So why is it so popular?
Accompaniment and chordsMost people will start the guitar while strumming some chords and learning some basic tunes. This is the basis for what many players do. The guitar as an accompaniment instrument is incredibly popular in many styles of music. From acoustic players to electric rhythm guitarists, the guitar is ideal to back a singer. The way the strings are tuned allow for full sounding chords while giving interesting voicings compared to basic piano chords. So, those who want to play along to their favourite songs, use a guitar as a song-writing tool, or provide a foundation for other instruments, will be right at home with a guitar.
Use as a solo and melody instrumentWhile the guitar wasn’t designed as a melody instrument, it certainly has a place as one. From jazz players up to heavy metal lead players, the guitar has a great voice for melodies. Primarily done with electric guitars, lead playing is enhanced with the use of an amp. Or, as many players will find, the use of effects. But there are plenty of acoustic players who get great sounding melodies – looking at traditional folk or jazz. One advantage from solo instruments such as brass and woodwind that the guitar has, is that multiple notes can still be played. Using small chords or double-stops in playing can add a bit of flair and excitement. And of course, you aren’t limited to your lung capacity, so you can vary your phrasing as much as you want.
The best instrument for a mixture?
If you want to dabble in a bit of both, the guitar is great. I would actually argue that the piano or keyboard instruments take the lead here though. Where a pianist can play a bass note and a chord while playing a melody, the guitar is limited. Your register is only as wide as you are tuned, and as far as your fingers can take you! There are some very creative ways around this which gives the guitar an edge. If you listen to classical guitar players, there are some pieces which make the guitar sound impressively vast. One of the most popular being Recuerdos De La Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega. Utilising tremolo picking to pick out a chord while having a constantly droning melody on the top gives the effect of two instruments being played. Similarly, jazz players like Joe Pass did a great job of accompanying themselves while playing lead lines – and even complex solos. Many modern guitarists also do great solo arrangements with complex parts and even percussion from using the guitar itself as a drum.
Ultimately, the versatility of the instrument is what makes it one of the best to learn, as it opens a lot of options. Even if you find you don’t like the path you start on, there is a lot of variety to be had from the guitar.