How to Learn Guitar
This article breaks down the skills you will need to learn to become a guitar player. Guitar is an instrument that will require great patience when learning. The physical demands of playing guitar takes time to develop. Much of the skills used in creating chords relies on developing muscle memory skills. This will require repeated practice over a sustained period of time.
When playing a guitar you are always doing something from one of these five skill categories. With the help of a good teacher and dedication for 12 months to the instrument you should become a proficient and knowledgeable guitarist.
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Notes – Learn Guitar
The simplest thing you can do on a guitar is play a single note. We use notes playing riffs, practicing scales or in guitar solos. This can be done by just hitting a string, known as playing an open string. To create other notes you will need to press a finger down on a string against the fretboard of the guitar. By moving up the string you make the pitch of the note higher.
Placing your finger in the middle of the fret or towards the metal of the fret wire will create the best sound. If you place a finger to far back in the fret you will start to hear a dead sound. Try and play using the tip of your finger rather that the fleshy part. This will create better sound, known as tone.
Watch this video lesson to see an explanation of how best to fret notes on a guitar below.
Learning the riff to a song like Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes is a great way to start playing notes on the guitar.
Power Chords – Learn Guitar
Playing two or more notes together creates a chord. The easiest chords to create on a guitar are power chords. They can be played using two fingers. While physically easier to create they are not just used for simple guitar playing. Power chords are the sound of rock music. Other chords sounds are too jangly. In rock music we prefer the punch that a power chord creates.
To read how to play power chords follow this link to our article about playing power chords.
I recommend learning power chords as the first type of chords you start playing on a guitar. They will help you develop hand strength needed to form more demanding hand shapes. When you learn guitar you must have time to develop holding your wrist in unusual positions for the first time. Power chords will help develop strength in your wrist to progress on guitar.
Need more help? Watch this short video explanation.
A song that is a great choice to learn using power chords is When I Come Around by Green Day.
Open Chords – Learn Guitar
The next challenge for guitar players is starting using more fingers to create larger chords. Unlike power chords where you have one shape to learn, open chords require learning a combination of different finger shapes. I like to teach students ten shapes to start their open chord skills. These shapes are A major, A minor, C major, D major, D minor, E major, E minor, F major, G major and C add 9. To understand how to play these chords on guitar follow this link to our article.
Open chords are much more physically demanding to learn as we try and form the ten shapes. It is also a challenge to remember where to place your fingers. I recommend learning open chords over the course of a couple of months. First learn the shapes. Do not be concerned about the sound at this stage, just where to place your fingers. You can not improve the sound of a chord unless you know how to create the correct finger shape. Next concentrate on sound improvements and where to strum from. Finally start trying to change from one chord to another. Look for the smoothest passage between one chord to the next.
Watch tutorials on how to play these chords in our collection of videos below.
A recommended song to help you learn to play and change between open chords is Last Kiss by Pearl Jam.
Barre Chords – Learn Guitar
Open chords only give us a limited amount of the chords needed to be played in music. As a guitarist we at least need to learn ways to play all major and minor chords. There are 12 major and 12 minor chords to learn. Barre chords fills the gaps left behind by only learning open chords. Like power chords these shapes are moveable. By learning one shape you can make multiple chords. It will help you to learn the note positions of 6th and 5th strings. This will make finding where to play certain chords simple.
There are four barre chord shapes to learn when playing major and minor chords. Learn major and minor shapes for 6th string and 5th string. To understand how follow this link to read our article on playing barre chords. Also view the below videos to improve your knowledge and ability to play these difficult shapes.
The song Fly Away by Lenny Kravitz uses the 6th string major barre chords shape and is a great song to practice this skill.
Jazz Chords – Learn Guitar
This is a miscellaneous category of chords that are created with four or more notes. The way to recognise a jazz chord is when there is a number in the title, such as C major 7. The chords are not only used in jazz songs. These chords can be played with open chords and barre chords skills. Read this article to understand how jazz chords are put together.
Jazz chords add extra colour to the sound of major and minor chords. Listen to Moondance by Van Morrison which uses the minor 7 sound
Learning these skills will allow you to play in all styles that the guitar is used in. As mentioned in the start of this article, be patient. There is no magic formula to learn guitar. Have realistic goals, pick some tunes that inspire you to learn and most importantly HAVE FUN!!