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Five Tips for Beginners Learning Classical Guitar

by Eddie Perez, guitar player and writer at MusicianAuthority.com

 

Wheter you’ve got an impressive history of playing electrical or acoustic guitar or you’re just now foraying into guitar playing, classical guitar is bound to feel like a whole new world at first. Previous experience with other styles of guitar playing might set you up for success in certain areas, but you’ll still have plenty to learn! Here are 5 tips that beginners learning classical guitar should keep in mind while they get started.

1. Start with the right instrument (and hold it properly).

No matter how comfortable you are with other types of guitars, you’ll want to start fresh with the right high-quality instrument when you learn to play classical guitar. While they may look similar, classical guitars differ from acoustic guitars in that they have shorter and wider necks and feature nylon instead of steel strings. One perk of those nylon strings is that they’ll be a bit easier on your fingers during those long, dedicated practice sessions!

On top of the differences in the build of your instrument, there are also some key tricks to holding it properly. Since you’ll want to balance the guitar on your raised left leg (assuming you’re right-handed), prepare ahead of time by getting a good footstool to help you maintain good form. Once you get situated, keep your back straight and your shoulders loose while you play

2. Read your sheet music thoughtfully and deliberately.

While it might seem frustrating to have to focus so heavily on technicalities as a budding classical guitar player, there’s no way around it: You’ll have to slow down, follow instructions deliberately, and focus on reading your sheet music carefully before you’ll be able to channel the artistic melodies that your heart craves. 

Practice daily, and focus wholeheartedly on what the sheet music is telling you to do. What’s more: truly listen to what it’s telling you. Do exactly what it says, and get good at it so that you can hear the exact sounds that make the musical piece unique. Then practice until you can put that same level of finesse and feeling into sight reading!

3. Choose practice pieces appropriate for your level.

If you’re a self-taught musician, then this tip is especially important. You don’t want to jump the gun and get in over your head by trying to play pieces that are too complicated. If you do, you’re bound to get frustrated and then struggle to keep up your motivation to practice.

If you attend guitar lessons with a professional and find yourself struggling even after practicing like you’re supposed to (for real--no cutting corners), then you might need to discuss your struggles with your teacher. They’ll probably have some good advice on how to troubleshoot your technique, or they might agree to a different practice piece to help you really get the hang of it. 

4
. Balance technicality with feeling. 

Classical music is complicated, without a doubt. Every change in tempo or picking style is laid out for a reason, so you’ll need to put in tons of time practicing various aspects of form and learning the technicalities of different ways to play. While they might be tedious and unexciting to practice repeatedly, they truly are the foundation upon which you’ll build your entire musical skill set. 

However, once you’ve dedicated yourself to your practice exercises for the day, remember to give yourself time to really feel the music. Take a break for a minute to loosen up after all your hard work, and really let your passion for music flow while you reconnect with your instrument. 

5. Get reacquainted with your fingers and nails. 

In order to excel at playing classical guitar, you'll  need tp the tome to familiarize yourself with a new ser of terms for you fingers. If you speak a good bit of Spanish, you might already be ahead of the game as you learn these terms: 

p (pulgar) = thumb 
i (index) = index finger 
m (mayor) = middle finger 
a (annular) = ring finger 
c, e or x (chiquito) = pinky finger

As a side note: You may not use that pinky finger much. Some musicians do and others don’t, but it’s good to know the terms regardless! You might find the dexterity and finger strength required by classical guitar to be taxing at first, but stick with it and you’ll develop the strength you need over time. 

In addition to knowing what the Spanish finger terms mean, you’ll want to prepare your fingernails for more effective playing as well. The nails on your fretting hand should be kept short so that they don’t get in the way. However, the nails on your picking fingers should be grown out a little bit to afford you greater freedom with expression and tone while you play. 

Remember: 

As you’re getting started with beginner classical guitar, there are a lot of things to remember. The way that you hold your classical guitar and maintain your nails can have big effects on how it sounds when you play. On top of that, it’s critical to learn your sheet music and the proper terminology as thoroughly as possible--and never skimp on practice sessions. 

However, even though these technicalities are extremely important to learn thoroughly while you’re getting started, don’t forget to relax and simply let the music flow now and then. After all, classical guitar is meant to be enjoyed!
 

 

 

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