Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s Guide - Michael Powers

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Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s Guideby Darrin Koltowwww.MaximumMusician.comCopyright 2002 Darrin Koltow

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 2ContentsContents. 2Acknowledgements . 4Also on . 5Also at 5Introduction. 6About the Author . 6Practicing . 7How to Hold the Guitar . 8Tablature and Chord Diagrams. 9Tablature. 9Resources . 10Chord Diagrams. 11Resources . 11Tuning . 12Resources . 13The First Song. 14The Song . 14How the Song Works (Basic Music Theory) . 14Resources . 15Basic Chords . 16Resources . 16Barre Chords . 17Minor, Root on String 6 . 17Minor, Root on String 5 . 18Major, Root on String 6 . 19Major, Root on String 5 . 19Dominant 7, Root on String 6 . 19Dominant 7, Root on String 5 . 19Resources . 20The Right Hand . 21Strumming . 21Resources . 21Melody: Alternate Picking. 22Resources . 22Chords: Bass Note Picking . 23Improvising . 24Resources . 25Closing Note. 26Appendix . 27The Major Scale. 27Major Scale Pattern 1: E Major . 28Major Scale Pattern 2: D Major . 29Major Scale Pattern 3: C Major . 30Major Scale Pattern 4: A Major . 31Major Scale Pattern 5: G Major . 32Resources . 32Playing by Ear. 33

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 3The Short Version . 34The Long Version . 34Resources . 35Introduction to Reading Music. 36Common open Position Chords . 37Chords for C Major . 37Chords for E Major . 37Chords for A Major . 37Chords for G Major . 38Chords for D Major . 38Chords for F Major. 38Resources . 38Notes on the Fretboard . 39Index . 40The Next Step . 41

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 4AcknowledgementsThis ebook is more than just one person wanting to help others play guitar moreeffectively. The inspiration and knowledge gained from other resources has helped makethis ebook helpful for you. One of those resources is GuitarNoise.comhas lessons for guitarists of every skill level, covering many, many aspects of playingguitar. This includes advice on careers, “Scary Stories,” detailed lessons on playingpopular songs, songwriting, forums and much more. It’s hard to imagine a guitarist whowould not benefit from materials. Visit them often,

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 5Also on MaximumMusician.comWant to know how to turn your practicing into playing? Would you like to learn whichsites, newsgroups, discussion lists and other web resources are the best for learning toplay guitar?The articles on can help you. You can learn to Play by Ear . Learn All About Chords Other articles help you turn scalesand chords into music, and sort through the glut of guitar info on the web.Also at MaximumMusician.comBlues Grooves for Beginners and BeyondDownloadable eGuide 2003 Darrin Koltow Eguide for Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT, Macintosh in WinZippedPDF formatBlues Grooves for Beginners and Beyond shows you how toplay blues shuffles, boogies, riffs and progressions. Playingblues rhythms is one of the easiest, quickest ways of gettinggreat sounds from your guitar. This guide shows you how to getthose sounds.Blues Grooves teaches you the basic 12-bar blues turnarounds, riffs, and shuffles how to create your own blues grooves how to enhance basic shuffles with harmony notes how to jazz up your blues with the dominant 9 sound andappogiatura chords open position and movable blues how to create riffs using arpeggios, as well as the mixolydian, pentatonic andblues scalesAnd much more. Get the details – including a free sample – tareBook.htm

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 6IntroductionThis book is for all beginning guitarists, especially those who don’t yet believe they canplay the guitar.It was written because beginning guitarists need guidance. They need to know whichchords and concepts to begin with, and which ones to ignore. There’s a lot of informationavailable today to the beginning guitarist. In fact, there’s too much information: it’s easyto become overwhelmed with all the different exercises and songs to play. This bookcuts through the clutter to get you started playing songs as quickly as possible. It alsogives you tips on where to go for more information.I believe the most important things about playing guitar are to have fun and to grow as amusician. When you can do these things, I believe you also grow as a person, no matterwhat style of music you want to play.About the AuthorHi, I’m Darrin Koltow. I’ve been playing guitar since 1985. I’ve studied music theory andhistory at Rutgers College, and guitar with a number of teachers, including Bill Hart, whohas taught at the Atlanta Institute of Music. I’ve also studied the strategies for successand motivation from other disciplines and adapted them to musicianship. I’m nowapplying this training to my mission: to be the best player I can be, to enjoy the journeyto becoming such a player, and to help others achieve their musical goals. Contact meat

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 7PracticingHere are a few notes about how to approach practicing with the best frame of mind.First, don’t hurt yourself, especially when you’re just starting. You may be 100%motivated to learn, but you won’t learn anything if you damage your hand fromoverplaying. It’s easy to do that when you start, because your hands simply haven’t builtup the muscles they need to play yet. This is more of a problem with acoustic steel stringguitarists than electric guitarists, because steel string guitars are generally harder toplay. Give it a little time; the hand strength will come.You’ll want to get some essential tools besides the guitar. Get a metronome, and ajournal. The metronome helps you play in time, but does more than just that. It forcesyou to play music, and not rambling notes and chords. Keeping time with the metronomemakes you push yourself beyond your comfort zone, so you can grow as a player.You say you’re not a writer. That’s okay, but get a journal anyway, and use it to writedown how well you think you’re doing. You don’t need to write in it every day. But whenyou’ve spent three weeks working on a song or scale or arpeggio exercise, write downhow it felt to complete it. Also, write down the things you can’t yet do. A year from now,you’ll look at what you wrote, and feel great pride at how far you’ve come.Good attitude is crucial to your sense of achievement. Putting yourself down becauseyou can’t yet make a particular chord shape is not nearly as helpful to you as moving onto another chord shape, or reviewing the chords you do know. The technique will come,trust me. Stay motivated by writing your goals down, and rewriting them regularly. Readhow others grew from having no skill, to being players.Play for others, maybe a little before you believe you’re ready. Smooth your playing on asong or two, and play them for someone. You’ll get a whole new perspective on yourplaying, and what you need to work on. Besides that, any compliments you get willmotivate you in a powerful way.

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 8How to Hold the GuitarRemember to breathe. It’s easy for your body to get tense when you do something asawkward as playing guitar for the first time. This tenseness builds up without your evenrealizing it. Take a break every so often, and just breathe.Even if you do everything right, playing might seem uncomfortable at first. It should notbe painful, though. If you sense any pain at any time, stop immediately. Before long,your desire to play will make not holding the guitar feel uncomfortable.Choose a chair or seat with the right height. You’ll know it’s the right height because,when you sit, your thigh will be angled just slightly upward. Some players pick any chairand raise their guitar knee by putting their guitar foot on a stool or stack of phone books.The point is to raise the guitar high enough so your hand can get to the frets. It gets realtiring to play by putting your guitar foot on tiptoe all the time. It also gets tiring when youhunch your entire upper body over so you can see the frets.If you’re right-handed, put the guitar on your right knee. Note: classical guitarists woulduse their left knee. It’s tempting to tilt the guitar so you can see the frets, but don’t do it.Keep the guitar straight. The neck of the guitar should be angled slightly upward as itextends away from your body.Now for the fretting hand. Practice making what I call “the claw“ with your left hand. Thismeans putting your left thumb halfway between the bottom of the guitar’s neck, and thetop of the neck. It’s tempting to grab the guitar like you were grabbing a hammer, withthe thumb wrapping over the top, but you won’t be able to hit all the notes that way. Tomake the claw, keep the thumb at that halfway point on the neck, and crook your wristas if you were trying to make your finger tips hook over the top of the neck.If all of this seems too complicated, go for these simplified instructions: look at picturesof how other guitarists hold their guitar, and do what feels comfortable for you. By theway, some great guitarists, such as Jeff Healy, hold their guitar flat on their lap.

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 9Tablature and Chord DiagramsTablatureTablature is a way of expressing music on paper. A page of tablature tells you whatnotes to play to make the song happen. Standard music notation is another way ofcommunicating songs on paper. Classical musicians usually have to know this kind ofnotation. We’ll stick to the basics and just describe tablature in this section. You canread an intro to standard notation in the Appendix.Let’s look at a piece of tablature:Play one after the other.str. 1str. 2str. 3str. 4str. 5str. 6010Play at the same time.(rest)010(rest )Tablature OneStandard notation(Notice that the standard notation is included here, just in case you’re interested in how itmatches with the tablature.)Look at figure Tablature One. Each of the long lines going from left to right represents aguitar string. The top line is the high E string (the thinnest string), the next line down isthe B string, and so on. The numbers represent frets that you play, not the fingers youuse.The first group of notes is played one at a time. The second group of notes shows thenotes stacked on top of each other, which means you play them at the same time. Thisgroup of notes played together is called a chord. The first group of notes is called anarpeggio. Think of arpeggios as a busted up chord.The numbers tell you which frets to press. A “0” means you play the string open, orunfretted.Some tablature, or “tab” for short, also tells you which fingers to use. Keep an eye out forfinger indicators in the tabs shown in this book. Knowing which fingers to use isimportant to prevent confusion.

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 10There’s not much else to learning tablature. You can learn more about it through theseresources:ResourcesOLGA, the On-Line Guitar Archive. OLGA ( is a library of files, includingthose for tab, that shows you how to play songs on guitar.How to Read and Write Tab, and software: Tablature 2.1 is a set of tools that allows easy publication and playbackof bass and guitar tablature. Available at

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 11Chord DiagramsChord diagrams are used to show you where to put your fingers to make chords. Let’stake a look at a chord diagram.1 frX 3 2 0 10C majorThe “1 fr” means the first fret. The numbers at the bottom tell you which fingers touse, not which frets to play. The vertical lines represent the strings, and the horizontallines separate the frets. You can probably guess that the circles tell you where to putyour fingers. Zero (0) means you don’t use a finger; let the string ring open.Where would you see a figure like this? A lot of sheet music in standard (not tablature)notation will have chord diagrams like this one above the music. So, even though youmight not be able to read standard notation, you can still read the chord diagrams, andplay along on the song.Chord diagrams with sheet musicResourcesHow to Read Chord Diagrams: This site alsocovers other topics for beginners, such as How to Hold a Guitar Pick, How to String aGuitar and How to Tune a Guitar.

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s GuidePage 12TuningJust like the other aspects of learning the guitar, tuning is something you’ll get better atthe more you do it. The first time you tune, it may be difficult to separate in-tune pitchesfrom those out of tune. Electronic tuners are available to help with this, but all you needto start is a set of pitch pipes, or some other source that can emit the pitch called“Concert A.” You can even use your computer to output this pitch, if you have the rightsoftware.Let’s tune. Once you have your Concert A source, turn it on or do what you need to do tomake it sound. Holding your guitar as though you were playing it, press your finger ontothe fifth fret of the first string. (The first string is the thinnest one.) You don’t need topress too hard.str. 1str. 2str. 3str. 4str. 5str. 65Tuning the First StringWith your other hand, pluck the first string. If the note won’t sound, move your frettingfinger a bit closer to toward the soundhole, while still staying on the fifth fret.Compare the pitch from your tuner with the note you played. If they sound different,adjust the first string’s tuning knob until the notes sound the same. It’s best to watchcarefully as someone else does this, for the first

Playing Guitar: A Beginner’s Guide Page 7 Practicing Here are a few notes about how to approach practicing with the best frame of mind. First, don’t hurt yourself, especially when you’re just starting.

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