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First Guitar Lesson

Updated on September 17, 2012

Guitar - getting started

Hi folks - it's the start of a new term at college, and I'll show you the basic material we are going to use to learn guitar fast. It has to be fast, because it's easy to lose motivation in the early days, especially if your fingers hurt, which they will!

  • Check your guitar is in tune, with a tuner - or use a tuner from the internet. At this stage you may wish to have a guitar playing buddy give you a hand.
  • Try the Em7 chord - just first finger is all you need. The thickest string is on the right, the strings are the vertical lines, and the frets are the horizontal lines. Play all the strings together, but then play each one in turn to get the sound in your memory.
  • Next chord, A7 - just move across one string and add another finger, now you are playing strings 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 only.
  • Now play each chord 4 times, very slowly.
  • Next two chords - Em and A. These will sound very similar, Again, move your fingers across one string. Move both fingers together, as a unit. This will be easier if they are making contact as much as possible, up to the knuckle.
  • The cross shown just means " Don't play this string", the 0 is open string.

Easy Guitar Chords

Next chords - D, E, Am

Playing a D chord: we are using strings 1 - 4 only. First finger is on string 3, second finger is on string 1, third finger is in the middle. This looks like an arrow shape - visual recognition will really help you learn fast. The next 2 chords are an example of this: Play the E chord, then move the pattern across one string to make an Am (A minor) chord.

  • Play E four times, then Am four times, and continue to alternate the chords, slowly.
  • Again, try to move the fingers together, as a unit, making contact.
  • Then Play D twice, A twice, E four times, as shown
  • These are the chords to the chorus of With A Little help From My Friends, a classic Beatles tune. Try singing along for the full picture.

Next chords - G, C add9, Em, D

These chords are getting a bit harder, so don't be discouraged if they take a while. Starting from the G shape, just move the chord pattern in one string from each side to make C add9, a great sounding but easy chord. Using these chords together, you can play songs like Good Riddance (Green Day) - but that make take a week or two. These chords are all in the key of G.

  • A key is a network of chords that work together, and consequently you will find them used together all the time in songs.
  • Any song in the key of G will use these chords: G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em. (Note that there are three major chords and three minor chords. This pattern is the same for all the different keys.)

Blues chords

Next up: E7, A7 and B7 - the only three chords you need to play blues, and also a lot of rockabilly and rock n' roll songs. The B7 is shown as a stripped down version, but it works fine like this.

The Em pentatonic scale shown in guitar tab fits well with these chords, and will also work with the chords in G we have just looked at - guitar tab is explained in my other hubs. Each string has a line of its own, and the numbers are the fret numbers. 0 is the open string.

Easy scales in guitar tab

Guitar Tab scales

If you find fret 12, usually there is a double dot inlaid at this fret, you can play the major scales shown here. Again, we have learned one pattern, and by moving it across the strings, we can play many different major scales. From this scale you can see that every major scale has eight notes, starting and finishing on the same note, but an octave apart.

More chords: C, F, G7

The C chord shape is sometimes difficult, as it involves a bigger stretch, over 3 frets. One way around this is to use a capo, which will mean that the frets are closer together - try fret 3 or 4.

  • There is a good case for using a capo all the time when you are first learning the guitar, as it will reduce the action (string height) as well as the size of the frets.

Moving across to the F chord, you can see a similar pattern. This chord is technically F maj7, but in practice you can use it most of the time as an F chord. G7 is shown as an easy version.

Again, using these three chords you can play a lot of songs.

As the key of C uses C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am as the main chords you will only have to learn Dm and you have covered all the important chords in this key. Meaning, almost all the songs in this key will be playable without learning too much more.

Right hand stuff

It's good to use a pick - try 73mm Jim Dunlop picks. This gives you more power and a cleaner rhythm in general. You should also try finger picking - thumb for the bass note, next three fingers for the chord tends to work well for most songs.

Which Guitar?

A steel string acoustic with a small neck such as the Yamaha FG series is ideal for beginners. A Fender Stratocaster or similar is also a really good option. Whenever possible, buy a used guitar when you are starting out. Have a look at my hub How to buy a Guitar for more advice.

  • Practice routine - if you don't call it practice it will seem more fun!
  • Minimum 10 mins every day please, or it won't work!
  • Leave your guitar out of the case
  • Have a look at some lessons on YouTube, and bear in mind that you can ignore any advice. One of the nice things about guitar is that you can play it any way you want. Even the best players have some very different approaches to playing, and you can find your own way.

I'll try to answer any questions through the comments box.


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    • Jon Green profile image

      Jon Green 2 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

      Thanks Helen - hope you're enjoying playing.

    • profile image

      Helen Campbell 2 years ago from Chippenham

      Having just had my first lesson, found this helpful to use to practice with prior to lesson 2. Thanks.