Getting To Know Your Guitar. Part 2

author: UG Team date: 09/15/2006 category: for beginners
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Table of Contents:

1. How to play notes
2. How to strum your guitar
3. Homework assignment: exercises to try
4. Song clips

1. How To Play Notes

Just as with holding the guitar, learning how to play notes properly is vital to becoming an accomplished guitarist. Moreover, developing the right habits is quite important, as bad habits can be hard to break later on down the road. There are only a few basic points to bear in mind regarding how notes should be played:
  • One String At A Time. If you only intend to play one note, make sure your finger is touching just that string. When you start playing chords in future lessons, it will be necessary to touch only the strings that you intend to so that you can generate just the sound you want.
  • Between The Metal Bars. As a reminder, the frets are the regions between the metal bars. As a result, it is important to not press strings down on any of the metal bars on your guitar. Pushing down the string on the metal bar makes the guitar produce a flat, muted sound as opposed to the clearer and richer sound produced when the note is played on the fret.
  • Short Nails. It is a wise idea to keep your nails short when playing guitar. Long nails can cause difficulty in pressing down the string, and can cause other strings to accidentally be touched. As a result, it's best to keep your nails short. Below are pictures showing examples of correct and incorrect ways of playing notes. Incorrect
    click to zoom
    Note how the fingers are touching strings aside from the one being played.

    click to zoom
    In this instance, note how the fingers are only touching the strings that are meant to be played.

    2. How To Strum Your Guitar

    Strumming the guitar is, as it seems, a very simple thing to do. There are, however, certain key items to keep in mind to ensure that you don't develop bad habits, which will ultimately limit the quality of the sound you create:
  • Wrist, Not Elbow. One of the most common mistakes made by guitarists first picking up the guitar is to strum the guitar by using the elbow instead of the wrist. Your wrist is the only joint on your arm that should be moving as you strum across the sound hole/pick ups. Strumming with your elbow -- or even worse, with your shoulder -- will substantially limit the the amount of precision you have when strumming, and hence can hinder the rhythm of your music.
  • Strum The Right Spot. Be sure that you are strumming over the sound hole or pick ups to get the fullest sound. Strumming over the fretboard or back by the end of the body can noticeably limit the richness of your sound.
  • Relax! While the technicalities of how to hold, play, and strum your guitar are important, it's even more important to feel comfortable with your guitar. A stiff position will make it hard for you to really get into your groove -- especially when you're developing your improvisation skills. Below is a video clip showing the correct way to strum the guitar.
    Likewise, below is a video that demonstrates how NOT to strum a guitar -- note how the shoulder and elbow are being used to strum, instead of the preferred method of using the wrist.

    3. Homework Assignment: Exercises To Try

    Below is a video that goes through a simple exercise that is a great introduction to playing notes. Give it a shot and see if you can play along with the video. Remember, the key is to have patience.
    And be sure to check out the songs to try thread -- it's a great introduction to some beginner songs that will have you rockin' in no time.

    4. Song Clips

    After the reviewing and practicing the material in this lesson, it's time to see how it's been implemented. Below are some simple songs that are perfect for those just starting out to try. Star Spangled Banner. [sound clip] The national anthem of the United States, heard at everything ranging from somber memorials to neighborhood sporting events. Note that this is the Jimi Hendrix version, in which Hendrix applies his trademark guitar technique to the song.
    Below is a video clip of the riff being played. Be sure to have your speakers turn on, and please allow a few seconds for the video to load.
    With or Without You. [sound clip] One of U2's most popular songs. The tablature below is played on the bass guitar by U2 bassist Adam Clayton, but can be played on guitar as well.
    Below is a video clip of the riff being played. Be sure to have your speakers turn on, and please allow a few seconds for the video to load.
    You Really Got Me. [sound clip] Originally by the Kinks, the song was reinserted into mainstream music through a cover version by Van Halen.
    ActoGuitar's purpose is to help people learn to play guitar, and to help experienced guitarists with professional ambitions reach their aspirations. Be sure to check out ActoGuitar website at this location.
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