So You Want to Play the Guitar?

So you want to play the guitar? Cool. The basics are quite easy.

But there are 5 tips you need to know if you want to learn to play the guitar. We’ve put them in the form of questions for you to answer.

Are you genuinely interested?

  1. This is by far the most important thing. Interest gets you through half of whatever difficulties you would encounter. Because if you are interested to learn to play the guitar, nothing can stop you. But, if you are not really interested, then you’d stop at the slightest reason or excuse. Parents, don’t force your kids to play the guitar; but don’t stop them if they genuinely want to learn.

Do you sing?

  • Most beginners who want to learn to play the guitar do so because they sing. And they want some form of easy accompaniment to their singing which, more often than not, only a guitar can give.
  • Do you have a guitar?

Do you have a guitar?

  • It’s really best to have your own guitar. It will be your best companion for the next months or so while you learn to play, and will become your best companion when you already know how to play. Your guitar will sleep by your side. And you’ll be bringing your guitar wherever you go, given the chance. You and your guitar will form a certain unbreakable bond.

Can you read a chord chart?

  • Chord charts are printed charts made up of bars and frets on a guitar’s finger board. They’re marked with symbols indicating where your finger should be placed. Some chord charts show actual pictures of hands making the particular chords on the guitar. They’re so old school but they’re very helpful. And you usually get them from song magazines.

Do you have access to YouTube tutorials?

Nowadays, with most young people having access to the Internet, it’s easy to find beginner’s guitar tutorials on YouTube. You just need to find the right tutorial that suits you.

For beginners, it’s really best to begin with learning the basic chord patterns:

  • The major chords: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
    • The sharps (#) and flats (b): Bb, F#, G#/Ab, C#/Db, Eb, etc.
    • The minor chords: Am (A minor), Bbm (B flat minor), Cm, C#m (C sharp minor), etc.
    • The 7th progression: C7, C#7, D7, Eb7, F7, G7, A7, etc.
    • The Fret: learning to use the index finger to make bar (barre) chords.

Have you thought about taking guitar lessons?

As a beginner or even as someone who has been playing for a long time. Learning to play guitar gets a lot easier when you have a guitar teacher. I’ve got a good friend, Guitar Tuition East London who teachers a lot of student in London. And does a great job to help them learn guitar much quicker than those I’ve seen with other methods.

I know their website has some free resources so that might help you if you aren’t based in London as well.

Vincent: Starry, Starry Night

Love is probably the deepest emotion one can experience as a human being. It makes us both vulnerable and not often, lost… and desperate.

This was how Don McLean was able to empathize with the sad fate that the 19th century Dutch post-impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh suffered. He shares this to us in his popular folk classic, Vincent.

Vincent is obviously McLean’s personal tribute to Van Gogh.

The song’s opening line immediately transports our mind’s to Van Gogh’s iconic masterpiece, Starry Night:

“Starry, starry night,
Paint your palette blue and gray.”

McLean then describes Vincent as looking out on a summer’s day “with eyes that know the darkness in my soul.” This was empathy.

This empathy is reinforced by the song’s refrain,

“Now I understand (think I know) what you tried to say to me.”

McLean’s use of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person pronouns give us an idea who he is referring to in the song: 1st person pronouns, me and my, apply to himself; 2nd person, you and your, to Van Gogh; and 3rd person, they and them, to the people both in Van Gogh’s time who “would not listen” and ours who “are not listening still”.

There are references to other works of Van Gogh embedded in the song, it’s not entirely about the Starry Night. He mentions “trees and the daffodils” and “the snowy linen land”, “morning fields of amber grain” and “weathered faces lined in pain” none of which were in the Starry Night landscape.

However, McLean knew that Starry Night conveyed a message — he saw it not just as mere paint. Its themes conveyed Van Gogh’s world view — a convergence of his theology, his aspirations, hopes, and desperation.

McLean summarized Van Gogh’s desperation in these poignant lines:

“And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life as lovers often do.”

Don McLean, like Van Gogh, was a romantic who expressed his world view in his art, his songs.

In his hit song And I Love You So, he writes,

“The book of life is brief,
And once a page is read,
All but love is dead —
That is my belief

That is my belief, McLean says: All is dead, but love. Nothing has meaning, except that thing that “yearns within to grow beyond infatuation” (lyrics from McLean’s song If We Try).

Don McLean experienced love, and deeply felt it. So did Van Gogh.