By James Harper
Whilst the guitar is arguably one of the coolest musical instruments in history, it’s definitely not the easiest to pick up as a beginner. Whilst beginner pianists can tap out the notes to chopsticks in their first lesson and drummers can knock out a basic four-beat pattern with minimal instruction, even producing your first notes on the guitar can feel like a monumental task. That’s why having high-quality lessons on beginner guitar is a necessity: the skills aren’t as tough as they initially seem, but you’ll need plenty of guidance to get them down. Before the diverse and rewarding world of the instrument is open to you, it’s absolutely essential to get to grips with beginner guitar.
Guitar Fundamentals – Basic Techniques, Knowledge and Fretting Notes
Beginner guitar is all about laying down the fundamental knowledge and techniques you’ll need for all of your future playing. The first and most basic thing you need to know is how to hold the guitar. Sit with the instrument across your lap – the curve in the lower part of the body nestling comfortably on your leg – and hold the “neck” of the guitar in your weaker hand (the left hand for right-handers and the right for lefties). This is the long, thin part of the guitar (not the wide “body” which has the sound-hole or electronic pick-ups), and you should grip it with your thumb at the back of the neck (with the tip roughly reaching around half way up the back) and your fingers coming around the front. This enables you to push the strings down with your fingers at a specific fret (which are the spaces between the metallic, vertical fret-markers) and thereby play different notes on the guitar when combined with plucking of the string from your strong hand. Use a plectrum when you’re first learning (although you may branch out later), plucking the string at the point above the sound hole (on acoustics) or between the pickups (on electrics).
The guitar works through the fact that the shorter the “vibrating length” of the string, the higher the pitch produced when it is plucked. By pressing the strings down at a specific fret, you reduce the amount of it allowed to vibrate and therefore produce different notes. How tightly the strings are wound also affects the pitch, and each string on a guitar is “tuned” to a specific note. The string closest to you – the thickest one – is tuned to E, the next is A, the one after is D, then G, B and finally another E.
Starting to Play – Melodies and Chords
Don’t get bogged down when you’re learning beginner guitar, though, you should have a basic understanding but the details don’t matter too much yet. Now you know how to hold your guitar, how it works and how to make noise with it – it’s time to put those skills into practice. The first thing to do is to work on a basic melody – which is just a run of individual notes, or a simple “tune.”
To do this, you’ll need a quick lesson in the most common method of communicating guitar music – tablature. In “tabs,” there are six horizontal lines which represent the instruments’ strings (with the thickest string at the bottom and the thinnest at the top), and numbers are used to tell you which frets to push the string down at. So if you see a “0” you play the string without pressing it down and if you see a “2” you play the note produced when the second fret (between the first and second metallic fret markers towards the top of the neck). Try this simple melody – it might not be the coolest tune (unless you happen to be Jimi Hendrix), but it’s a good place to start:
Don’t be discouraged if it’s tough at first – beginner guitar can be very challenging. Break the melody up into sections to make it easier, take it slowly and stick to the “one finger per fret” rule. This is when your index finger presses notes on the first fret, your middle finger for the second fret, your ring for the third and your pinky for the fourth.
Your playing really takes shape when you start to tackle some chords. You can think about chords as collections of notes all played at the same time. They have a specific way of being displayed, but for simplicity’s sake we can stick to tabs for now. The most beginner guitar-friendly chord is C major, but learning G and D major too gives you all the knowledge you need to play a simple song.
Here’s C major:
Stick to the one finger per fret rule for C major, but pay special attention to whether you’re accidentally catching another string with your fingers. Strum the chord (playing all five notes in one swoop of your hand), and try to play each one individually if you think you’re getting something wrong. Here are the shapes for G and D major:
G major D Major
For G Major, use your middle finger for the note on the thick E string and your ring for the one on the thin E string, leaving your index to press down the note on the A string. For D, use your middle finger for the E string and your index on the G string, leaving your ring finger for the note on the B string.
Putting it All Together
Now you’re ready to use the beginner guitar skills you’ve learnt so far. Try a simple chord progression by playing four strums of G major, then four of C major, then four of D major and four of G major again. Focus on making the chord changes as smooth as possible, taking your time to get used to the shapes. Additionally, you can try to strum “alternately,” so your hand moves down with one stroke and up with the next. After you’ve got to grips with the basics – you’re ready to take on some more advanced beginner guitar lessons!
If you’d like more beginner guitar lessons, check out Guitartricks.com. They have a nice step-by-step program that can cover all of these topics with video lessons.