This article was co-authored by Ron Bautista. Ronald Bautista is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher at More Music & Los Gatos School of Music in California. He has over 30 years of playing experience and over 15 years of teaching experience. He performs mainly as a jazz musician, but also teaches Jazz, Rock, Fusion, Blues, Fingerpicking, and Bluegrass. As an instructor, he focuses on understanding the fretboard and applying music theory to any genre of music.
Justin Sandercoe has thought long and hard about how to teach people to play the guitar, and how to do this over the internet. He has come up with a well-designed series of courses that will take you from nowhere to proficiency. I tried to learn how to play years ago, using books, and got nowhere. I've been using Justin's site for just over a year and I feel I've made real progress. What's more, Justin offers his lessons for free - a boon for any young player who has the urge to play, but whose pockets are empty. I've seen and used other sites for learners: none of them offer as clearly marked a road as Justin does.
Try out different strumming patterns and rhythms. Once you're able to produce a good sounding chord, try strumming it at different tempos and rhythms. Rhythm is based on your strumming pattern, and how long you're holding your notes. Try a basic 1-2-3-4 beat, otherwise known as a 4/4. The number on the top represents how many beats there are in the measure. Try strumming up and down in different progressions to create a different sound for your rhythm. Once you get a basic rhythm down, you can start to incorporate quicker or slower strumming.
Practice fretting the strings. The frets are the metal strips that run perpendicular to the strings that mark each note. To play a note, press your finger down between the metal strips, not on them. To say that you're playing the third fret means that you place your finger on the string in the gap between the second and third fret. If you hear buzzing, move your finger away from the lowest fret and closer to the higher fret. Hold the string down firmly so that it only vibrates between your finger and your strumming hand, with the tip of your finger doing the pressing.
Electric tuners are easy to use and very accurate. Hold it to the guitar and pluck the high E. The tuner will tell you if the guitar is "sharp" (too high) or "flat" (too low). Pick each note and tighten the string to make it go higher, or give it some slack to lower it. Make sure the room is quiet when using a tuner because the microphone on the tuner can pick up other sounds.
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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.
When you play the right note or chord, you will hear it. It will be a pleasant sound, it will be clear and won't have any blocked string sounds (unless it needs to, but you'll get to that later). To play a note or chord correctly, you have to get your fingers in the right position and press as hard as you can on the frets; it will become a habit if you practice enough.
String$: When you're done playing, wipe your strings with a cotton cloth or old T-shirt that's been treated with a small amount of light household oil such as WD-40. This cleans the strings and displaces moisture that can shorten string life. This simple process will extend string life 3 to 4 times compared to untreated strings, saving you money, and giving you more time to spend playing your guitar instead of changing strings.