Babysteps - The Beginners Guide To Guitar. Part 1

An opening lesson for new guitarists, teaching them guitar positioning, pick holding, strumming and basic open chords.

Babysteps - The Beginners Guide To Guitar. Part 1
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Hey it's John Paul (more commonly known as JP or Johnny) here and this is my opening lesson in a series of guitar lessons. Clearly this lesson and the ones that follow it are aimed at the beginner guitarist. In these lessons I'm going to be passing on the information that I learned in my short life with my guitar teacher along with information and techniques that I've learnt from playing, experimenting, jamming, watchin other guitarists and teaching guitar part time. I'm predominantly self taught (having only gone to 5 lessons) and I rely more on my ear and theory. I think everyone here would agree that the learning and playing of guitar is meant to be an enjoyable experience. That being said, some aspects of practisin may prove to be less enjoyable..especially if you're having difficulty, but hindsight is twenty twenty and you will realise it was all worth it when yu gain a very admirable skill of the frets, and you never know this could lead to you starting your own band. It's all down to you and your committment.

Who else is excited?

Guitar Holding And The Pick

There is no definite way to hold a guitar... I was never told how to hold it exact..and this has been a benefit. My guitar playing stance and position is an invention of my own and has been custom adapted to provide comfort and ease to my guitar playing which in turn makes me a better player. It corresponds to me and my body shape..which is uniquely me. As we know everyone is different. Different body shapes mean different people have different guitar stances for comfort. You should just hold the guitar in a position that is comfortable to you and doesn't restrict your guitar playing. However I will reccommend a position I used starting out which later allowed me to develop my own stance and style.

# Sit Up, preferably straight to avoid any back pain.
# Rest the area of your arm just below your elbow on the top corner of the guitar.

Even if you just follow that roughly, you'll still do fine. This same type of theory (theory already? Wow we're off to a start lol) applies to pick holding. Only real rule is not to use more than 2 fingers on the pick as this hinders playibility. Ready for the next step?

Strumming (A quick brief for your right hand)

As the title suggests, this is a quick talk on strumming before we hit open chords. Strumming is the most important aspect of guitar playing, but I'm probably biased in saying that. Your dreams of being the next amazing lead guitarist are lost if you don't have a strong rhythm guitar skill. So without fretting any notes I want you to use your strumming hand and do the following strums of all 6 strings - up, down, up, down etc. You should be using the area of your arm - from elbow to fingers_ to create a smooth flowing rhythm pattern. The resulting sounds should be smooth and not sound like each string is being picked at different times ( which is called arpeggiating.. A lil theory for you; )). Strumming shouldn't feel forced so avoid exerting too much energy and effort. If you start to feel your arm go stiff, stop and pretend you're a dish cloth I.e. floppy. Try to keep the same timing with the strums, so strum them at the same pace or beat. Keep practising and it'll soon come easy.

Open Chords (Your New Friends)

Alright, open chords are the easier to play chords but that doesn't diminish their credibility in the slightest. They are called open chords because at least one of the strings are played open i.e. Not fretted by a finger. They are usually the first chords that I teach my guitar students and it is vital that you learn to change between them with ease and fluidity. So now I'm going to teach you how to read chord diagrams. Chord diagrams show you where to place your fingers, what strings to play and what fingers to use. To start off this segment of the guitar lesson, I'm going to show you an example of a chord diagram and how it works, then I'll give you a list of the 12 basic open chords and their diagrams for you to practise off of. Now obviously there are more than just these 10 open chords but to begin with I'm going to show you these basic ones. Throughout the other lessons you will learn other open chords and their diagrams..plus loads of other chord types. Practise the basics over and over again until you get them right, know them off by heart and can switch between them easily. Okies so here's the chords and their diagram. Here is the sampler.
           A

0 1 2 3 4 5

e|o|---|---|---|---|---|
B|-|---|-4-|---|---|---|
G|-|---|-3-|---|---|---|
D|-|---|-2-|---|---|---|
A|o|---|---|---|---|---|
E|x|---|---|---|---|---|

Alright this is an example of a chord diagram. The letter on top tells you what chord it is. It is an A a letter of the musical alphabet. There is nothing beside the A which means that it is a major chord. The chord is A Major. The horizontal line of numbers below the A tell you what frets are being shown. 0 is another name for the open strings. 1 is the first fret and so on. The horizontal lines are your strings. The letters to the left of these tell you the name of the string. The capital E is the thickest string on your guitar. A is the one below that and so on.. The vertical lines show your frets and the space between them is where you put your fingers. The numbers in these spaces tell you what fingers to use. 1 = index finger (beside your thumb), 2 = middle finger, 3 = ring finger, 4 = pinkie.

Alright so how do you play this chord? First look at the 0 column. The o's at the e and the A mean that you play these strings open. The x' at the E means that you don't play this string. Now look at the 2 column. The 4 on the B string means you put your 4th finger on the B string at the 2nd fret. The 3 on the G string means you put your 3rd finger on the G string at the 2nd fret. The 2 on the D string means that you put your 2nd finger on the D string at the 2nd fret. When you have your fingers in place, strum all the strings except for the E string which we're not meant to play. You've just played an A major chord (way to go newbie... You're on your way). Here are the other basic open chords.
           A                                         Am
0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5

e|o|---|---|---|---|---| e|o|---|---|---|---|---|
B|-|---|-4-|---|---|---| B|-|-2-|---|---|---|---|
G|-|---|-3-|---|---|---| G|-|---|-4-|---|---|---|
D|-|---|-2-|---|---|---| D|-|---|-3-|---|---|---|
A|o|---|---|---|---|---| A|o|---|---|---|---|---|
E|x|---|---|---|---|---| E|x|---|---|---|---|---|

B7 C
0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5

E|-|---|-4-|---|---|---| e|o|---|---|---|---|---|
B|o|---|---|---|---|---| B|-|-1-|---|---|---|---|
G|-|---|-3-|---|---|---| G|o|---|---|---|---|---|
D|-|-1-|---|---|---|---| D|-|---|-2-|---|---|---|
A|-|---|-2-|---|---|---| A|-|---|---|-3-|---|---|
E|x|---|---|---|---|---| E|x|---|---|---|---|---|

Cm D
0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5

e|x|---|---|---|---|---| e|-|---|-2-|---|---|---|
B|-|-2-|---|---|---|---| B|-|---|---|-3-|---|---|
G|o|---|---|---|---|---| G|-|---|-1-|---|---|---|
D|-|-1-|---|---|---|---| D|o|---|---|---|---|---|
A|-|---|---|-4-|---|---| A|x|---|---|---|---|---|
E|x|---|---|---|---|---| E|x|---|---|---|---|---|

Dm E
0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5

E|-|-1-|---|---|---|---| e|o|---|---|---|---|---|
B|-|---|---|-3-|---|---| B|o|---|---|---|---|---|
G|-|---|-2-|---|---|---| G|-|-2-|---|---|---|---|
D|o|---|---|---|---|---| D|-|---|-4-|---|---|---|
A|x|---|---|---|---|---| A|-|---|-3-|---|---|---|
E|x|---|---|---|---|---| E|o|---|---|---|---|---|

Em G

0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5

e|o|---|---|---|---|---| e|-|---|---|-3-|---|---|
B|o|---|---|---|---|---| B|o|---|---|---|---|---|
G|o|---|---|---|---|---| G|o|---|---|---|---|---|
D|-|---|-4-|---|---|---| D|o|---|---|---|---|---|
A|-|---|-3-|---|---|---| A|-|---|-1-|---|---|---|
E|o|---|---|---|---|---| E|-|---|---|-2-|---|---|

Em7 Cm

0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5

e|o|---|---|---|---|---| e|x|---|---|---|---|---|
B|-|---|---|-3-|---|---| B|-|-1-|---|---|---|---|
G|o|---|---|---|---|---| G|o|---|---|---|---|---|
D|-|---|-2-|---|---|---| D|-|-1-|---|---|---|---|
A|-|---|-1-|---|---|---| A|x|---|---|---|---|---|
E|o|---|---|---|---|---| E|x|---|---|---|---|---|
So these are the 12 basic open chords. As you can see I've put two different ways of playing C minor open. There is more than one way of playing a chord. These are called chord voicings and we'll get more into that later on. Quite a few of those chords will be used in upcoming lessons so learn them well. Okay so that's it for my first lesson. Lesson 2 is on its way folks so dont worry... Peace And Thanks.

90 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Fieryhead
    good lesson. keep up the good work. although i know you said there is more than one way to play each chord but there are much simplier ways than the ones you used. but other than that great job!
    guitar-guy01
    to mikey, yes its really just practise and you'll get it and to whitespace its already been pointed out but thnks for your keen vigilance
    whitespace
    Hi... I think your Cminor numbering is wrong... there are two '1's. Thanks for the great lesson!
    mikeytelsen23
    awesome for complete noobs like me, ive been having trouble finding good lessons. thanks a TON. on the g chord, i'm having trouble holding the e string all the way down with my 3rd finger, and i end up muting it instead. do i just have to practice until my fingers stretch and adjust?
    Pankescence
    This is so much better than the lessons on about.com... :~P Thanks A Lot, Guitar-Guy... :~D
    guitar-guy01
    i have XJ frets on my electric too.....they shouldnt really hinder your playin...they should make it handier to finger chords
    Magna_Arma
    Ugh. Great lesson.:] But I can't even get my hand to stay in the right posistion to play A Major:[ Why not?(I kinda think my frets might be too wide. They're XJ)
    guitar-guy01
    ha check lesson 2 for your first song pick something nice and easy that you like, thats the best way about it
    simon0901
    hey great lesson (Y) what songs would you recommend as a first song? cheers
    thirteenburn
    Thanks JP! One of the first things you stated was that practicing the guitar should be fun and that's the key thing to longevity - I should know. Back when I was in high school, I decided to become a "rockstar guitarist" and took up the lessons with a local music teacher. The very first hour went something like this: Teacher: Blah, blah, blah ("I'm all this...I played there...played with this guy...I played with this band...here's my concept on the spatial-time-realativity theory...I'm just doing this between gigs...") blah, blah blah. Me: "Uh, when do we get to the "lessons" part?" Teacher: "Oh ya. Well, we've only got about five more minutes today, so why don't you go home and learn 'House Of The Rising Sun' by tomorrow and we'll take it from there?" Me: "Uh, what?" Teacher: "Ya. You know the song don't you?:" Me: "Uh, yes." Teacher: "Great. See you tomorrow." The next day... Teacher: "OK, show me how far you got." Me: Gamely playing the first two chords, unable to finger correctly as I don't really know anything about the guitar, hence my taking lessons. "Not sure if I'm doing this right or not..." Teacher: "That's as far as you got?!? Look, if you want to waste your time, be my guest, but now you're wasting my time." Yanks guitar out of my hand and blows through the song as though he's played it his entire life. "OK, now try it again." Me: "Uh, you're an ***** and I prefer to not waste MY money on YOUR time." Needless to say that I never went back and devoted my full attention back to the drums (my dad was a drummer and got me started when I was five) and only picked up the guitar over the next 20 years or so whenever I saw one and it wasn't until about three years ago did I start messing with it again, seriously for the past year. Anyway, these lessons are great for someone like me and I appreciate the time and effort that went into making this one kick-ass guitar site. With everything in one place, it makes it easy to stay focused and practice, and above all, it's also hella fun. Thanks again! Cheers!!
    briannewright
    Hey. I'm a newbie and wonder what some "easy" songs to start off with, other then the one in lesson two. All the tabs I look at on this site are way to complicated for a newbie! I need simple: no hammering or bending and such lol
    Craige12
    Very cool of you. Thanks for helping us newbies. I have a friend who tried to teach me but it was frustrating. This way I can learn at my own pace and the first lesson is pretty straightforward. You do a great job at explaining and answering questions. Keep up the good work.
    guitar-guy01
    to above. i believe thats a typo on my behalf (typing chord diagrams can get to yu)....use two diff fingers for playing the cm chord
    Dylanj.Bailey
    how do u play cm when u need to put ur index finger on D & B when their not next 2 each other? plz msg me with answer some1
    Zakk5
    cool... some chords may be played in a more simpler way... but the way shown above may be good in some cases where these fingering needs to be done so as to help in shifting between chords...
    linde_lindström
    Awesome guide, i just got a Squier Stratocaster from my uncle 3 days ago, and with this guide i am a lot farther than i thought, i am able to play the solo form the song Gone With The Sin [HIM] Again, amazing guides!
    guitar-guy01
    a lot of people i have thought have had the same problem, its just how you're spacing your fingers, just try to arch them so that neither your ring or your pinky are touching the b string
    S_Tuning56
    i'm having a problem with b7, i can get all my fingers placed but the B string wont ring and if i alter my hand so that its not hitting my ring finger, then it just ends upbeing muted by my pinky's nail....is this just flexibility or is it because i'm on a classical guitar and the strings are spaced a little different
    guitar-guy01
    LankeyDwarf wrote: I've been struggling with chord playing so these lessons are a great deal of help, thanks :hug:
    No problem, glad to be of help, lessons 2 and 3 are up too
    Judge_Scum
    Thank you. up untill now i could not for the ****ing life of me understand chords, but now i can read them and play them, keep up the good work.
    TGCRVT
    One of the books I've got has the Cm as being a barre chord. e|---|---|-1-|---|---|---| B|---|---|---|-2-|---|---| G|---|---|---|---|-4-|---| D|---|---|---|---|-3-|---| A|---|---|-1-|---|---|---| X E|---|---|---|---|---|---| I prefer the way you present it, but what is the difference and why?
    guitar-guy01
    maybe just trim them back a little bit, one of my students is a girl and she had a similar problem, so she just trimmed them back a bit
    dwarren649
    Have really enjoyed the 3 lessons posted. When are more coming ? I hope this is not the end of the line.
    adfonseca
    I'm dying to get off work to try this thanks for the lesson, it's very simple to understand even for a three week-old-newby like me.
    zabryant89
    im a little confused on one of the chords =-/. for Cm, the second version you listed. is it just a typo where you have your pointer finger cover both D and B strings while leaving G open??? i cant seem to find any physical way to do that other than using my middle finger, is this a problem?
    manion
    great guide guitar-guy01, ive just started playin electric and this is by far the best n easiest guide ive found so thank you alot
    thaggle-rock
    I'm quite fortunate that I came across your beginner's guide, I finally feel that I am making actual progress. Thank you for the excellently written lesson! ^_^
    lyingintheraw
    Thank you so much for posting these lessons! It makes learning how to play my acoustic so much less daunting. Please keep posting lessons if you would
    gshock
    thanks a lot for a simple but effective lesson the basics of guitar playing .I have to go back and start from the beginning as I know many chords but don't have the rhythm to go with it. thanks again
    guitar-guy01
    its mainly because there are many ways to play the one chord....we call them chord voicings....the one i provided is an open chord voicing for Cm.... and to briannewright you could go for the newbie classics which everyone knows like green day or you could do something less known like if yu hav a capo you could gve a try at a chorded version of incubus's love hurts....by using yur ears to figure out what chords u use out of the ones you know....this will develop your ear.....a hint wud be that the opening chord is E minor i believe
    Morgarna
    hi i am a beginner learner and i do really find these open chords useful...the thing is i am findind it confusing as i am left handed and finding it really arwkward and uncomftable to put my fingers in the places you have put on there...i do have a left handed guitar, thought i would mension that as it could help with a suggestion you may have...please help
    cam75
    Thanks for the lesson. Im a beginner, so my theory may be off. On your chart for the C Major it looks like it is fingered as C E C. I thought the notes that make up the CMaj were C E G, the root M3 and 5th. Could you comment on that, or am I reading the cord chart wrong?
    blake9220
    Thank you so much! I dont have time to take lessons because of my schedule so i have been trying to teach myself and this lesson has been a huge help. Thanks again.
    phabel80
    So I am not a new guitar player. I am a self learned bassist, and kinda picked up a little guitar along the way. I want to learn chords and that, but that first leason made me want to put the guitar away and just play tabs.
    Autumnmoon
    I understood almost everything except...Cm chord. How do you put your finger number 1 on both B and D and how can you leave G opened?
    armydude2211
    Thank you very much. I am deployed to Iraq for a 12 mouth tour and I work 12 hour shifts in our aidstation. This really help to pass the time as well as learn somthing that I have wanted to do for a long time. You break it down great so the newbies can understand. There are 5 of us that play. 3 that are just learning and 2 that are pretty good. Thankfully we have the 2 listen and teach us at the same time. It is just nice when they are not around to have something like this to help advance further into the art. We were lucky enough b/c the guitar that we have was actually sent to us for free from Martin & Co. And from what we have been told is that it is a traveling guitar so I cant wait to get home and try out all the new things that i have learned on a real full sized one. Thank you again for keeping the deployed up to speed.
    guitar-guy01
    well its down to personal preference...when you're using technique that is the most comfortable to you then you will play naturally better, that kinda goes without saying....how are you holding it?
    PepsiRocks
    I had a quick question, I been playing guitar for a while, but never was taught...just self taught and by using my ear. Recently I decided to find ways to become better so I got this begginner dvd to help..he was talking about holding your pick with your index finger and thumb..i been trying that but i find it easier to hold it differently..can this pose as a problem?
    LankeyDwarf
    I've been struggling with chord playing so these lessons are a great deal of help, thanks :hug:
    sexxyemopunk13
    hey thanks this is relly cool it really helped me alot but im only having one problem, i am a girl and my nails are incredibly long(they're my real nails) and every time i try to practice they get in the way and interfere with the other strings, i really dont want to cut them but i also really want to learn to play my guitar..... any suggestions or ideas???
    Lil'Dot
    Hey, you said that there are more than one ways to play any chord, now hows that? I mean can you elaborate more on this chord voicing thing please?....for my teeny tiny brain.
    guitar-guy01
    the chart in my last comment didnt come out to well... the 5 6 7 8 9 should be over each individual fret as this chord starts on the 5th fret