If you enjoy playing the guitar, try to find a reputable teacher who is experienced in good, all round playing, of all types and can advise you. Also do not ever restrict yourself to just one type of music. There is a world of wonderful music for you to enjoy, so please don't get stuck in a rut playing the same type forever - experiment and explore the whole exciting world of music. Listen to other players and learn from them all - you can even learn from a bad player by learning what NOT to do! Try and emulate the best and remember you can learn something every day. I have been playing the guitar for over 65 years and I am still learning about our favourite instrument - The Guitar. A good player will always be in demand. The study of the guitar is a very great pleasure to many - I hope it will be to you.

Regular practice is most essential to progress on the guitar. Never, however, practice when you are too tired and more important, never force yourself and thereby do it unwillingly. Practice should be a pleasure. Let me say right away that every player - the best in the world included - found it hard and something of an effort to get his fingers to go onto the right places at the right time in the beginning but this will come, believe me. Nature did not fashion our fingers for guitar playing specifically, but Nature has given us a mind with which to think, plus will power, patience and determination. With all these things at your command guitar playing will come quite easily.

Care of Instrument
It is a good thing always to wipe the strings of your guitar with a duster after playing. The duster should be tucked under each of the strings separately and pulled along. You will find that this removes a lot of dirt etc that accumulates under the string. If this dirt and perspiration is not removed from the strings, they will lose their tone and trueness of pitch. It is also a good thing to use in the same way, a piece of chamois leather with some oil on it to keep the steel strings in good condition. There are oils on the market for this purpose, or a fine machine oil will do. This helps to keep the finger board smooth also. Always look after your instrument and you will get the best results from it.

The choice of strings for your guitar is of great importance to your playing. A good string will stay in tune for a long period of time and give a true note when played plus a good tone. There are many good makes of strings on the market, which are available through most reputable dealers. Strings for electric and plectrum guitars are usually made in two types. The most popular type is the nickel wire wound type - that means that the lower three strings are bound with a nickel wire to give the required thickness. I find these are the best for all-round playing. The second type are called the tape bound type. This means that the lower three strings are bound with a flattened wire that looks something like a tape. These tape bound strings do not make as much "swishing" noise as the fingers pass over them when playing, but I do not think that they give as crisp and clear a tone as the wire bound type, although in fairness the wire bound type do make slightly more of a "swishing" noise when fingered. However, if the student oils his strings as I have suggested, the swishing noise will be eliminated to a large extent. Always try to get quality strings and look after them. For all round playing therefore I advise wire wound strings of medium gauge. Remember the better quality the string the better quality tone produced. Looking after your strings, as I have suggested will help to prevent them breaking. On my electric Guitars I use thin gauge strings on my Parker guitar (9 - 42 gauge), and a slightly thicker gauge (10 - 46 gauge) on my Fender Stratocaster, Yamaha, and Bert Weedon Guild Guitar.

Plectrums are usually made of tortoise shell or composition, and no two players will agree about the ideal shape for a plectrum. Most music shops sell many varied shapes and sizes so I suggest that you go in and try to find a shape that suits your particular taste. They are quite inexpensive so it is a good idea to buy a few of different shapes. Plectrums vary in thickness, some being very thin and others slightly thicker. A thin plectrum (or pick as they are sometimes called) will produce a light slightly twangy tone, whereas a thicker plectrum produces a fuller tone. I suggest that you buy a couple of each. It is most important to get good plectrums. I have found that many players will spend a lot of money on getting a really good guitar, and then go a buy any old plectrum. This is so wrong, for remember a plectrum helps to produce a good tone, and a bad plectrum might partly spoil the tone of the best of guitars. So please take as much trouble over your choice of plectrums as you do over your guitar, and make sure you are happy with the shape and feel of your plectrums.

Rhythm Playing
To get a really crisp rhythm sound from the guitar the fingers of the left hand should release their pressure momentarily after playing chords on certain beats, for instance if a crisp rhythm in the two-beat idiom is required then the fingers should release pressure after the second and fourth beats - this will give the effect of long first and third beats and a snappy off beat rhythm on the second and fourth beats. Many modern rhythm players like to use a long beat on all beats. This is purely a matter of taste or fitting in with whatever group with which one is playing.

Vibrato Arms

The use of a vibrato arm which can be attached to most electric guitars (indeed many of them have them attached when the guitar is purchased), can help you to produce attractive sounds and effects. The arm works by the player pressing it slightly down to the body of the Guitar, and this automatically lowers the pitch of the notes played by about a semitone, and when the player allows the arm to return to its normal position the note is raised to its normal pitch. This can be very effective, but it should be used tastefully and not overdone. Complete chords can be lowered and raised in pitch by the use of the arm, but it is used mostly with single notes. Experimenting will give the player many ideas on the use of the vibrato arm. There are several different types available, but they all work on the same principle. When playing solos in which you intend to use the vibrato arm, the end of the arm is held by the crook of the little finger only and pressed down by the right hand. It is not practical to play fast solos with the little finger crooked around the arm - in fact the vibrato effect is best used in slow numbers, when the picking of the strings is not so frantic. As a general rule then; try to use the arm in slow melodic numbers "bending" the notes or chords as you feel good taste allows, but for faster numbers keep your right hand free for easier and more fluid manipulation of the plectrum. The vibrato arm can be a great effect, but don't overdo its use - otherwise you spoil the overall effect.

There are many fine amplifiers available on the market today and the student has a wide range to choose from. Some amplifiers are transistorised and these are usually lighter in weight and have the benefit of immediately amplifying sounds as soon as they are switched on. Other types need a second or so to warm up. Both types are very good. Choose an amplifier with a good tone, and a wide range of tone colours. Make sure that the low notes of the guitar are reproduced faithfully, and that chords can be played without distortion, although if you turn any amplifier up too loud it will of course sound distorted. The player should use taste and discretion in choosing the volume at which he plays his electric guitar. Remember by playing too loud you can put your audience off of your performance, and something good then becomes something too loud and annoying. It is like holding a conversation - it is nice to hear someone talking to you but nobody likes them shouting at you! Make sure your amplifier has a good strong case, for they need one for travelling. See that the speakers are strong and well made, and can take the power that the amplifier puts through them. Some amplifiers have built-in reverberation units in them, and these when switched on give a variety of effects which can be used to very great advantage. I like to use a Marshall amplifier with a built-in reverberation unit for solo playing - it gives the notes a singing quality and adds an echo effect to chords and single notes but do not overdo the echo effect, keep it to a reasonable level and let good taste be your guide. There is a tendency among a lot of players to play much too loudly with their amplifiers - please don't fall into this trap. Have a good volume by all means, but do not spoil your playing by distorting it, and please think of your audience - it is for them that you are playing.

"Damping" the Strings
Many players write and ask me how I get the "dampened" or muffled effect that I sometimes use in my solos, such as "Stranger than Fiction", etc. This effect is obtained by resting the side of the palm of the right hand on the bridge so that the fleshy part of the hand nearest the little finger is touching the strings where they pass over the bridge. This muffles the strings as you pick them. Try it and see. It is an effective sound and can be used in many ways to embellish solos, bass runs, thirds, etc.

Group Playing
When playing in a pop or beat group the members should always try and play as a group and not as separate individuals. The rhythm guitarist should not play as loudly as the solo guitarist and should play together with the bass player and drummer in an endeavour to get a good rhythmic backing for the soloists. Work as a unit each complementing the other. Choose the various tone colours available through amplification carefully so that they suit the type of piece you are performing. Remember that the rhythm player is doing just as important a job as the solo player. Try to have a separate amplifier for each player, as two guitars in one amplifier do not very often sound good - they tend to distort. If every player keeps his volume controlled then none of the group will be forced to play louder than taste requires. Think always as a unit, and rehearse often together, because this helps to create an individual sound for your group. Always try to keep a little space between the amplifiers of the various players, so that they can be heard with a certain amount of separation, but so that the whole sound of the group is an overall sound. If there are two good soloists or more in the group, then take it in turns to play solos and rhythm, but remember when playing rhythm to adjust your volume so that it does not overpower the soloist.

Bert will be adding more hints and tips, so remember to check back often!