Your first Steps On Guitar PT 1: Playing Basic Songs
By Chris Glyde
When it comes down to it, your goals will determine the subjects that you will need to focus on. So, if you’re a beginner guitar player, the best thing you can do is to create a mental image of what it is that you want to achieve. This article will be addressing one particular goal that most beginners have, which is to be able to play some easy chord-based songs.
This is an important article for everyone, because every song has chords in it, no matter how simple or complex. If you have a desire to play lead guitar, I will be addressing that in another article entitled “Your First Steps On Guitar Pt 2: Learning Lead Guitar.” Just search for my name and the title of the article, and it should be easy to find.
The point of this article is to provide you with an outline for what you should be working on first in order to help you reach these milestones towards becoming the player you want to be (in this case, putting chords together and playing some basic tunes). It’s not going to instantly provide you with all of the details to master each of these subjects. Instead, you can consider it a map. It is then up to you to take action and find the information that you will need to master these subjects.
If you want to get the most out of this article and your time when playing the guitar, I would create a checklist with all of the information listed below. As you begin to memorize, learn, and master these skills, simply check them off the list to record your progress. This will be a great way to track your progress and keep you motivated.
Here are the subjects you will need to familiarize yourself with and master:
1) Chords: Open chords, Power Chords and Integrated Shapes
Chords are the subject that most students need help with. Your job at this point will be to memorize all the basic open chords, the one basic power chord shape (this is the shape you can find in any punk tune, for example, although it’s also used in more than just rock music), and then practice playing those types of chords together as a unit. When you get this down, you will really be ready to play some songs. In order for these chords to be mastered, you must be able to switch between them smoothly and effortlessly. If you still have to think about fingering patterns, then the chords aren’t yet fully mastered. Again, just to be 100% clear, these chords aren’t mastered if you need to think about them. Playing them should be effortless.
2) You can play rhythm structures that include eighth notes, quarter notes, and the four basic
16th note shapes and rests (eighth note rests and quarter note rests).
Reading rhythmic notation is very important. This is not the same as reading music.
Would you like to know how you should strum the guitar? Would you like an easy way to know when you’re playing on the wrong beat? Would you like a leg up on just about 90% of all other guitar players? Great! Then you will want to learn rhythmic notation. This will make your guitar playing career much more fun, entertaining, and fulfilling.
If you’re unsure what these rhythmic structures are, you can find them explained in just about any book about playing the guitar. I suggest you go take a look and read up on this subject. If you’re not confident that you can figure out rhythmic notation on your own, invest in a teacher. This will save you a lot of frustration, and a lot of time.
3) Arpeggio Shapes
Chords are two or more notes played at the same time. Arpeggio shapes are simply chords played one note at a time and then letting them ring together. When learning arpeggio
shapes, you will still have to learn the physical aspect of chords, but you will also need to learn a different picking technique. You will need to have a clear understanding of how to pick these notes differently than you would with regularly picked notes.
I hope you’ve learned a lot from these articles, and I hope that they have at least given you a basic understanding of the first steps you should take to move forward as a guitar player. There are lots of goals to choose from, so when you’ve accomplished one goal, choose a new one!
Make your own map and move forward toward becoming the guitar player that you want to be.
About the Author
Chris Glyde is a guitar instructor who takes pride in helping his students become the player they’ve always desired to become and guiding them by helping them design their own guitar playing maps. If you live in Rochester, New York, check out Rochester Guitar Lessons.