Investing in the right equipment
To start playing guitar in the right way, first you need to invest in a decent guitar. Having a good quality guitar from the beginning, will make it more enjoyable for you. Fretting chords will be simpler and of course the sound of the instrument will inspire you to practice more.
You want to avoid the cheaper quality and priced guitars. These are usually poorly designed and will make all you attempt to do on your guitar harder. This will include how the guitar feels when you hold it and the height of the strings are off the fretboard. Invest the best amount of money as you can into your first guitar and make sure it is set up properly and maintained regularly. Doing this will give you years of enjoyment and satisfaction.
Next you want to purchase a guitar tuner and learn how to use it. Your guitar teacher can help you with this. There are plenty of apps on the market that you can grab a tuning app for free or for a few dollars. You can also purchase tuners that clip on to your guitar headstock or the guitar itself may have one on it. As your guitar will go out of tune all the time due to you playing it, or it gets dropped or changes in the weather, it is essential you learn how to tune your guitar. Its not hard and after a couple of times you will be tuning up with confidence.
With your guitar in tune it’s time to learn some chords. Start with basic open chords to begin with. Here are the 15 chords to learn which will give you access to many songs:
To get these chords under your fingers, study the shapes well. Know exactly what chord you are playing. It is also essential to always use the the correct fingerings when fretting the chords. You may find at first your hand and fingers can’t reach or stretch into position. This is quite normal. Persevere with it with awareness as to not overstretch to cause any pain in your hand. If your fingertips get sore that is fine. If there’s any other pain elsewhere in your hand stop for the day.
To get good at the guitar, you’re going to have to put time into practising it. This is the time between you and your guitar going over things until you no longer have to think about it. Its the development of mental and motor skills and can only be achieved through repetition. Again your guitar teacher can help you with what and how to practice, but if you’re consistently putting some time in most days, or every day, you will get good at playing your guitar.
Once you have your chord shapes memorised, its time to start making them sound musical. This is where strumming comes in. To start, simply grab a chord and strum down only across the strings 4 times. Do this slowly and count out loud from 1–4 until it feels comfortable.
Now you’re going to start changing chords. So do the 4 down strums and counting like you have been and then after 4 change to the next chord and strum that chord 4 times while counting out loud 1 – 4. Repeat this back and forth on 2 chords only until it becomes easy.
Learning how to read basic rhythms (strumming patterns) will help you greatly to to get this part of your guitar playing going smoothly. Here are a few basic rhythms for you to review daily until you don’t have to think about them:
D= Down Strum
U= Up Strum
Once you have a handful of chords and strumming patterns starting to get under your fingers, its time to study tablature or Tab. This is a simple system that lets you play music without having to learn how to read music right now.
In order to read tab, you read it from the left of the page to the right – like you do when reading a book. There are 6 horizontal lines that represent each one of your strings. The lowest one on the tab staff is your 6th string (the thick string that is closest to you). Then it goes up from 5-1. The numbers on the strings represent the frets of where you place your fingers. You simply locate the string the number is on; place a finger on that fret number and then pick that string only to sound the note: In the example below you are going to pick each note in the order it is written: (Hint – all these notes are played on strings 3 and 2)
The last, and most important thing to do, is to find a really good guitar teacher. Someone who is going to help you and guide you and ultimately make this whole process of learning and playing your guitar, fun and easier for you. A good guitar teacher will be able to help you play the chords better, cleaner, faster and easier; help you to understand and play the strumming patterns and show you how they are used in songs.
Getting a Guitar Teacher
The investment you make into studying with a great guitar teacher now, will pay you back with great returns over the years to come. Don’t sacrifice your musical education by thinking you can learn it all on your own. This will make the journey longer for you and unnecessarily frustrating. Get educated and start playing great guitar.
Allen Hopgood is a professional guitar teacher who runs and operates his own guitar school in the Gold Coast area of Australia.