Beginner’s Exploration of The Guitarby John Kiernan
So you’ve just picked up the guitar and have learned some concepts: chords, scales, the names of the strings, etc. The next step, of course, is to master these concepts and start to make beautiful (or epic, bone crushing..whatever your preference) music! …But where do you start? Let’s debunk this question!
So more than likely when you’ve just started guitar, you’ll know some basic chords and their forms. Usually, many beginning players start with C Major, E minor, E Major, A minor, D Major, and G major. These chords are taught at the beginning for a few reasons:
- 1 Ease of playing
- 2 Acclimation of fingers to chords and chord switching
- 3 Very few flats and sharps in the chord
- 4 Common chord progressions found in many styles of popular music
When first learning to switch between these chords, it can be difficult to be precise and accurate in both timing and cleanliness of the notes. As you practice switching between these chords, make sure that each finger is only fretting the string and the fret required to make the desired chord. If there are any open strings that are supposed to ring out, be sure that a fretting finger is not muting the open string note or that note will not sound. A good way to make sure is when making the chords, make sure that your fingers are not resting on other strings, but your fingers are angled and rounded around the other strings so that you’re only fretting the note per string you desire. Also, it’s not a bad idea at all to practice with a metronome from slow to high speeds to get time switching between chords cleaner, as well.
As well as playing chords can be difficult at first to get a hold of, getting used to scales can be tricky as well. As is well known, playing guitar is a journey and a puzzle at times, for one note can lie on each string in a different place, unlike other instruments that have one pitch designated to one pitch maker.
When learning scales, a metronome is a definite must to get used to the fingerings. A good tempo to start at is usually 60 bpm on a metronome setting. When getting used to new scales, a good tactic to use is, with the metronome, play the scale up and down until your fingers can play the scale flawlessly. After this, to get out of the monotony of the sounds of the scale, work on playing the scale out of order. For example, play the scale up and down in thirds (EX 1 & 2).
Because of the noviceness when starting out, many guitarists get bogged down in the technical side of music (IE. What chords to play when, etc). There are sounds that should be studied, for to truly understand music, one should study other music to become acclimated and inspired by it. However, after scales and chords have been learned, there is absolutely no harm in just having fun with what you know! In fact, that’s the reason why many of us start playing to begin with (it should also be the reason that many of us continue to play)! Just playing around with the knowledge you have can help you create and develop your own sound and allow you to discover what you like. You may be shocked with what sounds you can come up with by just playing around and jamming on what you know!
If you have access to a recording device (it doesn’t have to be a $10,000 studio recording, tape recorders work beautifully), record yourself playing chords for a few bars, then play it back and improvise melodies over it! Also, when you learn new chords and scales, don’t be afraid to try them out and combine them into your musical palette! The application of new chords, scales, phrasing, and musical ideas can benefit greatly in ones discovery of music! Also, learn some tunes from other musicians and apply concepts learned from them in your own musical ventures Hey, if jazz musicians can take the same exact chords and put different melodies over them and call them new, anyone can. And listen to the amazing music that’s come out of it! Of course, you might run into some sounds you find undesirable, but that’s what the experimentation aspect of music is all about! Try different things out and experiment and discover for yourself!