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.
In order to play your favorite song, you’ll need to learn guitar chords. Use the images and instructions below to learn how to play each chord. The ChordBuddy device can be used for assistance in knowing where to place your fingers In the images the circles represent where you will be placing your fingers (I=index, M=middle finger, R=ring finger, P=pinky). The X’s represent strings that you will not be strumming while the O represents strings that will be played without any frets.
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While there are in fact a number of songs you can play with simply the Em and Am chords, I know you're going to want a little bit more than just that. If you're still working on those first two chords, that's okay, they might take a bit to get comfortable with. Bookmark this page, work on the chords for a bit, and come back when you're ready for a few more. I'll still be here!
Practice at least 20 minutes 6 days a week. Consistent practice will allow you to improve your guitar playing skills over a short period. Taking long breaks and not staying dedicated will wear away your muscle memory and delay the development of your skills. Instead, dedicate 20 minutes to an hour of practice throughout most of the week. During practice, you can either run different drills or you can try covering a song.
Play the song with the audio recording. Once you've mastered the individual portions of the song, you're ready to play the song in its entirety. Play the song and strum your guitar along with the song. Try to keep up with the tempo of the song you're covering. Follow the tabs as you play. If you mess up, follow the music on the tabs and come back into the song when you're ready. Once you've become proficient at playing the riff, continue practicing until you don't need the tabs anymore.
I’m not going to walk through each of these chords individually with you, because you should be able to figure out where to put your fingers by looking at the diagrams. Once you’ve got each chord sounding nice and clear, then you can begin working on changing between the chords. You can switch between all five of these chords in any order you please and they will sound good together. There’s a reason for that, but we won’t get into that just yet.
You do not need long fingernails to play guitar. In fact, it's best to keep your fingernails short! As for the callouses, these may be unavoidable. If you would like to avoid them as much as possible, ask your guitar instructor about lowering the action of your guitar (the action is the distance between your strings and your frets) so that the frets are easier to press down on.
PPS, a lot of the links to the product recommendations above will give us a small commission if you purchase through them. That does not influence the price or my recommendations. Here’s the disclosure policy: Tropical MBA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
If you are practicing regularly, like you should be (at least once a day) be sure to change your guitar strings once a month. You will be amazed at how much of a difference in sound quality a fresh pack of strings will make. You don’t need super expensive strings. When I was starting out, I got by quite happily on my local music store’s house brand of strings that cost about $4 a pack.
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