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Hands On Guitar: Beyond Beginner

Take your guitar playing to the next level
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Created by True Fire
Last updated 1/2016
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You already know how to tune a guitar. You already know several open position chords and maybe a couple of moveable barre chord shapes. You know a few strumming or picking patterns, can keep fairly good time, and have a small handful of easy songs under your belt. You can even play a few single note lines and licks. But you just can’t seem to take your playing to the next level…

Welcome to the club! Everyone who has ever picked up the guitar has been exactly where you are. Crossing that bridge between beginner and intermediate player is one of the biggest challenges we face as guitarists. There’s plenty of beginning guitar instruction and plenty of intermediate guitar instruction available, but there’s almost nothing that bridges the gap between them. That’s why Susan Mazer’s Beyond Beginner is your express ticket, over that bridge, to the bountiful and very musical world of intermediate guitar!

Susan has organized the Beyond Beginner course into eight sections, Each section contains a series of lessons focused on an essential skill you’ll need to cross your bridge to go beyond beginner…

“I’m going to help you develop the eight essential skills you’ll need to go beyond beginner. You’ll expand your open chord vocabulary to the 25 chords needed to play thousands of songs. You’ll learn how to use chord substitutions, extensions and embellishments. We’ll work on movable barre chord forms so you can play any of your tunes all over the neck. You’ll learn 30 strumming and picking patterns so that you can choose the perfect groove for any song. I’ll show you how to incorporate bass lines and slash chords in your playing. You’ll learn how to hold your own in any blues jam. You’ll learn how to solo a little and play a few single line fills. And finally, I’ll teach you how to play songs in any key to best match the singer.”

Your first stop on Susan’s bullet train will populate your chord vocabulary with all of the chords that you hear being played in your favorite songs but just haven't found on your fretboard yet. You’ll learn how form the Major 7th, Minor 7th and Dominant 7th chords that are so popular across almost every genre of music.

You second stop introduces you to those cool Sus4, Sus2, Add9 and 6th chords that all of your favorite singer-songwriters use all of the time. You’ll also learn how to use embellishments like hammer-ons and pull-offs while strumming chords to add even more interest to your rhythm playing.

All aboard and onto your third stop where Susan passes on the fretboard magic of moveable barre chords — your gateway to using the entire neck of the guitar for both rhythm playing and soloing. Even if you already play a few moveable barre chords, tune in here for more insight!

Learning 30 new strumming and picking patterns is next: 10 strumming patterns in 4/4 time, 10 strumming patterns in 3/4 time and 10 finger-picking patterns in 4/4 time. You’ll never be at a loss again to come up with an appropriate rhythm guitar part with these 30 patterns at you fingertips.

Next stop, Slash chords and Bass lines. Susan will show you how to incorporate slash chords and bass lines in your playing to create more textures and movement in your rhythm guitar parts.

Grab your electric guitar for the next stop as you learn to play and jam on the blues (although you can use electric or acoustic for any of the lessons and skills being taught in this course). The 12-bar blues is probably the most frequently played progression in contemporary music. Susan will show you a few different ways to play rhythm guitar parts for the 12-bar blues and also give you the tools to play it in any key.

Just two stops to go! On this stop, its time to start playing a little lead guitar. Susan shows you how to solo using movable and sliding major and minor pentatonic scales — the most important scales in popular music. You’ll also learn to add a few riffs to your rhythm playing.

On the last stop across the bridge, Susan ices the cake of your new musicality with a series of lessons focused on identifying keys and tonal centers, and how to approach changing keys to best match the singer’s voice, whether that’s you or the singer in your band.

You’ll play your way through the course, applying all of the skills as soon as you learn them by working with the playalongs and jam tracks that Susan prepared for the course. Susan also includes lots of charts and diagrams, and many of the examples will also be tabbed and notated, plus you’ll also get all of the rhythm tracks to work with on your own.

Grab your guitar and hop aboard, you’re headed way beyond beginner guitar!

Who is the target audience?
  • Beginner guitar players!
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What Will I Learn?
Play acoustic guitar and acoustic guitar songs!
View Curriculum
  • Need an acoustic guitar and desire to learn!
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 69 Lectures Collapse All 69 Lectures 02:56:46
Start Here
1 Lecture 03:36

These lessons contain something for everyone. We start by reviewing all the basic open chords and then talk about chord extensions and slash chords. The new chords will instantly add interest to your playing. Then I’ll make sure that you understand all your barre chord forms and how to move them up and down the neck. All through the lessons I introduce lots of picking and strumming patterns, so you’re right hand adds as much interest as the left. In the next lessons, I’ll show you how to add bass lines to your playing to connect and outline the chord changes. You’ve probably already played a 12-bar blues, but in these lessons I'll show you two movable forms that you can play in any key. To go along with the 12-bar rhythm part, I'll show you how to solo with both a movable major and minor pentatonic, and a sliding scale. You’ll also learn to add riffs to your rhythm playing. Finally, I'll explain the concept of tonal center and a “key” so you can use the capo or transpose to play in any key.

Preview 03:36
Open Chord Vocabulary
7 Lectures 17:59

These next lessons are a review of all your open chords. Sometimes, even people who have been playing for a while need to revisit these chord shapes. Listen to the quality of each chord and notice how major chords sound bright and happy. Minor chords are darker and sad. Dominant 7th chords (7) have a bluesy sound, while major 7th chords have a relaxing and pretty sound. Minor 7th chords take the edge off that dark minor sound. What do you hear? These chords will also serve as preparation for the barre chords that I'll teach you in a later lesson

Preview 00:26

While you’re learning these open shapes it’s important to have the chord chart in front of you. Seeing the visual pictures always helps to solidify what you're learning. Once you're confident with the chords, try quizzing yourself by taking the chord chart away. Go through "A" - "A7" - "Amajor7" - "Am" - "Am7" in alphabetical order.

Preview 04:57

Have the chart in front of you before you play along. Practice each chord slowly and be sure that you know where your left hand is supposed to go. Your hand only follows what your head tells it to do. Remember to keep common chord tones down. As a review, you can also try writing out each chord from memory using a blank chord diagram.

Preview 03:08

The chords move fairly quickly in this tune, so if you miss a chord jump back in when you find your place. Practice the right hand strumming pattern enough that your hand is on “auto pilot” and you can play without thinking. If the strumming is still difficult, the first time through you can just use two down strums per measure instead of the pattern given. Have fun!

JAM: Triads and Seventh Chords 1: Playalong

This tune uses a new strum and different chords from the last tune. Sometimes, the strumming pattern is split between two chords. Take one measure and practice it over and over until the strumming pattern is solid. Then, practice the chords separately from the strum using only a down strum per chord. Once you know the chord shapes without looking at your chart, you can put the two together.

JAM: Triads and Seventh Chords 2: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

Sometimes we get so intent on learning a tune that we forget to just sit back and listen. We use our eyes and head so much that we simply forget to be musical. Play along with me and don’t forget to enjoy!

JAM: Triads and Seventh Chords 2: Playalong

Hopefully, you now know all of the basic open chord shapes. If you still find that changing between chords is difficult, take a look the article I wrote, “Ten Tips for Faster Chord Changes.” Even my more advanced players find these a helpful reminder.

Open Chord Vocabulary: Review
Extensions & Embellishments
7 Lectures 17:36

Often, the printed sheet music and online charts will simplify the music. It will list a triad or 7th chord, but what’s actually on the recording is a chord extension. In these lessons I'll teach you some common chord extensions and show you how to use embellishments like hammer-ons and pull-offs to add even more interest.

Extensions & Embellishments Overview

In this lesson I’ll teach you sus4, sus2, add9, and 6th chords. I chose the forms that are most often heard in contemporary music. These chord extensions add flavor to the sometimes boring triads. As you're practicing them, be sure to print out the chart that goes along with this lesson.

Understanding Extensions

Just like the last tune, practice the strumming pattern using one chord until it flows. Then, practice the chords separately with just a down strum until you know them without looking at the chart. Finally, put the two together

JAM: Using Further Extensions: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

Play along with me now. Remember to keep common chord tones down as you change between chords. This will make the transitions easier.

JAM: Using Further Extensions Playalong

Now we’re going to take the same tune, but we’ll start with the triad and hammer-on or pull-off the extension. This embellishment will add depth to the sound and make the listener take notice.

JAM: Extensions as Embellishments: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

After you play this tune along with me, go back and play it using only triads (D, D, G, A etc.). You’ll hear what a difference the extensions make.

JAM: Extensions as Embellishments: Playalong

Don’t be afraid to make substitutions and add these extensions to your existing tunes. Unlike classical music, when you play rock, pop, blues, or jazz, you’re expected to make the tune your own. I always say that triads are like vanilla ice cream. The 7th adds the hot fudge, and the extension adds the whipped cream. Don't let your music be simple and bland!

Extensions and Embellishments Review
Moveable Chord Shapes
11 Lectures 30:08

My luthier (guitar repair person) said that he can tell a lot about the player by how the frets are worn. When only the first three frets are used, he knows that it’s a beginner. In these lessons, I’ll explain the concept of movable chords and teach you how to play barre chords. Even if you already play them, this will hopefully serve as a solid review.

Moveable Chord Shapes Overview

Guitar players often take open chord shapes and move them up the neck to become other chords. By changing the fingering and fretting of any open strings, chords can become movable. In this lesson I’ll talk to you about the general concept of movable chord shapes, and we'll start using them in a few tunes.

The Guitar Neck & Moveable Chords

By learning the “E” form barre chord shapes you’ll be able to play any major, minor, dominant 7th, or minor 7th chord. Chords that are awkward to play in open positions, like “Eb” or “Bbm”, will now be easier to finger. Take a look at the chart that goes with this lesson.

The E Barre Shape

This song uses all “E” position barre chords. Remember to review the names of the notes on the 6th string. These chords take their name from the 6th string root. So, an “E” shape chord at the 3rd fret is now a “G” chord. The strumming pattern has a reggae feel with the emphasis on the “up” or the “and” of the beat

JAM: Moveable E Barre: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

When you play this next tune, remember that the measure starts with a tap, which is a muted chord. Move the chord during that tap. Don’t wait for the first “up” strum. Also, keep your 1st finger barre down on the neck for the whole tune; just lift up the grip.

JAM: Moveable E Barre: Playalong

These lessons introduce barre chords using an “A” chord shape. You’ll learn the major, minor, 7th, and minor 7th chord forms. They take their name from the 5th string root, so a third fret “A” shape will actually be a “C” chord. Download the chart that goes with this lesson.

The A Barre Shape

Practice this tune the same way you did the previous tunes. Start by moving through the chords with just a “down” strum. Then practice the strumming pattern over one chord. Finally, put the two hands together.

JAM: Moveable A Barre: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

This tune is in a minor key, and it has a slightly darker sad quality to it. The chords revolve around the "C" minor chord. Listen to the mood of the piece as you play.

JAM: Moveable A Barre: Playalong

First, download the chart for this lesson. Notice that it uses both the “E” and “A” shape barre chords. Remember to lift up your grip, but continue to keep your hand on the neck when you play. The strum is also different because it uses muted chords. This gives the tune a percussive driving feel.

JAM: Combining Shapes: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

This is a great tune, and you’ll hear that it moves quickly. It also has quite a few changes. If your hand gets tired, stop. You’re using all new muscles when you play barre chords, and you don’t want to over-work your hand.

JAM: Combining Shapes: Playalong

Now you can experiment. Try applying this concept to some of the other open chords we talked about by moving them up and down the neck. Knowing your notes/chords with both a 6th and 5th string root will also help you with other guitar skills like soloing and playing power chords.

Moveable Chord Shapes Review
Expand the Right Hand
9 Lectures 26:44

People often underestimate the importance of having a solid strumming or picking pattern. The right hand is your drummer, and unless it has a good groove, no interesting chord progression will matter. I’ll teach you ten strumming and picking patterns that you can choose from to create the perfect feel for any song.

Expand the Right Hand Overview

There are ten strumming patterns in 4/4 time in these lessons. For some of them you'll be slapping or tapping the guitar. The aim is to create a variety of grooves for your playing!

Strumming Patterns in 4/4 Time

This lesson includes ten strums in ¾ time. Three beats per measure gives you a waltz-like feel. This time signature is used quite a bit in country music, but you’ll find it in all other styles of music as well. Both “Amazing Grace” and “Happy Birthday” are in ¾.

Strumming Patterns in 3/4 Time

Strumming has a nice full sound and is perfect for more up-tempo tunes. However, when you’re looking for a delicate and slower sound, fingerpicking is often the right choice. It’s the technique that gives tunes like "Dust in the Wind", and "Landslide" that gentle flowing sound. I'll get you started and teach you the basics of playing fingerstyle!

Picking Technique Considerations

If you asked five guitarists to play the same tune, they would likely all come up with something a little different. In these lessons I’ll teach you ten picking patterns in 4/4 time. As long as you stay within the time signature, you can choose whichever strum feels best to you and matches the groove of the tune.

Picking Patterns in 4/4 time

This track combines some of the chord extensions that we used in earlier lessons with a basic right hand picking pattern. The pattern will remain the same for each chord with the exception of the bass note (lowest note played by the thumb) which varies.

JAM: Picking Patterns Applied: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

After you play this tune along with me, try playing the tune with a different picking pattern. Then, try using one of the strumming patterns in 4/4 time. Although most of them will “work,” you’ll hear that fingerpicking is probably the best choice for the feel of this tune.

JAM: Picking Patterns Applied: Playalong

Download your diagram, and take a look at picking patterns in ¾ time. Again, there are lots of choices. We’ll apply these to a song later on in your lessons. When you listen to music now, see if you can determine if the song is in 4/4 or ¾ time. Do you hear the emphasis every 3 or 4 beats?

Picking Patterns in 3/4 time

Now you have a “database” of right hand patterns the same way you have a “database” of left hand chords. You choose what chord to play, where to play it, and what strum or picking pattern to use. This is where creativity comes into play. You are building your own masterpiece.

Expand the Right Hand Review
The Bass
8 Lectures 16:44

Guitarists play chords and melody with the left hand. In place of a drummer, they cover the rhythm with the right hand. But, what happened to the bass player? In these lessons, I’ll show you how to incorporate bass lines and slash- chords into your playing. These will outline and smoothly connect the chords you play.

The Bass Overview

You’ve probably come across slash-chords in your music before. Some of my students said they simply skipped over them and others thought it meant to play half the measure with one chord and the second half of the measure with another chord. Slash-chords indicate both the chord and the bass note (lowest note played in the chord). They help to create a flowing bass line in your music so the chords don't sound disjointed.

Slash Chords

JAM: Slash Chords Applied: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

At first, it’s difficult to look at the music, play the music, and listen to yourself at the same time. Record yourself playing this tune. You’ll hear how the bass lines go up and down the scale linking the chords together. From Brahms to The Beatles, this technique is used in all styles of music.

JAM: Slash Chords Applied: Playalong

Another way to connect chords is through a single note bass line. Unlike slash-chords, the bass notes are not part of a chord. These lessons will teach you how to create a single note line that leads you smoothly from one chord to another.

Incorporating Bass Lines

You’ll notice that this tune is in ¾ time, so it has a bit of a country feel. It uses both slash-chords and single notes to create a bass line. For example, the second measure leads us from a “C” chord up the scale through “D” and “E” notes, until we reach the “F” chord. It also has a swing feel. You'll hear that I'm playing the strumming pattern with a bit of a bounce.

JAM: Incorporating Bass Lines: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

Play this track along with me. Then, get creative and try playing along with a new strum, a different bass line, or other chord embellishments.

JAM: Incorporating Bass Lines: Playalong

Go back to some of your existing tunes and try creating a few bass lines of your own. Add slash-chords to a basic chord progression and you’ll hear how they add another level of interest for the listener. Also, start listening more closely to the bass lines in songs. They are the unappreciated glue that holds the tune together.

The Bass Review
12-Bar Blues Expanded
8 Lectures 15:25

The 12-bar blues is probably the most played progression in contemporary music. This is likely because the blues itself is a melting pot of southern field hollers and work songs, church/gospel music, classical music, traditional African influence, and elements from many other cultures. This form is 12 measures long, contains three chords, and uses the same basic repeated pattern. In these lessons I’ll show you a few different ways to play the 12-bar blues and give you the tools to play it in any key.

12-Bar Blues Expanded Intro

In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to play a 12-bar blues using barre chords. Because these are movable chords, you’ll be able to play the progression in any key. When you’re jamming with other people you’ll be able to follow along with no problem!

Moveable Barre Chord Form

This tune is a 12-bar blues in “A.” We begin and end on an “A” chord, and this is our tonal center. The strum incorporates tapping into the rhythm, creating a bluesy and syncopated sound.

JAM: Moveable Barre 12-Bar: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

Play along with me on this tune. When you finish, try playing it the key of “G” and the key of “C”. Challenge yourself to find where those positions would be!

JAM: Moveable Barre 12-Bar: Playalong

You may have played a basic shuffle pattern in an open position, but I’m going to show you how to play it using a movable form. Notice how the shuffle form of the 12-bar blues has more of a bounce to it. This movable pattern will allow you to play the blues in any key.

Moveable Shuffle Form

This tune is also a 12-bar blues in “A”, but it has a slightly different sound. It uses only the lowest two strings, so this creates a bassier, deeper sound. There’s a large stretch in these chords. If your hand gets tired while you’re practicing, give it a break. It will get easier, I promise!

JAM: Moveable Shuffle 12-Bar: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

After you play along with me, challenge yourself like you did in the last example. Play the tune in other keys.

JAM: Moveable Shuffle 12-Bar: Playalong

Take a look at the list of 12-bar blues tunes that accompanies this lesson. Go online, get the lyrics, and try singing and playing along. Play the progression up and down the neck to find the key where it is the easiest for you to sing. Grab a friend and enjoy!

12-Bar Blues Expanded Review
Soloing and Riffs
12 Lectures 33:35

In classical music, you play what’s on the page, as written. In most other styles of music you can make the tune your own. You alter the chords a bit, find a groove that works for you, and sing your version of the melody. When you add a solo to the mix, you're basically creating your own music. You play what you feel and it’s different every time. In these lessons I’ll teach you movable forms of the major and minor pentatonic scale, and a sliding scale. I’ll also show you a few techniques that transform the basic scales into a solo. Finally, I’ll show you how to add riffs or fills into your chord progressions. All this will take your playing to the next level!

Soloing and Riffs Overview

In this lesson I’ll explain all things pentatonic. I’ll tell you when to use a minor pentatonic scale, when to use a major pentatonic scale, and how the chord boxes snap together so you can play up and down the neck. Now you’ll be able to play over any song, in any key, with any style of music, and in any position!

Moveable Pentatonic Scales

In this lesson I’ll show you the techniques that make the notes in the scale come alive. Things like note bending, sliding into notes, and repeating phrases, all keep the listener wanting more. Make sure to download the diagram that goes along with this lesson.

Crafting Your Solo

It’s not possible to solo and play chords at the same time. It is, however, possible to alternate between the two. In this lesson I’ll show you how to add short riffs into your rhythm playing. This is another technique that adds interest to what would otherwise be a basic chord progression.

Adding Riffs to Chords

You’ll be soloing over this next tune using the “G” minor pentatonic scale. It’s a 12-bar blues in “G” and it’s in a minor key (the tonal center is a minor chord). Remember to apply all the soloing techniques we just learned, so you’re not just going from one note to another.

JAM: Minor Pentatonic: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

Play along with this track first, taking a solo. Go through it a few times and play what you feel. After you’ve taken a solo, try playing along with the chords. You’ve used the strum before, and the chords are familiar barre chord shapes.

JAM: Minor Pentatonic: Playalong

You played the chords to this tune in an earlier lesson. Now, you’ll solo over the chords that are in the first 16 bars only. The tune is in the key of “D” but it’s a pop ballad, not a blues or a minor key. So, you’ll move the scale three frets back from a “D” note on the 10th fret and you’ll solo at the 7th fret.

JAM: Major Pentatonic: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

Play along with me on this track. You’ll hear how different the major and minor pentatonic scales sound. Some of the riffs you created using the minor pentatonic scale may not sound the same over these chord changes, so re-explore the scale when you play.

JAM: Major Pentatonic: Playalong

I’m going to show you how to play a sliding pentatonic scale that takes you through all the positions of the pentatonic scale going up the neck. Although you’re playing the same notes as the box scale, the sliding scale has a different quality as goes up and down through a few octaves.

Moveable Sliding Pentatonic Scale

You played the chords to this next tune in an earlier lesson. Now you’ll use the “G” major pentatonic sliding scale to solo over the progression. Practice playing the scale up and back before you try the solo. Also, try starting somewhere in the middle to be sure that you know the form of the scale. Once you’re comfortable with the sliding scale, go ahead and take a solo!

JAM: Sliding Pentatonic: Chords and Rhythm Demonstration

After you try the sliding major pentatonic scale over this tune, try using the box scale to solo. If you start three frets back from a “G” note, you’ll end up playing the scale starting on an open note, or at the 12 fret (octave). You can also try the next position of the box scale that would start at the 3rd fret. Try them all.

JAM: Sliding Pentatonic: Playalong

For me, one of the best things about music is the excitement of playing with other people. Find a friend who already plays the guitar, and ask them to jam with you. Take turns playing the chords and then taking a solo over these tunes. Then, play over tunes you already know. Find the key, ask yourself what the style of the tune is, find the note/key on the neck, and take it from there. Download the list that goes with this lesson called “Great Acoustic Tunes for Soloing” and try some of these!

Soloing and Riffs Review
Keys and Transposition
5 Lectures 14:01

If you consider yourself a “real” guitar player, then you are also a “real” musician. This means speaking a musical language. In these lessons we’ll talk about the concept of a key or tonal center, how to change the key to best match the singer’s voice, and how to know what key you’re in when you’re using the capo. Knowing this little bit of basics will open up a whole new musical world for you.

Keys and Transposition Overview

Many people think that if they look at the first and last chord of a tune, they can tell the key of the song. That’s not always the case. I’ll explain the concept of key/tonal center and how to accurately know what key you’re playing in.

Tonal Center and The Key

In every key, there are certain chords that contain only the notes of the key. I’ll teach you what chords are in every key and how to change the song from one key to another. This is called transposing, and with these skills you can raise or lower the key to match your voice. You can also switch from a key that has awkward fingering to a key that has easier chords.

Transposing Chord Progressions

The capo raises the pitch of the guitar and, in turn, changes the key. When the capo is on the guitar and you’re playing a “G” chord, the guitar is no longer sounding a “G” chord. I’ll explain how the capo basically transposes the song. Now you can tell your bandmates exactly what key you’re playing in.

Using a Capo

Now go back and transpose some of your existing tunes. If you’ve been using the capo high up the neck for a song, try playing without the capo, using the new chords. If you’ve been avoiding playing a tune because of that one difficult chord, change the key and find other chords and a key that you prefer. If you've been straining to sing in a key that's just too low, instead of using the capo - transpose. Included in this lesson is a list call “Three and Four Chord Songs.” These are easy tunes that you can practice transposing with.

Keys and Transposition Review
1 Lecture 00:58

There’s a lot of content in these lessons. If there are concepts that are still not clear, go back and review the lessons.

You’ll find something new each time. Feel free to contact me with any questions. I always say, “Once a student, always a student.” Congratulations on finishing your course and going well “Beyond Beginner!”

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