Your start-up country guitar lesson is this: very few guitars are the same and one shape does not suit all! Absorb that drill perfectly, it will save you from a lot of regret further down the track.
You might have noticed that Willie Nelson plays a classic acoustic, Kasey Chambers favors a steel string and your best of the best may even play a Les Paul original. That doesn’t make it a good idea to set your heart on any of them. You need the style that has your name on it. It’s out there somewhere, you just have to start looking for it.
Never mind the advertisements, recommendations from other players or the ‘specials’ from the supermarkets. Purchase a poor choice for you personally and you will find yourself losing pleasure in it or soon finding out that you no longer have the desire to play it at all – I learned that lesson the hard way.
It’s a fact that must be apparent to you that singers come in all shapes and sizes and country guitar players are the same as everyone else. Just because someone you’ve seen can play a standard acoustic and make it appear easy does not mean you can. Also be aware electric guitars, which many people say are easier to learn on than either acoustics or classics, still come in different sizes and have necks of different widths. Also, guitars do not sound the same. You need to find the sound and size that speaks to you in that special way.
The way to do that is to find one or two of the privately owned music outlets that feature a luthier – that’s a craftsman who is highly skilled in the building and care of guitars. His or her guidance and aid in choosing and tailoring a guitar to your requirements will be inestimable. Next play each guitar you can find that is around the price you want to pay, and I am saying every guitar. Don’t be nervous about this, even if you think everyone’s watching you. Get familiar with how each of them sits as you hold them, how easily your fingers can reach the strings and what depth of sound you get. If you find an instrument you feel yourself drawn to, get one of the sales staff to finger pick it for you so you can hear what its potential might be.
When you’ve chosen the right guitar, ask the luthier to do a full set-up, and to fit new strings. This should all be included in the price. You should have the strings changed because you can’t tell how long they’ve been on the guitar and they could be over-stretched but in any case they are almost certainly too tough for you to play easily. Many guitars go on sale strung with 12 gauge strings. You might find it better to have these replaced by 11s, or maybe even 10s, since they will be less painful for the tender fingers of a novice to depress.
A guitar set-up embraces examining and, if needed, lowering the action of the guitar. The action is the amount of daylight between the strings and the fretboard and if this is too great the guitar can be problematical for a novice to play. In the early days you should take advantage of all the help that’s available.
Last but by no means least be certain to ask for a reduction in the quoted price – you should get one – a padded gig bag and a strap. Most privately owned guitar shops will be willing to give you a packet of plectrums as well. Ask for .08mm Tortex to start with; they are probably the most useful and you can buy different sizes as you become more experienced and you know rather more about the different types and how to use them.
And that’s all you need to know for your first country guitar lesson. Good luck and make sure you take your time. A properly selected guitar is a friend for life.