Play Guitar in Churches and Bars…From the Desk of Beverly Solomon


By Beverly Solomon

Singing at the top of our lungs, rolling down the highway with the top down, we dream of being country music stars. We know all the words to all of the songs. We can write our own songs too. Just imagine what we could do if we really knew how to play a guitar. Could it be possible for someone to just pick up a guitar and learn to play?  Of course, anyone can learn to play guitar when beginning with the basics and taking the time to have fun with it.

Let’s think about the first thing that is needed to play your guitar. What about a real guitar? Air guitar is fun, but wouldn’t it be worth while to acquire the instrument that could help you reach that pinnacle of becoming the real musician that dreams are made of. Buying a used instrument can be an ideal way of starting out, as long as you take certain precautions (Burrows 72). Buy the best quality that you can afford because the better the guitar the better the sound, the better sound the greater the motivation to succeed (Burrows 73). Whether you go with an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar or an acoustic/electric guitar, there  is essential gear needed to help you play. You will need strings, picks, an amp and possibly an electronic tuner.  Oh, and don’t forget a Chord Book to show you how to play all the keys that you will ever need to make music on your own.

What are some incentive to purchase all these things and learn to play guitar?  Here is what you need to know. The correlation between playing an instrument and intelligence has been scientifically proven. Most of us think of IQ as a fixed thing, like an SAT score. You take a test, they tell you how smart you are, and that’s that. Turns out that’s wrong.  Neuroscience demonstrates that the brain is actually far more fluid than previously believed. Research out of the University of Zurich shows that doing one simple thing can actually raise a person’s IQ. This works for both kids and adults. It’s not using flash cards, not meditation, nor solving a Rubik’s Cube. It’s learning to play a musical instrument. That’s right — playing music significantly improves brain function and can raise your IQ by seven or more points. In our left-brain-obsessed culture, we tend to associate learning, growth, and increased intelligence with school. Yet neuroscience suggests just the opposite: that what we actually need isn’t work, it’s play. So go ahead —…

Take up the fiddle. Take up guitar (Curtin).

So now let’s get smarter and for learning to play at this time the guitar that is important to have is an acoustic guitar tuned to the key of E. The first thing that anyone should do when picking up their guitar is to be sure to get it in tune. Even if you tuned it just yesterday, it could have slipped just the tiniest bit and that would throw your sound off. You may ask how you, the beginner, could possibly know how the sound of a tuned guitar should be. I say just download the tuner app on your phone and put your strings from top to bottom (1st string to 6th string) in E, B, G, D, A, and E.  You could also buy an electric tuner or maybe you have perfect pitch in the key of E? I do, but sometimes even I use my phone app. Come on, just use your phone app.

Now, let’s make beautiful music together. Well, maybe the music won’t be all that beautiful right away, but you know that’s just normal because practice makes perfect. Heeeeer’s the sad truth.  You can’t get good without practicing.

Practicing certain keys, such as the key of E will help you to make beautiful music. There are three chords in each key.  A chord is three or more notes of a different pitch sounded at the same time (Burrows 130). There are many many chords to learn to play in many many different keys. I sing most of my songs in the key of D or the key of A, but sometimes in the key of G, sometimes in C, and sometimes in the key of E; therefore, I need to know the chords in those keys and many more in case I am playing guitar with someone else who sings in a different key. There are so many songs which have only three chords in them and the chords make up the key which you need to play your songs. The key of E is one which will surprise you because you can play so many popular songs using it. The key of E consists of the three chords of E, A, and B.  You can find the finger positions in your chord book as well as many other chords which you can practice and use to play different songs.  

Now I just want to jump right in there and play a song. When you first started playing basketball were you able to shoot the perfect free throw. Nooooooooo. So you practiced and got better.  When first learning to play the guitar, changing finger positions is hard, but with practice you will get faster and faster. It is a good idea to pick out a three chord song to practice  changing your chords faster. Using the song, “I’m A Believer” by the group Smashmouth from the movie Shrek , originally by the musical group The Monkeys, is a great song to practice your chord changes. “I’m a Believer” has some quick finger changes and will give you many chances to practice changing your chords. It will come slowly for a while, but then as you play and play the changes will come naturally and you will be making beautiful music. Do this song over and over until you get one key down and then play it again over and over in another key until it is perfected too. Start with the chords of E,  A, and B.  Go for it.  But, mastering the guitar is not just about getting your fingers into the right positions.

After learning where to place your fingers, you have to learn what to do with your other hand. You must make that other hand, with the guitar pick in it, strike the strings in the correct time. Novice guitarist NEVER play in time at first( Burrows 151). There are only three ways of mastering this art: practice, practice, practice (Burrows 151). Oh, and once you build up the calluses on the fingers which are holding the strings in place, the more comfortable it will be for you to play.   

Come on girlfriend! Come on boyfriend!

Grab your guitar and let’s get to the gig.

We’re playing at the Bluebird tonight

And that’s soooooo bigger than big.  

We will drive up in the tour bus

We will sing our songs in churches and bars

We’ll be the best darn band

Because we play guitars.

Wynonna, sings, “Girls with guitars, She wasn’t any debutant, Girls with guitars, She didn’t go out for cheerleading, Girls with guitars, Boys are kinda nervous ‘round,  Girls with guitars (”  Go ahead. Make them nervous. Have some fun.  Learn to play the guitar.

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