Hands-On Guitar: The Beginner's Guide

The ultimate guitar learning system for absolute beginners!
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  • Lectures 72
  • Length 4 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 1/2016 English

Course Description

Welcome to your first guitar lesson! Some of you may be complete beginners never having held a guitar before, and some may have picked it up on your own but don’t feel like you’ve really mastered the basics. Either way, this course is for you. The guitar is an easy instrument to get good at quickly and within a few lessons you’ll be playing songs. Playing the guitar is a skill that you’ll have for the rest of your life. It’s a perfect relaxation tool, great socially, and both fun and easy.

I find that most beginning lessons either focus only on reading notes (which would bore me to death), or only on basic folk strumming and chords (and I like all styles of music). These lessons will give you an introduction to several different styles and all the lessons apply to either acoustic or electric guitar players. We’ll begin with shopping for a guitar and basic technique. By the time you finish the lessons you’ll be playing chords, well known riffs, tablature, fingerstyle,power chords, a twelve-bar blues, and a pentatonic scale. In the end, you’ll have a taste of all the basics and you can continue your lessons concentrating on the style that you like best. So lets get going and get our “Hands-On Guitar!”

What are the requirements?

  • Need an acoustic guitar and desire to learn!

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Play acoustic guitar and acoustic guitar songs!
  • Tune your guitar and hold it properly
  • Read acoustic guitar chord charts and play chords

Who is the target audience?

  • Beginner guitar players!

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Getting to Know Your Guitar

Welcome to your first guitar lesson! Some of you may be complete beginners never having held a guitar before, and some may have picked it up on your own but don’t feel like you’ve really mastered the basics. Either way, this course is for you. The guitar is an easy instrument to get good at quickly and within a few lessons you’ll be playing songs. Playing the guitar is a skill that you’ll have for the rest of your life. It’s a perfect relaxation tool, great socially, and both fun and easy.

I find that most beginning lessons either focus only on reading notes (which would bore me to death), or only on basic folk strumming and chords (and I like all styles of music). These lessons will give you an introduction to several different styles and all the lessons apply to either acoustic or electric guitar players. We’ll begin with shopping for a guitar and basic technique. By the time you finish the lessons you’ll be playing chords, well known riffs, tablature, fingerstyle,power chords, a twelve-bar blues, and a pentatonic scale. In the end, you’ll have a taste of all the basics and you can continue your lessons concentrating on the style that you like best. So lets get going and get our “Hands-On Guitar!”


Beginning lessons are the most important lessons you can take because it’s easy to start off on the right foot but it’s really hard to break those bad habits once you have them. In these lessons I’ll get you started buy introducing the parts of the guitar, how to hold the guitar, proper right and left hand technique, and how to tune up. I’ll even tell you what to look for when buying your first guitar. You’ll have everything you need to get started. Print out all the charts as we go along and you’ll have a workbook to accompany the lessons.


The first thing we need to do to get you ready to play is make sure that you have a good basic instrument to start learning on. I’m going to help you through the process and tell you what to look for when buying your first guitar. We’ll talk about the types of guitars, choosing between acoustic and electric, the different models, and the extras that make one guitar better than another. I’ll also talk about the benefits of buy a new vs. used instrument and renting vs. buying. Stick with me and we’ll find you the perfect guitar!


There are three main types of guitars – steel string acoustic, classical, and electric. No one type is better to start on than the others. I’ll talk you through the pros and cons of each. Choose a guitar based on the style of music you like. Listen to your favorite players and watch videos to see what kind of guitar they’re playing.


Now that you have a guitar, you need to know about all the parts and pieces. In this lesson I’ll teach you the parts of the acoustic guitar. There’s also a file that you can view or print to follow along. Lets take a look!


The parts of the electric guitar are extremely similar to the parts of the acoustic guitar. Don’t forget that you’ll need a small practice amp to go along with your electric guitar. You don’t need all the “bells and whistles” at first. A small 20 watt (or smaller) amp will provide all the volume you need. Try to buy one with a headphone jack so you can jam until all hours of the night and not wake the neighbors!


You would think that holding the guitar wouldn’t need its own lesson. Although the techniques are very quick and simple, it’s also one of the most important lessons to help you to get started on track. It doesn’t matter whether you sit, stand, use a strap or a footstool, there are some clear “dos and don’ts.” One of the first things I tell my students is if it doesn’t feel natural, it probably isn’t right. The guitar should feel like an extension of your body. Keeping that in mind, lets get started with guitar in hand!


Here’s where I say “I’m not just saying this because I’m a guitar teacher…” Lots of people I know are self-taught guitar players, but the most important lessons you can take in your musical path are your first ones. It’s so easy to get started with the right technique but much more difficult to correct bad habits. In this lesson, I’ll teach you how and where to place your fingers on the neck. With proper left hand technique you’re on your way to getting a clear and clean sound.


How do you pick a pick? I’ll teach you about the types of picks and proper technique for holding the pick. A large part of getting that perfect sound is strumming in a relaxed and natural way.


Before we begin to play it’s important to learn the names and numbers of the strings. This lesson will also introduce you to the electronic tuner and the musical alphabet. Learning the order of the notes will help you to accurately tune, but don’t worry, you don’t have to know anything about music to understand it! Check out the file called “musical alphabet” for a reference.


There are a few “musts” that all guitarists know. Try to keep an extra pick in your pocket, never leave your guitar next to the heater, and always be in tune. You can nail the song, but if you’re out of tune it blows the whole piece. Practice makes perfect with tuning up. We’ll tune up together and then you can try it on your own the next time you sit down to play.


Believe it or not electronic tuners weren’t always around. Musicians used to have to tune by using a reference pitch by ear. I’ll show you how to tune with relative tuning so your guitar will at least be in tune with itself. Playing out of tune is like driving with a flat tire…you won’t get far.


Now you’ve purchased a guitar, you know the parts of the guitar, how to hold it and tune it, and the correct left and right hand technique. With all the details out of the way it’s time to start playing.

Section 2: Musical Basics

This next section I call “musical basics” and it really is the foundation for what’s to come. First, I’m going to define some terms for you. Too many first lessons start off talking about a note or a chord, but never tell you what those words actually mean. Without having to read music or even understand music, a few definitions can make things fall into place. Next you’ll learn how to read a chord diagram and how to play your first chord “G”. After this lesson you’ll officially be a guitar player!


The few basic terms in this lesson will help you to understand how music works. Once you start playing songs these terms will have even more meaning for you. If you don’t understand a term or symbol, go to our glossary of terms or my list of terms and you should find your answers there.


In this lesson we’ll finally get you playing some single notes! This will also serve as a solid review of string names and numbers, finger numbers, and proper technique.

Reading a Chord Diagram

In this lesson we’ll strum and play your first chord. The “G” chord is easy to play and is one of the most common chords in guitar music.


Now you know all the basics and you’ve played both notes and chords. As we move forward, don’t forget to print out all the charts and diagrams so you have a complete workbook to look at. We all need a “cheat sheet.”

Section 3: Next Chords
Next Chords Overview

In this lesson we’ll learn the D7 chord. It uses three fingers but you won’t find it difficult. Make sure to refer back to the lessons on left hand technique so the chord sounds clear. Don’t worry if your fingers hurt after playing for a while. The pain will go away in a week or so. That’s your initiation into the world of a musician!


Switching between chords is matter of muscle memory. Just practice going back and forth until your fingers remember where they’re supposed to go. Try not to look at your hands!


The “C” chord is the third chord in this section. Remember to keep your palm down and play on your fingertips. This way open strings can ring out clearly. If you’re getting a muddy sound go back and review the left hand technique.


In this lesson we’ll play our first song with drummer and bass player. Remember the tips for switching between chords. From “G” to “D7” slide the third finger back. From “C” to “D7” don’t move the first finger. Always keep common chord tones down. We want as little movement as possible.


We’re going to play the same tune again but this time strumming up and down. The right hand is like your drummer. We want to create a groove and interesting rhythm with our strumming. This is just the first of several strum patterns that we’ll learn.


Now that you’re really making music I want to offer some tips about how to make the most out of your practicing and progress even faster. Take a look at the chart called 13 practicing tips. Basically, leave the guitar out where it’s accessible. If you play for ten minutes at a time several times a day, that adds up. Make sure you’re practice space is comfortable and quiet. Turn off the cell phone. Finally, remember that playing music is the same principle as playing sports. In order to hit the baseball perfectly you practice over and over until your muscles remember what the correct position feels like. Your fingers rely on muscle memory as well and will get faster the more you practice. My students sometimes say “I don’t think that I’m getting any better.” Sometimes you can’t hear your own gradual improvement. Tape record yourself today. Listen back in one month and you won’t believe the difference.

Section 4: Reading Tab

One of the great things about the guitar is that you can play, sing, compose, record, and not have to read music at all. In fact, many of the greatest guitarists of all time didn’t read music. Still, you’ll need a way to notate where your fingers go on the neck. In this lesson I’ll teach you how to read tablature, which is basically just a picture of the guitar neck. No musical skills are necessary. Most of the songbooks and online websites use this method, so by learning it you’ll be able to teach yourself new tunes. Lets check it out.


Tablature can be used to notate both chords and notes. I’ll teach you a few famous rock riffs using single notes and then a song that has both chords and notes within the tablature.


In this lesson we’ll learn the riff to Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” using single notes. Remember to look at fingering when you read the chart. You’ll see why using tab is a great way to notate music!


You’ll be a hit at the next party after you learn “Happy Birthday.” The arrangement I'm about to teach you uses both single notes and chords.


In this lesson we’ll learn the riff from “Sweet Child of Mine.” It’s actually played further up the neck but this is a fairly accurate “made easy” version. Slash would be proud.


Now that you can read tab, go online and enter the name of your favorite tune and the word “tab.” Check out some websites and hone your skills by playing tunes that you love. There are some additional symbols that you may not know but you can usually still learn the melody and chords without needing to understand the “extras.” Have fun!

Section 5: Minor Chords & Strums

You know how when you go to the movies the music is such an important part of the experience? Well, composers use various types of chords to create different emotions. In the old cartoons when the train was about to hit the character on the tracks you hear a tense diminished chord. When the old lovers are reunited you hear a happy major chord. Up to this point we’ve learned all major chords. If you see a little “m” next to the chord it’s called a minor chord and these are the ones in movies that make you cry. In this lesson we’ll learn “E” minor and “A” minor chords and a few new strumming patterns. Lets go make music.


The first minor chord you’ll learn is “A” minor. It looks a lot like the “C” chord but you add a finger and strum five strings. You’ll immediately hear the sad quality.


The “E minor” chord in this lesson is a favorite for beginners because you strum all the strings and it has a nice full and haunting sound. Remember when switching between “E minor” and “A minor” move your second and third fingers together from the 5th and 4th to the 4th and 3rd strings.


The right hand (that I like to call “the drummer”) is doing more interesting things now. In this lesson we’ll learn a strumming pattern that uses a bass note. It is in ¾ time which means that every measure has three beats, similar to a waltz.


In this lesson we’ll play along with the rhythm section, again using all the chords we know and our new strumming pattern. Here’s a fun fact. My friend Colin is playing sax on the backing track. He was the flute and sax player on Van Morrison’s Moondance album! You’re indirectly jamming with him.


We’ll learn another strum in this lesson in 4/4 time. There are four beats in every measure. These strums can be applied to any song as long as it is in the same time signature (3/4 or 4/4).


This song uses our new strum and all the chords we’ve learned so far. It may take a while until you can play it up to speed, but keep practicing. Remember to try not to look at your hands. Keep your eyes on the music.


Now you know several strums and five chords. You’re well on your way! I like to cook so I make a lot of food analogies. A few lessons ago your music was like vanilla ice cream, really great, but not very interesting. By learning new chords you added hot fudge, and the additional strums were the whipped cream. We’re starting to create texture and interest in our tunes…and the cherry on the top is yet to come.

Section 6: Fingerstyle

Some of the greatest tunes of all time were played without a pick (stairway to heaven, dust in the wind, blowing in the wind, landslide). We call this playing fingerstyle. Instead of just strumming up and down, we pluck the strings at different times with our fingers. This is also the style that classical guitarists use. I’m going to teach you how to play a fingerstyle pattern over chord changes and also how to apply it to a melody. It really adds variety to your playing to be able to use both flat picking and fingerpicking techniques. Fingerpicking is also something that a lot of even advanced players never learned. So you can “wow” your friends.


The technique for playing fingerstyle is just as important as correct technique for the flat pick or left hand. The clarity, tone, and balance of your playing will sound the best when you’re playing properly. This lesson will cover the dos and don’ts and introduce a beginning picking pattern.


In this lesson I’ll show you how to play a picking pattern over chord changes and we’ll play along with the rhythm section. This is a nice way to vary the sound of your playing instead of always strumming. Once you know a few patterns you can interchange them and choose which one best suits the song.


Now I’ll show you how to create a melody by fingerpicking certain notes in a chord. We’ll play another tune with the band and you’ll hear the fullness of the chords and the melodic line at the same time.


Now go back and listen to your favorite tunes and try to figure out whether they’re played with or without a pick. Watch a few videos too and see what technique they’re using. Sometimes players switch back and forth between the two. Your right hand has muscle memory as well, so try not to look at your fingers. They know what to do.

Section 7: Three More Chords

I told you that with three chords you can rule the world. Well, here are three more. In this lesson I’ll teach you “A” – “D” and “E” chords, and a new strumming pattern and picking pattern. The same three chord songs can be played with either your “G” – “C” – “D7” or “A” – “D’ – “E”. The song will sound the same, but higher or lower in pitch. By changing the chords we change the key or tonal center and singers will often do this to adjust to the range of their voice. For you, these lessons just give you more tools for your musical toolbox.


In this lesson I’ll introduce you to the “A”, “D”, and “E” chords. When changing from an “A” to a “D” slide your third finger over from the second string, second fret to the second string, third fret. When moving from “D” to “E” slide the first finger over from the third string, second fret to the third string, first fret. Always keep those common tones down.


The strumming pattern that we learn in this lesson is my favorite. It’s my “old standby.” Players will use this for all styles of music. Practice the pattern with no chord down, just focusing on the rhythm and direction of the strum. You’ll use it all the time.


Now we’ll put the strumming pattern together with our new chords and play another tune. Make sure that the strum is on “auto-pilot” before you introduce the chords.


We’re going to play the same tune we played in the last lesson except using a picking pattern now. You can hear the difference it makes changing the right hand pattern. You decide what sound you like best.


We’ve covered a lot of ground already. You know eight chords and several picks and strums. When you look online or in a songbook they’ll show you the chords but don’t tell you what to do with your right hand. Now you have a few strumming and picking patterns to choose from in your “bag of tricks.”

Section 8: Playing the Blues

If there’s a pattern or chord progression that screams “rock and roll” it’s the R&B pattern that I’m about to teach you. Check out the chart called “Twelve-Bar Blues Songs” and you’ll see that there are again thousands of tunes that use this progression. Once you’ve learned it you’re going to start recognizing it all over the music you listen to. Then we’re going to apply these chords to a standard twelve-bar blues progression.


The rhythm and blues pattern that you’re about to learn uses the “A”, “D” and “E” chords but in a new shape. These chords have less of a pop sound and more of a blues sound. You’ll use the pick in a downward motion and strum this pattern that’s used in blues, country, pop, rock, and jazz. No matter what genre you like there’s something for you!


Now we’re going to apply these chords to what’s called a twelve-bar blues. This means that there are 12 measures (sometimes called a bar) in our form. We’ll keep repeating the same 12 measures over and over. Again, if you look at the list of tunes you’ll see that this form is used in all styles of music.


Blues is a musical genre that originated in the African-American communities of the "Deep South" of the United States around the end of the 19th century. The music came from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants. The blues genre helped to form jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll!

Section 9: Improvisation

Up until now we’ve played exactly what was on the page as accurately as possible. It sounded great, but music is creative, expressive, and individual. In this lesson we’re going to improvise with an “A” minor pentatonic scale, which is the same thing as taking a solo. When you improvise you basically play what you feel based around the chord changes and a particular scale. Improvising is a lot like telling a story, because you put your feeling and emotion into it. So lets gets creative.


If there’s one scale that every guitar player knows and loves; it’s the minor pentatonic scale. It’s used to solo over any tune with a blues feel. The best part is it’s movable up and down the neck. So, depending on your tonal center (key) you just play the same scale but starting at a different fret. Couldn’t be easier!


What turns an ordinary scale into a solo are the techniques that you add. In this lesson I’ll show you some tips and tricks to make your solo stand out. Playing phrases, varying the rhythm, and bending notes will make you solo come alive.


Now we’ll put it all together and solo over a twelve-bar blues along with the band. Try inviting a friend over and take turns playing the chords and soloing. The scale and chord progression is a form that almost every guitar player will know!


There are a lot of jam tracks on the TrueFire site. Check out the ones that say “A” minor pentatonic and play along. You can also contact people through our blog or chat rooms and try a Skype jam session where someone plays chords and the other person takes the solo. The main thing is to have fun and create.

Section 10: Power Chords

The chords that we have been playing use open strings and sound either happy or sad depending on whether they were major or minor in quality. Power chords that we’re going to learn in this lesson are just that, deep and powerful, and are used in heavier rock tunes. They’re not major or minor and have a number 5 next to them. Lets check them out.


In this lesson I’ll teach you four power chords, and show you how to find the root of the chord and create other power chords. Each chord keeps the same shape so all you have to do is move it up or down the neck!


Now we’ll put the chords together and play a tune with the band. Check out the chart that lists well known power chord tunes. There are lots of them!


The name of the power chord follows the note that your first finger is on. You can click on a chart of the sixth string notes and try playing some of your earlier tunes substituting these chords.

Section 11: More Chord Shapes

We’ve already learned eight chords and you’re about to learn two more, “A7” and “E7”. The seventh chords tend to have a slightly bluesier sound. Whenever you see a 7 next to a chord you can always leave it out if you don’t know the chord. Just play what comes before, like “Am” or “E”. We’re also going to learn a new strumming pattern and a fuller way to play both C and G chords. Finally, we’ll put everything you’ve learned together into a few songs.


In this lesson I’ll show you the “A7” and “E7” chords. Remember to keep your hand on the fingerboard, move to the nearest note, and keep common tones down.


This lesson introduces a new strumming pattern that’s another one of my favorites. You can’t focus on two things at once, so make sure that playing the strum is second nature. Your right hand should be on auto-pilot. Practice the pattern without any chords down to focus only on the right hand.


This song uses the new strum and all the chords we’ve learned so far. It’s important that you practice lots of combinations of chord changes. Songs will group chord patterns in countless different arrangements.


The “G” and “C” chords are two of the most common chords on the guitar. I showed you a slightly more basic way to play these chords but you’re ready to learn the regular version that uses more strings. You’ll hear how much fuller these chords sound.


This final song puts it all together using the full “G” and “C”, 7th chords, minor chords, and our first major chords. Finally, you’ll strum with my favorite pattern that we learned a few lessons back.


You have lots of chords in your vocabulary now. What we need to do is get our changes smoother and faster. I offer this practice tip to all my students. When you’re watching TV or on the phone, keep your guitar in hand. Don’t push down or make a sound, but practice moving from chord to chord. This reinforces that muscle memory that I talk about. It’s like finger aerobics.

Section 12: Conclusion

Congratulations on finishing your lessons! Now go back and listen to the recording you made of yourself in an earlier lesson. I’m sure that you hear a big improvement! Check yourself every time you practice and make sure that your technique is correct. Sometimes it even helps to look at yourself in the mirror. What’s going to keep you motivated to play is learning songs that mean something to you. So, go online and print out chords, tab, and lyrics to songs you like. The other option is buying an easy songbook. Don’t be afraid to contact me with questions or comments along the way. Once your teacher…always your teacher. Good luck in your music making and I hope to see you again! www.susanmazermusic.com

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