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.


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

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    Did you know that the basic chord progression shown is actually the main riff for Green Day's song Warning Anyways great lesson helped me out a lot but took me forever to master
    I don't know if you're still responding to these, but I need some help. The A chord demands that you finger the third fret for the D, G, and B strings, while leaving the high E and A string open. My problem is I don't know how to go about fingering the third fret without muting the open strings. I can't lay down a finger across the fretboard, because I cannot bend it up soon enough to allow the high E to ring out, and I can't fret each string individually, because then my fingers are crowded and the B string is being held down so high up from the fret, it's barely touching it. Then my ring finger is usually touching the high E anyway. I don't know how much of a problem this is with other people, since I have abnormally huge fingers. (At first I thought this would be an advantage.) I know some chords demand that you lay a finger across the fretboard, but with those chords all the frets after that are higher, so it's not a problem. I hope someone can help me, and I hope I made myself clear. Sorry for leaving such a long message.
    Thumb is not a finger where you said : "Also, the idea here is to get all of your fingers moving, so use all four of your fingers not including your thumb." Thats wrong
    thanks bro it really helped me even though ive had ma guitar 4 ages im still learnin da basics lol
    yo thankS!! this lesson is gr8.. but i think i'll forget it on my way 2 my friends house!! he has the guitar; not me.. but i'm the one in love with it1!
    nice , thank you this helped alot i guess i am hooked now
    Ha ha. Girls here I come. Jaykay. But really good lesson. I have been playing for a few months and help me improve my basic skills.
    Thank Your So Much That Helped so much man but unfortunately I'm too Much of a Begginer to Chord Progress Fast enough but I'm Sure I'll Get There in good time I'll practice everyday Cheers!! Green Day Rocks!!!! please Visit My Site Once Again Thanks for the Lesson
    this lesson really helps those in need of those crutial first steps when learning to play.. i for one really liked it.. and now i know some great practicing methods to. thanks man!
    east bay brat
    u think that people wont know how to hold a guitar but u think they know what chords are????? wtf nice lesson i will help some1
    great lesson! but what does the ^ and v mean? you would be helping me alot if you replied..
    I liked this. I've been playing for 2 years, but I've never got the hand of picking, I always fingerpick, the exercises really helped me!
    Peeping Todd
    heel ya i wish ther were more ppl liek u 2 teach us n00bs i giv dis lesson 3 thumbs up XD!!!!!
    Great lesson. I think i'm slightly past this stage but I think the next few will be very useful for me. One very minor criticism, but I think beginners should practice alternating picking as soon as possible (as opposed to all downstrokes as mentioned), but what do I know?!
    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
    thank you so much (whoever really wrote this) this is very helpfull and very suited to begginers like myself to understand. i looked at other tutorials and this is by far the best
    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.
    hey guy i cant play that bloody A chord i dot know if its cause of my fat fingers or what which fingers do you use
    PROPS thx for the great lesson people like you make it easier for people like us
    I got confused on that strumming-picking thing. On the 'strumming' topic it comes: "Many people think guitar is great because of the awesome solo's some people do, all the quick, sharp, gentle sounds used by picking." so strumming is the same as picking? Im not a native english speaker, so I may not get the word 'strumming' correctly.
    I got confused on that strumming-picking thing. On the 'strumming' topic it comes: "Many people think guitar is great because of the awesome solo's some people do, all the quick, sharp, gentle sounds used by picking." so strumming is the same as picking? I'm not a native english speaker, so I may not get the word 'strumming' correctly.
    I couldn't be more thrilled that UG has these sections . . . If you are just starting out - this is the place you really need to be!