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From Zero to Beginner

August 22, 2016

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

- Francis Of Assisi

 

 

If you are a complete newbie, this guide will get you on your feet in a few days. If you already have some experience with playing the guitar, you won’t need to read this.

 

If you want a quick checklist, just read the end of the post.

 

 

So you want to be a guitar player, huh? That’s great, so did I. It’s never too late to do what you want to do.

 

Before you ask: NO, you are never too young or too old to start learning to play. If you are worried about your age, I will be covering this later, where I will be teaching you guys the steps to learning to play in your twenties, thirties, and beyond.

 

For all intents and purposes, the best moment to start learning is right now.

 

There is a lot to learn at this stage, so I'll be dividing it into chunks.

This is what we'll be learning in this post:

 

  1. What is a guitar and how does it sound?

  2. What is your goal for learning to play guitar?

  3. How to choose your first guitar.

  4. Guitar parts.

  5. How to hold the guitar and place your hands.

  6. How to play your first notes.

 

Let’s start with the basics.

 

What is a guitar and how does it sound?

 

Simply put, a guitar is a type of stringed instrument that sounds when its strings vibrate. Yep, that’s it, nothing more. This is true for ALL guitars.

 

Notice how I did not make any distinction between acoustic and electric guitars. This is not a mistake since, in truth, ALL guitars are acoustic.

 

What people mean when they say that a guitar is “acoustic” is that it has it’s own means to amplify its sound (resonation chamber) and is intended to be played in that way. You are hearing directly the sound that the vibrating strings produce.

 

On the other hand, when people talk about “electric guitars” they mean a guitar that needs to be electrically amplified in order to produce an appropriate sound (they still sound when played without amplification, though it’s not the intended use). When you play an electric guitar with an amplifier, you won't actually listen to the acoustic sound, rather the sound that is captured by the pickups (we'll see what the pickups are later in this lesson), which is in turn amplified by the amplifier.

 

Electrical amplification can be considered as part of the instrument in the case of electric guitars. Don't worry about this for now, as we will learn about amplification later on.

 

What is your goal for learning to play guitar?

 

Few people talk about this, especially few teachers out there.

 

It’s not the same kind of training that we have to take when we want to learn a language vs when we want to be a translator for it. The same is true when we approach guitar playing.

 

In my experience, there are two kinds of players:

 

  • The casual player

This is the kind of player that likes to play for fun but does not want to get into the hard stuff. They just want to learn some popular songs, and maybe compose a simple song or two for their couple. Of course, they are the #1 players around a campfire.

 

They play occasionally in the comfort of their homes too, but are not the kind of players that want to rock the whole world.

 

  • The pro player

This is when we get serious.

 

This is the kind of player that has an intense passion for the instrument. They are not satisfied with just playing once in awhile in their homes, or with some friends at the beach; that kind of stuff. These are the kind of people who want to go down the rabbit hole: get into a band, play gigs, get a record out there, become famous, and of course, most will also want to have a lot of groupies on their record (you know it’s true).

 

Why do I say this? It will help lots if you can make up your mind which kind of player you want to be, since that will mean a different learning process. Of course, your objectives are not fixed and may change over time; it’s common that some people start learning for fun and play some songs, and then later they find out they actually want to go full rockstar mode, and so some who thought they wanted to be the next Malmsteen later find out that they don’t want to put in so much effort and resort to just playing for fun. It’s totally fine.

 

I will teach you how to become either kind of player, but for now, what we are going to learn now applies for all guitar players.

 

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: yes, you could argue that there are more than two kinds of players out there, for example, a third kind which lies somewhere in the middle of the two types I just talked about. If you believe you are one of them, please email me and we’ll talk about it.

 

How to choose your first guitar.

 

I cover this topic in this post.

 

Guitar parts

 

OK, so by now you should have a guitar, so now we’ll take a look at it and see what it looks like, its parts, and what they do. Yes, I’m sorry, you must have known we had to go through this at some point.

 

There are many weird guitars out there which have cool gadgets and stuff, but for now we’re going to focus on standard guitars, such as the one you should have now.

 

Let’s take a look at an acoustic guitar first.

 

 

Now let’s see a little detail on each part.

 

  • Headstock

This is the top part of the guitar, which is where the strings are fastened and tightened.

 

  • Tuning peg

Also called turning key, you use it to tighten the strings to set the tone.

 

  • Nut

This is where the strings pass through from the headstock, which locks them in place.

 

  • Neck

The neck itself is what connects the headstock with the actual body of the guitar. On the front you see the fretboard, which is the part where you’ll use your fingers on. In some guitars you’ll have an inner part which is called the truss rod, which sets the tension on the whole neck so that it won’t bend due to the strings tension. Don’t worry about the truss rod yet. You might also have noticed the small dots, these are called reference dots and we’ll learn later how to use them.

 

  • Fret

When you press down on a string and play it, it will vibrate from the bridge up to the fret. Each horizontal “ridge” is called a fret.

 

  • Body

The body is the largest part of the guitar. In acoustic guitars, they are hollow because it acts as a resonation chamber to amplify the sound naturally.

 

  • Bridge

This is where the strings are fixed onto the body of the guitar.

 

 

On an electric guitar we have mostly the same parts as the acoustic guitar, but we have a few additional which we’ll see now.

 

 

 

  • Pickups

These are the parts that capture the sound from the strings. They have small permanent magnets and are sensitive to the metallic strings’ vibration. Commonly there are more than one available (in the picture, three).

 

  • Pickup selector

You use this lever to select which pickup (or pickups) will be used to capture the sound. Note: the sound will vary quite a bit by doing this.

 

  • Tremolo bar

You use this lever to increase or decrease the tension of all the strings to produce a vibrato effect. We’ll see more of this later.

 

  • Volume/tone knob

This knobs shape the sound further from the pickups. The volume knob is self explanatory, and the tone knob makes the sound deeper or brighter.

 

  • Connection jack

This is where you connect your lead into an amplifier.


 

How to hold the guitar and place your hands

 

I cover this topic in this post.

 

How to play your first notes

 

Finally, we made it! Now let’s play our first notes.

 

I'm going to assume your guitar is already in tune, or close enough. We'll be learning how to tune it on the beginner level. If what we play now sounds awful, don't worry.

 

Grab your guitar (if it’s electric, you don’t need to plug it in yet, you can play it acoustically for now, we just want to get something going quickly) and place your fingers the following way:

 

 

Starting from the thickest string, place your middle finger on the second string second fret, then your ring finger on the third string, second fret, and lastly your index finger on the fourth string first fret. The rest of the strings just leave them untouched. You don’t have to press too hard on the strings, just enough force to force the string to touch the frets.

 

Now just hit all the strings with a pick or with your fingers (even the ones we are did not press with the fingers).

 

Great! You’ve just played your first chord. This one is called E Major Chord. Don’t worry, about this, we’ll see more on this later. Right now we just want to do something to get started.

 

Now place your fingers like this:

 

 

Place your index, middle, and ring finger on the third, fourth, and fifth string respectively, on the second fret each. Again, not too much pressure, and leave the rest of the strings untouched.

 

Again, hit all the strings with your pick or with your fingers.

 

Great! You’ve just played your second chord. This one is called A Major Chord.

 

 

CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve learned the basics and can now call yourself a Beginner Guitarist!

 

 

So, what’s next? We’ll have to master the beginner level now, and the way to do that is to become used to our new instrument, which I will be covering in a future post.

 

If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments below or email me at max@iwillteachyoutoplayguitar.com.

 

Cheat Sheet Checklist

 

  1. All guitars are acoustic instruments.

  2. Decide if you want to be a casual player or a rockstar.

  3. Your first guitar should be either borrowed or buy one between $ 100 and $ 150.

  4. Get a tuner and a metronome (or use apps for  your smartphone/tablet). If your guitar is electric, get an amplifier either borrowed or buy one that costs no more than $ 100, plus get a lead cable.

  5. Get a few picks and a bag to store your guitar.

  6. Play something!

 

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