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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Learn the Guitar - Beginners Guide to Playing the Guitar

By JayKay Bak

Table of Contents 

Chapter 1 – Unleashing the Guitar Hero in You!
Chapter 2 – Guitar Basics
                    Guitar Structure
Chapter 3 – Guitar Positioning and Tuning
                    Tuning Your Guitar
Chapter 4 – Ways to Tune Your Guitar
Chapter 5 – Playing Notes and Chords
Chapter 6 –Scales and Playing Your First Song
Chapter 7 – Practice
Chapter 8 – Before You Buy Your First Guitar
Chapter 9 – Purchasing Your First Guitar
Chapter 10 –Buying a Guitar Online
Chapter 11 – Earning Money with Your GuitarChapter 12 – Conclusion

Chapter 1 – Unleashing the Guitar Hero in You!

There is probably not one person who has not heard of the video game “Guitar Hero”.  You could not walk through any electronics store or Best Buy without seeing customer’s young and old, standing in front of monitors with a plastic guitar strapped around them strumming to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”   I should know, I was one of those customers!  The overwhelming popularity of this fun game is a testament to not only the fantasy we have about being the next great rock star but the popularity of the guitar.

The guitar is among the most popular musical instruments around.   Because of how versatile the guitar is, it is a popular instrument to learn how to play.  The guitar can play any kind of music that suits your interest whether it is rock, country or jazz or any other style of music.  You may be interested in playing your favorite songs or maybe you are a budding songwriter and you would like to write your own songs.  Either way, the guitar would be the perfect instrument to learn in these cases.  Like all musical instruments, if you want to learn to play the guitar you will need plenty of practice, perseverance and patience.  Learning to play the guitar will be a very rewarding experience if you stick with it and the guitar can give you many hours of enjoyment.

Before you start on your journey to become the next guitar hero, you will need a six string guitar and a guitar pick.  You will also need to have patience and overall a desire to learn and a love of music.  You will need a chair without arms as well.

You should also remember a few other tips before you begin learning to play the guitar.  First, trim your fingernails so they are short.  You will need to do this on a regular basis if you are learning how to play the guitar.  Short fingernails will allow you to produce good sound and they assist you in holding down notes much easier.

Next, realize that your finger will hurt as you are learning to play the instrument.  This is normal and your fingertips will eventually develop calluses as you practice and the pain will soon cease.

Finally, pause between each lesson and be sure that you have mastered that section of the lesson.  Each lesson should be practices a few minutes, and then you should move on to the next lesson.

Ready?  Alright!  Let’s get you started on your way to becoming the next real guitar hero.

Chapter 2 – Guitar Basics

The guitar is an instrument with ancient roots and is used in several different musical genres.  Guitars usually have six strings but you can find guitars with seven, ten or even twelve strings.
Guitars are typically the main instrument in music such as rock, blues, country, and forms of pop.  Guitars may also be used as a solo instrument.   Traditional guitars are made of wood and steel or nylon strings. 

Guitars may be played either acoustically or may need to rely on an amplifier.  There are various types of guitars.  First there is the acoustic guitar. In an acoustic guitar, the sound is created by vibrating strings that are echoed in the hollow body of the guitar.  It does not depend on anything external to produce its sound.   It depends on a wooden piece that is mounted on the front of the guitar.  The acoustic guitar is typically quieter than the instruments you would find in an orchestra or band so it is usually externally amplified.  There are a lot of acoustic guitars that have different pickups so the player can modify and amplify the sound of the instrument.

There are different types of acoustic guitars.  They are steel string guitars, twelve string guitars, arch top guitars, flamenco, and classical guitars.  There is also the acoustic bass guitar. 

The invention of the electric guitar has influenced much of the music of the twentieth century and popular culture.  An electric guitar relies on an amplifier that helps to manipulate the tone of the instrument electronically.  An electric guitar uses what you call pickups to change the vibration of the strings into an electrical current, which is then amplified.  The electrical signal that emits from the guitar may be altered electronically before it passes into the amplifier.  This makes the final sound.  Some electric guitars have the ability to sound like an acoustic guitar with the flip of a switch. 

Unlike the acoustic guitar, an electric guitar usually does not have a hollow body and the guitar makes very little sound when you pluck the strings.  When the strings are plucked an electric current is generated.  This current is then sent through a wire to an amplifier.  The current produced varies depending on how dense the string is and how much movement occurs (how you are strumming the guitar).

The electric guitar was initially used in jazz music and is now used in many other genres of music such as rock and roll, blues, country, new-age and modern classical music. 

Some hybrids of electric and acoustic guitars are currently available.  There are some very exotic guitars available as well.  There are guitars with two three or even four necks.

Guitar Structure

The top of the guitar consists of a slim neck and the “headstock”.    The headstock’s main function is to hold the guitar strings.  The headstock is placed at the end of the guitar and is furthest from your body.    
The headstock consists of tuners that allow you to change the pitch of your guitar strings.  At the bottom of the headstock is the “nut”.  A nut is a piece of material where there are grooves carved out.  These grooves guide the strings to the tuners. 
The nut is usually made of plastic, bone, brass, stainless steel, graphite or other material.  The nut is found where the fret board meets the headstock.   A fret board or fingerboard is wood that is embedded with the metal “frets” that make up the top of the neck. 
The guitar neck will be the focal point as you begin to learn how to play the instrument.  The neck joint or “heel” is where the neck is glued or bolted to the guitar body.  The majority of acoustic guitars have necks that are glued while the majority of electric guitars have glued and bolted necks.  Your fingers will be placed on different parts of the neck and this will create various notes.  Solid body electric guitars have a neck through body construction.  These types of necks are built so the head down through the bridge is on the same piece of wood.

Next there is the body of the guitar.  The body of a guitar will be different depending on what type of guitar you use.  In an acoustic guitar the body of the instrument determines the quality of the sound.  The vibration of the strings is passed through the bridge and saddle through a sound board.  A sound board is usually made of spruce or cedar and is about 3mm thick. 
There is a sound hole in the body of the acoustic guitar.  The sound hole is designed to project the sound of the instrument.  The sound hole is typically a round hole on the front of the guitar, under the strings. The sound of the guitar is projected through the sound hole.  The air inside the body of the guitar vibrates as the guitar body and top is vibrated by the instrument’s strings.

The bodies of most electric guitars are typically made of wood.   It is rare to find a piece of hardwood that is wide enough to create the entire guitar so it is hard to find a guitar made of one piece of wood.  Most guitars are created with two pieces of wood and have a seam going down the center of the body.  Maple, ash, mahogany, basswood, alder, and poplar wood are commonly used to create the body of an electric guitar.  Many guitar bodies consist of cheap wood such as ash glued on top of a wood such as maple.  Guitars that are made in this way are called “flame tops”.  Some electric guitars are made of such materials as carbon composites, aluminum alloys, or a plastic material such as poly carbonate. 
The majority of electric guitars have bodies that are solid and do not have a sound hole.  Electric guitars instead have “pickups”.  Pick-ups are basically small microphones that capture the sound of the strings and then the sound is amplified.  

Guitar strings go from the pegs on the headstock and over the nut.  They then go down the neck and over the body and then over the sound hole or pickups.  The strings are then anchored to a “bridge”.   A normal guitar has six strings.  These strings are all different sizes and represent different notes. The bottom string is usually the skinniest and has the highest sound.  It is an E note.  The bottom string is also known as the first string.  The second string is a little thicker than the first string and is the B note.  The third string is B, the fourth string is D, the fifth string is A, and the final, sixth string is an E, just like the first string.  This sixth string is the thickest string of the set.  It has the lowest sound and is the one that is closest to you.  If the guitar is tuned correctly, the first string and the sixth string should give you the same note but in different pitches.  If you want to memorize the string position and values you can use a mnemonic devise such as Eat All Day Get Big Easy. 
Frets are strips of metal that cut the guitar in sections from top to bottom.  The combination of strings and frets form a grid.   This grid covers the guitar neck.  If you put your finger in between two frets, this allows you to play a note.  The higher you place your finger on the fret; the notes will have a higher sound.  

Chapter 3 – Guitar Positioning and Tuning

Now that you have learned a little bit about the guitar, you are now about to learn about how to position a guitar and tune it. 

First you will learn about positioning a guitar.  Begin by finding an armless chair that has good support for your back.  You should sit comfortably with your back against the chair.  Slouching is not good because you will develop bad guitar habits and a sore back.  When sitting in an armless chair, be sure that there is a lot of room on both sides of you so you can hold your guitar properly and move your arms.

Once you are seated in the chair, you should place the guitar on your lap and have the rear of the guitar facing your chest.  The guitar body should be on the leg that is farthest from the headstock.  If you are right handed, the guitar should lay on your right leg.  The majority of acoustic guitars will have curved indentations that are great for playing the guitar on your leg.  If you are holding the guitar properly than the sixth string should be close to your chest and the first string should be close to your feet.    

Your fret hand will have to be placed on the left if you are right handed and on the right if you are left handed.  You should grip the neck of the guitar gently with your fretting hand.  You thumb should be placed behind the guitar’s neck.  The other fingers should be floating on top of the strings, slightly curled.  It is very important to curl the fingers at the knuckles unless an instructor tells you not too. 

Next we are going to discuss picking.  When beginning to play the guitar, you should purchase a set of guitar picks.  A guitar pick is a small flat tool that you used to strum the guitar.  You should purchase a minimum of ten guitar picks and they are relatively cheap.  There are different types of guitar picks but it is best to start with one that is not too hard or too flimsy.  Picks are made of rubber, wood, stone, plastic, tortoiseshell, and metal.  They are usually in the shape of a triangle but other shapes are available from manufacturers.

Once you have a guitar pick and are seated in the proper position, you can begin strumming the guitar.  Your picking hand will be nearest the bridge of your guitar.  You should open up the hand you will be picking or “strumming” the guitar with.  The palm should face you.  Then make sure the thumb is next to the index finger.   Make sure that you rotate the hand so the knuckle of the thumb is facing toward you.  With your free hand you should slide in the guitar pick between your index finger and thumb.  That way, the pick is secure.  The pick should end up behind the thumb’s knuckle. 

You should hold the pick firmly and the pointed portion of the pick should be pointing away from your fist and should be sticking out about ½ inch.  The hand you are strumming with should be over the sound hole if you are using an acoustic guitar or over the guitar body if you are using an electric guitar.  Your strumming hand should be placed above the strings. 

Your picking hand should not sit on the body or stings of the guitar.  Using your wrist, not your arm, strum the lowest string downward.  If the string rattles too much, do not use a lot of the pick surface or strum softer.  Then pick the lowest string upwards. Try this a few times.  Try to lower the motion of your picking hand by doing a short pick downwards and a short pick upwards.  Now repeat the process with the rest of the strings.  

Remember that holding the pick will feel strange at first.  You will have to concentrate on your picking hand when you begin practicing the guitar.  Your downstrokes and your upstrokes should sound the same.  Also remember you will sound bad at first but this will change with practice.  It takes time to become the next guitar hero!

Tuning Your Guitar

It is very important to tune your guitar.   You need to tune your guitar on a regular basis if you want it to sound good and make practice enjoyable.  At first tuning a guitar will be difficult but this will change over time.  It is advisable that if you know someone that is a guitar player, you can have them tune your guitar for you. You can also simply learn to do it yourself.  It just takes practice and patience.
There are different methods of tuning a guitar.  All of the different methods are appropriate but some are more convenient than others.  This is especially important if you are just beginning to learn the guitar. 
Tuning a guitar involves adjusting the strings so that they play the right note.  You loosen or tighten the strings by using the tuning pegs.  If you tighten the pegs on the headstock, this will make the pitch of the string higher, while making the pegs loose will make the pitch lower.
Beginning guitar players may want to purchase an inexpensive electric “guitar tuner”.  This is a great choice for beginning guitar players.  Electronic tuners can pick up the sound of a string and let you know through a display that the note is either too low (flat) or too high (sharp). Beginning guitar player have difficulty telling when a string is not in tune by just listening so buying an electric tuner can assist in making tuning faster and more precise. 
A starting guitarist who is practicing by themselves, easy and convenient tuning methods are best.  However, as you become pickier or begin playing with other people, utilizing alternative tuning methods will become increasingly important. 
If you cannot afford or do not want to buy an electric tuner, there are a variety of ways to manually tune your instrument.  These ways are relative tuning, tuning with a piano, pitch pipes, keyboards, tuning forks, intervals and harmonics.  We will go into these types of tuning in the next chapter.

Chapter 4 – Ways to Tune Your Guitar

The easiest way to tune your guitar is by relative tuning.  Relative tuning is comparing the sound and pitch of adjacent strings.  The string with the higher pitch is tuned to match the sound of the lower string.  In this method, there is the assumption that the lower string is tuned properly.  If you use this method, you will have to tune the sixth string with a tuning fork or piano.  More details on this will be provided later. 

The process starts with the tuning of the sixth string.  When the sixth string has been tuned, you need to press the sixth string at the fifth fret and pick the string.  Next, tune the fifth string so that it matches that sound.  The sound of the fifth string should match the sixth string’s, fifth fret.  If you find that the sound does not match, turn the tuning peg for that fifth string and change the pitch. Don’t do anything to the sixth string.

If the sound of the string is too low, tighten the string.  If the sound of the string is too low, loosen the string.  Be sure that the fifth string is tuned in comparison to the sixth string because the fifth string has to be properly tuned in order to tune the fourth string.  After that, the fourth string needs to be in tune in order to tune the third string and it continues from there.  If there is a tuning mistake on any of the strings, the sound of the whole instrument will be thrown off. 

If you have a piano at your disposal and you are familiar with the notes, you can tune your instrument by matching the sound of the strings with the matching notes on the piano. 

To begin, find the E note of the piano and then play the sixth string or E note on your guitar.   Turn the tuning peg so that the sixth string on your guitar sounds like the E on the keyboard.  Do this with all the stings on the guitar. 

An electronic keyboard can help tune your guitar as well.  Keyboards give you clear, precise, and loud pitch that makes it easy to tune your instrument.  This method of tuning is a great choice for beginning guitarists who have access to a keyboard or for guitar players who will be working with someone who plays the keyboard.

You can also tune your guitar by using pitch pipes.  You should be able to find these at your local music store.  These pitch pipes will give you the pitches of all strings.  All you need to do is match the sound of each string to the proper pipe.  Pitch pipes do not cost a lot and even very young guitar players can use them.  They are small and easy to carry. 

Some more advanced guitar players would not be satisfied with pitch pipes because they do not have a clear pitch like an electronic tuner, tuning fork or piano.

Using a tuning fork is a popular way to tune a guitar and other instruments.  A tuning fork is a two prong device that has a stem and is shaped like a U.  They are usually made of steel.  The tuning fork gives off a certain pitch when it is struck against a surface, causing it to vibrate.  The sound that comes from the tuning fork depends on the length the two prongs are.

The standard tuning fork used has the pitch of an A note.  Tuning forks that emit this sound can be found easily.  Tuning forks with the sound of the E note can be found easily as well and they are very useful for guitars.  Tuning forks are cheap and easy to bring along with you. 

When using a tuning fork, hold the fork by the stem so that the prongs can vibrate freely.  Strike the prongs hard enough so that they begin to vibrate.  Be sure not to strike them on anything that will dent.  It is best to strike the fork against your knee.  Not too hard of course!  After that and without touching the prongs, place the stem lightly on the guitar body.  Now tune the string to match the sound that comes from the guitar. 

In order to use a tuning fork properly you will need to practice.  It may be hard for a young player and a guitar player with experience will not want to carry around different tuning forks.

The preferred method of tuning a guitar is intervals.  The advantage of tuning this way is that the guitar ends up having a pleasant sound that is in tune.  Intervals involve tuning strings in conjunction to other strings.  This is very easy when you have practiced this method for a little while. 

To tune by interval, begin with the sixth string and have something such as a tuning fork or pitch pipe handy.  To find the A note, press down the sixth string at the fifth fret, then tune the A string.  Next tune the D or fourth string to the D and the fifth string at the fifth fret.  Repeat this process with the G, B, and E strings.  To check your tuning, play the E and B chords and listen carefully.  Make any adjustments you need to.

Next we have harmonics.  Advanced guitarists prefer using harmonics when it comes to tuning their instrument.  Harmonics can be hard to learn, but the result is a very accurate tuning.

Instead of holding a string down, below the fret, you touch the string very lightly at the fret This is harmonics.  This is not the best tuning methods for beginners but it is mentioned here to give you a complete overview of guitar tuning.

There are many other ways to tune a guitar.  Slack key tuning is tuning some strings lower than other types of tuning.  The result is a major chord when all strings are played.  A tuning method used in rock and classical guitar is D tuning.  This involves tuning the D string instead of the E string.  No matter what type of tuning you use, it is best to tune your guitar frequently.  Strings get out of tune over time especially if you play your guitar a lot and practice a lot.  


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