Playing a New Guitar

Now that the holidays are over you might be wondering: “What should I do with that guitar/banjo/mandolin/uke/bass I got for Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Diwali...”

If you're just getting the thing out of the box it may need a little work. Fretted instruments need a "set-up" and if it wasn’t done in the factory, you'll need to consult a repair person. The strings need to be at the right height from the fingerboard so the nut and saddle might have to be adjusted. Electric guitars usually have adjustable saddles that improve intonation. My advice is to call your local music store and ask how much a set-up for your particular instrument costs. I've seen the price vary anywhere from $20 to over $100 for the same basic thing. Unless you have a real lemon, this is going to be an easy job for an experienced instrument repair person. It's also a good idea to build a relationship with a music shop; you'll need it. Find people you can trust and shop around a little.

If you don't know how to play, find a decent teacher -- at least for a little while. YouTube videos are all well and good, but you can really use some one-on-one attention, or at least a good class -- somebody to make sure you're holding the thing the right way and such. Beginners get into a lot of bad habits that are hard to break later on. Make sure your teacher really knows their onions (I love that expression). I've had quite a few students who listen to what I tell them and go home and research what I've said. Sometimes I learn from them. I've had people go across town and take a few lessons from someone else just to see if I know what I'm doing. I don't mind at all, I kind of like it.

The last thing I want to say is: Don't quit! Give it at least a few weeks. If you've never played a string instrument before, your fingers are going to hurt a little. This will pass. Things don't always sound that good when you start out. It gets better. Fretted instruments are rather primitive and you need a certain level of skill to make them work. That is the art. If you want it to be really easy, get an MP3 player. If you want to be a musician, go for it! Good luck.