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Beginner's Guitar - Basic Skills for Guitar Players to Learn

Playing GuitarIf you want to play your new guitar like some of the rock legends, you'll have to start at the beginning.

That's okay, though. Stevie Ray Vaughan started with the basics, as did Eric Clapton and just about any other guitar icon that you can name. They might have gone on to create their own, awesome sounds, but they began with the same seemingly boring stuff that you're about to learn.

If you start with simple things, you'll be able to build on them. It's like math, only fun: you add to the basic skills so that you'll know more advanced things. It won't be long before you'll blow your friends right off of the couch and land a multi-million-dollar recording contract (if you practice quite a bit and have some inherent talent, not to mention luck in your corner, of course.)

The good news is that you can learn all of the beginning guitar skills without paying for lessons. You'll probably want to sign up with an instructor when you move on to the next level, but for now you can save your money - it'll be useful when you pick out a teacher.

Learn to Tune a Guitar

One of the first things you should know is how to tune your guitar. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on what works for you. Some people can tune by ear, which is difficult but admirable. Others use pianos or pitch pipes - still tuning by ear, but with a little help to make sure you're starting off correctly. Then there are people who use automatic tuners, which usually cost less than 20 dollars and are very simple to use. No matter what you do, make sure that your instrument is tuned properly before you move on. Nothing that you play will sound good at all if it's out of tune.

It's all right if you don't know how to use the pitch pipe or whatever you decide to use for tuning. Visit a local music store and ask for help, which is usually offered free of charge. This is also a good opportunity to look at printed chords and scales: two things that you're going to practice no matter what style of guitar you choose to play. Even if you don't want to be known as a "three-chord wonder," you still need to know chords. You'll also need the scales because they help you put the chords together - and nothing says "cool" like a lightning-fast scale run in the middle of a song.

Learn to Guitar Chords and Scales

You'll be doing well to pick up a book about basic guitar chords and scales. They're only something like twelve dollars, depending on what you buy and where you get it. It's an inexpensive investment that you'll refer to long after you've mastered intermediate, and even advanced, playing. Almost every music store in the entire known universe carries these books, so finding one that's right for you won't take long or cost you much.

An alternative is to buy a couple of posters. They can be found at places like Wal-Mart, or on the Internet if you want to wait a few days. They display all of the chords (or scales, depending on which poster you buy), but they're enlarged so that you can see them even from the other side of the room. Also: hanging these things on your wall encourages you to practice because you're sitting there looking at them when you're bored and can't think of anything fun to do.

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The down side to buying posters instead of lesson books is that you won't get any information but the chords or scales. Printed guides usually teach you other things, such as proper finger positions and a little information on reading sheet music. You'll pay a little more for the books, but they're often worth the added investment.

However: if you think that you'll learn more easily if you watch someone else play, pick up a tape-recorded lesson. They're available in DVD, video and even CD-ROM formats: you can play at your computer or in front of your television, depending on what's more comfortable. You can even buy a CD-ROM for your laptop computer and take the whole setup with you when you travel, so that you don't miss any practice sessions.

Practive Playing

Once you've obtained these basic necessities, you can start playing. If you bought the lesson book, it probably starts you with very simple chords and scales that are easy to replicate. You're a new player right now, so don't think that you'll be able to pull off chords that involve awkward finger curling or all four fingers on your fret hand. It'll happen soon enough: in the meantime, start with the easier things so that your fingers can adjust to being moved on a fret board.

While you're working on basic chords and scales, you should think about hand-strengthening and dexterity exercises. Music stores sell small hand devices that you squeeze with your fingers to strengthen the muscles. You can also build up the muscles that you need just by playing your guitar for fifteen minutes to half an hour every day. As for dexterity: practice the correct fingering techniques in your beginner's lesson book. Most guides will show photos and give detailed instructions so that you know exactly what the hand working the fret board should look like.

None of these things will impress the opposite sex or wow your friends, but once you master them you can move on to something a little more advanced: playing basic songs. Go back to the music store and find a book of sheet music for new guitarists. These songbooks usually include detailed lessons on reading sheet music, in case you don't know what all those stick-and-ball looking things are all over the page. Before you know what's happening, you'll boogie your way right through to the advanced song section of the music store - and that's when you can start thinking about making a demo CD.

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