I wish that I got this as my first guitar lesson! If you’re serious about how to play electric guitar for beginners step by step , make sure you are successful in your journey by starting here.
Starting Out Right With Your First Guitar Lesson Ever
Having your guitar properly set up will keep it in top shape, and allow you to play easier, faster and longer.
First, we are going to check out “The Action” of the strings. If this isn’t setup correctly, it can hold a beginner back from ever experiencing success on the guitar. The “action” of the guitar refers to the height of the strings off of the neck and body.
If your guitar has “high action”, it will make it very difficult to press your fingers down and get a clean note. While some advanced players enjoy setting-up and fine tuning their instrument, this can be a difficult task and it’s recommended you save this type of work for professional guitar builders and repair people who are titled “Luthiers”.
Here are some reasons you might want to consider consulting with a Luthier:
- If your strings are high off the fretboard (aka “your guitar has high action”)
- If your notes sound buzzy
- If your guitar won’t stay in tune
- If you find notes hard to fret
- You have bought a new guitar (often guitar stores offer a “free setup”)
The first thing you do when you pick up your guitar, is to tune it. Tuning involves the tightening or loosening of a string to achieve the desired pitch or note. No matter how good you are at the guitar, if you’re out of tune, it’s just going to sound bad. This is not “Guitar Hero”, this is a live instrument. Lack of use, extended use, and changes in the environment all have an affect on the tuning. A soft touch with an element of ‘feel’ will become a skill you will master over time.
If you don’t have a tuner, buy a tuner. If you have an iPhone or iPad, head over to the Apple App store, search “Will Ripley” and for $2.99 you can download my tuner! It works with the built-in microphone, is extremely accurate and has over 100 tuning modes so you can use it for a bass, ukulele or even a banjo. Now you’ll always have an easy to use tuner with you wherever you go!
- Start with the fattest string, this is also referred to as your ‘lowest string’ or ‘low E string”.
- Doing your best to mute the other strings while you repeatedly hit the string, keeping your eyes on the tuner.
- Now ask yourself, “Do I need to tighten or loosen the string?”.
- Simultaneously turn the tuning peg to achieve the pitch you’re looking for.
*You will get used to the feel of the strings. Sometimes they need the smallest touch up, and sometimes they need to fall a bit flat in order to stretch to the desired pitch.
Now that you have progressively tuned all the strings, go through them again. Remember when I said your guitar was a “live instrument”? The change in pressure on each string will both relax and have an effect the other strings. Wood is surprisingly flexible.
This may sound daunting and tedious but don’t worry, when practiced, the process will go very fast and make you sound in tune. Trust me, it’s worth every second!
Congratulations on taking the most important, very first steps to playing guitar! Your guitar is set-up, tuned and ready to be played. Now let’s learn how to play this thing!
This is known as the first song a guitar player should play. We’re playing a single note, 1-string version of the classic Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple. It’s a super easy electric guitar song for beginners.
Super Easy Guitar Tablature For Beginners – Your First Riff Ever
We have a guitar that is set up, in tune, we know the names of the strings – It’s time to rock & roll! I’m going to show you a riff and we’re also going to learn how to read tab.
*Tablature (or “tab” for short) – is a form of musical notation for stringed instruments. It’s far from perfect because most tab doesn’t show you which fingers to use or what rhythms to play – but it does tell you what notes to play and in what order!
Things to Know
- Tab shows you exactly what notes/frets to play and in what order to play them – it’s a very powerful tool to have as a guitarist.
- Each line represents each string (6 lines on tab – and there are 6 strings!)
- ( E – A – D – G – B – e) – The capital letters and lowercase letters will help you know which is the “big” string and which is the “little” string.
- “0” represents playing an open string. You can think of the letter “o” for “open”
- Tab tells us the sequence of the song/riff and we read it left to right (just like reading a book!)
- The low E string (biggest string) is the bottom line of a tab diagram. It may seem like you’re reading tab like your guitar is “upside down and backwards”
- The numbers on the lines represent the frets (The frets are the raised metal strips on the fingerboard). The numbers don’t have anything to do with your fingers. The numbers tell you exactly where to put your fingers!
- Tab does not show you which fingers to use – You have to use common sense and your best judgement when placing your fingers on the guitar. Try to find the most “economical” way to place your fingers when reading tab so you utilize ALL your necessary fingers. (Many beginners are inclined to only use 1 finger for riffs)
Tab Combined With Musical Notation:
In professional music publications, and in the back of guitar magazines, you will often see notes or rhythmic notation in conjunction with tab. This takes tab a step closer to being “perfect” because a person that has the ability to read music can be hugely assisted with the rhythmic placement of the notes.
Here’s an example of the C Major scale written out in tab with accompanying musical notation. The time signature, found on the left, is 4/4, so each black note gets one beat. The last note, pictured with the open center, means it gets 2 beats, completing the bar.
Smoke On The Water – A Great “First Riff” For A Beginner Guitar Player
“Smoke on the Water” was written and released by Deep Purple in 1972. The famous riff was played on a Fender Stratocaster by guitar legend, Ritchie Blackmore.
It’s also known as “the first song you learn on guitar”. We’re going to stay true to that tradition and get you having some fun right off the bat!
To start off, we’re going to learn this song as a “bass line” or a “single-note riff” on the guitar. The actual song is played in a different key and utilizes 2 strings at the same time so this is a beginner version.
Tips On Playing This Riff:
- Look up “Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple” and have a listen so you can become familiar with the riff. This will help you play it so it doesn’t sound like random notes.
- Read the notes, one at a time, left to right.
- When placing the tips of your fingers on the frets, play very close to the frets (play right “above” the fret). This will help eliminate unwanted fret buzz.
- Bonus Tip – Once you master the riff on the low E string, try out the same riff on each one of the 6 strings. This will “transpose” the riff into a different key and give you some practice playing on different strings.
Congrats on your very first guitar riff!
Part 1 of 2 – Left and right hand synchronization on the guitar. Proper hand placement for 100% correct guitar technique.
100% Correct Guitar Technique – Eliminate Bad Habits For Good!
100% Correct Guitar Technique – Eliminate Bad Habits For Good!
Before we continue playing awesome riffs, I want to make sure your left and your right hand technique are dialled in.
Technique #1 How To Rest The Guitar In Your Lap For Years Of Comfortable Playing
- Sitting in an upright position, resting the guitar on your leg, hold the guitar close to your body, with the neck of the guitar pointing straight (not dipping or raising by too much)
- Slide the guitar away from you by 1-2 inches
- Tilt the guitar back into your chest so you can clearly see the fretboard while maintaining a comfortable position (try not to hunch or curve your back over the guitar)
- Make sure your right leg is high enough – Use a support to raise your right leg if needed. This could be anything from a block, to your chairs cross brace, to a dedicated guitar foot stool
- Sit back and relax! Remember, you won’t become a better guitar player with your face close to the fret board. Sit back in your chair and use the backrest for extra support.
Technique #2 The Buzz Test – How Get Crystal Clear Notes!
Placing your fingers on different areas of the same fret will have a huge impact on how you sound. Playing notes while snugged right up behind the fret you’re playing will give you the best and clearest sound. Without this simple tweak, a guitarist may sound like a rookie forever!
The buzz test can also show you how little pressure is actually needed when fretting a note! Another step towards making the guitar as stress-free and easy as it can be.
Playing low on the frets sounds buzzy
- Find the 3rd fret on the low E (the 3rd metal bar on the thickest string)
- Now try this – Move your finger as LOW as you can in the “fret zone” and play as far away from the 3rd fret as you can (fret your finger close to the 2nd fret). Strike the string with your right hand. It probably sounds buzzy – if it doesn’t, intentionally apply a low amount of pressure with your left hand to get that nasty buzzy sound. Sounds brutal, right?
- Now move your finger right up to the 3rd fret (as close as you possibly can without being on top of the fret) and play the string again. Is it clear? YES!
- If you complete the buzz test and you’re still getting buzz, try pushing just 5% harder to access that clean, clear note!
The buzz test is designed for you to understand why you might be getting a buzzing sound from the strings while you play and how to eliminate it forever.
If you’re STILL getting buzz, there’s probably something wrong with your guitar. To eliminate the buzz from the guitar, it would need to be looked over by a luthier
(more on Luthiers in Chapter 1).
(Please note, that it’s normal for electric guitars to have a little bit of buzz. As long as it’s not coming through the amp and restricting the guitars ability to sustain notes, then that’s ok!)
Technique #3 The “Warm Up Scale” – The Movement That Pro’s Use Which Beginners Can Do Easily
The “warm up scale” involves simply going up and down the frets and strings, one at a time. This is a great way to warm up and practice; beginners play it, professionals play it.
*Remember to keep your fingers high up on the frets and your thumb planted on the back of the neck. It will look and sound like a straightforward 1-2-3-4.
- Start with your first finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string and play that note (tip: you can actually play this anywhere, but in this example we’re using the 3rd fret).
- Continue by playing the same string now with your second finger on the 4th fret.
- Then third finger on the 5th fret.
- Then fourth finger on the 6th fret.
- Now move up to your “A” string and in the same place repeat that 1,2,3,4.
- Continue on each string, all the way up to your high “e” string.
After you have tried going up, see if you can do the same thing in reverse and go back down. If you get bored, try moving up one fret after each rotation. You win the warm up scale by playing every note from the bottom to the top and back down (this includes the open strings)… but seriously, you win because you are now warmed up!
When playing ANY scale (including our warm up scale) here’s your priority list. Notice that “#3. Speed” get’s the bronze medal – it’s still important and makes the podium but isn’t as important as #1. Clear Notes and #2. Consistency/Rhythm
Technique #4 – How To Have Total Control Over The Guitar & How Pro’s Play With Their Eyes Closed
Your Right Hand
Your right hand is a huge part of your sound and control on the guitar. The first things to consider are your stabilization points. As you can see from this picture, there are no stability points in place, in this position, a guitar player’s hand is essentially “floating”.
Now we’re sitting straight, with an arm comfortably over the guitar, playing some notes, we’re going to install these “must-know” techniques into your playing which will basically ensure your success on the instrument.
“The Thumb Pillow”
The thumb pillow is on the palm of your hand, just down from your thumb. It’s that fleshy part, and one of your most important contact point with the strings. What you’re going to do is rest your thumb pillow on the strings OR the bridge. If you’re playing notes on your A string for example, try resting your thumb pillow on the E string just above it.
The middle of your wrist at the base of your palm often sits on the bridge of the guitar. This provides a great stability point and gets your hand in a good position to play.
Keeping your wrist angle straight, try playing your warm up scale, one note at a time while using the thumb pillow. You’ll notice that you will naturally be moving your hand across the strings/bridge as you go up or down the scale. This will also keep all of the strings that you are not playing, from making sounds.
Learning these techniques from the very beginning is the secret to playing great songs note for note.
Technique #5 – The Pick – What To Use & How To Hold It To Play Faster And Smoother
A pick can be anything that’s used in the playing of a stringed instrument. People in the 1900’s used wood, metal, whatever! Famous guitarists have recorded with coins or even cut up credit cards!
The outer shell of the Atlantic Hawksbill sea turtle was once used to make picks because of its tonal sound, strength and flexibility. These days, they are generally made of plastic.
Picks are usually referred to by thickness in millimeters. A heavier pick generally produces a darker, louder sound. I recommend that people use a .73mm thick pick (or close to).
Learning how to hold your pick properly, and choosing one that feels/sounds right, will enable you to get the best sound out of your guitar.
Holding The Pick:
- Hold the pick out so the tip comes to the end of your first finger
- Let your thumb fall naturally on top of the pick to hold it down.
- Curl your index finger in behind it and leave the tip out just past your thumb.
Technique #6 – The Secret To Playing Fast – The 45* Pick Angle
- This techniques I’m sharing with you should naturally put the pick on a 45 degree angle. This reduces the amount of contact the pick has with the strings. You’re going to be able to play faster and smoother!
If you’ve already been playing guitar for awhile, allow this chapter to be a big “reset button”. If you’re a brand new beginner, don’t overlook these techniques! In my many years of teaching experience – guitarists will ultimately be held back without these techniques in place.
By the way! This isn’t stuff that I’m making up. The material you’ll find here is what famous guitar players do from Slash, to Zakk Wylde to Paul Mccartney.
The warm-up scale (1,2,3,4 scale) is great to apply this techniques to. Because of it’s simplicity, you can focus on all your elements of 100% correct, left and right hand technique.
Let’s keep on rippin’!
Thanks for checking out the video and article of How To Play Guitar For Beginners Step By Step – Module 1: Crash Course 5 min guitar chapters 1-4
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Thanks and keep on rippin it! – Will Ripley & Mike B