Sunday, January 31, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 26 & 27

Took a break for the last two days, mostly because I've been pretty busy, but partially to just take a break. I'll pick it back up tomorrow.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 25

Another quickish day today.

Stumbleupon gave me a link to a site explaining a spanish guitar scale. I gave it a try, and it sounds pretty good. It is based on the first four frets and some of the open strings so it is pretty stretchy, but I like the sound of it. I may try throwing in some of those notes when improvising, whenever I start doing that.

C chord still sucks. Not much more I can say about that really.

I'm thinking I should start practicing my scales with a metronome soon. I am starting to understand the benefits of using a metronome, even as boring as it is. It really does become muscle memory because I do it so many times.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 24

So I did manage to get in all of my exercises today. I reviewed my chords, and did more practice with my scale exercises.

C chord really sucks now. G chord is cake, and C chord is torture. I still have to consciously think of how to place my hand, and even then half the time I mute strings, or the B string buzzes. Gah...

I did manage to learn to play the main part of Tisbury Lane, and I can even play it the way it was meant to be played. When I first tried a few days ago, it didn't feel right, like a note or something was missing. After going through it again, I realized I needed to mute the two-string chords some of the times I play them. I gave that a try, and it sounded exactly correct. I watched a bunch of youtube videos of people playing this song, and I learned a lot, including how to play the last three notes without moving my hand, and the correct way to mute the strings. I can't play the song very fast, but it sounds good!

More tomorrow!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 23

Today was a pretty quick practice. I went over my chords, and found G and C to be about equal in difficulty now. I didn't have enough time to do chord changing practice, but I did do some scales. I had the same problems as yesterday, but my hand was a lot less tired today.

Tomorrow I will make sure to get all of my practice exercises in.

Learning Guitar, Day 22

So I only just noticed my day numbers are off somehow. Oh well...

I started today by immediately trying out the C and G chords, and I had a major reversal in difficulty. Suddenly I could play the G chord almost all the time, and the C chord was annoyingly hard. I re-watched the video for it, and was able to play it, but it still didn't feel quite right.

I tried the one minute changes again:
C-Am: 26
C-A: 18
C-G: 18
G-E: 27
G-D: 28
My sudden understanding of G showed with this exercise. And my failure at C showed too, especially with the C-G change. Every time I played the C chord, it sounded too tinny (like one string was buzzing). I think I need to work on that more...

My scales are becoming a little easier, but I still don't feel like I can stretch as far as I would like. My biggest problems right now are making sure to press hard enough with my ring finger and pinkie, and pulling off my pinkie fast enough to not get annoying buzzing. Picking the right string is also getting annoying.

I'm actually getting more exciting about playing, since many songs use the C and G chords, so I'm finding I can play much more than before. I also found myself strumming random chords today, and enjoying it. It was a weird feeling, but I definitely liked it. More to come? :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 21

Finally started some new material today!

I started with the G and C chords. G sucks. There is no other way to put it. It just sucks. It took me around 25 times to get it to all sound correctly. No matter what I did, it didn't sound correct. I would put down my first and second fingers, but then my ring finger would push the string off the neck. If I focused on my ring finger, my first two fingers would mute the strings below them. Eventually I got it to sound ok, and then the next time it was crappy again. I gave up for a bit and went on to try the C chord.

C was much easier for me. It took less time for me to get it to sound good. Apparently I'm supposed to mute the thickest string with my ring finger. I'm focusing right now on just getting the chord right and I'll work on the muting later.

I went back to G, and I got it to sound ok, but more failures followed. I slowly discovered that if I angle my hand a little bit, all the strings sound fine. It took a little practice to remember to do that though.

I then tried out the recommended 1 minute chord changes:
C-Am: 23
C-A: 16
C-G: 11
G-E: 16
G-D: 12
The first change was very simple, just moving my ring finger over. It took a little tweaking of my middle finger to get it sounding good though. For the C-A change, for some reason I find A difficult to form when I don't start with my index finger, which is why I got so few in there. C-G was probably the most annoying change I have ever done. G-E was pretty easy, I just need to practice going back to G. And for G-D, I blanked out a bit on what a D chord should look and sound like. Muscle memory put my fingers in the right place, but it was a weird feeling.

I took a break after doing those, and later came back to do some scales. I started with a finger exercise where I start on the 5th fret, thickest string, and go through all my fingers, then down a string and repeat. It doesn't sound too pretty, but it is a great exercise. I then tried out the Am pentatonic scale, which sounds nice but is less work.

I found myself struggling to get my fingers in good spots on the frets for the exercise, so I started forcing them where I wanted them with my right hand. I also struggled going back down the scale, since moving up a string requires putting down all my fingers to start. In the end I could play both scales ok, but not at any great speed (of course).

I then started messing around with stretching out my hand. I'm finding it amazing how fast I can adapt to things. For fun I tried starting with my index finger on the 4th fret, then middle on the 6th, ring on the 7th, and pinkie on the 8th. It hurt, and I had to force my fingers there with the other hand. I did it a couple times, taking a quick break for my hand in between each. After ~10 tries, I could do it without the help of my right hand. A few more times and it stopped hurting as much. Scary, right?

I then tried stretching out across 6 frets, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th. I could do it, but it hurt even more. I decided to stop, but I think it's something to look into later.

Today was a success. I learned a bunch, and even got some finger exercise in. And by practicing the blues scale, I am one step closer to playing the blues! :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 20

20 days!

So I didn't get to play any guitar today, but I will be sure to pick it up tomorrow. I will also bring back the 1 minute chord changes as I mentioned before. And I will start working with the C and G chords! Woo! Maybe I can finally learn some more songs with chords.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 19

So it seems I've only been doing metronome practice lately. I worked the entire time at 35 bpm, which some how started off feeling slow, and later felt very fast. I couldn't seem to get myself to play accurately enough to feel good moving up another notch. I did notice I constantly deaden the A string by not pressing correctly with my index finger, on both the A and D chords. I also found me not rotating my hand enough. I worked on those problems a bit, but I still never managed to pass 35. Plus I was getting a bit bored with the exercise, so I think it's really time to start mixing things up. I'll most likely bring back the 1 minute chord changes since even though they may not be the best practice, they were a bit more fun.

And that's what I want, right? :)

Learning Guitar, Day 18

Another busy day, so no practice unfortunately.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 17

More work with the metronome today. I increased from 33 to 35 bpm (A-D change). I'm finding it interesting that even though a 1 bpm change is so small, I reach a point where it is too fast. Breaks seem to help a bit. After not playing for a short while I seem to be able to play at a slightly faster rate than before.

As for how I'm improving, I'm noticing my index finger is not pushing down hard enough and the string deadens a little when playing both chords. Also for the D chord I'm finding I don't slide my ring finger out far enough many times to correctly press the string. I'm working on those, as well as making sure my hand is round and my fingers are square. Other than that, I am finding I can play quite a few good sounding chords in a row before I mess up or my hand cramps up.

I'm slowly seeing results, but it is not without some frustration. Whenever I mess up a few times in a row it bugs me a lot, and I lose some motivation. However I am seeing some progress in terms of how fast I am playing which feels good. I am also forcing myself to practice every day that I possibly can, which I know is helping. I just keep picturing myself playing an awesome blues solo. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 16

Today was again short, and mostly metronome practice. I worked my way up to 33 bpm before I had to go do other things. I'm really liking this method. The idea of starting slow makes sense to me, but I always have a problem with pacing myself. This forces me to go slow, and increases at such a slow pace that I can barely feel it. I need to find a way to time one minute though. I commonly find myself playing with the beat really well, but I have no idea for how long. I also don't want to stop playing to start a timer.

My goal is to eventually reach 60 bpm. Then maybe I can play Three Little Birds well!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 15

Wow, two weeks now?

So I tried out that metronome method today, and I can say it definitely worked. I worked on the A-D chord change, and I found I was worse than I thought. I tried starting at 60 bpm, but found it way too fast. Even 40 was too fast. I ended up working at 30, but it still took me a while to get it right. I found myself strumming too few or too many strings, or pressing the strings wrongly to make them dead or buzz. After a bunch of mess ups, I could finally get a few good strums in a row, but then I would mess up again. Eventually I could feel myself improving, but I was getting tired of the exercise. Tomorrow I will hopefully have improved enough to be able to start increasing the speed.

I also looked up the tabs for the Song of Storms from the Legend of Zelda games. I can play it somewhat, but my high E string buzzes when I play it on the 13th fret.

So tomorrow I will spend more time on getting things correct, and making sure they are correct. And more metronome practice!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 14

Today was mostly review of my chords. Everyday that I have been practicing I feel more comfortable picking up the instrument and strumming. I also noticed that my fingers have more or less stopped hurting. I still feel a little nervous putting them down in some positions that used to hurt, but they don't anymore.

So I found a new reasonably easy song to learn to play: Tisbury Lane by Mae It is only a few different bars, but the last bit is a bit stretchy. I really like the sound of it, and I figure it could be good motivation for me.

I've also decided to buy myself a metronome. Partially because it is one of the next steps in the course I am following, but mostly because everywhere I look people recommend them. I've decided on the Korg MA-30 metronome, which I have seen a few places. I like the look of it (small size, the swinging bar), and the features sound nice (headphone port, note accents). It's also in my price range. Unfortunately I'm short on money right now, so that may have to wait.

I feel a metronome will help my practice. A site I was reading uses a metronome as a way to very slowly increase your playing speed. You start at a slow speed (60 bpm or less), and play whatever you are learning. When you can play that comfortably at the starting speed for a minute, increase the bpm by 1. It sounds like a great implementation of starting slow, and I can't wait to give it a try. I'll try it with an online metronome, but I would much prefer a standalone one.

Now I have some new things to try out tomorrow! I can't wait to see how it goes!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 13

I feel I made a lot of progress today. I can play all of my chords clearly (I still forgot to turn my palm sometimes, but when I notice it I fix it). Also, my one minute changes went up considerably.
Am-E: 50
Am-Dm: 21
A-Dm: 27
E-D: 46
Em-D: 44
I was glad to see me getting better at moving the Am/E shape around. Am-Dm still feels like chaos, but I'm working on it. And A-Dm still kills my ring finger, even with my calluses.

Something new I tried today was isolating a singe chord change, and practicing it over and over. Since I've noticed I can't play Three Little Birds to my satisfaction, I was practicing the A-D change. I would start with A, strum, then slowly move to D, but make sure to get it clear on the first try. I would then stop and return to the A chord. I did that a few times, and slowly picked up the pace. Eventually I found I could do the change pretty fast and correct most of the time. I did the same thing going from D to A, and I definitely felt some improvement. I think I also helped move this to muscle memory by zoning out and doing it a bunch of times.

I've also started thinking of plan of what to learn for the next few weeks. I've decided to spend around 10 days on each set of chords I learn, practicing any changes that give me problems, and making sure the chords really sound great. So that means I have around a week left on these minor chords, then I will start learning C and G. I like this plan because it slowly works up the muscles and flexibility in my left hand. I decided the next thing I will add to my practice sessions will be playing scales, as this usually requires even more stretch (usually a fret per finger). I'll try and make those sound good. Beyond that, I don't have anything planned. Planning 2/3 of a month is a good start though. :)

I'm hoping soon I will be able to play a song to my satisfaction. Maybe I'll even record it and post it. Maybe tomorrow? :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 12

More review! Woo!

I went over all the chords I now know, and they all seemed pretty easy now. I also tried one minute changes on the 5 recommended changes.
A-Em: 22
Am-Dm: 19
A-Dm: 14
E-D: 37
Em-D: 35
When I started, I felt sort of confused as to what I was doing. It took me a bit to get into the zone for switching chords. Also, watching a video with tips on changing between all of these really helped.

A-Em should have been really easy, but some how it wasn't. As the minute went on it did get easier though. Am-Dm feels like chaos for my fingers, as all of them need to be re-arranged. A-Dm took the longest, but I eventually got in the grove, literally. The B string started making a groove in my ring finger, which really hurt. E-D was easy, as I've been practicing it for a week now. Em-D was a bit different, but after a while it felt almost easier than E-D. The hardest part (which will be easy to fix) was getting the fingers for the Em chord on the right strings. They would easily go to the right shape, but shifted one string down, like an Am without the index finger. Since it was so easy, I may switch it out for something harder in the future.

Since it didn't feel right to me to stop doing the other chord changes I've been doing, I gave them a try.
A-D: 59
A-E: 52
The interesting thing was not that I went so fast, but that it felt like I knew them very well. I felt really confident with the switches. Maybe a few days of not doing them helped a bit?

No song playing tonight. I may start learning the rest of Three Little Birds soon, but I would really like to find a song using all (or most) of the chords I now have. Unfortunately the guide I am using doesn't have any suggestions. Maybe soon I'll be writing my own music? :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 11

Well, I got in some practice today. After reviewing the chords I know, I started learning A minor, D minor, and E minor.

A minor was pretty straight forward. Now that E major is fairly easy to me, so is A minor. E minor was even easier.

D minor gave me some trouble though, as I expected it would. The first time I tried it, my fingers simply would not stretch out onto the frets as needed. I stretched out my fingers with my other hand and tried to play, but it sounded horrible, dead and buzzing strings galore. By then I had to let go of the chord as my hand was starting to get tired of being stretched out so much. I went back to reviewing the new chords, then tried again. After a few attempts, I found I could get my fingers in close to the right spots. Now I have been told many times to make sure my fingers are curled, and I've thought they were curled enough, but a tip I got changed my mind. By turning my palm so the pinkie side is closer to the neck (mostly by bringing my elbow closer to my body), I could play all of my chords even easier. After my hand was stretched out, I found I could place my fingers perfectly for the D minor chord with that tip.

I spent most of the time reviewing both the new and the old chords, and tried switching between then a few times. Tomorrow, if I'm feeling up to it, I'll try some one minute chord changes, just to see how bad I am to start with.

On a different note, I realized today that I've been interested in learning to play the guitar for longer than I thought. I knew that last year around this time I considered getting a guitar, but I never actually did. But today I remembered back to middle school where there was a music club. They invited anyone to come join them, and they offered to teach people to play. It caught my eye, but I never actually went. Perhaps I should have...

Anyway, it's definitely going to take getting used to these new chords, but so did the major chords. I'm probably going to try and spend 7-10 days on each set of chords I learn, to make sure I get plenty of practice with them. Plus, learning new things on the guitar is what really interests me. Reviewing can be boring, but it's a necessary evil. Oh well, I know I'm making progress!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 10

Argg, I had way too much to do, and didn't actually get any practice in. I was hoping to start trying some new chords, but I guess I'll be saving that for next time.

Learning Guitar, Day 9

Today was another quick day. I did my chords practice, and practiced slowly switching chords, but getting them correct.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 8

So today turned out to be as busy as I expected. I still fit in some practice time amongst my unpacking. I practiced my chords, but my ring finger was really bothering me today, preventing me from pressing the strings correctly. I tried a few chord changes, but I had a lot of trouble today making the chords sound at all correct.

Hopefully tomorrow things will have calmed down, and I'll more time to practice. Also maybe my finger will stop hurting. And hey, this is the end of my first week of playing guitar! I still think I'm improving at a nice pace, but I am getting a little bored of just three chords. I'll spend a few more days on these before I try learning a few more.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 7

I finally got a longer practice session in.

I practiced my chords, which are getting easier and easier to play clearly on the first few tries. I'm starting to see I need to move my ring finger back a slight bit when playing the A chord, or else the string sounds a little dead. It rings, but it is muffled a little. I can tell the difference if compare it to playing the string pressing down on the middle of the fret.

Chord changes are starting to turn into muscle memory. I discovered I can play the D-A and A-E chord changes without looking at my fretting hand a large portion of the time. I still find my self losing my place and having to pause and mentally restart. The D-A switch has become easier now that I've discovered if I get my index finger in the correct place, I can just rotate my hand to play either chord.

I did another recording of myself playing Three Little Birds. For the first few chords I played at a steady 60 bpm. Then at the chord change I took too long to change and lost the tempo. The same thing happened at the next chord. I played the next three bars, but sped up a few of the chords. The next chord changes again took too long. Overall, the recording still sounded better than I think I sound when I'm playing, but I am no guitar professional yet. When I'm playing, the chords usually sound the worst, and the chord changes sound pretty good. That's reversed when I listen to myself after. When I'm recording myself, I am only doing a simple audio recording. Seeing how helpful that has and will be, I will probably do some video recording as well. Maybe I'll see something that is hurting my playing as well.

I'd call today a playing success. Switching chords without looking was fun! Tomorrow I am back off to school. I will do my best to get a good practice in, but moving back in will make that interesting. I guess I'll see what happens.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 6

Today was even busier than yesterday, and I only had a half hour to practice. I spent a few minutes reviewing my chords, then doing some chord changes. I finished with a little practice of Three Little Birds, and even a recording.

I'm finding its getting easier for me to focus on strumming than my fretting hand, but I'm still not perfect yet. My fingers are also hurting less. My middle finger mostly doesn't hurt any more, but my ring finger still has the blister.

My thoughts were correct that I sound much better than I hear while playing. I tried recording myself playing Three Little Birds, and it sounded great. The chord changes were slow, and didn't sound too good, but the chords themselves sounded nice. I think I am getting good at this.

Tomorrow I should have a little more time to practice. We will see.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 5

Today was pretty busy so I didn't get as much practice in as I usually do. I also only did 2 sessions of chord changes, getting around the same number as yesterday. My biggest problem right now is going too fast, and having the chords sound bad. I suppose that's the point of the exercise, but I prefer hearing the chords playing nicely. I also sometimes zone out a bit, and forget what I was doing, or where my fingers were supposed to end up. However, I'm getting better at playing only the correct strings, even at my fastest strumming.

I practiced playing Three Little Birds a bit more, but only the chorus. I found the chord changes easier, but it still took long enough for me to notice. I think I'll start recording myself to see how I sound when I'm not playing it, as it may actually sound just fine.

Hopefully I'll have more time to practice in the next few days. I'm going back up to school on Sunday, and I'll probably need a structured practice schedule when that happens, to make sure I get in everything I want to practice. I'll work that out soon.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 4

Today brought very rapid improvement on my chord changes!
D-A: 58
D-E: 50
A-E: 54
These were not the best sounding chords, but my fingers were in pretty much the correct spots. What helped (surprisingly) was a tip I saw on two different websites. They recommended strumming at a certain rate, and not waiting for your fretting hand to be ready. Eventually it will speed up to match the other hand. It sounds crazy, but it actually worked.

My fingers were hurting less today, at least for fretting. Anything else that uses my finger tips (like some typing, and unlocking seat belts) still hurts a lot. Maybe some calluses are finally forming?

Overall I am feeling more comfortable picking up the guitar and playing with it. Maybe I'm getting better at this? :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 4

Another day of practicing my chords. I can make them ring out most of the time.

My chord changes are really speeding up now. Here were my results for today:
D-A: 34
D-E: 31
A-E: 37
These were again after 4 trials of each. I'm finding the D-E to be the most annoying. Sliding my index finger back and forth really hurts, and it starts to feel like the string is going to cut through. A-E is becoming much easier, as I found I can basically leave my middle and ring fingers in the same relative positions. After I slide my index finger back (going from E to A), I can usually just put down the next two fingers easily, putting my ring finger down a string of course.

I am still a little stumped by strumming. I feel like I am playing too hard/loud, so I switched to a slightly lighter pick, and watched a few videos on strumming. Most recommended loosening up, and making sure to use your arm. It seems like this will be mostly practice as well to make sure I hit the strings just right.

I also noticed today I have been sort of cheating with my left arm. I've been sitting cross legged which lets me rest my left arm down. This may be hurting my playing abilities, and it might prevent me from building needed muscles in my arm, so I'm going to try not to do it any more.

And I have the first signs of blisters on my fingers! I don't think I've ever been this excited about that before. Add to that my speed increase with chord changes, and I think I am learning at a good pace. And I am already seeing signs of my fast learning when I re-watched the video on one minute chord changes. Apparently 8 changes is extremely good for a beginner's first try. I got 15 on my first try.

I can now play the intro to Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl. The video I watched uses a barre chord, but only part of it that is simple to learn. It still takes me a little time to get into the right positions and it sounds chunky, but that is just practice.

More tomorrow!

Learning Guitar, Day 3

Today was spent practicing the three chords I know. I had no problem remembering them, and little problem getting them to ring clearly.

I started trying to see how many chord changes I could do in a minute. I started a timer for 1:05. got the first chord ready, and started mashing my fingers at the one minute mark. I counted each chord individually. After 4 trials, here were my best number of changes:
D-A: 24
D-E: 21
A-E: 20

I could feel myself speeding up, but the pain in my fingers made me take a break between each practice session. However, I still found myself placing fingers one at a time. Once I have the calluses built up, I will just need to practice to reach to my target of 60 in a minute.

I tried playing a bit of a song! I could play the chorus to Three Little Birds by Bob Marley reasonably well.

I've discovered one reason I am struggling sometimes to get my chords to ring clearly. When I hold the strings for long enough, they leave indents on my fingers. This lets them lift off just enough to buzz or sound dead. If I try to adjust my finger to fix that, the string finds its way back into that groove. Again, this means suffering until I have some calluses.

Also, I'm noticing a weird dull pain in my wrist and forearm. I have a feeling this is from playing too much, and building up the new muscles in my left hand. At least I hope it is. Time will tell.

Despite the pain, I am still just as excited about playing guitar. Obviously I can't wait to be playing songs I really know, but for now I am happy with what I'm doing.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 2

So I picked up my guitar today, along with a tuner, strings, case, and a few picks. I read a good habit to get into is to tune your guitar each time you plan to use it, so the first thing I did when I got home was to try out my new tuner. I guess the microphone in it isn't as strong as I expected, but I got it to work. One thing I kept messing up was which tuning knob adjusted what string. Also, the strings made a crazy popping noise sometimes, but I guess that's normal. Eventually I got the instrument in tune, and boy did it sound good!

I messed around with it for a bit before trying some of the beginner chords, like C, D, E, etc. One site I looked at recommended starting by learning G major, C major, and D major, but the site I am now mostly following ( recommended D major, A major, and E major. I liked this site because along with each lesson was a high quality video, with plenty of details to go around.

I started with the D major chord. The first thing I noticed what how much my fingers hurt. I read somewhere it would take anywhere from 10-14 days to build up the calluses needed for them not to hurt. I guess I'll live with it. I had a little trouble getting the chord to sound correctly, but eventually got it and practiced it for a little while.

I followed up with the A major, then the E major. A was very cramped and hard to get right, but I got it down. E seemed alright, but a lot of the time the B string (5th string) sounded dead or buzzed. I found the problem to be my index finger, and I found that if I move it up slightly the problem goes away. This may mean touching the D string (3rd string), but that's ok. The ring finger is holding that down on a later fret anyway.

I practiced each for around 15 minutes (on and off). One thing I found helpful was using a webcam to match the shot of the end of the fretboard in the videos. I then pulled up a picture from the video of what the chord should look like, and compared them side-by-side to diagnose problems.

After about a two hour break, I came back and practiced these (trying to ignore the constant pain in my fingers) and found I had them memorized, and could play them clearly most of the time. Not bad for my first day. I am still a little fuzzy on the names, but I'm getting there.

The next exercise in that lesson plan was to try switching between chords, and to see how many you can do in a minute. I decided not to try that today with the state of my fingers. I will try that on the next few days though, as a way to see my progress.

I'm so excited to have a guitar now! I can't wait to be able to play a song or two. Maybe tomorrow?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Learning Guitar, Day 1

I've decided to blog my learning experience, both to chart my progress, but also to put down any tips I can as a newbie. Be warned though, these tips may be crap!

Today was spent visiting guitar shops. I played with a wide variety of acoustic guitars, having no idea what I was doing. I had actually forgotten how short a guitar is, and had to ask "is this full size?" All of the guitars I played with were full size even though there were a few with a 3/4 size available.

The first shop I visited had a nice sounding guitar for $199 with case and strap. At the third shop I had found a nice black guitar for a reasonable $119. With one more shop left, we drove across town to find another reasonably priced guitar, this time with a cut away. However the salesman didn't strike me as much of a musician. In the end I picked the black guitar, and I'll be picking it up tomorrow, along with a case, strap, and tuner, which will all (most likely) be bought separately.

So what was I looking for when I was hunting? There was a few things that were commonsense, and a few I learned online.

First (and most obvious), I made sure all the guitars I looked at were in my price range. All of the shops took care of that for me by asking first.

Second, I made sure I liked the look of it. Blue? No thank you. Natural wood? Good. Black? Not bad.

Then I considered the supposed condition of it, and the actual condition. Is it supposed to be new, but there is a dent or a nick somewhere? Or if it was used, is the price worth its condition? One used guitar I looked at was only $100, but the wooden piece where the bridge and pins are located looked like had broken off and been glued back on, along with a noticeable dent on the top.

Next, does it sound nice?

Last, how is the action? Action is the distance between the strings and the fret board. If it's too high, the strings can be too hard to press. If it's too low, the strings could vibrate and hit the fret board, making horrible buzzing. Supposedly it's best to have a guitar with a medium action: not too high, not too low. On the same idea, I made sure the strings vibrate correctly when pressing down on the ~12th fret or higher. If they are hitting the board, that's a problem.

Beyond those, I had no idea what I was doing. It was a bit awkward, but since this is all new to me I figured it was ok. The salesmen were a little pushy, but when I mentioned I was still looking they backed off a little.

I'd say today was a success. I ended up with a free guitar pick, I bought a chart with guitar tabs for common chords, and I have a guitar in mind to buy. Tomorrow, the fun begins!