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Fender's Guitar Guide For Beginners - Let's Get Started!

Published: Wed June 13, 2007  News Feed

Here's a little page to help get you started on the guitar. Below you'll find some tips on the basics, and then some links to lessons on the website.

And when you think you're ready, there's an easy lesson on how to play "Just a Girl" by No Doubt! There's an mp3 file that goes with it, so you can hear how it should sound.

Let's get started... Here are some guitar basics you'll need to know:

Tune up!

Before you can play a guitar, you need to make sure it's in tune! This is incredibly important. Eventually you will need to understand how the strings are tuned in relation to each other. For now, just use a guitar tuner (right). You can find a wide selection of tuners on our site. VIEW

If you don't have a tuner handy, you can use the online tuner below. When you press the button for each string, you will hear a tone. Tune each string to match the tone.

The standard tuning for guitars is  (from the heavier to the lighter strings): E, A, D, G. B, E

It's important to have the strings tuned to the right notes, so the chords you play on your guitar can sound the way they should!

Chords!

What's a chord? A chord is a group of notes played together. To get started on guitar, you'll only need to master a few at first. As you progress, you can add more and more to your vocabulary.

To play a chord, you place your fingers on the fretboard in the correct pattern, and then strum. Place each finger just above the correct fret. Frets are those metal strips that go across the neck.

When you play a song, you'll strum chords, switching back and forth between them. This is the part that may be hard at first! Keep at it, and you'll get better and better.

A chord progression is a series of chords. Here are some good chord progressions for you to practice (An "m" means "minor"):

  • G-C-D
  • D-G-A
  • Am-C-D
  • A-D-E
  • G-Am-C
  • D-Em-G

To show you how to play a chord, we use chord diagrams. The diagram shows all six strings, with dots (or numbers) to show where to place your fingers.

If the diagram has numbers, it's to indicate your fingers: 1=index, 2=middle, 3=ring, 4=pinky. If there's an "O" above a string, that means play it "Open" - with no finger on it. If there's an "X," that means don't play that string.

Power chords:

Here's a cool type of chord. Power chords are used a lot in rock music. They're easy to play because they only have two notes! Power chords really give you that "heavy" sound. Feel free to turn up the distortion!

Let's start with the E and A power chords in the diagrams. You'll notice that all you're playing is one open string and one string with your index finger. Now, here's something cool to learn: instead of playing that note with your index finger, play it with your ring (3rd) finger. Then slide it up a couple frets and add your index (1st) finger to form the chord shapes in the G or B power chords. You can slide this chord shape up and down the neck, and jump back and forth between strings. Try it!

The next thing you're going to want to know is, "How am I supposed to pick this?" Start off by trying a technique called downstrokes. That means you only pick down, not up. Downstroking can give you a really punk or metal sound. Click here for a lesson on downstrokes that uses the E power chord. It also shows you some other useful techniques. You may want to read this about tablature first, so you can understand the diagrams.

Tab!

Tablature, or "tab," is a way of writing down music for guitar. Basically it's just a diagram of six lines that represent the six strings of a guitar. Then you write numbers that indicate which fret you play. So if it says "7" on the second lowest line, that means you play the A string on the 7th fret.

Here's an illustration of what some power chords look like in tab. The numbers stand for frets, and the staff lines stand for the guitar strings, with the low E string on the bottom.

Click here for an article on how to read tab

Practicing

You gotta practice! It's going to be hard at first -- that's normal. You WILL get frustrated. Don't give up! Practicing is a fact of life for guitarists, even the greatest ones. So make it a part of your routine. Try to practice at least a little every day. Half an hour to an hour is great. It's okay to skip a day once a week. Leave your guitar out where you can just grab it and start playing. Even a few minutes of playing helps!

When you first start practicing, your hand may hurt and your fingers may get sore. This is normal. You need to build up strength in muscles you've never used like this until now, and build up callouses on your fingertips. But if it starts to really hurt, that means it's time to take a break, or you may injure your hand or wrist.

What to practice? Start off by learning to play the basic chords, and then practice switching between them until you can do it smoothly. This may take a while! Once you feel comfortable changing between chords, you can start learning some easy songs. And remember - you DON'T need to be a great guitarist to have lots of fun playing guitar! Kurt Cobain of Nirvana (who loved Fender guitars such as the Mustang and Jaguar) wasn't a skilled guitarist, and yet he became one of the most influential guitarists/ songwriters in the history of rock!

Where do you go from here?

There are a lot of other things to learn, too, which we won't have time to cover here. But you can get a book or video that will help you learn them, or you can find a guitar teacher to give you lessons. For instance, you'll really need to learn the names of the notes on the guitar neck. Depending on what style of music you want to play, and how advanced you want to get, you may want to learn scales, too. You'll also need to work on your strumming and picking -- otherwise, how are you going to play those cool chords and riffs you learn?

We have a whole range of lessons here on the Fender Players Club website, in different styles, different skill levels, and different aspects of playing. As you get better you might want to learn fingerpicking, or playing solos, or classical, or jazz. There are a lot of different ways to play a guitar!

But remember, as a beginner, you don't have to worry about that stuff yet! And some of the greatest rock music of all time was played by guitarists who only knew the basics. It's up to you how far you want to go. Do you just want to crank out punk power chords, or explore advanced music theory? The more you learn about playing guitar, the more you'll be able to answer that.

Here are some more lessons (in .pdf format) we have for beginning guitarists:

Riffs: "Just a Girl" by No Doubt Sheet music (first page)  Mp3 file (intro and verse)

Let's take a look at another important aspect of playing guitar - riffs - and learn the cool riff from the song "Just a Girl" by No Doubt.

A riff is a repeated series of notes in a song. In "Just a Girl," the riff is played all through the intro and verses.

Click and take a look at the first page of the sheet music for this song: "Just a Girl". (Sorry we can't show the whole song, but it's copyrighted!) What do you see? Well, there are three parts: the musical notation, the tablature beneath it, and then the lyrics after the intro. The tablature, or "tab," shows you where to play the notes on the guitar. So you start off on the A string on the 5th fret, then the D string on the 7th fret, and so on.

We've also included an mp3 file (click here) for you to listen to (a saxophone plays the melody instead of Gwen Stefani's voice).

Try playing the riff slowly, one note at a time. If it's too difficult, try this simplified version (below), where you don't double up those notes on the E string on the 7th and 6th frets:


Keep practicing the riff over and over, slowly at first, and then getting faster as you get better at it. When you first start playing guitar riffs, you'll probably want to play all downstrokes - that is, picking in a downward motion for each note. As you get better, try what's called alternate picking: picking down, then up, then down, then up, etc. Listen to the mp3 and you'll hear the guitarist doing alternate picking on the 7-7 and 6-6 frets on the E string on this riff.

We hope this guide has helped you!

 
 
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