Instrument Spotlight: Guitar

by Ryan Wallace – AMI Guitar Faculty

Who doesn’t love the guitar?
Guitar is the second most popular instrument to play, coming in right after piano. Why are these two instruments so loved by many musicians? It’s all about the versatility. Not only can you play them as solo instruments, but it is also easy to accompany yourself or others as a singer, or on a different instrument. But why start with guitar? It is a fantastic way to play your music anywhere you want without having to lug a huge instrument to the campfire, park, or any place the musical urge takes you. There are few pleasures in life quite like playing the guitar for a group of friends around a campfire at night or playing outside in the grass while the sun shines on you. It’s enough to make anyone feel like they are not only expressing themselves creatively, but also seeing life through a lens of ultimate satisfaction that few people get to truly experience. It’s an amazing way to feel at peace with yourself and the world, to build self-confidence, and to light a fire in yourself that is both invigorating and oddly healing at the same time.

Play Anything.
The guitar, along with the piano, is possibly the most versatile of all instruments. Whether you like classical music, folk music, rock, pop, metal, electronic, country, jazz, blues, or anything in between, the guitar fits in without a second glance. It can be played solo or to accompany a singer or other instrumentalist. Taking guitar lessons is not about just learning to play your favorite song, but preparing you to play whatever music you may find yourself wanting to play tomorrow, or ten years from now.

What can we expect from lessons?
Aside from learning the fundamentals of music and performance, guitar lessons are about learning to play the instrument, not just repeating memorized passages on it. However, learning your favorite songs is a great way to start doing that and keeps both kids and adults excited about playing and enjoying lessons! From that base, we can start exploring more complex music, and open up worlds of music that we often aren’t even aware exist since we don’t hear them on the radio. Coupled with learning songs, lessons will help establish good technique that will carry you in good stead as you advance through more difficult music. The world of music is nearly unlimited, and we don’t want to be held back by the narrow view we have of it at a young age.

Technique… what’s that?
Technique is often a scary word for us, and it can be synonymous with boring, frustrating, and any number of other unpleasant words. But technique doesn’t need to be scary! It’s simply learning how to play with the least amount of effort. Learning good technique early in our musical lives teaches us how to approach the instrument in a way that will allow us to advance as far as we like, rather than be held back by songs that are “too hard”. Different styles of music will demand more or less from us technically, but they all share the same basic principles. For instance:

Hand position
Good hand position can take a passage from seemingly impossible to one that simply requires a little extra practice. The longer we play with poor hand position, the harder it is to retrain our hands down the road. It also increases the likelihood of injury if we aren’t careful, so training early is welcome and beneficial.

Finger shape
Whether it’s our left hand fretting or our right hand picking, the shape and angle of our fingers on the strings can have a huge impact in both the sound of our playing and the fluidity of our motion. Whether we’re going for fast and flashy, or sensitive and beautiful, the guitar only makes the sounds our fingers tell it to make.

What can music lessons do for me?
Aside from the joy of learning to play music, there is nearly endless research on the benefits that studying and playing music have on our brain and our lives. Playing music also encourages creativity and expression, and working with others in bands and camps teaches teamwork and creates powerful bonds with others.

Music is a wonderful way to bring creativity and beauty into our world, while making for an incredibly rewarding journey. The feeling of mastering a song you once thought impossible or playing a show with friends that highlights a night for the audience is something that everyone should experience.