“Sometimes the nicest thing to do with a guitar is just look at it.” - Thom Yorke
The guitar is one of the most popular instruments worldwide - light and portable, it lends itself to most pop and rock music. Accompany your own voice, bring it to jams or singalongs, play with friends, or dive into the wild world of Spanish or jazz guitar.
Learning the play is easier (and cheaper!) than you may think. Take everything step by step: you'll need to find resources for beginner guitarists, memorise your finger placements, tune the strings, learn to play your first chord, where to place your fingers when playing scales, and begin strumming.
In the following series of articles, we'll show you how you can pick up the guitar on a budget, find free sheet music or guitar tab, save money on lessons, source a free or cheap guitar, and improve your playing by studying at the HSC or VCE level. We've put together a little list of the best Guitar gigs in the country.
Finding Free Guitar Tabs And Sheet Music
The first step when picking up a guitar for the first time is to learn the anatomy of the guitar. This means learning the name of each string and how to make out a particular note or chord by moving your hand to each fret.
After that, it's easy to learn the guitar without spending a ton of money. Many musicians are self-taught or begin by teaching themselves. Lessons are a great investment, but you can still start to learn the guitar without them.
To get the most out of learning the guitar, you'll need to learn basic music theory. It's helpful to learn how to read music, but depending on your musical goals, many guitarists simply learn basic chords and how to read guitar tab. Free tabs for thousands of popular songs can be found online for free through guitar chord sites. Many seasoned players use Ultimate Guitar, for example.
Handy hint: there are multiple versions of tabs for each song listed. Many of these sites also rely on users to upload their tabs, so the different versions will vary in quality. You can also find simplified versions of certain songs for beginners.
Tab sites are great for rock, pop and blues. For more specialised sheet music, you could also look into borrowing guitar manuals or tabs from guitarist friends who share your taste in music.
Music Through Your School
If you dream of entering a conservatorium or studying music at university, you should aim to study music in Years 11 and 12. On the other hand, you'll need to have some guitar competency before you study guitar performance at the HSC or VCE level.
At the very least, you'll need to show that you know the guitar basics; chords and barre chords, strumming patterns, arpeggios, picking, fingerstyle, etc. But to get great marks, you'll need to have been playing the guitar for years.
Generally, a mix of private lessons and music classes at school works best. Through your music classes, you can hone your musicianship skips and deepen your understanding of music theory and music history. There may also be opportunities to compose and perform your own music, arrange your own covers, and perform solo or in a group to your fellow students in the lead-up to exams. All this is invaluable preparation for the budding musician.
Guitar Lessons: Free and Low-Cost Options
The biggest ongoing cost associated with learning the guitar is the lessons, which you should take weekly or fortnightly, depending on your level. Taking music classes through high school won't necessarily help with your guitar technique - for that you'll need one-on-one classes.
So where can you find guitar lessons for free or at a low cost?
If you live in a bigger city or town, you may be able to access low-cost music lessons through your local community centre. These are often aimed at families or students, and many offer free lessons for students from low-income backgrounds.
Taking group music lessons is another great way to keep the cost of guitar lessons down. A one-on-one lesson could cost anywhere between $30-$70 per hour, whilst group lessons tend to hover around the $15-$25 mark or even $10 for some larger classes. These classes aren't enough to truly master the guitar, but they're great for beginner students wanting a few hours of lessons to get familiar with the instrument. Another bonus - you'll meet other aspiring guitarists and together you can help each other stay motivated to practice and improve.
Try searching online for "beginner guitar course" or "group guitar lessons" - and don't forget to add your area!
As we mentioned before, many famous guitarists are self-taught. Teaching yourself is becoming easier and easier thanks to the wealth of resources available online. YouTube is a hub for music lessons and guitar tutorials. With only a few hours on YouTube, you can learn your first scale or the notes to your favourite song.
If there's a particular song you'd like to learn, simply type the title and "tutorial" into Google. As long as it's a fairly popular song, you're bound to find a few videos made by guitarists, explaining how to play the song step by step.
Sourcing A Guitar For Free or Cheap
So now you've gathered together all these great free and cheap resources for learning the guitar, where can you find an instrument of your own for practice?
The first big investment in any aspiring guitarist's life is a quality instrument. As a beginner, you're ideally looking for a balance between quality and price. You shouldn't go for the cheapest guitars in the store - these often lose their tune quickly or sound horrid. Equally, you want something that won't blow your budget.
Borrow A Guitar
By far the cheapest way to access a guitar is to borrow a one from a friend or relative. Don't be afraid to ask around - someone in your network almost certainly had an old guitar gathering dust in their closet or garage, and would probably love to see it getting played! The quickest way to source a guitar from your network is to post on Facebook, Instagram, or in your family group chat.
Buy One Secondhand
Another good option for finding beginner guitars for cheap is to head down to your local pawn shop or thrift store. Many people start the guitar and abandon the instrument after only a few lessons, so there are lots of unloved guitars filling up pawnshops, waiting to be sold and played by an eager learner. As a beginner, you won't necessarily know which brands to look for, or which ones are in good condition, so we advise taking a guitarist or musician friend with you to help you make the right choice.
You can also check out your local Gumtree classifieds, and even set an alert for when new guitars are listed for sale in your area. Again, you should seek out the advice of a trusted musician friend before deciding to buy a particular guitar.
Rent A Guitar
Picking up a new instrument can be a risky investment, especially if you're buying a guitar for a child. How do you know if you or your young musician at home will still be motivated to play in a few months? You don't want to spend thousands on a top-notch guitar only for it to end up gathering dust in your garage. Music shops are aware of this beginner's dilemma, and many offer a guitar rental or rent-to-buy scheme. You can rent a guitar for a few months before deciding if you like the instrument, and move up to a better model once you've been playing for a little while. Many music shops also offer payment plans, so you can pay off your guitar over a year or more.
So, what are you waiting for?
Whether you dream of jumping onstage with an acoustic guitar or electric guitar, picking up and instrument and taking lessons is more affordable than ever.
You can find an amazing private guitar teacher through Superprof. Our advanced search features make it easy to filter for guitar lessons for beginners, so you can find a teacher who is right for you. Some teachers also offer discounts for students who purchase 10-lesson packs, or for those taking lessons via webcam. Some even offer cheaper group lessons in-person or online!
There are teachers to suit most budgets on Superprof! Simply contact a teacher you like with your guitar goals, learning style and they'll be able to tailor a guitar program for you.