I would like to start off today’s lesson with some advice on safety. This is something that is very important to me and I convey this to all my students.
Before I even pick up my guitar I stretch out my upper body; shoulders, wrists, fingers, back. (If you happen to know who John Petrucci is, he talks about this as well on his first video lesson). I have been doing this for as long as I have been playing. It helps keep me loose and relaxed.
For absolute beginners, the single most issue I hear is that when trying to form a chord they are squeezing the neck really hard. In the beginning stages that is tough to get past, however there are techniques to help strengthen fingers.
Take a tennis or racket ball and hold it between the pads of your thumb and four fingers. Just squeeze on it for a while. Do not try and destroy the ball, just squeeze enough for some resistance.
The other issue I hear is that, “the strings hurt my fingers”. Well, sorry to say, that will happen. You have delicate finger tips and you are pressing them against metal, (Unless you are playing a classical guitar). Until you form calluses, just take it slow. Form a chord and then stop! Do not over do it and take your time. Maybe start with lower gauge, (thinner), strings.
Remember: listen to your body, take your time and sit up straight!
In the next section I am going to introduce some new chords, practice tips and the metronome.
Typically, I give all my students a chord chart. This chart consists of 8 basic open chords. When I go through a first lesson I always encourage the student to try out the others on the chart. So with that being said, I encourage the reader to look up other chords and check out other lessons. There are some good lessons on UG and a wealth of info on the Internet.
In my first lesson I introduced E minor and A major. Now I would like to introduce E major and D major. For clarity I will add the fingering on the right of the tab.
o = Open, i = index finger, m=middle finger, r=ring finger, p= little finger x=don’t play
I will start with E major then D major.
Example 1: E major
Play each note separately. Can you hear each note? Are you sitting up straight?
Example 2: D major
Same as before, play each note separately.
Remember not to keep your thumb parallel with the neck. You want your thumb to cradle the neck, that will be a useful position. When playing E major or E minor, have your thumb sit up so that it is not touching the low E string.
However with D major, place your thumb over the neck so that it is touching the low E string. You will notice that I included the A string in the D chord. This is ok; the A note is part of that chord and that low A note adds so much body when strumming.
Remember to use your finger tips not the pads.
If you can not hear a string, discover why.
- Are your fingers touching any of the other strings?
- Are you pressing hard enough?
- Finger nails too long?
Let your hand rest.
So far you have learned four chords; E major, E minor, A major and D major. Once you have practiced these chords and have them down, it is time to work on accuracy.
A great exercise I like to show my students:
- Form the chord slowly
- Be sure that your fingers are hitting the fretboard at the same time and in the correct position
- Strum the chord
- Remove your hand totally off the fretboard. For instance, palm down on your knee.
Do this with all the chords you learn until you can play them without thinking about it. What we are going for here is muscle memory. Your hand and your fingers are essentially remembering where to go and what do. Just like learning how to write or ride a bike.
Another exercise I like to do with my students is run through a series of drills on topics we have covered to re-enforce the learning process and to gauge their level.
I would say things like:
Play E minor.
Play A major
Name all your strings
Pick a chord and tell me what chord you are playing.
One thing worth mentioning is that when you are practicing turn off the T.V., phone, computer. Don’t let anything shiny distract you. Just take a little time, sit down and work out the outlined chords.
Ahhhhh, the metronome. Good friend of mine. I asked one of my students once if she got a lot of practice in over the weekend. Her answer was yes! Then I asked, “Did you practice with your metronome?”. Her answer... “You can’t take that to the beach!”.
Sigh. . .
Essentially, a metronome keeps time using a series of clicks with various speeds. I teach this very early so that you can learn the value of time. Get used to it because the metronome will be your best friend in music. So, take it to the beach!
For this exercise turn your metronome on and set it to 90 bpm ,(Beats per minute). Click - click - click - click. . . Now count for each click up to four.
1 (click) - 2 (click) - 3 (click) - 4 (click) Repeat
What you are going to do is play each chord you have learned on the “1”. Make sense???? Check out the example:
E minor A major
If you are having a tough time switching chords, slow down the metronome. Start at 70 bpm. The purpose of this exercise is switching chords with accuracy and time.
We have learned new chords; E major and D major. Remember, start slow and think about what you are doing. We have also learned some simple metronome techniques which will help you with accuracy and time. Last but not least, safety.
As always, if you have any questions, please email me. Look out for part III coming out Monday. Have a great day and I will see you at the beach!