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In every beginner or intermediate guitarist’s journey, there comes a point when knowing what to do next in order to advance your skills and guitar knowledge can seem like a plateau. Especially if one is self taught, sometimes the next step can be difficult to discover. There are, however, some very profitable questions you can ask yourself that will steer you in the right direction.

1. What are some basic essential items that would benefit me?

Although this question may seem simple, it is a good starting point. Guitar straps, for one, are fairly basic; but what are your options? If you are willing to spend a bit more for comfort and quality, a leather strap may be a good choice. On the cheaper side of the spectrum, nylon guitar straps can be just as sturdy and offer a wider range of graphics.

Also consider the weight and value of your guitar. Perhaps it would be wise to invest in strap locks to protect your instrument from falling. Other basic items would include instrument cables (if you’re using an electric guitar), extra strings, a string winder, and a tuner. If you are near one, you will be able to purchase all of these items, plus so much more, at your local Guitar Center or other music store.

2. Where can I learn how to play certain songs online?

If you understand how to read tab, Ultimate Guitar is a general “go-to” for players looking to learn a song. If you search “ultimate guitar” on your search engine, you should be able to find their website. They have also released an app, which will prove handy for those playing guitar on the go.

3. How can I learn to play by ear?

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Playing by ear typically means that you are able to listen to a song and figure it out on your own. This is something that comes with some experience, but can be easily practiced. Finding a song that you’d like to learn, and figuring it out according to tab or sheet music (which ever you know best) can be a good step in this process. The more you play, the more you will “get to know” the sound of a note and understand where to find it on your fret board. Again, it comes with a lot of practice and may come more naturally for some more than others.

4. What are some guitar player terminologies I should know about?

Sometimes you may hear a term regarding the guitar that you don’t quite understand. Here are a list of some commonly used guitar terms and there meanings:

• Accent note: A note that is accented, or played “harder” than other notes.

• Action: How high or low your guitar strings sit above your fret board.

• Bend: Holding a note and stretching or pushing it to reach a higher pitched note.

• Lead: Can be referred to a certain “solo” part or section, or the guitar player of a group who usually performs solos and leads.

• Rhythm: This would be the guitar player of a group who performs the backing or support parts of a song. They play chords most of the time.

• Riff: This would be a certain guitar part that sets a basis or memorable part to a song. Think of the beginning to “Smoke on the Water” or “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.

5. What is the difference between a tube amplifier and a solid state amplifier?

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If you play an electric guitar, there are generally two main types of amplifiers to choose from. A solid state amplifier uses electronic components and is usually more affordable. They are also lighter and more durable, making them easy to transport. Tube amplifiers are going to be higher in price, but are considered better quality and more professional. They use glass tubes to get their iconic sound and require more care. Again, your local Guitar Center will offer both of these types, giving you an opportunity to try them out.

6. How can I learn the theory behind music?

There are many options for learning music theory. A recommended way is by either taking a class or learning from an experienced teacher. You will be able to ask questions and get direct instruction through example. However, there are many other very useful sources for learning, such as books on theory, videos, and the obvious choice, the wonderful world of the internet.

7. Are there other ways to tune your guitar?

Yes, there are many variations and preferences on tuning. The most common is E standard, which is, from the lowest string, tuned E A D G B E. Another common one is drop D, which is tuned D A D G B E, and is most often used in heavier rock and metal.

8. Does it matter what strings I use?

To an extent, yes, but as far as gauge and material, it is what’s most comfortable to you. Acoustic strings are going to usually be thicker where electric strings will be lighter and easier to play, and both are made out of different materials. If you play an acoustic, it is fairly important not to use electric strings, as it will take away from the depth of the guitar, and vise versa.

9. Will I ever use my “tone” and “volume” knob?

Volume can be a very useful tool when using a distorted or “crunchy” sound, as it can clean up your sound a bit. Although when you’re using a clean sound it can make your guitar sound dull. The tone knob controls how bright or dark your guitar sounds. Usually tone will be all the way up, however, jazz musicians often like to keep their tone low to add to the subtlety of the genre.

10. When should I use acoustic and when should I use electric?

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Depending on your style and genre, acoustic and electric guitars can be fairly interchangeable. When playing rock or metal music with more distorted parts, you will normally need to use an electric. Folk, blues, and country music often uses acoustic guitars to achieve a better “ballad” type sound, and when playing mostly chords without distortion, acoustics can be a good fit.

For one who has a passion to advance their passion in music, it is important to continue studying and practicing to further your skills and abilities. Over time you will be able to develop a niche in style and preference. Remember to always ask questions and be ready to seek the answers you desire!