Seven Things to Know About Playing Guitar
More people now have the time to pursue their guitar playing hobby thanks to the global stay at home orders.
As a budding guitar player looking to sharpen your skills, there are seven essential things that you should learn.
In this informative article, we explain all you need to know for your strumming journey to rock stardom.
Learn Basic Guitar Chords
There’s no doubt that you have come across someone talking about C, D, and F major chords. These are open chords that budding guitarists learn at the beginning of their lessons.
The open chords are easy to finger, and they are located on the first guitar fret. The C major, D major, and F major frequently feature in popular music.
This is the most common chord in music. The key to mastering this chord is learning the proper finger positioning.
- The C chord is made up of C, E, and G notes played on the C major scale.
- The second and third strumming fingers should form a staircase shape.
- Playing the C major takes some practice since the first finger tends to accidentally mute the high E.
The F major finger placement is similar in shape to the one in C major.
- The correct finger placement is the second finger on the second fret of the G string and the third finger on the third fret of the D string.
- Switching between the C and F major is an essential skill. The first finger placement is the same for both.
This chord perhaps has the easiest finger placement to master. The A major chord is entirely located on the second fret.
- The hand placement for the A major depends on each individual player’s preferred technique.
- You can either place the 1, 2, and 3 fingers on strings D, G, and B respectively.
- Alternatively just bar all the three notes with one finger, which is also an acceptable technique.
The D major deviates from the similar shape that we see in the A and C major chords.
- To memorize the D major chord, think of it as a triangle.
- The first two fingers should hold down the second fret of the G string and the high E string.
- Use the 3 finger (middle finger) to press down the third fret on the B string.
The D major chord has a happy and bright sound appropriate for upbeat songs.
G major chord requires your fingers to form the shape of a claw. It is a unique chord and as a result, it can be quite difficult to switch to other chords from the G major.
- Hitting the high E string is the biggest challenge
- The most prevalent technique is to use the third finger to hit the high E
- If you are advanced enough to do guitar tricks, you can hit the high E using the pinky finger.
Playing this chord utilizes every string. Whatever strings you aren’t holding at the moment are open.
- The E major forms a similar shape to the A minor.
- It is an open chord
- As soon as you master this chord, you are well on your way to playing barre chords
The A minor chord is a sad, melancholic tune.
- It is similar to the E major except for the fact that it moves up one string.
- Alternatively, it is also similar to the A major chord except for the fact that you will transfer the note on the B string from the second fret to the first fret.
- This note is played the exact same way as the E major but without the G string note.
- The open strings and everything else are the same as they are with the E major chord.
- Two fingers are sufficient to play the E minor chord.
- Playing fingers form the same shape as in the D major chord.
- Shift the note you are playing on the high E from the second fret to the first fret.
- The fifth and sixth strings are muted so be careful not to pluck at them.
- You can try to play a D minor arpeggio for a refreshing sound.
B minor isn’t an open chord, unlike all others in this list. That has not affected its preference however. Use it to practice your skills at strumming a bar chord.
- The B minor chord is located on the second fret.
- Finger placement for this chord is similar to the F major except for starting a string above.
Practice playing the B minor completely barred from the first to the fifth string. Mute the low E string while doing so in order to get a crisp and accurate chord.
Consistently sharpening your chord playing skills is the key to becoming an expert player. Use this free guitar chord chart for newbies to try your fingers at all the chords.
How to Read Guitar Tabs
Tablature, better known as tabs, is a sheet music scoring system. It is meant to assist bassists and guitarists to play their chosen songs.
Guitar tabs show the player how to position their fingers in order to play certain notes. However, the creation of rhythm and timing is not usually shown in the sheet.
A tab staff has the same number of lines as the strings of your guitar. Therefore, the six-string guitar tablature will have six lines. On the other hand, a bass has four strings, therefore, the tab has four lines.
- A lower line annotates a lower note. So when reading the tab staff, the bottom line is the sixth guitar string, which is the lowest.
- The strings get higher on the guitar as they do on the tab staff.
- The number written on the line represents the note that is to be played.
- When numbers stack on top of another in the tab, play them simultaneously.
How to Learn Chords Using Guitar Tabs
As you learn to read more guitar tabs, you will notice that on some, the chord names will be written on top of the measures. Chord diagrams generally appear on the first page.
- If a chord appears at the start of a measure, it conveys the blanket harmony for any notes from that point.
- The notes strummed in measures 2 and 3 are in C Major.
What Tablature Symbols Mean
Tabs use symbols to show the player when and how to add some expression to their melody.
The most common symbols used include the following:
The symbol for slides appears between two notes in a tab. When you see it, slide a finger across the fretboard to the next note.
Normally, in the absence of a slide symbol, a player would stop the note when the duration is over and move on to the next.
You can do a slide up or down the guitar neck, or even perform it with chords.
A pull-off symbol typically appears between at least two descending notes.
When you encounter a pull-off symbol, strum only the first note and for every additional note after this, remove your fingers from the fretboard. No additional strumming happens after this.
Contrary to the pull-off, a hammer-on is between at least two ascending notes.
When using this style, pick a note then hammer the next finger onto the subsequent fret.
Sound out the note and after that, no further picking is needed. A hammer-on and a pull-off can be found within the same measure.
You can play a bend by picking a note then using the fretting hand side to bend the string and raise the pitch.
It is crucial to know how far and for how long the string should be bent. A bend is described as a ¼ or a ½. This lets you know how far you can raise the pitch.
The release bend is a type of bend that requires the guitar string to be returned to the original position after bending it.
To learn more about guitar tab symbols and how to play them, this resource is incredibly useful.
How to Memorize Guitar Strings
The modern guitar has six strings and a classical EADGBE tuning.
The EADGBE tuning was chosen after centuries of experimentation. It is the most comfortable and realistic way for the hands to be able to strum both chords and melodies.
You can identify guitar strings in either ascending or descending order. For example:
- The sixth string is the thickest. It is tuned to E and is called the low E string. It is the lowest note that you can play on the guitar.
- Moving downwards, the fifth string is tuned to A and is referred to as the A string.
- The fourth string is tuned to D. This is the D string.
- The third string tunes to G and is called the G string.
- The second string, or the B string, is tuned to B.
- And the first string, the high E-string, is tuned to E.
The best way to memorize the strings and notes is through mnemonics. You can create your own memorization system with each first letter of every word standing for a guitar string.
In ascending order, the string sequence is E-B-G-D-A-E, one popular mnemonic derived from this order is:
- Every Boy Gets Dinner At Eight
You can create your own crazy and unusual version as you please. The only rule is that they should be memorable.
The Six Types of Guitar Scales
Scales are organized notes played in either ascending or descending sequences. Playing scales helps a performer to build finger muscles and increase the mastery of their skills.
In addition, continuously playing scales familiarizes a player with the fretboard notes.
Over time, you will be able to train and develop a good musical ear, which is crucial for developing original compositions.
The following are the six most used guitar scales:
Minor Pentatonic Scale
A pentatonic scale has five notes in an octave, hence the name.
The minor pentatonic scale is the one beginner guitarists train for solos with. This scale creates solos for blues, rock, and other popular genres.
When you have mastered the minor pentatonic scale, the blues scale should represent a relatively easy challenge.
The blues scale is similar to the minor pentatonic scale with only an addition of a flattened fifth note.
This scale is heavily utilized in blues, jazz, and rock music.
It is easy to grasp the basics of a solo on the blues scale. However, mastering other nuances of the style such as vibratos, bends, and timing of phrases could be a lifetime endeavor.
The Natural Minor Scale
This scale is also referred to as the Aeolian mode. You will recognize this scale in rock music genres as well as popular contemporary music styles.
The chords from the natural minor scale are widely used in most chord progressions.
The Major Scale
This scale is highly utilized in many creative ways.
- Chords from the major scale form chord progressions.
- There are numerous musical theories about how to create harmonies from the scale.
- The major scale is used to form modes.
The natural minor scale, the Mixolydian mode, and the Dorian mode are all modes of the major scale.
The Dorian Mode
To understand how the Dorian mode is utilized, we must mention the natural minor scale. The natural minor scale forms solos over minor chord progressions in rock music and other popular music styles.
On the other hand, the Dorian Mode plays over the minor chords in fusion-based styles as well as jazz.
The Mixolydian Mode
It is the number five mode of the major scale. It is used to compose over dominant chords in fusion and jazz.
How to Access Guitar Lessons
There are numerous resources online for everyone who wants to learn or share the guitar playing skills with others.
Simply searching “guitar lessons” online will yield thousands of results for both local and online music tutors. Many schools and recreation centers offer classes too.
Vibrating guitar strings produce frequencies. The device that measures these frequencies on both an electric and acoustic guitar is called a guitar tuner.
- The tuner aligns the frequencies to the notes on a scale. When the string frequency matches a note, the tuner displays the name of the note.
- Bass tuners, on the other hand, are specifically made for string bass and bass guitars.
- However, the average guitar tuner will still work with guitars and bass instruments.
Tuners are essential for both beginner and professional guitar players. Their importance lies in the fact that they guide players to stay true to the correct chords and notes.
A guitar that is playing even slightly out of tune will throw off the entire performance. This is why concert guitarists use electronic tuners that give accurate readings.
Common Types of Guitar Tuners
While there is a wide array of tuners available for guitarists, only two are widely used. The two tuners include:
- Clip-on Tuner — It is attached to the guitar’s headstock. It works by measuring the vibrations from the body of the guitar. A clip-on tuner is suitable for use with almost any kind of guitar.
- Pedal Tuner — This tuner works by receiving audio signals from the guitar through ¼ – inch cable. It further transmits the signal via another ¼ – inch audio cable. Pedal tuners only work with electric-acoustic or electric guitars.
Tuners have various tuning modes, but there are also the most preferred modes. For example:
- The chromatic mode is the most utilized. Set to this mode, the tuner will display the 12 notes of the chromatic scale.
- Standard mode – The chromatic tuner matches the EADGBE standard guitar tuning. This setting also accommodates the DADGAD open tuning, an alternate tuning that drops the low E string to D (e.g. Drop D).
How Tuners Work
Most electronic tuners measure the vibration frequency of one string at a time. Polyphonic tuners do the opposite.
Polyphonic tuners measure all the guitar string frequencies simultaneously.
If you are using a polyphonic tuner and you strum the open strings together, the tuner will measure the pitch of each string.
The advantage of the polyphonic tuner is that it saves time. There are guitar players who prefer the precision of the individual string tuner.
How to Tune an Electric and Acoustic Guitar with a Guitar Tuner
A tuner is a simple device to use, but here we explain how to work with an electronic tuner in this section.
- Switch on the tuner then play any note.
- The name of the note you played or the one closest to it will appear on the screen.
- When you pluck a string, the tuner’s display will indicate whether the note is flat or sharp.
- Monitor your tuner while adjusting the tuning pegs. The tuner will let you know when each string reaches the desired pitch.
Electric Guitar Tuners vs. Acoustic Guitar Tuners
- Electric guitars use pedal tuners. The pedal tuners are connected via cable to other pedals placed between the electric guitar and an amplifier.
- Standard pedal tuners are the size of a stompbox. There are, however, mini versions of the tuners where space is crucial.
- Pedal tuners are sometimes designed with a buffer to enhance the audio signal from the guitar. On the other hand, true bypass tuners have no buffer.
- True bypass tuners are suitable in situations where there are few pedals in the guitar’s cable connection.
- If you have several pedals in your connection between the guitar and the amp, use a mild buffer tuner. A buffer prevents the inevitable drop in volume before the audio from the guitar gets to the amp.
- Acoustic guitars use clip-on tuners. With the clip-on, there is no need for audio cable connections.
- Clip-on tuners are powered by lithium batteries that last for several hours of continuous operation.
- Clip-on tuners work with any kind of guitar, even electric ones. They can be used instead of pedal tuners.
- Acoustic guitar players may also use microphone tuners, such as tuner apps on mobile phones.
Online Guitar Tuner
An online guitar tuner is the fastest way to tune your guitar (usually) accurately. Online guitar tuning is done with the help of the microphone on your mobile phone.
This tuner is suitable for both electric and acoustic guitars.
How to Tune a Guitar with Online Tuner
- After getting the online tuner of your choice, press the “on” button.
- The device will require permission to access your microphone to record the sound — choose “allow.”
- Now the tuner can hear the sounds of your strumming.
- Start playing your notes and the chromatic guitar tuner will display what note you are hitting.
- The online tuner will also show you how accurately the guitar strings are tuned. When the tuner indicates a deflection, adjust the guitar peg to change the sound.
- Adjust until the tuner indicates green for the note.
Bonus tip: If you tuned the strings in their order from the first to the sixth, test the sound in reverse.
Picking up a guitar and creating beautiful melodies is a great feeling. Fortunately, learning how to play the guitar is no longer a pipe dream thanks to online tutorials.