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A Checklist of Things Every Guitarist Needs To Learn

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Most people go on several job interviews, get a job and that’s it. But with side musicians, every job is an interview. Generally we are hired one gig at a time. If it doesn’t go well we may not get a call back.

Going it alone as a beginning guitar player can be challenging as you can’t take advantage of the road map through the entire musical process that a teacher can supply. It’s more difficult to master intermediate and advanced guitar methods when you don’t have the fundamentals down to begin with. I’m going to present a checklist of guitar basics every single guitarist really should understand, plus the order you must master them in for the simplest advancement.

To begin with, some recommendations. Don’t attempt to take on all of these items at a time. Music is a cumulative study. Think about the manner by which you’d learn mathematics. You cannot be taught calculus before you have algebra under your belt.

Second, don’t just study these ideas in a vacuum. As much as you can you should study them in the context of a song. You’ll understand the ideas much better and find that they stay in your mind even more if you are using them in a real world context. Also, it is definitely more fun to learn like that!


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Several of these techniques might overlap each other somewhat along the way. And some are typically ongoing concepts which you’ll continually develop at higher stages. But this is a great basic order to master them in.

Reading Standard Music Notation and Tablature

Learning how to read music is not as complicated as it appears but will make the rest of your personal learning experience faster and easier. The notation is simply the directions on how to play a piece of music. Without it, it is just like attempting to set up a piece of furniture without being able to read the instructions. You may gradually figure it out, however it will be tougher and take more time than it must.

Guitar tablature is a simple system to understand, but don’t stop with that. Tabs do not include a rhythm notation aspect. So you have to understand the rhythm to make sense of the notes. Being capable of reading standard notation in addition to the tab will bring you anywhere you would like to go.

Open Position Notes

The open position is the first 3 frets of each string. You’ll learn the names of your open strings, as well as a couple other notes on every string. I would suggest taking this one string at a time and also selecting little pieces for you to play with each group of notes. Keep on expanding one string at a time until finally you have done all six strings. You’ll want to fork out a couple of dollars for a basic guitar guide by Mel Bay or somebody like that. Having their tiny graded pieces can save you a lot of time searching all over for something to tackle.

Essential Music Theory

You may think it’s a little premature for this, but it’s not. Music theory is one area which you’ll utilize and expand upon through the guitar training process. It’s really like learning the grammar of music. By learning how the music is put together, you’ll learn to apply that knowledge to every new tune you will study to help make the learning go quicker.

Here is your short set of basic theory concepts you must get to:

– How chords are built
– Tension and release
– What a “key” is
– Chord relationships (You’ll want to be able to answer a question like “What is the IV chord in the key of F major?)
– Half, Authentic, and Plagal cadences
– Intervals
– Borrowed chords

Once more, do not just try and memorize these concepts. Always search for them all in real pieces of music to see just how they are actually implemented.

Basic Open Position Chords

Open chords are the ones using a mix of fretted notes plus open strings. They’ll primarily take place around the 1st 3 frets of the neck. I advise starting with major, minor, and dominant seventh variations for all the natural notes, A-G. Look for songs that use some chords and study them in that context. Don’t attempt to study any more than 5 to 6 at one time. This allows you to learn new chords as you need them as opposed to making an effort to cram 21 assorted chords into your mind simultaneously.

Strumming Patterns

It’s useless having chords when you don’t have any rhythms to go in combination with all of them, correct? You can begin by using rudimentary quarter note/eighth note rhythms and later develop towards sixteenth notes as well as syncopations. Practice your rhythms first over just one chord, and then begin using pairs of chords to rehearse changing them successfully. You’ll go on to learn and invent rhythm styles all through your studies.

Tuning By Ear

I didn’t place this one early on in your list since you can make use of electronic tuners to keep you tuned in the early stages. But as you get more advanced you’ll realize that many of those tuners can get you in the ball park but, unfortunately, hardly ever properly tuned. Being capable of tuning by ear can help you fine tune your guitar so that it will sound a lot better. You don’t need perfect pitch here. You’ll start out with a good reference note coming from another source and use relative pitch to tune the remainder of the guitar.

Barre Chords

When you’ve gotten all of your open chords down, you’ll start running across chords which cannot be played that way, like a C#7. Barre chords make use of all fretted notes to construct the chords. The great thing is basically that you really only need to understand eight forms here due to the fact they are portable to other regions of the neck. Make certain to learn major, minor, dominant seventh, and minor seventh voicings rooted on your fifth and sixth strings.

The reason barre chords a little bit harder is the physicality of keeping down five or six strings at the same time plus continuing to keep them all nice and clean sounding. If you run into a little bit of trouble with these chords, that’s totally normal. Just keep working at them. As a guitarist, you’ll use barre chords a whole lot.

As well, while you’re studying all of your barre chords, it is simple to learn to read the rest of the notes along the fretboard.

Pentatonic Scales

Typical music educating would have you learn major scales to begin with. But for a guitarist, pentatonic scales are generally far more instantly beneficial. Just like everything, do not attempt to master all of it right away. Start by using a elementary box pattern rooted from the sixth string. Add in subsequent patterns when you are confident with the one you are learning.

Major Scales

Same as the pentatonics, you’ll want to learn just one form at a time here. The awesome thing is that when you know a few major patterns, they can be changed a little bit to get various other interesting scales too. Always look at how a new element you’re learning relates to that old things you practiced.

Position Playing

Position playing refers to having the ability to perform melodies higher on the fretboard than the open position. Once you have got a few major and pentatonic scales beneath your fingers, the idea will not be that hard.

Minor Scales

Your minor scales are based on the major patterns that you mastered in the past. Here you will need to get to know the natural, harmonic, and melodic minors.

Extended Chords

Extended chords go beyond the old major and minor. You will need the different versions of seventh chords, diminished and augmented, ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth voicings. As you go along you’ll learn new chords you discover in pieces you are performing.

Do not forget that music is really a cumulative type of study. The more you learn, the easier it is to learn more. The building blocks you learn about early on will still be important later on whenever you’re playing more challenging pieces.

If you can make your way through all of the techniques listed above you will be ready to get into any style and any song you’d prefer with the best resources to teach yourself.

A Checklist of Things Every Guitarist Needs To Learn

By Phil Johnson

Need help getting started on all this stuff? Visit http://www.GuitarNotesForBeginnersHQ.com for the tricks and brain hacks that professional guitarists use to learn these ideas.


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