Guitar Beginner Lesson 1.

Guitar Parts

As indicated in the title this lesson is for very beginners. Lessons for more advanced players will be progressively added and categorised according to style.

The most important thing about learning any instrument, or for that matter, any skill, is not what you do... but how you do it. The technical name is Technique.

There are 2 schools of technique: the classical, and everything else (rock, country, jazz etc.) The classical approach is based on having the guitar on the left knee, having the thumb on the back of the neck, and using only fingers to pluck the strings. The other way is based on the guitar on the right knee, thumb curling around the back of the neck (as you would if you were climbing a tree), and using a pick or plectrum to pluck the strings.

The rest of the technique is similar in both styles focusing on good posture, curled fingers of the left hand pressing on the fretboard with only enough pressure for the plucked string to make a clean sound, and a moderate plucking action. This series of lessons covers the "everything else" styles, and this the first lesson is about getting used to working with the guitar. We will look at each hand separately, starting with the right.

The right hand holds the pick. There are as many ways of holding the pick as there are music styles. Sometimes you want a soft gentle sound, other times you want a hard, edgy sound. This is both an attribute of the playing style, and the pick and string materials. I use them all depending on what music I'm playing, but as an all round favourite, I find myself holding the pick between my thumb and the first 2 fingers. The plucking action should be across the strings, not swooping down on the required string and swooping back out. A gentle pick action will achieve the most accurate and sweetest sound. Picking

Another important point for the accuracy of your individual note work is the use of an anchor or reference point. What you use for the anchor depends on which strings are being played. On the thinner strings its convenient to place the little finger gently on the pickguard or body, but on the thicker strings its difficult to stretch so far, so its common to rest the little finger on the lowest string as the reference, or for a twangier sound you can rest the edge of your palm on, or just behind the bridge.

Consider the right hand is the engine-room, the left hand is then the rudder. I already mentioned about the thumb being wrapped around the neck, and the curled fingers, and using the fingertips to press the string onto the fretboard (between the frets) with only enough pressure for the plucked string to make a clean sound without "buzzing". It is important to note before we go any further that you should try hard to use all 4 fingers in the left hand. We all know the little finger is not as strong as the others, but if you give it as much work as the others it will begin to strengthen. Don't forget, muscles take time to develop. It doesn't happen overnight.

Time to start playing... (I'm assuming at this point your guitar has been tuned). The first thing I want you to do is an exercise to get all your fingers comfortable with playing on the guitar, and to develop the coordination between left and right hands. I call it the "Random Note Exercise" because at this point you don't need to know what notes you are playing. It is played by placing your 1st finger over the 1st (thinnest) string behind the 1st fret, then the 2nd finger behind the 2nd fret on the same string, the 3rd and 4th behind their respective frets, all on the 1st string. Then with a pick in your right hand (and your anchor finger in place), gently pluck down across the "open" 1st string. Congratulations, on playing your first note! Next you press your 1st finger against the fretboard and again pluck across the string. Then raise your first finger and press your 2nd finger behind the 2nd fret against the 1st string. Continue with the 3rd and 4th.

You have now played 5 ascending notes, and the next thing is to do the same thing backwards starting at the 4th finger behind the 4th fret and working your way back to the open string. This should be repeated as many times as possible, but dont just stay on the first string... you can do the same exercise on all 6 strings, and it doesn't stop there... You can go anywhere on the fretboard and play 4 consecutive notes. Now it should be more clear why I called it the "Random Note Exercise". You don't need to know the names of the notes. You will notice that the closer you get to the body of the guitar you get, the easier it gets, because the frets are closer together. You can never play this exercise too many times.

Peter Gunn Hand Position

Here's a piece of real music that works just like the exercise you just learned. It is the theme from a detective series from the 1950s called the "Peter Gunn Theme" and its written by Henry Mancini. To play it you need to place your left hand with fingers spread out behind frets 2, 3, 4, and 5 on the 6th (thickest) string. Then you pluck the 6th string 8 times, and each time you pluck you press the fret using the finger that is hovering over it. The fret order is 0 0 2 0 3 0 5 4 . The "0"s represent the open string. Note: there is no need to move your hand. Use your little finger to play fret 5... don't be lazy.

Have a listen to "Peter Gunn Theme" on youtube and you will hear that this is not the main melody, its just a background riff, and in fact it is played about 100 times in the piece of music, so don't be afraid to practise it over, and over, and over, and...

I hope you enjoyed lesson 1, and I look forward to seeing you on lesson 2 when it is released, or Click here to return to the Instrument Tuition index page.