Learn how to read tabs. Tabs will have six lines that represent your strings, along with numbers that designate where you should be placing your fingers. The numbers represent the fret in which you need to hold the string down. A 1 means the first fret, a 2 means the second fret, and so on. Numbers in a progression mean that you hold down the first individual fret and pick the note, then move to the next one, and so on in succession. Numbers on the same vertical line are meant to be played together simultaneously as a chord.
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Strum with loose, relaxed motion. Strumming consists of downstrokes and upstrokes in various combinations, striking all the notes of the chord evenly and rhythmically. Use your wrist to practice smooth up and down motions. Keep your elbow in tight towards the guitar and sweep the pick down all the strings. Your elbow should not move very much, as you strum mostly from the wrist.
Learning to play the guitar is a life-long process; it will not happen overnight despite what many of the hucksters on the internet may tell you. As such, you are best to develop some reasonable expectations of how quickly you will progress. There will be challenges along the way (yes, your fingers will hurt!) and too many budding guitarists have given up prematurely, slid their brand new guitars under their bed, and walked away in disappointment… not realizing that they were oh-so-close to a breakthrough that would have taken them on to the next level. Having a mindset that allows for setbacks here and there will really help you in the long run, because you will find that through every challenge you come out a stronger player on the other side.
Practice playing individual notes. Holding down a string and producing a decent sound can sometimes be more challenging than it looks. If you don't hold down a string hard enough, you'll get a muted note and if you hold down the string too close to the fret your guitar will buzz. Practice picking in an up and down motion on your string with the other hand. Continue doing this until you feel comfortable moving up or down the neck to a different note. Practice playing the notes back and forth until you become comfortable strumming.
I've seen so many guitar lessons where the instructor simply dives right in and begins teaching chords. Unfortunately, that assumes that the student's guitar is already in tune! Guitars are made out of wood, and wood reacts to our environment, be it hot, cold, dry or humid. As such, guitars frequently go out of tune, and they must be tuned to make them sound good. If you begin learning to play guitar on an out of tune guitar, it will not sound good to the ear no matter how hard you try, and as such, it will become discouraging pretty quickly.
If you just want to learn a few chords to strum along to some songs, then learning to play the guitar really isn't that hard for most people. Many students are able to learn a few chords and get a decent strumming pattern going after a few weeks. If you've had prior experience playing an instrument, you can expect to pick it up after just a few lessons.
Learn the difference between chords and single notes. Chords occur when you play two or more notes on different strings simultaneously to create one unified sound. These are what make up the "rhythm" portion of acoustic music. Single notes are used more for solos and occur when you play a single note at a time. Both are skills that you must become proficient in when learning to play the acoustic guitar.
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