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Your First Guitar Lesson – Introduction For Absolute Beginners

Updated on January 30, 2015

Chords, scales, licks, girls... I’m sure there are a lot of things that come to your mind when you think of playing the guitar. But first you should learn some basic things about the instrument you want to play. Guitar is probably the instrument more people play and there are a good number of reasons that motivate people into playing the guitar. One of them is that, compared to other instruments, you are able to play lots of songs of your favourite bands with little effort. With just a couple of chords, you can play a lot of different songs and different types of music. Obviously, that is an appealing idea. However, if you are serious about learning how to play the guitar and want to play more complex music, the guitar will take you as much time and dedication as any other instrument. Whether you only want to learn a few chords or you want to become a guitar legend, you must learn some things about the guitar vocabulary and the guitar itself. This lesson is about that.

The Guitar And Its Parts

The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with either nylon or steel strings.

Essentially a guitar has a body, a neck attached to it and a set of strings. However there other parts, some of them not common to all types of guitars, that you should know the name and function. Here is a brief description of the guitar parts:

Body - The body is a big determining factor in the overall sound of the guitar. It can be made of different types of woods or even other materials. Usually, more than one type of wood is used and that has a great influence in the sound of the guitar.

Neck - The neck is composed by fret board, frets, tuners, truss rod and headstock. All these parts are attached to a long extension made of wood. Usually, the wood that is used for the fret board will be of a different kind from that used on the remaining neck parts.

Headstock - The headstock or head is found at the edge of the guitar’s neck. It is tailored with the machine heads.

Tuners - The tuners, also called machine heads, keep the strings of the guitar stretched from the guitar's base all the way up to the guitar's knobs and allow you to tune the strings of the guitar.

Nut - The nut is a very small strip of hard material which supports the guitar's strings at the junction of the headstock with the fret board. The nut can be made of bone, brass or plastic. The nuts are indented to secure the stings in position. The nut acts as one of several endpoints assisting the tension of the string.

Fingerboard – The guitar fingerboard, also named fret board, is a lengthy wood plank where the frets are inserted. The fret board is slightly curved on an acoustic or electric guitar and is flat on a classical guitar. The smaller the radius of the fret board, the more the curve is evident. When a string is pinched against the board, the string’s “vibrating length” is shortened thus creating a higher pitch tone or sound.

Frets - These are strips made of metal, particularly nickel alloy, set in alongside the fret board that are positioned in conjunction with the string’s length that mathematically divides it.

Bridge - The bridge transmits the vibration of the strings to the body of the guitar.

Pickups - The pickups amplify the strings sound. Most guitars have one to a maximum of three pickups. They are the neck pickup, the middle pickup and the bridge pickup. You may choose the pickup according to the sound that you are aspiring for.

Pick Guard - The pick guard is usually a plastic guard or that protects the guitar’s top.

Guitar Types

There are different types of guitars but all work the same way. When you pluck a string, the vibration is transferred to the body of the guitar through the bridge, the whole instrument resonates and a sound is produced. What you hear is the result of all the parts of the guitar working and resonating together. The type of wood and the quality of all the materials have influence in the sound.

Acoustic Guitars

The acoustic guitars have hollow bodies and naturally produce enough sound to be heard in a room or even small concert hall, depending on the quality of the instrument. The tone of an acoustic guitar is produced by the vibration of the strings, which is amplified by the body of the guitar, that acts as a resonating chamber.

There are three main types of acoustic guitars: the classical guitar (nylon-string guitar); the steel-string acoustic guitar; and the archtop guitar.

Electric Guitars

The electric guitars emerged in the 1930s and they rely on an amplifier that can electronically manipulate tone. Some of these types of guitars have hollow bodies and others have solid bodies. The tone of an electric guitar is produced the same way as in the acoustic guitar. Still, the body of the electric guitar is smaller and many times it even lacks a resonating chamber, so the sound needs to be amplified. The pickups act as transducers that capture the mechanical vibrations of the strings and convert them to an electrical signal which can then be amplified, recorded or broadcast.

Guitar Strings And Tunings

Typically the guitar has 6 strings but it can have more. There are also different tunings for the 6 strings. Here are three of the most common tunings:

Standard Tuning – this is of course the most used tuning: E-A-D-G-B-E

Drop-D – it is very similar to the standard tuning, it only has a difference, the sixth string is tuned in D instead of E: D-A-D-G-B-E

 DADGAD – this tuning is also very used but not in all styles of music and it allows one to make beautiful chord voicings: D-A-D-G-A-D

The guitar strings are numbered from the highest (thinner) to the lowest (thicker). The tunings are presented from the 6th string to the 1st string, so in the case of the standard tuning it would be: E(6th)-A(5th)-D(4th)-G(3rd)-B(2nd)-E(1st).

Fingers

The fingers of your hands also have designations. The fingers of the left hand, the hand that presses the strings against the fret board, have numbers that go from 1 to 4 and start on the index finger as the figures show. The fingers of the right hand are designated by the first letter of its latin name. The thumb is p (from the Spanish pulgar), i for index, m for middle, and a for ring (from the Spanish anillo).

Conclusion

Now you know the vocabulary, so you are ready to start! Just remember that with dedication comes the reward. As almost everything in life, the more you dedicate to it, the better you will become.

My last advice is to not get bored with the guitar. If you are self taught and you feel lost, try finding a teacher. If you don’t like your teacher, find another one. If you really want to become good, then try to learn the most with everyone you meet, practice harder and don’t avoid music theory, you will have to learn a lot of chords, a lot of scales and, more importantly, you will have to train your ear very well! 

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