Noel Maher is an virtuoso solo acoustic guitarist and expert tutor – he leads our Beginner Guitar courses at Band on the Wall. Originally trained in folk guitar then classical and even Metallica, Noel has since gone on to specialise in fingerstyle techniques. He performs regularly in Manchester so make sure you keep an eye out.
Here Noel shares his top tips for aspiring guitarists…
1) Take it one step at a time. When you first start learning to play the guitar, it may be tempting to go straight for the really hard stuff, but try to take it one step at a time. Keep it simple and set yourself achievable goals for each practice session. Begin with a few easy chords and work your way up to simple melodies. Before long you will find you can apply your skills to songs that you actually enjoy listening to and want to emulate. Patience and perseverance are the key to achieving long term goals and you will be rewarded with less frustration and greater satisfaction for your efforts.
2) Repetition is key. As with most learned skills, effective practice is all about repetition. The more you play, the more proficient you will become and before long your brain will internalize the connection between hand movement and sound so that playing becomes an automatic process. Being shown the correct techniques by a skilled teacher is crucial of course, especially when you are learning the fundamentals. Whether you want to acquire a musical skill or learn a language, the same principal applies: things become easier with every focused repetition you make – even though it may not feel like that to start with.
3) Little and often. When you first start learning the guitar try to take the ‘little and often’ approach. Time spent playing should only last around five to ten minutes for the first few weeks, but the more of these mini guitar sessions you can fit into your day, the better. Two or three short bursts a day will do you more good than one long session a week, and the length of your practice sessions will naturally get longer as your skills improve. This way the mental and physical elements of what you have learned will always be fresh in your mind. Don’t expect too much from yourself too soon. You will be making progress every time you play.
4) Try to practice by yourself at first. It is easy to feel self-conscious or get distracted if you are practicing within earshot of other people. Find a time when no-one else is around and a space where you will not be disturbed or end up disturbing those around you. Spend time alone with your guitar, practicing in your own way, and use your enjoyment of playing to drive your learning forward. Putting on a performance for friends and family once you feel prepared will be a great boost to your self-confidence and act as a feel-good incentive to learn more.
5) Most importantly, have fun while you learn – enjoy the sounds you can make and the music you most enjoy playing. As you begin to really get the hang of it you’ll be keen to progress, but it is important to enjoy playing simply for the sake of playing and take time to appreciate what you have achieved. The creative possibilities in music are endless so constantly challenging yourself and having loads of focused practice is great, but try not to lose sight of what you love about music and what you really want to get out of playing the guitar.