When I first picked up a guitar, 50 years worth of guitar gods, from Jimi Hendrix and Jack White, riffed, soloed and whammy barred my brain.
The cavalcade of axemen quickly vanished, and was replaced by a flood doubtful thoughts. I was confused. I felt intimidated.
I was unsure if my “real life” responsibilities and age were too much. It looked so easy to me, like a block of wood with strings. I had admired it for many decades.
Tablature was what I saw and I thought I was trying to read the heiroglyphics. This all changed when I discovered a system I call “The Fool’s Gold” to help guitar beginners like me.
This system simplifies playing guitar to its most basic form, and it will amaze anyone who watches.
I was able to quickly jump into intermediate guitar playing with this stripped-down approach in just a few days. This is the purpose of this post – to help you get to that level quickly and efficiently. You can do it.
Follow these rules and you will be able to jam in no time if you adhere to them.
Although these tricks and trips will not make you the next Eddie van Halen or the second coming, they will transform you into someone who can pick up a guitar and instantly play thousands of popular songs around the world.
There is nothing more thrilling than being the musical ringleader of a party or social gathering. The person who leads people to sing along to a set of songs.
This system will help you get there. Every song will be yours to decide. It may make you feel like a rock star.
Start playing the guitar – Beginner Resources
The biggest problem beginning guitarists face when learning to play the guitar is not understanding that the whole is more than the parts. These elements are essential for learning how to play the guitar efficiently.
These items include:
- There are differences between types of acoustic and electric guitar types.
- How to Change Guitar Strings
- Tuning your guitar is easy with Fender’s iPhone application.
- General guitar care maintenance
- Gear for guitar, including amplifiers, picks, and pedals
- The best beginner guitars to help you learn quickly
These are the essential elements you need to know if you want your playing to be consistent. It can be overwhelming if you take it all together.
Let’s forget about all this information for now. Bookmark these articles and come back to them later.
Let’s instead dive deeper into learning how guitar is played. Let’s concentrate on what you must realize before you pick up the axe. Because these realizations are not surprising, it will be easier to ease into the game.
It’s easier to deal with the predictable parts of a process than it is to experience the unknown.
Radiohead’s first album featured a song called “Anyone Can Play Guitar”. Even these children (pretty much all babies) can fingerpick Classical. https://www.youtube.com/embed/pl6f_XwMhMM?feature=oembed
This sentiment is true, but it must be remembered that not everyone can learn. To be a true player, you must have realistic expectations.
There are three fundamental principles that you need to accept before you can even try to get from A to B (or chord A and chord B, if necessary).
CLUMSINESS IS A PART OF THE DEAL
The first time you pick up a guitar, you’ll feel awkward. You’ll be fumbling around with the fretboard, and strangely picking the strings. It won’t be easy. This is fine, even if it’s not scientific. It is not possible for your brain to immediately make the movements necessary to play guitar.
You know how to type, so KNOW can you learn how to play the guitar!
To fly your fingers, you need to build muscle memory. This takes time. You must start slowly to learn how to play guitar.
EXPECT SOME OTHER FINGERS
It can be very painful to learn how to play the guitar. Because your fingers will be exposed to pressure and movements they aren’t used to, learning to play guitar can be painful. Your fingertips will hurt for the first month.
Do not be afraid to take a rest day if you feel the pain getting too severe. Even though it may sound great, “playing till your fingers bleed” is not recommended. Be patient as your left-hand grows guitar calluses.
As you give your fingers unusual movements, your fingers will feel sore. As you increase your muscle memory, this will also subside. This pain should not be excruciating. Instead, you need to work through it.
DAILY PRACTICE IS A MUST
Rome was not built in a single day. Competent guitar playing doesn’t happen overnight. It is essential to pick up your axe and practice it at least 10 times a day.
This will help you to build your calluses faster and make you more comfortable using the instrument.
Pro Tip: It’s better to practice for 10 to 15 minutes five times per day than you would do for an hour. This is because repetition with breaks is an integral part of how our brains learn.
Now we can actually start strumming and playing this insane instrument.
How to strumming the guitar
It seems almost a given that you should learn to play a guitar. This is because it’s the only way to get music from your guitar.
However, I discovered the hard way when I tried to learn how to play. If you don’t know how to strum, you are essentially just trying to make a sound on your instrument and hoping it pops out. You’ll probably be cringing at the inconsistent noises that jump out more often.
Practicing correct technique matters. Do not train your brain or hands to do the wrong thing.
Picking is key to great strumming.
HOW TO HOLD AND MANAGE THE PICK
You’re not going grab your axe to become Andres Segovia or Charo or any other classic guitar playing virtuoso who used his fingers as picks.
To be your friend, you’ll need this little triangle of plastic. This courtship is more than just picking up a piece of plastic and rubbing it down on the strings. The generally agreed-upon best way to hold a guitar pick (drawings by 8notes )
To hold a pick in the most efficient manner, you should place it in front of your face, point it to the right, and then squeeze it between your index and thumb. If you are right-handed, this technique will work. If you are a lefty, point the pick to your right.
You don’t have to grip the pick in a specific way. As long as it is between your digits, it doesn’t matter. You can experiment with various grips until you find the one that works for you. As your hands move the slipping pick, your brain will automatically correct the course.
Once you have figured out how you hold the pick, it is time to start thinking about the angle the pick will form when it touches the strings.
It is up to you which angle you prefer. There are many angles that you can use to accomplish the same thing. I recommend having your pick slightly off the string on the downstroke and upstroke. This will allow you to rotate your wrist while you strum.
Some prefer to have the pick face down, while others prefer it to face the strings or up. There is no right or wrong angle. Another example that comes down to personal preference.
Try a variety of angles to find the one that feels right for you. Too sharp an angle will not work as it can snag on the strings.
RELAX & STRUME THE STRINGS
It’s important to strum in a relaxed manner. Your motion won’t be as fluid if you are too tight or tense. This applies to your wrist, forearm and even when you hold the pick.
You can stop strumming if you get tense. Take a deep breath and then resume. You can take a break if you become frustrated. You don’t have to do anything. Instead, relax and allow time to work its magic.
Your strumming will be rhythmic and up-and-down, with no syncopation when you first start.
As you improve your proficiency and learn basic songs (including some songs I’ll mention later), you’ll begin to discover creative patterns that will allow you to pick up slightly more complicated tunes.
Another thing to remember when learning how to strum is A metronome can be a powerful tool in helping you to establish the right rhythm for your guitar strumming. This will allow you to map the essential link between muscle memory and rhythm much more effectively. Korg’s Digital Metronome & Tuner Combo
This is because it trains you to hear and feel right. The worst thing you can do is teach yourself poor practice mechanics, especially bad timing. Get a digital one, with a tuner like the one shown above.
It can go with you and not break like old-school metronomes that swing back and forth the clock with no other features except accidentally hypnotizing themselves.
If you are a regular user of the browser-based metronome, you can download it here. You can select the BPM and time signature of your metronome, then you can choose how many bars to run before it stops for you to stop.
Browser-based tuners are not recommended. You will need to tune by your ear, which is almost impossible for a beginner.
What is a Capo and How can it be used?
One of the fancy words you might encounter while learning to play guitar is “capo”. It can be confusing. There’s nothing to be concerned about.
To see many capos, you can click the image above. You just need to pick a color. They are all inexpensive and do the exact same thing.
Capos are used to increase the pitch of the strings. This allows electric and acoustic guitarists to play different keys.
You can usually expect the sound of a capo-fitted instrument to have a more robust, droning tone. But, once you add chords, you’ll find yourself back on familiar ground.
This is one of the many cool tricks in the Fool’s Gold process. However, it’s not something you should worry about until your strumming skills improve.
Beginning Guitar Chords
The Fool’s Gold strategy for guitar playing focuses on the fine art and science of mastering the beginning chords. These three chords are the basis for hundreds of popular songs.
You’ll soon be able to strumming well enough to rotate in a capo and start adding songs. There are no limits to what you can achieve once you master these basic chords.
THE G, C, & & D CHORDS – YOUR FIRST THREE
Are you imagining me blowing hot smoke? This quote is worth a look.
Rick Nielsen, Cheap Trick guitarist, once described his band as “Four great men, three great chords.”
This sums up the power of the G C and D chords. They form the 1, 4 and 5 chords of G Major. There are more pop songs than atoms that use the irresistible 1-4-5 progression. Ok, maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but you get my point.
There are many ways to form different chords, but these are the easiest and most beginner-friendly.
HOW TO READ GUITAR CHORDS CHARTS
You can read the guitar chord charts by counting your fingers. Your index finger is #1, your middle finger #2, your ring finger #3, and your pinky #4. Place your fingers in the same place as the illustration, but closer to the one at the bottom.
You can use your thumb to muffle strings marked with an X, or you can just dodge them while strumming. Strings marked with an O should be strummed openly.
These pictures show the five lowest frets of the neck, which is the closest to the headstock. Because of their pitch, they are called “low”.
As the sequence of the chords suggests, it is best to start with the G, C and D chords. You can expand your sound by adding a cadence once you are comfortable with these chords.
You could, for example, add a second C chord to the end of the G–C–D sequence. This would make it G–C-D–C, giving it a fun twist. If you want these chords to work, you need to be proactive.
You need to ensure that your hands are in the right place to meet the next sequence chord. You won’t get the sound you want if you do it simultaneously.
As you learn, be prepared to slow down. You’ll start to gain speed and you’ll be able to hear what is known as “ghost sounds”. These are notes that sound great but are very fleeting because of the lack of proper strum mechanics. They are not impossible to avoid, but they can be reduced in frequency. They are used to great effect by some artists. Ghost notes have no discernible pitch, but contribute to the rhythmic quality of playing
These ghost notes are when your fingers release the previous chord, allowing the strings to ring naturally before you start the next chord. It’s not normal, but don’t let it discourage you.
You’ll eventually pick up speed, and the ghost notes will become less frequent. They may even produce a cool sound effect.
This simple sequence of chords will allow you to play a lot of songs on the guitar. You can choose from songs by your favorite bands or your own compositions.
If you’re comfortable using the capo, these chords can be altered to sound like other chords. This could allow you to access thousands or even millions of tunes.
THE A, E, &F CHORDS – THE WORLD ARE YOURS
Once you have mastered the G and C chords, it is time to use your axe to conquer the world. You can learn the A, E and F chords to replicate almost any song you can imagine – even weird Frank Zappa songs.
These three minor chords are the reason. These chords are combined with the three major chords and you will soon be able to create a variety of chord progressions. This will show you the power of your brain, and how it interacts with muscle memory.
These will be available for you to pick up later. We’ll keep them on the shelf for now so that they don’t distract from your focus on Fool’s Gold. You’ll be able to get to the chords quickly enough, I promise. Once you are there, you will also know how to handle them.
G-C-D Songs to Practice in G.Major
The magic power of the three main chords was the foundation of four-on-the-floor rock ‘n roll. It’s not an exaggeration at all to say that there are many songs that use the I-IV-V progression.
Mixing them up will allow you to add a lot more songs to your repertoire. These are some real rock nuggets that will get you started in G-Major.
These songs are universally recognized, so listeners will be impressed when you sing them. We tried to include songs not already available online, so you can still find tablature.
- Brown Eyed Girl Van Morrison
- Ring of Fire Johnny Cash
- Blue on Black Kenny Wayne Shepard
- Sweet Home Alabama Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Werewolves in London Warren Zevon
- I Fought for the Law– The Bobby Fuller Four
- Wonderful Tonight Eric Clapton
- Amazing Grace
Some follow the I-IVV-V chord progression while others do it in reverse. Others mix it up. They all include the G, C, and D chords.
You can now play any I-IVV-V song in any key in G-Major. If you can transpose your key, you can also sing along. To sing along, you can simply lock the key into the new key. You’ll find your ears listening and you’ll be able to pull it off like magic, because you already know the melody.
We could list many songs (and more below!) If you don’t have a capo, it is possible to list them. You can search online for more information. There are many lists and discussions that will keep you busy. You can also use YouTube and Spotify to join the conversation.
You can play “G-C–D” songs in any key
You can start to work with a capo once you’re comfortable. You don’t need a capo to use the exact same chords.
- Bad Moon Rising Creedence Clearwater Revival D Major
- La Bamba – Richie Valens – C Major
- Wild Thing The Troggs: A Major
- Johnny B. Goode Chuck Berry – B.flat Major
- Three Little Birds Bob Marley – Major
- Man in Constant Sorrow Dick Burnett – F Minor
- Louie Louie The Kingsmen – B-flat Major
- Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell – E Major
- Cecilia – Simon & Garfunkel – F Major
Let’s continue working on three chords more.
MORE SIMPLE SONGS YOU CAN PLAY TO EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS
After mastering the three chords, add in E, F, and A, you are ready to take your guitar playing skills to the next level. It may surprise you to discover the number of songs out there. You may even find them easier than you thought.
You’ll be compelled to learn a few songs. It takes just a few more chords. This is a list that you can peruse.
- Leaving on Jet Plane John Denver
- Knocking at Heaven’s Door Bob Dylan
- Good Riddance Green Day
- Mother– Pink Floyd
- In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins
- Shine Collective Soul
- Horse Without a Name – America
America’s “Horse With No Name”, will teach you how to invert chords and how to use the D chord. However, it’s easier than all the rest because it only uses two chords. Only two fingers are required to move one string back and forth. It’s easy!
Even if your confidence is high, Eddie Van Halen will not be your idol. Keep it simple and build from there. Remember that some of the best songs in rock were written with simplicity in mind!
Gear that will get you rolling
We discussed earlier the purchase of a decent metronome and digital tuner . While you’re at the store, we also suggested buying a capo. You’ll also need other things.
Although I wouldn’t recommend spending too much on a starter item, there are some items that you should have.
At least two sets of strings are necessary. You can be sure to break at most one string when you tune up. It’s a common mistake that we all make: tuning up an octave higher, then breaking the thinnest string.
Even if you have someone tune your guitar for you, it’s still possible to break a string. You’ll always be prepared, no matter what string pops.
Elixir strings are coated to resist gunk buildup from your hands’ oils.
You will likely lose your picks. They will come out of your pockets, get dropped and get lost at your home or at the house of a friend, etc.
Go ahead and grab a pack of 10. These D’Addario’s have a medium thickness, which will give you an idea of whether or not you prefer thicker picks. These D’Addario picks have a bright and shiny color so that you can easily find them when you drop or lose ’em.
Finally, you will need a guitar if you don’t have one already. Once again, I wouldn’t recommend spending too much until you are fully committed. You don’t want to learn from poor quality because it makes it even more difficult. The Martin Backpacker is my favorite travel and practice instrument. The Martin Backpacker – the ultimate travel and practice instrument
The strap is a must because of the shape of your body. A nice bag for travel with pockets to hold strings, tablature, and picks is also included.
Learn how to play the guitar with proper technique
Let’s not forget to mention that proper technique is key when learning how to play the guitar. I can’t reiterate it enough… It is so much easier to learn the correct technique before you have to relearn it.
KEEP THE TEMPO LOW
When you first start out, it is important to slow down. Your speed will naturally increase once you have a road map between your brain & muscle memory. Don’t rush until it happens.
It is harder to learn a bad technique than it is to learn a good one!
Here is where the metronome really shines. Once you are able to measure how fast you practice, you can increase your speed by increasing the BPM (beats per minutes) setting.
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PLAY STANDING UP – GET A STRAP
Also, you won’t want your technique to be done sitting down. You need to be able to stand up if you want to make it big or play in your local coffee shop.
This requires a different set skillset and confidence level. Simple things like seeing your fret hand become harder.
DON’T STRANGLE FRETBOARD
As I said, don’t accidentally try to strangle the fretboard. Avoid the “left handed Death Grip” (or right-handed Death Grip if you are playing it left handed like David Bowie). You’ll lose accuracy and miss the notes you want.
To avoid gripping, keep your thumb on either the side or top of the fretboard. This will allow you to keep your hands relaxed and help you play your guitar better.
TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
Don’t forget about giving yourself a break. This is particularly important when you’re just starting to play guitar.
Although “playing ’til you bleed” sounds cool, it is actually a terrible thing to do. You should also practice as many repetitions as possible. It’s better to do several short sessions of practice each day than one long one.
Let me show you the ultimate destination before we end this. Watch Andy McKee performing his song Drifting.
If you are willing to work hard, you can be and will be this good. It’s that simple!
You will need chord charts and tabs to practice in the meantime. Ultimate Guitar is a great place to start. You can find a great community of guitarists to learn from and it is the best place to learn tablature.
JustinGuitar was a site created by Justin, who I have personally seen grow from a novice YouTuber to a stalwart in the community. He can teach you more than you could ever want.
ChordBook will help you solve any problems you may have with figuring out a particular chord.
This is how to play the guitar!
That’s it. The Fool’s Gold Method will help you jump right out of the beginner’s circle. These two resources can help you get the rest of your way. If you are ready to buy a better guitar, our guide to the best acoustic instruments for every budget.
You may want to consider private lessons with a teacher if you are looking for a more in-depth approach to learning the guitar. You can then have your technique inspected and adjusted, and then you can go on your way.
We wish you all the best and much success learning how to play the guitar.