LESSON SERIES - Part Three: Guitar for Beginners...

The basic chords, often called open position chords, or the folk strumming chords, are essentially the must learn starter shapes for developing harmony on the guitar.

Normally, we find students start with chords like the "D major," and "G major." Other popular starter chords are the "C major," and the "E major." The minor shapes are equally important with patterns like the "A minor," and the "D minor," being popular.

These chord patterns can be somewhat frustrating initially. However, as they are becoming clear sounding, and as we graduate on to more of these shapes, our technique will be rapidly improving along the way. And, this is the primary reason for learning these shapes. We need to establish our fretting hand posture onto the neck. The techniques we develop through learning our basic chords spills over to many other rudimentary areas of guitar technique.

Once you’ve mastered a few chords and power-chord riffs you can begin thinking about working on the dynamics of your sound. One way to do this is through vibrato.

Vibrato is a subtle, repeated variation in pitch that’s used to enrich and fatten the sound of individual notes. This is achieved on the guitar by flexing the string back and forth. Because the string is usually only bent by just a fraction of a semitone, performing vibrato is not  the same as a string bend.

Vibrato is more of an inflection than a deliberate change in pitch. Despite the almost subconscious nature of the technique, you can practise and refine your vibrato. Try analysing other players’ styles and look at the hand movements they use to create their own signature sound. BB King’s vibrato on The Thrill Is Gone is a great place to start.

Palm muting is used in all styles of electric guitar music such as rock, funk, punk, indie, metal, jazz and so on. The question for most beginners is, how do you do it?

The idea is simple. You rest the edge of your picking hand on the strings just where they meet the bridge of your guitar. You can either mute the strings entirely (useful for keeping your guitar quiet during long pauses in music) or you can partially mute the strings to create a chunky sound.

One of the best ways to use palm muting is to palm-mute low strings with powerchords. This creates thick sounding /chugging low notes and fuller-sounding power-chords. It’s also an essential rock and metal rhythm guitar technique.

If you dream of becoming the next Slash, assuming you've got the basics down you will next want to focus on your lead work and soloing skills. When you start playing lead guitar there are three skills to focus upon: phrasing, fretting technique and picking technique.

Phrasing is the joining of one melodic concept into another. Generally we learn one lick at a time. But, the next phase of soloing is joining them in connected ways. the best way to learn this is through listening to famous solos, and then learning them yourself. As you learn more solos, you will start to develop your own unique phrasing concepts based on ideas that really connect for you. This can take a very long time to get good at, but luckily the path to developing phrasing is a lot of fun, so it hardly seems like work!

Fretting technique is when you press a string against the neck, just behind a fret, and do so in a crystal clear manner each time. Fretting technique becomes more difficult as you increase the complexity of the musical part. It takes a lot of care and rehearsal to achieve clean fretting technique.

Picking technique is the ability to pick accurately when the fretting hand frets out a tone somewhere on the neck. The issue can be timing. getting the pick attack to occur exactly at the very same time as a tone is fretted can be very difficult to achieve. It will require a lot of practice with studies designed for picking skill development.

A great way to get started with your feel for time is to begin with very easy rhythms, and eventually build your routine to include more and more complex rhythms. Complex might not seem like it is anywhere near to where you could get to in the early days. But, it is vital to continuously add more complicated rhythms into your studies as quickly as possible.

Start simple, by picking one single note. It could be an open string or a fretted note - either is fine. Pick down towards the ground and then pick again - but upwards this time. Simply repeat this process in a constant ‘down, up’ pattern. This method is very useful for developing a feel for the basic rhythmic ideas and this is very achievable for beginners.  Once you had some rudimentary control, turn on a drum machine or metronome.

Graduate as soon as possible to small chords, like the "D major." Try strumming the chord downward in a strong connected way. Be sure to begin from the lowest bass-note string, (that would be the open 4th string in the "D major" chord). Then, strum up-ward with a lighter attack, only clipping a few of the strings on the way up. Work at training yourself on having good rhythmic feel more than perfect technique or timing. Keep the overall technique general, it will improve over time. As soon as possible turn on a drum machine, or a metronome to constantly hear the time passing behind your strumming practice.

Tune in Tomorrow for more tips in Part Four of this, "Guitar for Beginners," series...


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