first acoustic guitar.

If you’re still hesitant towards buying a guitar, you might want to see if you can borrow somebody’s guitar so you can learn how to play. Borrowing a friend’s guitar is nice because it gives you a chance to figure out if playing guitar is something you’d enjoy. Chances are you know someone who might be willing to lend you theirs.

Are you thinking about learning guitar? What questions do you have?

Go ahead and post them below to add to this list of questions!

About Brett McQueen

Brett McQueen is a musician, songwriter, and the founder and editor of Guitar Friendly and Ukulele Tricks. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @GuitarFriendly.