The Basics. Part 1

The one of five of my basic lessons. This one covering pic holding, guitar holding (positioning), strumming, picking basic chord, progression and basic picking progression.

Ultimate Guitar

Pic And Guitar Holding

First, when you just pick up your guitar, you will need to know how to hold the pic and how to hold the guitar. Well all I can say is that I believe that everyone has their own certain style. I have never been told completely how to sit or how to hold my pic, I have developed my own style and I like it. You are meant to enjoy playing music so why should you feel that you have to do something one way, or else you are completely wrong. This, I feel is not the case. The only thing I have to say is to hold your pick with no more than 2 fingers and a thumb. There's just not enough room for anymore fingers on it.

To hold your guitar, sit up, preferably straight, have the part of your arm just below your elbow resting on the top 'corner' of the guitar. Keep roughly to that position and you'll do fine.


Strumming is if not the, one of the most important features of guitar playing. Many people think guitar is great because of the awesome solo's some people do, all the quick, sharp, gentle sounds used by picking.

But what most people don't know is that a good guitar soloist must first become a good rythm player. If you can grasp the concept and style of strumming, and rythm, you can grow to be a GREAT soloist. Learning rythm first gives you a sense of beat and timing. As well as giving you an ear for good sounds. Eventually after playing rythm for a while, you will automatically know which chords go well together and which don't.

So lets start with the basics.

When strumming, you should use your whole arm from elbow to fingers. I have seen many times when someone picks up a guitar and strums using only their arm. Doing this makes a strum, sound like many picks of each string. It is also harder to strum using this style. you should use your whole arm, from elbow to fingers, all to generate a smooth flowing pattern.

Here is your first exercise:

Holding your guitar in a position that feel comfortable with, and holding the pic comfortably, without holding down any strings, just strum the open strings. Up and down, up and down etc.

If you are finding yourself stiffening up, just stop playing, close your eyes, and just pretend your a floppy rag. Then start to play again, with enough effort to move your arm, but not too much. Try to keep each strum in the same timing. So don't strum one quick, then slow.

Every strum has the same timing. Now practise. Congratulations! You are on the way to becomming the next Santana or Tommy Emmanuel! Keep it up!


One thing I want to stress right now at the start. Never try to be too quick, it will come in time, depending on how much practise you put in. Sorry to say this but you aren't quite the Metallica lead guitarist yet. But you are you, and what a priveledge it should be! I can guarrentee that if you put the time in, you will be picking nice and fast before you know it. Remember, time flies when you are having fun, so have fun and you will get better in no time at all!

Because you are just learning guitar, at the momment I suggest you concentrate on the strumming, but just for some change and fun, give picking a go.

Ok, at this stage, just try picking with down strokes. (only use the one motion to pick) Here you can get into the practical quickly.

But, before you do, you will need to know how to read tablature. You can find tablature for practically any song on the internet. So it is wise if you learnt how to read it. Tablature is basically just the way many people write music for guitar. The great thing is, it doesn't use silly little dots with tails on them. And doesn't use sharps or flats or any of the standard music notation. Tab (tablature for short) is just plain simple to understand and only tells you what you need to know. Tab has 6 lines, each line obviously representing a guitar string. The top line is the high e string (the thin one) and the bottom line is the low e string (the fat chuncky one) Quite easy so far. If you don't know the order of the strings off by heart, that is perfectly ok, just as long as you know the top line is the high e string and vise versa. Here we go.


All this is saying is that first you play the 3rd fret of the B string, the 6th fret on the B string, then 7th fret on the G string, then the 6th fret on the D string, then the open A string (the A string with no fingers on it). Believe it or not, if you can understand that, you have pretty much learnt the basics of Tab. Congratulations!

Now try playing this, just to get your picking working:


As you can get this properly without hitting any other strings, gradually get a little faster, just at a speed you can handle. After a while doing this, you should feel more comfortable with your fingers. When you have convinced yourself that you're ready to move on, move on.

Basic Chord Progression

Ok, now these chord progressions, at first may seem a bit hard. But like I will say time and time again, the more you practise the better you will get. The chords we will use are G, A, and D. If you do not know what these chords look like. I suggest you go to the APEguitar chord section. You will find them there. Then come back here to put them into practise.

Each bar contains 4 beats. For each strum, use a downstroke. v = downstroke, ^ = upstroke.

v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v
A | D | G | D ||

If you can't get it quickly, obviously do it slower. do it slower and slower until you get it perfectly. One thing I strongly suggest is that when you know how to play the chord but it takes you about 2 seconds to get your fingers into the right postions for the chord, then each beat should be 2 seconds long. Remember that people shouldn't even notice that you change the chord except for the differnt sound. Now just try and get that sounding nice.

Basic Picking Progression

Now that you know basically how to pick, and you have put it into practise, now it is time to get your fingers working. try this and as it gets easier, get faster. Remember to start off slowly at first. Also, the idea here is to get all of your fingers moving, so use all four of your fingers not including your thumb.



As I said before, just gradually get quicker. Now look at yourself, just from reading this Lesson, you are on the way to becomming a famous guitar player!

Congratulations! Now it is time to move onto the next lesson I'll be posting soon to come. Good Luck!

117 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    thank you for pointing this out, we are working on finding out the full details right now!
    G A D |3| |0| |2| |3| |2| |3| |0| |2| |2| |0| |2| |0| |2| |0| |x| |3| |x| |x| G SOUNDS BETTER LIKE THIS 3 3 0 0 2 3
    Great for beginers, it explains the basic of the guitar, how to hold the guitar, the pick, chord progression. Great Lesson, truly for beginners
    that is why it is called a beginners lesson. it TEACHES THE NEW BEGINNERS. I for one learned some good practice techniques here.
    that helped me in no way whatsoever. i think most people would already know that stuff including me.
    you should add some strum patterns but other than that good lesson
    try going to, somewhere on their site they have an online list of all the cords and their fingering
    well, im not english and i dont understand some words, can u explain me what a pic is?
    This is the tab for those chords, if you can read tab then this should help. G A D |3| |0| |2| |0| |2| |3| |0| |2| |2| |0| |2| |0| |2| |0| |x| |3| |x| |x|
    hey can any one help me plz i can not understand the chords representations like G A D they said in da lesson but i can not find the apeguitar chords to understand them plz help me
    slash_andrew wrote: G A D |3| |0| |2| |3| |2| |3| |0| |2| |2| |0| |2| |0| |2| |0| |x| |3| |x| |x| G SOUNDS BETTER LIKE THIS 3
    that depends on the chords played before and after the chord - the intervals on the B string
    Great lesson I just started picking up guitar again (after 2.5 years of letting spiders grow inside my guitar XD) Extremely relevant for beginners. Last time what I used to do was finger picking exercises + strengthening and chord progressions. I play a classical guitar (was in a classical ensemble last time) so my posture is different (classical style). What I couldn't help but notice was your super optimistic attitude, which is what everyone needs Rock on !
    Thanks for an easy to understand lesson for beginners. Full of useful tips and practice techniques.
    e-----1-2-3-4- B-----1-2-3-4----- G-----1-2-3-4----- D--- --1-2-3-4----- A-----1-2-3-4----- E--1-2-3-4----- i don't get this. hw actually this thing work? 1-2-3-4 refers to fret or my fingers? can someone explain this to me?
    Awesome Dude!, Great lesson..descriptive and very Very useful! Cheers
    Your little part on strumming makes no damn sense. It says to use your whole arm (which, by the way, is more than just elbow to fingers), then it says using your arm is hard to do, and then it says to use your arm again. WHICH WAY IS IT?!? Otherwise, not too bad of an article. 3 stars.
    allenm: that was the easiest to understand lesson ive ever seen on this site, except for this part: v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v A | D | G | D || y does the downstrokes keep on going? does that mean just keep playing in D? When submitting a lesson, they take out any spaces more than 1, so you cannot properly space your lesson with spaces. Therefore his spacing of the chords was screwed up and it isn't very understandable. ---.. Dont have a go at the formatting of the lesson, if you go to this site: you'll find all the lessons here are ripped straight off ME! I thank you all for your great comments, but I am outraged that this 'high voltage' guy is completely ripping me off from all the hard work i went to in writing them. ApeGuitar is a small struggling site (although i know i havnt updated it in a long long time) i believe i still deserve some credit for my hours of work in writing those lessons.
    this is an awesome lesson, im just beginning and is what i need plus some good exercises first class
    allenm: that was the easiest to understand lesson ive ever seen on this site, except for this part: v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v A | D | G | D || y does the downstrokes keep on going? does that mean just keep playing in D?
    When submitting a lesson, they take out any spaces more than 1, so you cannot properly space your lesson with spaces. Therefore his spacing of the chords was screwed up and it isn't very understandable.
    Teddy b
    awesome lesson, I am beginner and this is just what i needed. Thanks dude. 5 stars.
    um...i really don't want to bash..but i have a comment on the first part...(holding the guitar). it really is important that you hold the guitar in a decent position. it is unfair to an aspiring guitarist to tell them "just hold it the way that's comfortable"...because they may want to become the best they can be at the instrument. there is a fine line between comfortable and awkward. although the correct position to hold the guitar may seem AWKWARD to newer players, you should at least show them how to properly hold it and then let them make their own decision.
    thanks alot dude, but you should of exsplained the A,D andG string
    very nice very nice. Although I learned how to play guitar in a class in school. Reviewing the basic made me realize that I had much to work on. Well back to the drawing boards again..
    that was the easiest to understand lesson ive ever seen on this site, except for this part: v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v A | D | G | D || y does the downstrokes keep on going? does that mean just keep playing in D?
    this is an excellent lesson. it teaches every basic thing you need to know when starting without paying a teacher. but please, right some for slightly more advanced players aswell
    ac/dc lover
    ac/dc lover