How I Learned Guitar

I like to play the guitar. Currently, I mostly play fingerstyle guitar, but when I first started learning a long time ago it was a lot different. I’ll be writing about how I started playing the guitar.

When I was little, my brother and I both got small classical guitars. Neither of our parents knew how to play the guitar, so I remember we were struggling to figure out how to tune them. Eventually, we started taking lessons at our local music store learning the basics such as reading notes and playing basic chords. Later on, we got electric guitars since the old classical guitars were too small, and they were kind of chipped. I remember both my brother and me didn’t really enjoy practicing either. Each day we’d just practice for 15 minutes and then we were done.

Over the course of a few years, I don’t think either of us got that much better, and I think that’s because we didn’t want to try to get better and weren’t really having fun. We continued taking lessons, but eventually, once my brother started high school he stopped and I continued playing. I remember I was watching Youtube and came across this Sungha Jung video of him playing a song called River Flow in You when he was 14 with around 40 million views. I thought it was pretty cool, but I still wasn’t interested and thought it was too hard to play with all of the notes and fingerpicking.

Around grade 6, I started watching a lot of anime like Naruto and Tokyo Ghoul, and I really liked the opening song from Tokyo Ghoul called Unravel at the time. Again on Youtube, I found a video of Eddie van der Meer playing the song in fingerstyle. I still thought the style of playing was too hard and decided to just listen to the music instead. However, in grade 7, music class was starting to be about learning how to play either piano, ukelele, or guitar. I didn’t really feel like playing a new instrument so I stuck with guitar and decided to go back to Eddie van der Meer’s Unravel video and downloaded the TABS to learn at school. At first, I had no idea what to do even though I could read the notes. I took the music to my guitar teacher and he showed me the different techniques. It took me around three months to learn how to play the one minute and thirty-second song, but looking back on it, it was a pretty difficult piece to play for a beginner and that’s probably why it took so much time to learn.

Even though it took a long time to learn that one song I picked up a lot of different techniques that I could use for other songs. I don’t think the difficulty of the first song you learn should matter as long as you like the song you’re learning. The harder the song the longer it may take, but you’ll also learn a lot more from it. This was when I started enjoying the guitar a lot more. I was able to find a lot of free TABS for songs I enjoyed and was usually able to play them. I started learning more songs but didn’t really venture out to anything new. Around the end of my grade 7 year my school was having a talent show, and I wanted to participate. I decided I wanted to learn something new that would be a bit of a challenge. I found Eiro Nareth’s Youtube channel and found his My Heart Will Go On cover to be very cool, so I decided to try and learn it. It was pretty difficult to figure out the percussion, but that was a new thing I picked up from the song as well as tap harmonics. I only got fourth place in the talent show, but I felt pretty good about being able to play the song.

Over the summer I stopped taking lessons but continued playing. After learning the My Heart Will Go On cover I started to feel more confident about learning how to play songs I couldn’t play before. I remember Eddie van der Meer’s cover of A Cruel Angel’s Thesis was a song I was struggling with for the longest time. Later on, I started learning about tunings besides standard that gave more options to play different songs. I remember Tam Lu was a guitarist I looked up to who used a lot of open tunings. Even now his songs use complex rhythms and lots of harmonics, so I still can’t play a lot of his covers although he doesn’t really play too much anymore. Eddie van der Meer’s cover of Sincerely was a song I worked really hard on over the summer. I was able to play it and memorized it in just about a week.

This school year I’ve started trying to learn Eddie van der Meer’s cover of Uchiage Hanabi, but it is a very dynamic song that I’m still trying to perfect. I also started being able to play some of Tam Lu’s arrangements, but my favourite one to play is his cover of the Girl’s Last Tour opening Ugoku Ugoku. There were a lot of harmonics in the song as well as the use of a slider capo that I got used to. His cover is very fun to play and was also fun to learn.

Now I have a new music theory teacher and am learning how to write my own arrangements for songs. At the moment I have a complete arrangement of W:Wonder Tale. Though I still can’t play it even though it’s my own arrangement. I also have the first few bars of the ending theme of 5 Centimeters Per Second that I can play, but the rest of the arrangement is on hold at the moment.

Right now I’m still having some problems with playing large stretches on the fretboard and also reading various strumming patterns, especially in Tam Lu’s arrangements. In arranging, I still can’t identify chords by ear and make good choices in arrangements. I’m also writing an original song with my theory teacher at the moment too. Just recently I got a new electric guitar and learned the first Bohemian Rhapsody solo, so I’m trying to get back into that genre of the guitar as well.

I think a lot about learning fingerstyle guitar is the many various techniques involved with the style. The style itself is very flexible and you really start to learn the different sounds the guitar can make. I think a very good example of this is Henry Chen’s song Ancient Dragon.

I’m not really that great with the electric guitar still, but for fingerstyle guitar, I’ll say that it doesn’t matter what the first song you learn is or how hard it is as long as you have fun with it. Like I said before the harder the song the more you’ll learn; it just might take a bit longer to learn. That’s why I think the first song you learn should be one you like so you won’t give up.

Some people that have TABS for their covers that I would recommend are Eddie van der Meer, Tam Lu, Robert Chen, Seiji Igusa, and Eiro Nareth. If you’re looking for easier covers Steve Hansen has a lot of free TABS that are easy for beginners but sound good at the same time. I usually play songs from anime, so those recommendations I pretty bias.

Overall, I’m still having fun playing the guitar, and I’m also still learning new things. I hope that I can keep on improving and especially get better at writing my own arrangements so that I can play whatever songs I want. That’s the story of how I got to where I am with guitar today.

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