Wow! This post really seems to have helped a lot of folks get started with the guitar. It has been read by – I kid you not – millions of aspiring guitarists. Thank you! As many of you have noted in the comments below, no, I’m not selling anything here related to playing the guitar. My motivation to write this post was that musicians, and especially guitar teachers, can often make learning the guitar sound way too hard. It’s actually easy.
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C-chord: Place your ring finger on the third fret of the fifth string. Place your middle finger on the second fret of the fourth string, and your index finger on the first fret of the second string. Strum all but the sixth string. Then, go back and play each string individually, while still playing the chord. Make sure each string rings out clearly.
As a beginner, it is best to avoid making a pawn shop, flea market, or yard sale purchase unless you are shopping with somebody who has experience in purchasing a guitar. Having never purchased a guitar, you may not know what to look for in terms of damage or guitar quality. With that being said, a local music retail shop is your best bet. You may also shop online with a reputable company, although be sure to review the business’ return policy.
After you have selected a style and a teacher, you may want to keep some extra questions in mind for your first guitar lesson. An in person lesson can be very valuable, if you show up, and if you do the work that the instructor gives you for when you are not meeting. One of the greatest methods of improving is to consistently play. Play multiple times a week, get those practice repetitions in.
Learn how to read guitar tabs. Guitarists have their own system of music notation called guitar tablature, or guitar tabs for short. The basic idea is to look at each line in the "staff" of the tab in the same way you look at your guitar. Each line corresponds to a string, and each number tells you which fret to hold down when plucking that string. For example, to play this tab-notated lick from the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Sweet Home Alabama," you would play two notes on the open D string, the B string at the third fret, the G string at the second fret, etc.
There's an abundance of guitar information out there on the web, some good, some not. I stumbled across Justin Sandercoe's site a year ago and now tell everyone about it. The lessons are conveyed so clearly, concisely and in the most congenial way. The site is laid out logically as well so you can to go straight to your area of interest... beginner, blues, rock, folk, jazz, rhythm, fingerpicking... it's all there and more. Spend ten minutes with Justin and you'll not only play better but feel better too. From novice to know-it-all, everyone will learn something from Sandercoe.
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.