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Beginner Guitar Lesson Online

Updated on September 6, 2009

This lesson is intended for complete beginners: It will cover some general information related to guitars (common questions), the most common chords, and the basic strumming pattern.  This single lesson will keep you busy for the next three months!  You basically have to practice switching between chords while maintaining that same strumming pattern, and that will take you some time to master.

THE GOOD NEWS:
Once you’re good at this, you’ll be able to play 90% of all the songs in the world, and sound really good when you do. Most songs are just a combination of common chords and the basic strumming pattern.

THE BAD NEWS:
As a beginner, practice is frustrating and boring. Its going to take you a while to get comfortable switching between chords quickly, developing muscle memory, and having the chords ring out well (basically pressing down hard enough).

Hopefully this lesson will save you time (from sifting through tons of information online that is either too advanced, incomplete, or just plain wrong) or money (from costly guitar lessons). The truth is, at the beginning, there just isn’t that much to teach (all you need to practice are a couple of things). Once you master this lesson (like I said, could be up to 3 months of practicing), then you’re ready to learn more advanced guitar.

First lets cover some of the most common beginner questions for guitar, and we’ll go from there.

ACOUSTIC OR ELECTRIC?

Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Acoustic is harder to play (you have to press harder), but it is also easy to transport to parties and things. Electric is easier to play, but you need to have an amplifier (as well as an electric socket), or you won’t be able to hear the guitar (i.e. – its not too likely you’ll be taking it to the campfire). One cool thing about electric though, is you can really mess around with a lot its electronic sound modifiers – lots of fun. Ultimately, I would recommend an acoustic for a beginner. Once you’ve been playing for a while, you’ll be able to choose an electric guitar a lot better anyway. You may go for a classical guitar too =).

PICK OR FINGER PICKING?

BOTH!!! A lot of people never really master how to use only their hands when playing and always use a pick. Down the road though, you’re going to realize a lot of songs can’t be played with a pick. Buy yourself a pack of 10 medium picks (trust me, get 10 because you’ll lose them), but also practice strumming without a pick. Honestly, it is important to be able to play both ways, so practice each technique for all the songs you learn.

TUNING

Unless you have some music background, a lot of people have trouble tuning by ear at first. I honestly thought I’d NEVER be able to tune by ear, but just like so many things in life, the impossible becomes fairly easy with some practice.

Having said this though, save yourself a ton of headache, and get yourself an electric tuner. They’re like $15 bucks, you’ll be sure that your guitar is tuned properly, and you can focus on chords and strumming. Once you start getting used to the sound of a properly tuned guitar, learning to tune by ear will be a much easier task. Its important to learn, but I wouldn’t worry about it until some time down the road.

CHORDS

Here comes the main part of the lesson...chords! Chords are basically when you play more than one string at the same time and it still sounds good. There are lots of types of chords, but the main two are either major or minor. Major chords have a happy kind of sound, and minor chords have a sadder sound (I know how silly it sounds to explain it that way, but its true!!). For example, when you hear a Weird Al cover of a rock song (that probably has a sad/angry feel), usually all he did was change the chords from minors to majors and speed up the tempo. Easy right??

Anyway, here are some of the most common chords. Now remember, all you’re going to need for the next few months is the following picture. Memorize the chords, hold them, and play making sure they ring out correctly, and then switch to the next one, until you can do it quickly and still have each string ring out like it is meant to.

Side note: The F is very hard to play at first. Everybody hates learning it. Unfortunately, you have to. Suck it up and practice!

Start off learning these chords, and then learn the rest of the ones on the chart.

Major: G, C, D, E, A, F
Minor: Dm, Em, Am

Common Basic Guitar Chords

STRUMMING

Ok, so you’ve learned all of the chords and can switch between them fairly easily? Now comes the last part: learning the basic strumming pattern. With a little practice, the strumming will become second nature, and once you have it down, you can pretty much write a decent sounding song.

D is for strum down, U is for strum up. If you’re not using a pick, strum down with the top of your nails for your four non-thumb fingers, and strum up with the top of your nail of your thumb. Here is the pattern:

DDU / UDU

That’s it. And in the space in the middle, you just skip a beat. And its even easier because when you skip the beat, your hand still moves to the bottom of the strings, you just don’t hit the strings that time. Trust me, once you’ve done it a few times, it’ll start to feel and sound really natural. And one more tip for strumming: don’t pause while you are switching chords. It should all have a fluid sound to it.

Ok, so that’s the lesson! And remember: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!! Learn the things you were taught here well (chords and strumming) and you will be considered a pretty good guitar player.

FINAL TIPS:

Don’t be afraid of going after some tougher songs, even if it’s really frustrating at first and seems to difficult. With enough practice, anyone can learn any song. Think of it like typing, everyone types slowly at first. But think about anyone who uses a computer regularly; none of them type slowly! Image if people spent as much time playing guitar as they did on their computers...everyone would be an incredible guitar player!

And the best tip of all, put your guitar next to your couch in front of the TV. You’ll find that because it’s sitting there so accessibly, you’ll be picking it up all the time during commercials. And that will add up to a lot of practice time =).

Comments

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    • profile image

      mommaof5 

      6 years ago

      starting the kids with in home guitar lessons. this is a great start! thank you!

    • profile image

      greenguitar 

      8 years ago

      I'm into learning guitar these days. I find your hub full of info I was looking for. These tips will be useful. Thanx

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