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Play Beginners Guitar

Updated on January 17, 2023
Jon Green profile image

After decades of teaching guitar, i can pass on a few time-saving tips, bearing in mind that a little music theory goes a long way!

Be a guitar god yesterday

Hi. You'll see some extravagant claims regarding how quickly you can learn guitar - so here's another one! Let's assume you have a guitar, and it's in tune thanks to a friend or an electronic tuner.

If you follow through this lesson, you'll be playing guitar inside 30mins, on the basis of having taught more than 1,000 students.

My new hub First Guitar Lesson has a lot of the same material presented from a slightly different angle, and it might help to check that out too.

Guitar basics

Guitar basics

The chord pictures above work like this: imagine a guitar headstock on top of the diagram - now the six vertical lines are the strings, and the horizontal lines are the frets, where your fingers go!

Em - use fingers 1 and 2. A - same fingers, with third finger added on the end. If you've got large fingers you could rearrange the order. Strum each chord 4 times for each bar - eight strums in all for each chord. Don't rush it.

Next try E (different chord!) and move the whole shape over one string. This will give you Am.

Next example (line 3): Take an E chord, then slide up one fret.It should sound Spanish or flamenco. The naming of this chord is difficult, but it's very easy to play. You'll find that the concept of moving chord shapes up the neck is one that will give you great results with a bit of patience.

Last exercise: change between Em and B7, counting four on each chord.

It's entirely possible to work through this stuff in half an hour, by which time you'll be playing guitar!

Guitar string names

Looking at the diagram again - string 1 and 6 are both E, just at different frequencies. So the guitar is tuned E A D G B E , from the lowest string to the highest - we're talking pitch here, not the one that's nearest to you.

Next step: my Guitar Chords 101 hub, then Guitar tab - how to use it.

Also, please let me know if this simplified approach works for you. Generally, it does work in Guitar classes, but then there is more backup available.

Some technical stuff

  1. It takes 2-3 weeks to strengthen up your fingers
  2. Left hand nails need to be shortish
  3. Small m means minor, as in Em and Am. A minor chord is the saddest of all chords, according to Spinal Tap.
  4. Don't worry about buzzes etc, though try to press just behind the fret, and this will cut down on them.
  5. Practice for 10 mins only, have a cup of tea, then do a bit more. Do not lock yourself in a garret or refuse food.
  6. There is a lot of evidence in learning research to support this approach.
  7. Most important: you have to keep it fun or it probably won't work out.

Right hand stuff

Try using a pick (or plectrum) as it should really help, on steel string guitars anyway. I like Jim Dunlop 73mm picks, and although everyone has their own preferences, I find them to be an ideal pick for acoustic strumming. They will also last a long time, and won't break, but they will disappear down a sofa or washing machine in a timely manner!

A capo is a very useful investment too, as it can bring the action or string height of a guitar down - the cheaper the guitar, the more you'll need one.

The other great advantage of using a capo is that the frets are closer together as you move up the neck, so for a beginner there is less of a stretch for many chord forms. Try using the capo at fret 3 or fret 4.


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