Guitar is an instrument that is at the centre of my life, I adore playing and have found it has opened up a number of opportunities both inside and outside of my career. But despite this, there are still a number of things I wish I knew before I started playing. In todays blog I will try and shed light on some of those things and tell you some of things I wish I knew before I started playing guitar.
It is hard
Though guitar is one of the most accessible instruments out there it does not mean that it is easy. I have lost count of the number of times I have had pupils say to me ‘I want to learn c within a weeks’ when in reality c can takes a lot longer than a to learn. Guitar is hard, our hands are not used to holding the guitar the right way and our fingers neither have the dexterity or strength to hold chords right out of the bat. Playing guitar…
…Requires a lot of time and dedication
To get to a point where you can play the basics proficiently can take months and for it to happen that quickly you really need to be picking up and playing the guitar for a significant amount of time most days. I often advise pupils to make sure that they are playing 6 out of the 7 days in the week for at least 20 minutes if not 30 minutes to ensure that they make sufficient progress. Those who are impatient and do not make such a dedication in time and effort to the instrument often end up losing interest due to lack of progress whilst those who make a habit out of practice and are patient in their progress often end up progressing a lot quicker than anticipated. If you are going to learn to play time and dedication are an absolute must.
It is not always fun
Though we play because it is fun and because we enjoy playing, learning to play is not always fun. In fact, it can sometimes be downright boring. To get to a point where we can use a certain skill to play for fun often requires hours or mind numbing exercises. But to be able to play well and to be able to do the fun stuff requires us to spend that time being bored to get there.
It will hurt to begin with but in time your fingers will adjust
We are not used to putting our arms, hands and fingers into the positions required to play the guitar. You will find practicing will hurt sometimes, particular after long periods as you are yet to develop the strength and stamina to play but do not worry as in time your hands and fingers will adjust and having a guitar in your hands will begin to feel comfortable. Now I do need to make a clear distinction between good pain and bad pain. It is ok if after a while practicing your hands and fingers ache a little like kind of pain you would feel after exercising, however if you feel any sharp pain stop playing immediately! I repeat stop playing immediately! You may well be causing damage and could potentially be causing injury. To avoid this happening I advise that you find a guitar tutor. A good tutor will ensure that you avoid the mistakes that will likely cause you injury and can guide you through the process of slowly increasing the strength, stamina and dexterity of your hands and fingers. If you are interested feel free to look into my own guitar lessons or feel free to read up on my blog post offering advice on how to find the right tutor for you.
You will need to trim your finger nails all the time!
As a guitarist you will find it is very easy for your finger nails to become an impedance. If they get too long they can get in the way of you playing melodies, holding notes and strumming chords. You will therefore find that to prevent this from happening you will have to cut your finger nails, a lot! I cut mine at least once a week. Sorry ladies, I am afraid you are not going to be able to grow your finger nails if you want to play, maybe settle for the temporary option of fake nails for nights out and special occasions because the rest of the time you are going to need to keep your nails short and trim. Now if you are someone who likes to finger pick using your nails, like a many classical guitarists, then you have a whole load of other care to worry about including filing, creams and supplementation. In short, nail care is surprisingly important to guitar players. Who would have thought?
It can be expensive
Playing guitar can become quite an expensive hobby. Good quality guitars, amplifiers and effects are not cheap with their prices easily able to exceed thousands of dollars, euros or pounds. On top of that is paying for the accessories such as strings, cables, straps, capos and plectrums. Some of these such as strings and plectrums need to be replaced regularly due to wear or loss (you will be surprised how many and how easily plectrums are lost). Now of course you do not necessarily need all this gear to play guitar, for many one instrument is enough and investing in other gear is excessive. However, if you want to become a serious player and perform gigs and record then you are going to need to invest in some gear equipment. If I were you apologise to your bank balance in advance.
There are many different specialisms
I used to have this idea that a great guitar player was someone who could play anything that was put in front of them and though some highly skilled players are able to adapt to multiple situations, to be able to excel in the intricacies of certain specialisms can take years to master. There is no single type of guitar player. Those who are a great at styles like Rock often face difficulty trying to adapt to styles like Jazz and vice versa. On top of genres, other musical skills require a lot of study and dedication in and of themselves. A really talented songwriter may not be technically proficient in playing guitar but their ability to play with words, rhythm, melody and chords can take years to develop. In short, do not expect to become a player who is great at everything. You will find one or a number of niche’s that fit what you want to do and become good at it whilst other areas of your playing will not receive as much focus.
There will always be someone better than you
When I started playing, I started with a mission to be the best guitar player the earth had ever seen. The only problem with this idea is that there is no such thing as the best guitar player ever. After all, playing guitar is about producing something that is very much subjective: Music; and even though there is some consensus on who are truly great guitar players no single one of them could ever claim to be the greatest guitar player ever. If you looked to players like BB King, who many say was the greatest blues guitar player ever, many would say he is not anywhere close to the standard of Jimmy Hendrix when it comes to playing 60s classic rock. So play with the acknowledgement that there will always be some area of your playing that someone else will be better at no matter how long you play for, and instead aim to better yourself as a player rather than someone else.
In the past I have talked about ‘Why having a teacher is better than self-teaching' but this of course is really no good if we do not find the right tutor. Often when looking for a tutor to teach us how to sing or play a musical instrument we go for the quickest, closest and cheapest option but, by doing so we might really be short changing ourselves in terms our our learning, development and enjoyment of the instrument. So in this weeks blog I will be looking at helping you to find the right tutor.
1)The right tutor v the best tutor
Now there are certainly good tutors and bad tutors out there and the experience and ability of a tutor is certainly important however, what is arguably more important is finding the right tutor for you. But what do I mean by the right tutor? We all, having been through school, may remember an occasion where we loved a teacher that our peers did not or where our peers loved a teacher that we were not huge fans of ourselves. This happens not because either our peers or ourselves are wrong in our opinion of the teacher’s ability but because as individuals we all respond and connect differently to different kinds of people, teaching styles and teaching materials. It is therefore worth considering a number of things to be able to find the right tutor. These are: What do you need? Cost, Specialisms, Experience and Locality.
2)Work out what you need
The first key consideration to finding the right tutor is working out your needs. By working out your needs it is much easier to find a tutor that fits you best. So what are you needs? Well there are three key things that I would definitely consider when it comes to your needs and they are as follows…
First is your ability. If you are a beginner, then finding a tutor who specialises in beginner instrumentalists. If you are an intermediate or advanced player, then you will need someone who is higher than your current ability and is used to teaching higher ability players.
The next area to consider are your aspirations. The importance of this can vary depending on your ability, a beginner might not need to worry as much about having a tutor who specialises in the area they aspire to develop in but for intermediate and advanced players having a specialist is vital. For example, if you want to become a free flowing jazz trumpet player, then it is no use having a trumpet tutor who specialises in classical music. So work out what your goals and aspirations are as a musician and look out for tutors who can help you attain those goals and aspirations.
Age and Gender
Most tutors are used to teaching a wide range of age and gender groups however, that is not to say this is not worth considering especially for those who are parents of teenagers and children. You may want to consider if the tutor has a full DBS (Criminal Record Check), Safeguarding training and experience teaching children at the age of your child. For women as well it can help bring peace of mind to be taught by another woman so it is something that is worth considering.
Admittedly in an ideal world this would not be a factor and for some lucky folks out there it is not however, for many of us budgets can be a huge constraining factor that has to be considered. Now it maybe tempting to go out and find the cheapest tutor that your money can buy, after all the costs of a tutor can add up very quickly and it can be very tempting to aim to keep those costs down. However, it is worth considering that finding a good tutor will always be worth more than any single piece of gear you will ever buy. After all, an instrument is no good if it does not have a player to play it and as a player it is important that you get the most out of yourself and to do that you need a good tutor and good tutors often require a considerable investment.
The first thing I will say is try to stretch out your budget and pay as much as you possibly can, the next thing to consider is other plausible ways to help stretch and increase your budget further. Maybe you would benefit more from shorter lessons that are about half an hour in length, or maybe instead of having one lesson a week think of having a lesson once every 2 weeks. I myself do this by having only one highly intense guitar lesson a month and one vocal lesson every two weeks so that I can afford more expensive lessons from more specialist tutors. By using these tips, you can limit the effect of this somewhat annoying constraining factor in paying for decent tuition.
Different tutors will specialise in different areas and it is definitely key to make sure their specialism meet up with your personal aspirations. So in your research and discussions with tutors find out if the tutor can meet your personal goals and needs and do not limit the specialism to solely genre’s and musical styles; also consider what you want to do with the instrument, would you like to play live, do you want to learn how to read music, how to improvise, write songs, record and produce music, maybe you want to even go as far as learning multiple instruments, all these are specialisms that are worth considering and looking out for in prospective tutors.
The experience of a tutor is not to be undervalued. There are two areas of experience to consider: firstly, their experience with the instrument itself: Have they played what you want to play? if you want to write have they written music? have they played shows? How long have they played for and what is their professional experience? These areas will allow you to see if the tutor matches your current ability and your aspirations. The next area of experience to consider is their teaching experience. Teaching experience is arguably more important than instrumental experience. Many say that ‘those who cannot do, teach’; What makes this saying completely inaccurate is that teaching in and of itself is a specialist skill. It is all well and good that a tutor has played all the styles under the sun, has written hundreds of tunes and has toured the world, these aspects cannot be underestimated, but teaching is a completely different skill that requires a lot of time, dedication and trial and error to develop. A tutor’s ability to adapt to, create materials for and to troubleshoot the problems for each pupil is largely down to the teaching experience of the tutor itself.
Locality of the tutor is also important. Firstly, consider whether you want to learn with a tutor in person or whether you are willing to learn over the internet via video chats such as skype. There are benefits to learning in person that just cannot be replicated over a skype such as having the ability for a tutor physical move around in 3D space to show you different things or to analyse your playing. However, learning in person can have its problems to, namely travel. Sometime it is a case of weighing up the other factors over their locality. If you can find someone who you can meet in person that meets your other needs, then that is great but sometimes the better option is skyping with a specialist simply because they are the only ones available to offer the knowledge you need.
Now that you worked out what your needs, the next step is finding that holy grail: the right tutor. It is well worth taking the time to dig deep and research properly. Sometimes the right tutor may not be on the first page of google and sometimes exploring other sites can turn up better options. So when researching search everywhere. Look up your local tutors on Google and do not just look at the first page, dig a little deep and see what options turn up on page 2, 3, 4 and maybe even 5. Find websites geared towards tutors; in the UK sites like First Tutors, Music Teachers, Gumtree, Music Singing Lessons, tutorful, superprof and Yell can turn out a number of options that you may not have come across with an initial google search. Also go and visit your local music shop and see what they have to offer; many music shops have their own in house tutors that are worth looking into. Ask your friends and family both in person and on social media to see if word of mouth can turn out any suggestions. And finally do not be afraid to email, message, text or call prospective tutors to see what information they can offer you. By spending a little extra time gaining as much information as possible and whittling down your options to one or a few possible tutors you stand a much better chance of finding the right tutor.
6)Don’t be afraid to try a few tutors
Finally, do you not feel that because you have had one lesson you will have to stick with them. If the tutor does not meet your standards or seem to click with you are after a few lessons, then try another. Maybe, if you have a few different tutors that have stood out to you from your research then give them all a go and see which one stands out to you. After all, research can certainly help you find possible tutors, but nothing is like an actual lesson to find out if the tutor is right for you. Now it is worth considering that one lesson on its own might not be enough to evaluate a tutor, after all it takes a little time for a tutor to get to know you to and adjust their teaching style accordingly so be willing to accept that it might take a few a lessons for you to find out that tutor really is not for you, but I would say the key thing is to trust your gut.
Hopefully by considering all the thoughts, ideas and steps in this guide you can find the tutor that is the perfect fit for you and even if you cannot quite find the right fit you can manage to find a tutor that is much better equipped to fit your needs and goals than if you just picked the first tutor you found on google. By taking a little bit of extra time and following the steps laid out I am sure you will find the perfect tutor to help you either begin or guide you in the next steps of your musical journey.
For many normal people, art is seen as a leisure activity. Whether it is taking photographs on the weekend or playing a musical instrument in the evenings, artistic pursuits are seen as something people do for fun and this is broadly true. A huge problem with this viewpoint comes when it is applied those who work in artistic fields. People boldly assume that the job they do must be fun all the time and with this assumption comes the idea that the work of professional artists must easy and yet nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, full-time artists usually love their work and of course many of them do their work because they find it fun and because they receive huge amounts of joy from their work. But to assume that this means that they find their work fun for every second of every minute of every day would be wildly inaccurate and to then assume that this work is easy ranges even further into the realms of fantasy.
The first key difference to distinguish is between the joy that someone gets from their work and from the fun people have doing their work. I can tell you from my own experience that I have spent hours working hard whilst bored out of my mind trying to achieve a task. But just because I am not having fun does not mean I am not receiving joy from the work I am doing. Some might ask: ‘how can this be the case?’. Well imagine a musician spending hours going over the same few notes, trying to nail the timing, pitch, rhythm and articulation of a particular musical phrase, or a photographer spending hours with the same photograph trying to get the right balance of colour to make the photo pop the way they picture it in their head. Such tasks can become boring and monotonous very quickly and can honestly drive you crazy: the complete opposite of fun, but when the musician finally nails that musical phrase or the photographer gets the photo to look just the right way, the joy one receives is one of the most complete feelings of satisfaction that one will ever feel.
What many do not realise about art is that it is a struggle and a compulsion; even artists who create art for leisure know this. Art it is not always fun, in fact for the most part it is a challenge and a compulsive itch that needs to be scratched. As described before artists may spend hours trying the get the details of their work just right and many may wonder why people would do this to themselves, what drives them to spend hours of their life splitting hairs over extremely small details to the point where the task at hand becomes blindingly boring. Well many artists including myself will talk about how we do not do these things is search of excitement, we do not do it simply for the potential joy that comes when we achieve the set task, we do it because not doing it bothers us, because something deep inside us drives us mad with the thought of not achieving what we set out to do, we do it to feed a compulsion.
Of course another aspect that differs professional artists from those of artists who peruse their work solely for leisure is that professional artists have little choice about how and when they can do their work. If we wish to ensure that we can pay our bills, cover our costs, gain a reputation of someone who meets deadlines set by clients and survive then we need to work even when we do not feel like it. Compare this to those who do art solely for leisure. If they are not feeling like sitting down and painting, or do not want to go out and take photographs or are no mood to practice today then they there is nothing to force them to do so; they have no other commitments except to themselves. With such a stark contrast you can begin to see why the work of a professional artist is not always fun and how sometimes it can be a grind like any other job.
Now do not get me wrong, I am not complaining about the struggles and strife’s that we have face as artists. At the end of the day I would not have it any other way, I love my work, I realise how lucky I am to be able to do it and I would not change a thing about it. I only raise these struggles and hardships to point out to others that being a professional artist is not all fun and games, that our work faces hardships and struggles like any other job and that working in the arts is not as easy as it might seem.
Last week I laid out a guide for those who wish to teach themselves guitar, laying out the steps required to master all the necessary fundamentals of the instrument. As someone who was for many years a self-taught guitar player, I understand the value of having a path to follow to help guide you through your playing as I myself struggled for many years without one. I also understand the importance of having a teacher to help guide you through the learning process. Of course music tuition is expensive and for many is out of reach; however, if you can afford it, it is worth every penny and in this weeks blog I will layout the reasons why.
Now, before I begin it is worth understanding the value of having the right tutor. What is the right tutor you may ask? This topic alone could be the subject of entire blog post, however, I will cover two key aspects that should be considered. One, is the tutor any good? Like any profession there are tutors who are excellent at their job, some who are mediocre and others who are terrible. To ensure you find a good tutor it is worth asking around amongst friends about their tutors, reading up on reviews and maybe even trying a few different tutors to see who fits your needs best. Two, does the tutor specialise in what you want to learn? If you want to learn classical, it is no use having a tutor who only plays rock, if you wish to learn rock, it is no use having a tutor who only plays Jazz; Find a tutor who shares the expertise in your desired field. Though price may be part of your consideration, a good tutor is worth the investment. Do not skimp out on a tutor if you feel they are the best fit for you.
Now that you understand the importance of the right tutor we can ask: Why should we have a tutor in the first place? The first is the simple fact that a tutor will be able to act as your guide. Learning a musical instrument is a journey that can follow a lot of different roads and paths, some of those paths can prove fruitful in your development, whilst others will result in you going round in circles with little to no progress. A good tutor has already walked these; they may have got lost in some of those circles themselves while others may have had their own guide to show them the way. The important thing is that you have someone who can guide you step by step through the trials and tribulations of playing, someone who can ensure that every detail of your playing is worked through and developed effectively, with little to no time spent getting lost.
The next thing a tutor can do is to help identify and correct your mistakes. Mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of, they are part of the journey of learning, however, it is important to have them pointed out and corrected before they become habits. When teaching yourself, while you will be able to notice some mistakes, you are unlikely to spot them all. A tutor can spot every mistake, likely because they or other students they have taught have made them, and they will be able to give advice and encouragement to help address and correct your mistakes.
Not only can tutors identify your mistakes but they will help you correct those mistakes by giving you a wide range of exercises and techniques tailor made to you. Imagine two people who are ill, one person attempts to identify their illness online and tries to treat it themselves whilst the other goes to a doctor who prescribes a suitable treatment. The person who researches the illness themselves may well find a suitable treatment, but they are more likely to make a mistake than a doctor who possess the necessary expertise to prescribe the correct treatment. Now take into account that there are numerous types of illnesses and ailments, each requires a different course of treatment which can again vary depending on if the person suffering the illness is a man or a woman, old or young, healthy or unhealthy. Like different patients require different treatments for different illnesses no two players are alike and whilst one player will require one set of exercises and practice routines to address their problems another player will require completely different set. A good tutor, like a doctor, possesses the necessary knowledge and expertise to prescribe the correct exercises and practice routines depending on the player.
The next biggest advantage of having a tutor is the companionship they can offer. Though many accept and know that learning a musical instrument is hard and requires a lot of time and dedication, no one can know the experience like a person who has gone through it themselves. There will be times when learning can be a real struggle, when you will hate your instrument, where you feel like you fighting the instrument, sometimes there will be times where you have spent so long trying to learn something you will wonder if you will ever manage to play it. A tutor knows exactly what that experience is like, they themselves will have gone through those feelings on many occasions and they will know how to get through that experience and out the other side. Sometimes just knowing that can be enough to help you through the struggle, sometimes they can offer advice to guide you through the struggle and sometimes they will just remind you that if you keep at it, you will achieve what you set out for.
In short, whilst teaching yourself a musical instrument is perfectly possible, investing in a good tutor can help guide you through the process, shape your learning to your specific needs and can ensure that you will develop much quicker than if you go it alone. Whilst for some, like myself in my early days of playing, will have no choice but to go it alone, it is always better to have a tutor to guide you. If you can invest in them, they can do more for your sound than any single piece of gear could.
Teaching yourself guitar can be a daunting task, without someone to guide you through the instruments necessary skills and techniques it is very easy to get lost. The easiest way to avoid this is by getting a guitar tutor; you will not only get guidance on what to learn next but will have someone to point out your mistakes and help you in correcting those mistakes. However, guitar tuition is not cheap and being one of those people who could not afford lessons I had to circumnavigate the world of guitar with little more than a variety of different online learning materials and books. What I wish I had then was a simple guide to point towards which basics I should have learnt to become a guitar player instead of two years of experimentation and mistakes. So this week I have done just that, what follows are the essential steps required to pick up the basics of guitar. Some of the steps will take little more than a few minutes to learn, some will take weeks to accomplish but, these steps can serve as a good guide through the basics of playing guitar.
1: Learn the parts of the guitar
A simple and easy step but none the less important. By learning the different parts of the guitar you can become familiar with how it works and can therefore understand how to play it. A guitar has three sections…
-Headstock: The is the top of the guitar where you will find the tuning pegs and nut
-Neck: This is the part the guitar which right handed players hold with there left hand
-Body: This is the part of the guitar which on an electric houses the pick ups and controls and on the acoustic allows the sound from the strings to resonate.
Each section of the guitar has different parts that do different jobs…
-Strings: You will find the thickest and lowest pitched string at the top of the guitar and the thinnest and highest pitched strings on the bottom of the guitar. Going from the top string to the bottom the strings are the following notes.
E A D G B E
This can remembered using the following Acronym…
Eat All Day Get Big Easy
-Tuning Pegs: Here is where you tighten or loosen the guitar so each string can achieve the correct pitch. To increase the pitch of the string turn the tuning peg anti-clockwise, to lower the pitch of the string turn the tuning peg clockwise. To help you do this properly use a guitar tuner, you will find many are available on your phone’s app store.
-Nut: This is where the strings rest over at the headstock and helps keep the strings at the correct height.
-Frets: These are the metal bars you will find running across the top of the neck. By pushing the string down onto these you will change the pitch of the string.
-Sound hole: This allows the sound produced from a vibrating string to enter, resonate, amplify and escape the body of an acoustic guitar.
-Pickups: Found on an electric guitar, they turn the vibration of the strings into an electric signal which can travel down a cable and be amplified.
-Bridge: This is where the strings rest over the body and helps keep the strings at the correct height.
-Volume and Tone Controls: From here you can change the tone or loudness of the electric signal by turning the knobs.
-Pickup Selector: This is a switch on electric guitars where you can pick which pickup or combination of pickups you are going to use to get slightly different tones and timbre’s from your instrument.
2: How to hold a plectrum and guitar
To many this would seem like the simplest step and in many ways it is however, not learning and mastering this step correctly can have serious consequences for your playing and can result in injury in the long run. To get a basic guide on how to hold the guitar follow this link. Despite this step being simple many people still do it incorrectly. This is probably due to their being multiple ways to hold the instrument however, there are some very clear things that you should avoid when learning how to hold a guitar…
1. Do not grip the neck of a guitar like you would a sword. You want to hold the neck lightly, just enough to support its weight, with you thumb in the middle of the neck.
2. You do not want to bend the wrist of the hand that is on the neck too much. This can result in a lot of tension and potentially cause injury.
3. You will want to hold the plectrum between you thumb and index finger, firmly enough that you are unlikely to drop it but lightly enough that it gives slightly when you hit a string or strum.
4.You want to be very relaxed when holding the instrument. If you feel any tension or you are having to strain to achieve something you are either need to relax or you are holding the instrument incorrectly. If you feel any pain, stop playing immediately; I repeat…
IF YOU FEEL ANY PAIN STOP PLAYING IMMEDIATELY…
Stop, do some research and diagnose what you are doing wrong so you can correct your mistakes.
3: Learn how to read tab and practice tabs
Learning tab can serve as a useful tool for learning riffs, solos, unusual chord patterns and are great for beginners as they will allow you to become familiar with the sound and layout of the guitar. Tabs are made up of 6 lines. The lowest line is the thickest string at the top of the Guitar, the low E string, the line next to that is the A string and so on until we reach the top line representing the thinnest string on the bottom of the Guitar, the high E.
We read the tab from left to right and whenever we see a number on one of the lines we play that number fret on that string on the guitar, 0 represents open strings. So if we saw a 3 on the third line from the top we would know that the tab is telling us to push down on the third fret of the G string and to pluck it.
Tab does not depict rhythm so you will have to make sure you pick tablature that is representing songs that you can find recordings of. For further information on how to read tab follow this link. And for some easy tabs to get you started click here.
4: Learn the notes of the chromatic scale and apply it to the fretboard
This is the first step in understanding the underlying theory that forms music. By knowing the notes of the chromatic scale you will know all the notes and you will be able to communicate more easily with other musicians should you choose to perform with other players. The chromatic scale is made up of 12 notes in a given octave (what is an octave? read on, you will find out). The Chromatic Scale is read like so…
C C#/D♭ D D#/E♭ E F F#/G♭ G G#/A♭ A A#/B♭ B C
As you can see the scale goes from C to C. After it has reached the next C the scale repeats itself, however when you hear the scale repeat you will hear that the notes are much higher in pitch; this is because you are playing the same notes but an octave above. As you can see some of the notes have either # or ♭ symbol next to them. # represents sharp notes and can be found on the note above a normal letter, for example the note above C is C#. ♭ represent flat notes can be found on the note below a normal letter, for example the note below D is D♭. Now it is worth noting that the notes between the normal letters are exactly the same, we just happen to have two names for it, for example the note between C and D could be called C# or D♭. You will find these sharps and flats between all the notes except for B and C, and E and F.
So how do these notes apply to the fretboard of the guitar. Well every time we climb up one note on the Chromatic scale we go up the scale by what is known as a semitone. Every fret you climb on the guitar also climbs a semitone. Knowing this, we can start with the notes of the open strings and with every fret ascend up the neck, we climb one note (or one semitone) up the chromatic scale.
5: Learn G, Em, C and D chords and song using these chords
Chords are when you play three or more strings on the guitar at the same time. By learning chords you can begin to play songs. You may have heard that most songs in popular music rely on 4 simple chords. By learning these chords, you will be able to play a large range of songs. The chords are…
G, Em, C and D.
You can find a guide to these chords here. These chords are known as open chords; they are known as such because the chords have open strings in them. Now the key to learning and getting good at changing these chords is patience, chords will seem very hard at first but if you practice them everyday making sure that each note rings out nicely and then you can practice changing between chords.
You will find that some songs are in a different to these chords despite instructions saying that these are the chords you use. This is likely because the same chords are being used however, they are being played in a different key. This is where a Capo comes in. A Capo essentially acts as a moveable nut raising the tuning of your guitar by a set amount depending on what fret you place it on. You should see an instruction telling you which fret to place the Capo on and then you treat where the Capo is as an open string, the fret one up from the Capo as the 1st fret as so on.
6: Learn Am, A, E Dm and songs using these chords
So now that you have learnt these basic open chords it is time to learn the other basic major and minor open chords. By learning these you will have opened a number of other songs that use these. Again like the previous chords you can change their key by using a Capo. Once again these will be challenging and will require patience and dedication. Here are the shapes of these chords and here is a long list of songs that use these chords.
7: Learn sus chords and songs using these chords
Sus stands for Suspension. These can be used to help spice up your chord progressions by adding a small amount of tension to a simple Minor or Major chord. So for example if you are playing A you could play an Asus4 before moving to the A. You will find many basic songs will use Sus chords in this way. So what Sus chords should you learn…
Csus4, Dsus4, Dsus2, Esus4, Esus2, Gsus4, Asus4, Asus2
You can find a link to the shapes of these chords here.
8: 7th chords
The final set of open chords you should open your eyes to are 7th chords. These are slightly different to the previous chords you have learnt so far. Where as the previous chords only use 3 notes, 7th chords use 4. This add a little extra spice and timbre to the ordinary chord. The three 7th chord types that you should learn as a beginner are the Major 7th chord, the Minor 7th Chord and the Dominant 7th chord. The Major and Minor 7th chords are very similar to their smaller brothers the Major and Minor chord however they sound a little lusher, bright and full. The Dominant 7th is a very different beast. The Dominant 7 chord is at its heart a Major chord however, the new note added to creates a feeling of tension, this makes the new chord great for adding tension to chord progressions.
-For a link to open Major 7 chords click here
-For a link to open Minor 7 chords click here
-For a link to open Dominant 7 chords click here
9: The Major, Minor and Pentatonic Scales
Now that you can play a few tabs and are familiar with all the basic chords it is time to learn some scales. Scales are the building blocks from which we base music, create melodies and makes chords, believe it not you are probably already familiar with one already. The major scale is often sung like so…
Do, Ray, Me, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do
By learning these scales, you can begin to see how some of the tabs you have played were formed and can start to come up with your own melodies and play your own solos. Start by learning the scale shapes and then try finding different ways to practice these scales: Try singing the scales as you play them to ingrain them into your mind, try ascending the scales in sets of threes, fours, try ascending by skipping notes, there are endless way to practice them. By doing this you will ingrain the scale and its sound into your brain and this is very useful for later in your playing.
-To learn basic scales click here
-For different ways to practice these scales click here
10: Learn barre chords
This for many beginners is a mark of their move onto intermediate playing techniques. By learning barre chords you begin to open up the entire fretboard for your playing, you will be able to play the basic chords to the vast majority of songs in popular music and you will have mastered a technique used in across a lot of different playing styles. A barre essentially allows you to play some basic open chord shapes across such as E, Em, A and Am anywhere on the fretboard. By placing one finger across all the strings you can essentially create a moveable nut and change root of the said chord. It will also open up the ability to play a bunch chords which may have seemed elusive up until now such as F, Gm, B, and Bmin. So how do you learn to play these chords. They essentially require two stages, the first is learning to barre across all the strings. You will want to practice barring the all the strings from the high E to the low E across any fret of choice and have every note ring out. Once you have mastered this you can try mastering the E barre chord shape at the first fret for an F chord and the A barre chord shape at the second fret for a B chord. Again like chords this will require a lot patience, dedication and diligent practice but with that you can master these shapes. To learn these shapes click here.
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