Yesterday, we started The A to Z of Learning Guitar.
For Part 1, go here, but if you’ve read that already, keep reading.
Today, we continue on with the letter “L”.
L – LISTENING
I once taught a student who would play a song and when changing to a C chord, his finger would land on the wrong string. This would create a dissonant sound. Instead of being jolted by the sheer horror of this sound, he simply carried on playing. That’s because he was not really listening to what was happening.
We quickly sorted this, but it really highlighted to me the importance of listening deeply when you play – because it doesn’t matter what you play, it only matters how it sounds – especially to anyone listening in on your playing!
M – MELODY
I love playing simple melodies on the guitar. It’s one of the joys of being able to play the instrument.
Melodies are great because you can easily take the tune of a famous song and just play the melody purely on its own. You can have a friend or backing track playing the accompaniment while you do this. It’s great fun.
N – NOTEBOOK
Notebooks are powerful. I urge all students to get one for guitar practice. A simple notebook will help you to track what you have been practising.
After all, once you’ve played for a few months, it’s so easy to forget what you’ve learnt. A simple notebook will help remind you what to practise! It doesn’t have to be complex. Little reminders of what you’ve been practising can really help you stay focused.
O – OPEN STRINGS
Open strings are great. They are easy to play (obviously), and you can often use them to transition to other notes quickly.
You can also strum them when changing chords (which can help stop the dreaded silence), and you can use them as a base to help you learn the notes on the fretboard. The bottom line is that open strings are great and have many uses, so use them!
P – POSTURE
The way you sit with your guitar is key. Some people slouch, some sit in chairs that are unsuitable, and some have the guitar in awkward positions.
Sit in a comfortable chair. One that is ideally padded and has no armrests. Make sure you sit up straight and stand up to stretch often.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the classical position, as it can help take the strain off the wrists, allow for better tone, and for more access to the higher frets. It’s worth trying if you haven’t done so already.
Q – QUIZZES
It’s long been proven that testing and quizzing work, so why don’t more guitar teachers test their students? I have no idea, but test yourself or get others to test you. It works!
By the way, the “Who Wants to Be a Musical Millionaire Quiz” inside my eBook bundle is a great way to get tested on your essential guitar knowledge in a fun way.
R – REALISTIC
Guitar playing is hard at first. You have to be realistic about how long it will take to achieve your goals. Playing like Clapton in a year or two is unlikely!
Just keep having fun from Day 1 and keep building up your skills. Remember, when things do click, you’ll have a lifetime of fun. Just be realistic and patient, especially in the early days, and of course, make every day fun!
S – STRUMMING
Strumming can seem like a “dark art”. For some, it can be like a mystical skill that requires the blessing of the gods to get good at it. The thing is, it will get better and more natural over time, but you must strive to keep improving it.
Common strumming issues can include using a pick that is too thick (I prefer thinner picks when strumming) or gripping the pick too tightly. Whatever it is, isolate the issue and get to work fixing it.
T – THEORY
I like to teach what I call “practical theory”. This is where you learn some theory and put it to use. For instance, once you learn the notes in a scale, don’t move on to the next bit of theory. Learn where all those notes are on the fretboard, play them all over, and let that bit of theory sink in.
Theory is great, so don’t neglect it. Just take your time with it and remember it’s something we can and should keep building upon.
U – UPSTRUMS
Many beginners struggle with upstrums. They tend to twist and turn their wrists and the sound can come out a bit “jagged”.
You can try using a thinner pick, and lightly strumming only the treble strings (G, B, and high E) for your upstrums. Do this over and over until the upstrums feel smooth. Isolating them like this can help.
V – VICTORIES
Most of us are pretty good at beating ourselves up when things don’t quite go right, but we should all celebrate when things do go well.
If you’ve been practising something for ages and it finally clicks, take a few moments to savour this victory. Little moments like this add up nicely over time!
W – WISH YOU WERE HERE
This Pink Floyd classic is one of my all-time favourite songs. It has a great intro, wonderful lead guitar parts and some clever songwriting. In the verse, there is a C D Am G but the next time they switch around the first two chords, so it becomes D C Am G. It’s subtle, but it keeps the song really interesting.
The main point I’m making here is that when you learn a classic song, it’s really cool to study it. This will help you spot patterns in other songs you learn and that can, therefore, save you time. Plus, geeking out like this is fun!
X – XMAS
There are loads of great Christmas songs and carols we can learn, and each year you go back to a song, you can see how far you are progressing with it.
For instance, one Christmas you may play a song and do okay with it, but the next year it may sound a fair bit better and the year after it may sound great. Noticing your progress with Christmas songs shows it’s definitely worth having at least one in your locker!
Y – YOU
Your journey is all about YOU. Of course, there are lots of similarities between beginners. The thing is, though, how we get to where we want to be is rather unique.
We all have different tastes. Some things will excite you, others will not. Everyone should learn the basics the proper way, but when it comes to songs and styles, learn what makes your heart truly sing!
Z – ZZ TOP
Now, I admit finding something to start with Z wasn’t all that easy, but ZZ Top is my choice!
Why? Mainly because this band has something all guitarists should strive for. Groove – and so much of music is about groove (which is essentially great rhythm, timing, and feel). You can improve your groove in a whole host of ways. This could be by tapping your foot as you play, using a metronome, jamming with others, playing to recordings, or… even just bashing out the beats and grooves to ZZ Top records! It all helps.
Okay, so there you go.
That wraps up The A to Z of Learning Guitar (for Beginners).
I hope you enjoyed that.
If you’re a beginner, or you’re struggling and you want more help with all your playing, then…
It’s on offer this week and if you want to improve all your playing and learn 5 really cool songs, you will inside…
That’s because I’ve just added a new mini songbook PDF.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.