We've all been there, and I know you just want to play, so I'm going to keep the fluff to a minimum and get right into what you need to know.
If you need to, you can refer to this post for a quick rundown of parts, positioning and holding the guitar. Otherwise I'm assuming you have a handle on that kind of st uff.
Here's what I'm going to cover in this post:
- Basic Chords
- Basic Scales
- Practice Strategy
- Practice Frequency
- Dealing with Pain
- Where to Go Next
- Other Resources
Aside from that, I'm assuming you've got a tuned guitar in your hand, but you're just kind of at a loss as to what to do next.
Here it is, plain and simple.
Basic Open ChordsFor starters, you want to get the hang of a few basic open chords. Those chords would include the following: G, C, D, E, Em, Am, B, A, F
Now each of these chords have their own challenges, but my goal here is to give you a reference point so you can come back and go, "Okay, I've learned this. What next?"
If you need some background on how to learn them, try this article on the process of learning guitar chords.
Basic ScalesThe initial scales you learn should not be complex, but just enough of a challenge to get your fingers moving and get you used to the basic structure and feel, to prepare you for other scales that you'll be learning in the future. In this case, you'll start off with just two:
This is one of the easiest guitar scales you will ever learn:
When reading these diagrams you read left to right, treating the horizontal lines as strings and the vertical lines as fret dividers. Essentially, it's like looking right down on top of the fretboard. The red dots are the notes that you play (as you probably figured out).
So what should you be focusing on as you play through them? Here are the goals you should have in mind for these scales and the purpose they serve:
- Strengthening your fingers individually.
- Helping to stretch them.
- Helping them to move independently of one another
- Developing dexterity.
- Setting the foundation for other scales and soloing patterns.
All these things will come, and learning these basic scales is your first lap.
If you've just started playing and muddling through these chords and scales, you're probably wondering how much time you'll need to take before moving on. When you're first starting out, giving it as much time as possible is fine, but make sure you go for quality and consistency above quantity.
What I mean by that, is when you do practice, make sure it's solid practice time where you devote yourself to learning these chords and scales, polishing them and improving your technique so that you can move on to other topics.
Practicing daily is definitely encouraged, even if you can only do so for a short period of time. Practicing daily for only 15 or 20 minutes, is far better than playing once a week for two hours.
Here's some more reading on how often you should practice guitar.
Dealing with PainFinger Tips
As you play and progress you're probably going to experience a fair amount of pain in your fingers, particularly the tips of them. Pain and soreness in your forearms are also a possibility, though it's most likely to occur in only your strumming hand.
Dealing with this pain can be tough, but know that in just about every case where the pain is in your fingertips, it's just your body developing callouses and getting used to pressing down the strings.
Part of addressing the issue is just giving it time. You'll need to give your fingers short breaks once in awhile and allow roughly three to five weeks for callouses to develop. After that period your fingers will toughen up and you'll be able to play with a lot more comfort.
Eventually, the pain in your fingers will disappear completely.
The other most typical cause of pain in your fingers is when they begin to stretch and develop greater dexterity. Again, this is completely normal and should be expected in the first few weeks, or even months.
You'll be challenging your fingers to stretch based on what chords you learn, what exercise you do and how often you play. Your fingers will have a max "wingspan" so to speak, but you aren't likely to reach that threshold until you've been playing for several month or even a year.
If your fingers do feel sore from stretching, just take a break from the guitar and come back a couple days later.
Where to Go NextWhat I've given you here is simply a starter kit for getting off the runway with your guitar. It's not meant to be the end all; rather it's just meant to provide you with a direction to go in without having to wade through a ton of information.
Once you're off the runway and in the air, you'll have a lot of decisions to make and directions to go.
I'll leave you with a few follow up articles for both chords, scales and some other technique instruction that you can utilize after you've gotten these concepts under your belt.
- Building a Bigger Chord Vocabulary
- Quickly Targeting Buzzing Notes
- 15 Ways to Clean Up Your Chord Transitions
- Chords Sound Terrible. Why?
- Guitar Scale Theory: Simple Explanation and Illustration
- Dissecting the Pentatonic Major Scale
- 10 Scales that Will Improve Your Guitar Solos
- Understanding the Correlation Between Scales and Solos
- 50 Ways to Become a Better Guitar Player
- 10 Beginner Guitar Songs
- 6 Beginner Guitar Riffs
- 10 Ways to Improve Guitar Speed
- The Mechanics of Modern Lead and Rhythm Guitar
- How to Spend an Hour of Practice Time
- Building Great Technique: How to Practice Control
Other ResourcesYou've got a lot of different material at your disposal from all around the web, so it can definitely get confusing if you don't know where to go with your instrument. Hopefully I've been able to take some of the guess work out of it for you and give you a place to start with the guitar.
To finish up, I'll leave you with some extra links and resources that have helped me over the years, that includes material from my site as well as other sites around the web.
Guitar Chalk Links
Blues Guitar Scales: Master List
How Much Distortion Should You Use?
Guitar Effects Software: Free and Paid Options
DVD Guitar Lesson: Top Picks from Amazon
Ultimate Rock Workout Playlist for Guitar Players
The Outside Links Post
40 Helpful Links for Guitar Players
10 Beginner Guitar Songs
Guitar Buying Guide: Eight Economy Guitars You Should Avoid
How to Spend an Hour of Practice Time
How to Play Guitar by Ear: A Guide to Getting Started
Why Your Songs Sound "Muddy"