aka, counting letters on the guitar … picture stolen from http://soozebluesjazz.weebly.com/uploads/6/9/2/4/6924732/1185125_orig.jpg, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins

Why take the trouble to learn how to play a guitar? First it is a bunch easier to take up a flight of steps than a piano.  Something That I have actually done several times.  So I am absolutely certain of this.  Then a piano is like a guitar in that it is a compromise instrument.  A flat and a sharp can be the same note G# ? A flat.  

To the first chair violinist this is not so, G# is a half a tad above half way between G# and A flat while A flat is just a bit more then half tad below.  I play a Guitar so I don’t care about that, because it has frets.  But this was once a question for a high school music class.

It’s your guitar so you can tune it any way that you desire.  For our purposes here I am assuming STANDARD TUNING. E, A, D, G, B, E;  big string on top down to little skinny string at the bottom.   In todays world that means using a cheap, (less than $20.00 electronic guitar tuner.  Back in “The Day” ( don’t step in the dinosaur shit )   I used a tuning fork.  So I have no idea of if I tuned the guitar right or not.  This is why God made good cheap, battery powered,  electronic tuners.  They get it right.

It’s relatively easy to play a properly tuned guitar. At least just a little bit.  While it is necessary to learn individual notes (eventually), the quick start method is to learn two chords, C and G-7.

These two chords are closely related in music theory and are therefore a good jump off point.  G-7 is played with your first finger just behind the first metal strip (fret) on your finger board on the first string.  Then rest your pick on the third string (from the bottom) and strike all three notes (sounds) together.   This works with a pick, a thumb, or using your thumb, first and index finger of your right hand (If right handed).  All work and all are correct.  The pick is great, but truly advanced players often will play finger style (no pick).  I often will fold up a pick in my right hand I can easily change from pick to finger style playing.

So it’s time to bow your head just in case there is a guitar god and……….. let us play!

First we need to setup our timing, which I usually do by counting to three or four, sometimes five. 

Count one, two, three, four, and sound the three strings with the first finger on the first fret, first string,   Strum G-7, and in a regular time rhythm, say G-7,  two, three, four.

Then without losing time, change to first finger finger, first fret, second string and count “C”, 2, 3, 4.

Do this until you can do it easily and without thinking it out. At this point you can play bunches of simple songs with just the two, easy chords…If you do this I have you hooked, you are a potential guitar god, or, goddess.  As such we can embark on the long road to actually being a real player.  The next easy step is another one finger chord.  This too is an easy one and is closely related to the C and F that you already play.

Next move your left hand all the way to just behind the fifth metal piece on your fret board and hold down all three skinny strings down on the fretboard to sound the also very closely related “A minor” chord.  Practice “C”, “A”minor and back to “C”, then “A” minor to G-7.

Now a serious challenge to the beginner.  That darn “F” chord.  We really have to play this one and there is no shortcut for this.  Your first finger goes on the first fret until both strings sound.  This is a double stop that can work as a substitute for an “F” chord but we will only practice this to strengthen our first finger on the two strings.  We will call this F-nutso because it is only an exercise for the moment.  We can then make F-nutso into a proper F-Major by putting the second finger on the second fret of the third string. Again practice until it is easy to do.

This gives us an extremely powerful musical tool.  So now play “C  Ami, F and G-7.  Like this; “C” 2,3,4,  Am, 2,3,4, F,2,3,4, and G-7 2,3,4.   When you can play this reasonably well you will recognize it not as a song but a whole lot of music in general.  If you have any real desire to play this is an easy and comprehensive way to start.  Play it until you are satisfied that you play it well.  This can be the foundation of actually learning to be a player instead of just a dreamer.  

This is worth the trouble! Play very slowly at first, then increase speed until it sounds good to you.