Beginner Lessons

For New Acoustic or Electric Guitar Players

SIDEBAR: was redesigned and re-launched on November 28, 2007. As a result, this page was merged into other content.

Click here to visit the new Home Page, then look at the navigation bar on the left side of the page for all of the lessons.

Is this page for you? Do you need beginner lessons?

If you're somewhere between: "I've never picked up a guitar" and "I can play a few songs well" then you've come to the right place.

These beginner lessons will cover:

First Things First:
You have a new guitar... it's bright and shiny. You also picked up an amplifier and a few cool accessories to try out. Now what?
Proper Mechanics Articles:
Holding a guitar; standing and sitting with a guitar; holding a pick; smooth chord changes; palm muting; more!.
Essential Music Theory:
From the basics of note names, pitch and duration to scales, chords, and keys. These are the essentials of music theory for the beginning guitarist.
Easy Songs:
Tunes nearly everyone has heard with simple chord progressions.

SIDEBAR: I don't like it when I come across pages "Under Construction" either… but let's face it, every web-site is under construction at some point and that includes this one. It will take time to research, write, and post quality beginner lessons, and quality is more important than quanity or speed. Please be patient. To keep up to date with changes, subscribe to my newletter or RSS feed.

First Things First:

You just came home from the store after doing your research. You have this great guitar, probably an amplifier, and several other accessories.

There they sit.

They look great.

Now what?

First, here's what you should NOT do: worry... panic... feel overwhelmed.

No one is born knowing how to play guitar. You have to learn. Here are a few tips on how to begin. Think of them as your "pre" beginner lessons.

1) Buy a music theory book.

My favorite is Sandy Feldstein's "Practical Theory - Complete" a consolidated version of her multi-volume set. It's less than $10. The explanations are clear and well-paced. Each section includes a worksheet to check your understanding. All worksheet answers are given in the back of the book.

2) Buy two or more guitar instruction books with DVD's.

The best guitar instruction books for beginner lessons include a DVD. The books will provide traditional written instructions, reference charts, and glossary. A well done DVD should include demonstrations, instruction, tuning help, drum and simple accompaniment tracks to play along with, exercises, and more.

Fender has two very good instruction books with DVD's, one for Acoustic Guitar and one for Electric Guitar.

Taught by the well respected Keith Wyatt, each volume contains step-by-step instructions to teach tuning methods, essential chords, scales, practice tips, picking and strumming techniques, caring for your instrument, and more. The DVD contains over three hours of material to help illustrate the book material, plus backing tracks for the exercises, an animated fretboard, and visual aids for things like finger placement, strumming, muting, and much more.

These beginner lessons won't replace a good instructor, and they won't teach you in-depth guitar method, but if you want to get started playing guitar, these volumes are hard to beat.

3) Buy a simple songbook.

There's a million of them. Buy ones with songs that are familiar to you, and have only a few chords per song. Most include chord charts to help you along. Don't be too concerned with songs that have complex looking chords: come back to them later, simplify the chord by only playing the first three strings, or have someone show you how to change the key with a capo.

Here are a few recommendations: Country Licks For Guitar - Lead guitar licks from the masters of country guitar: Chet Atkins, Jimmy Bryant, James Burton, Albert Lee, Scotty Moore, more... included CD contains normal and slow speed backing tracks; Instant Guitar Fakebook - Over 150 songs, plus photo/chord diagrams, melody line in music and tab, and lyrics; or, have fun with Front Porch Songs - a collection of old-time songs, stories, and corny jokes; or search for one of the many songbooks by your favorite artists... some of these will challenge a beginner; or for a wide selection of popular songs, The Greater Guitar White Pages is a huge collection of songs spanning a number of years and styles, from "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits, to Def Leppard's "Photograph," and Smash Mouth's "All Star."

4) Find a way of learning from others.

I started in a classroom setting. Your mistakes blend into a mistake concerto, so it's not intimidating at all.

Taking individual lessons is the best way to learn while avoiding bad habits... assuming you find the right instructor. Ask around.

Jamming with friends, most of whom will be patient and very helpful, is another great way to kick-start your playing.

5) Practice every day.

It can be tough, especially when you're first starting out, or have reached some plateau, but it's the only way you'll improve. Even if you just tune up and work on one part of one page of your beginner lesson material... pick it up and play!

Proper Mechanics Articles

Learn basic Basic Proper Mechanics. This beginner lesson explains how to adjust the strap for standing and sitting, how to hold the pick, how music refers to your fingers, and much more. Learn proper mechanics before bad habits begin!

It's bad when you miss practice, but practically torture when you can't practice! Take a look at our tips on Preventing Guitar Related Injuries so any downtime is by choice.

Once you learn a few chords, you will want to play a song or two. But you'll probably find that moving from one chord to another is difficult. To overcome this, read our lesson on how to make Smooth Chord Changes.

Ready to move on? Discover how to use Palm Muting to create percussive sounds or to emphasize a chord with staccato bursts of sound.

Essential Music Theory

Start with Basic Music Theory. Learn about notes (pitch and duration), tempo, time signatures, and the difference between treble and bass clef.

Then learn about Chords, Keys, how they relate to scales, and how to Transpose songs to a new key when your voice, or your chord playing, struggle with an as-written song. It's all covered in Basic Chord Theory.

The next beginner lesson on essential music theory is an introduction to Scale Theory. Learn about chromatic scales, whole-steps, half-steps, tetrachords... more!

Apply these beginner lessons and learn the First Position C Scale. This lesson uses text, images, tab, and video to teach the first position C scale. Apply basic music theory to develop the scale, learn notes on the fretboard, more...

The next step with scales is to move to a new position. Text, pictures, and video are used to teach the Second Position C Scale. This new position teaches additional notes on the fretboard and introduces the movable major scale pattern.

Easy Songs

Here's a selection of songs to put your beginner lessons to use.

"Ain't That A Shame" is a song familiar to most people. Here is an easy to learn three-chord version that also uses a pivot finger to easily move from one chord to another.

It's Christmas: shopping centers are crowded... people are trying to finish up projects before everyone heads out for vacation... and your spouse just asked if you'd play a few Christmas songs on that guitar you spent all that money on... Don't fret! Take a look at the three chord version of "Away In A Manger." You'll learn a familiar Christmas song, and as an added bonus we cover the concepts of Intro, Outro, Verse, Bridge, and Chorus.

Ready for a two-chord version of a classic Beatles song? Try this version of "Eleanor Rigby." Start with the two-chord version, then add in a descending bass line to enrich the chorus while learning a few fretboard notes.

"God of Wonders" is a great song to learn for it's interesting rhythm patterns and useful chord variations. This lesson includes three original videos, plus links to two other videos you may find useful.

Here's one everybody knows and needs to have in their arsenal... "Happy Birthday!" Music notation, chord diagrams, lyrics and TAB are all included.

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