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Early on in your guitar playing life, it is important to learn the anatomy of your guitar. Understand how your guitar is made and understand its key components. Learning practical aspects of being a guitarist, such as tuning and changing your strings is very important. It will build confidence and help you relate better to your instrument. Musicians are kind of funny that way – they form a close bond with their instruments.
Learn proper technique, including: how to hold your guitar; how to hold the guitar pick; how to place your hand over the sound hole; proper hand placement for finger-style playing; proper hand placement of your strumming hand; and how to properly hold the neck with your fret hand (the one that plays the notes and chords).
Learn the name and number of your strings from bottom to top, i.e, the first string is the high E, second string is the B string, and so on (the first string is the smallest string with the highest pitch at the bottom of the guitar when looking down). Also learn correct placement of your fret hand’s fingers.
I highly recommend learning to read music and learning as much music theory as you can. Learning by “lick and by trick” may make you sound cool but it will really limit your abilities as a musician and will limit your ability to one day create your own original music. Learn as many songs as you can but learning how songs are constructed, by learning theory and learning to read music notation, will give you a better appreciation for what you will play and listen to. Learning the grammar and alphabet of music will improve your musicianship. A good musician understands music and when he or she plays, that person makes music and doesn’t just mimic sounds. Your audience will notice the difference almost immediately.
If you’ve ever seen the movie, “The Sound of Music,” you’ve already had a lesson on the C major scale when they sing the Do-Re-Mi song. You should learn to play that same scale on the guitar because it is the building block for everything else you will learn in the future. As the song goes, “when you know the notes to sing, you can sing – and play on your guitar – most anything.”
Learning this and other scales will help to build strength and dexterity in your hands and fingers – two very important qualities for any guitarist. By the same token learn some finger exercises to practice every day on your guitar. Ten minutes of practice every day is better than practicing once a week for a couple of hours and not picking the guitar up again for another few days. Small increments will help get to your goal of becoming a skilled guitar player – I hope that is your goal if you are reading this article.
Once you’ve learned the C major scale in the first position and have learned to name your strings by name and number, move on to learn some basic chords. Start with open chords (those are chords played within the first three frets of the guitar and rely on an open string to form the root note). These are the chords of A, D, and E major.
Once you’ve mastered those, learn C major and G major. Your more challenging chords will be F and B major, which will be for you to learn later on your guitar learning journey. Novices (and even some advanced players) often have trouble with those two chords. You will then be ready to start learning minor chords, increasing your chord vocabulary along the way. The more chords you know, the more songs you will be able to learn to play and who knows, maybe write one day. That’s when you will truly start having real fun playing your guitar.
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