Monthly Archives: March 2020

80/20 of learning guitar for beginners

goal plan learning guitar

There are certain skills you need to be proficient at the guitar.

And while we have the rest of our life to learn guitar. Sometimes it's good to put our efforts in the places that counts. 

This guide shows you several important skills that will help you to get started on the path of learning guitar. 

Know what you what to do

If I wrote the term "goal setting", you might start thinking about work.

And while it might seem like a dull term to use.

Knowing where you want to go with your instrument is important. Because it will help you to know what to practise. And goal setting for the guitar is a skill that requires learning. 

goal plan learning guitar

You have to be willing to sit yourself down and practice your instrument. Having that drive and passion to practice, working towards what you want to do. Rather than just practising random things.

Practising the right way towards what you want to do is one of the best skills you can have.

If you put in the time, you get rewarded with results.

Sometimes this is tricky to do as a beginner, or even when you've been playing for awhile, and you feel stuck. That's what we are here to help you with as guitar teachers. Find a guitar teacher that is able to help you set some new goals and help you practise in the right direction. 🙂 

Play Basic Chords

As a guitar player, you need to be able to play the basic chords.

These are the chords in the open position. A lot of popular songs use these open chords.

You will be on a good foundation as a guitar player if you can play these in this position. Once you learn these basic position chords, you can move on to other chords. 

And it doesn't matter if they are "easy" chords. Making them sound good is what's going to make you stand out as a guitar player. 

Learning scales

There are different theories on which scales you should learn, major scales, pentatonic scales. Which ones should you do first... And how many positions to play them in... then it's, how do you actually use them? 

And it really depends on the type of music you want to learn, and what you want to do on the guitar. 

Pentatonic scale position 5

If you are into metal, then you will need to learn all 7 modes and positions at some point. 

But if you want to play some general pop music, then probably focusing more on triads and your right hand technique. With some basic knowledge of the major and minor scale will be great for you to start with. 

Sound great strumming

To be great guitar player you have to be able to strum. Even if you want to play lead. You still need to know how to play rhythm. 

When you learn first learn to strum, part of that is keeping time.

You will develop your rhythm guitar playing skills by focusing on your strumming ability.

strumming guitar learning to play guitar

Focus on the up-and-down motion of your strumming. It can be beneficial to use a metronome, or play with other people. And even a backing track. To help you really listen out for the pulse of a song. 

Learning barre chords

Once you have mastered basic open position chords, you should at some point learn barre chords. When you learn on your own, these chords are a steep learning curve, but they open up the guitar in many ways for you.

beginners learning to play barre chords

This will give you command of the entire guitar neck. Having the ability to play open position chords and barre chords means you can play 90% of popular music. 

It also allows you to be able to jam with other people too. 

We've got a guide on playing barre chords coming soon that might help you with this if you are on your own. If you are having guitar lessons, your guitar teacher should help you to build up strength appropriately. With proper stretching exercises and theory that will help you learn barre chords easier. 

Playing some lead guitar

You should have the ability to play at least some lead guitar.

It's a lot of fun learning how to play lead guitar. It's not as difficult as it sounds. Guitar solos don't have to be complex.

In fact, some of the most memorable guitar solos are very short. 

And even if you are playing acoustic guitar, it's surprising how many little melodic phrases are in popular music. So it's useful to know how to make them sound great. 

Learning some music theory 

Having a working knowledge of music theory will help you learn the guitar.

Otherwise what ends up happening is you are just copying and replicating music without understand. And that can hold you back from things like jamming. Or being creative with the music you want to play.  

You need to understand the language of music. Just like learning English. Without this language, you're not going to understand what you are playing. 

We've made a "Understanding music for beginner guitarists" that are designed specifically for guitar players. Which covers a lot of the very basics to help you learn the "alphabets" of music theory. 

Understanding music for beginner guitarists

Repertoire of songs

Most people pick up the guitar because they want to play the songs of their favourite artists.

And other guitar teachers are going to hate me for saying this. But a lot of this, you can actually learn on your own. There are lots of tutorials and tab online for these songs. 

And having a list of songs under your belt means if your friend asks you to play something. You can.

repertoire of songs learning guitar for beginners

Learning songs you like are not only fun, but they also teach you valuable guitar skills.

You're playing will improve each time you learn a new song that challenges you.

You can also use the opportunity to improve your memorisation techniques.

And your guitar teacher should be there to teach you the skills to be able to tackle your favourite songs. And how to be creative with them. More important, make your songs sound good. Rather than just "copying" - which you can do from copying youtube. 

Be willing to experiment 

One thing that will make you a better guitar player is the ability to experiment.

While experimentation isn't a skill, it can help you get out of the box or rut you might be in.

For example, if you play electric guitar, you can try an acoustic guitar.

girl playing ukulele guitar

If you play guitar, try picking up a bass or ukulele. This can help spark your creativity. You may come up with things you never thought of before.

What to do now?

If you are venturing out on your own. I would really consider making sure you are considering each of these skills going forward.

Covering each of these areas will help you improve on the guitar. And become a more rounded musician. 

You might get stuck along the way, and that's okay. If you want to learn quicker and get less frustrated. Consider getting a guitar teacher. 

If you are feeling stuck, and want to find out how to get a free guitar lesson with us in London




Setting up a practise area to play guitar even if you don’t have much room

learning songwriting guitar lesson

Many people pick up a guitar and just start playing anywhere. And leave their guitar lying around at random places around the house. 

But if you want to have somewhere where you can really focus, then it's useful to have a few things set up. 

You see this guide to help get your practice area organised and ready for learning. 

Have everything you need ready 

Before you set up your practicing area and sure you have everything you need.

Such as your guitar picks, guitar strings, music paper, guitar stand, books, and so on. 

You don't want to be fumbling around trying to find things while you're trying to practice.

Make a list of everything that you need. This will save you time as you are practicing.

If you need something for the next practice session, have that ready to go.

Dedicated Room or Area

If you can, try to have a dedicated room for practice. This could be a spare room or office in your home. It's fine to practice in the bedroom, but you can get distracted. The living room has distractions, too. A dedicated room gives you a place where you can go on your own to practice your guitar. And the benefit of being able to try things out without worrying what other people think about your guitar playing. 

If you live in London, this can be a luxury. So I would recommend having a little area where you've set up your guitar things in a corner. Where you can't see your distractions. Whatever those might be for you. 

Or this could be somewhere in an office where you've got space to do so as well. 

Remove obstacles and clutter

You don't want to be bumping into things or climbing over furniture while practicing. This could be difficult in a small apartment, but you need the room to practice. Remove is things away from your practice area to keep it clutter-free.

And I don't know about you but I can really struggle to focus if I'm always thinking about tidying up things around me. So it's best to keep it clear. 

Dedicated guitar chair

When practicing the guitar, you need a chair that does not have armrests. The reason for this is you want your arms to be free while playing. You can buy dedicated guitar stools or chairs for this purpose.

You can get these at most guitar stores. You can also use a regular office chair that doesn't have armrests.

Make sure the seat is comfortable and that it has a good back. Your feet should rest on the ground. Some players like a footstool, so you might want to pick one of those up and try it out.

guitar-footrest practise room set up

Or some huge books can work as well. 

Desk or table 

You may want to have a desk or a table in your practice area. This makes it easy for you to reach for something that you're using for the practice session. if you don't have a desk or a table, a small bookshelf is suitable for your paperwork.

The key point is to keep things organised before you begin practicing.

And the more you play, the more collection of books, papers you might come to collect as well. 

Music Stand

This is where you'll put your paperwork while you were practicing. you can get different music stands, but you want one that has a solid base and enough space for your books. 

Tiger music stand

Some stands are quite flimsy and small, so you want to avoid these. There should be small pieces of metal on a stand that you can flip up to hold your books in place.

We like this one: 

Here the link on Amazon: Tiger Music Stand

Getting away from distractions 

Set up your practice area away from the television, video games, or anything else that is going to distract you.

It's important to concentrate on your music and not anything else.

Turn off your cell phone if you have one while you practice. Let others know in a household that you plan to practice guitar and don't want to be disturbed.

Folders or a filing system

You may want to invest in a filing cabinet or a good folder system. This is a good way to organise your music.

For example, you can have folders for songs, scales, chords, different techniques, and so on. This gives you a central location where you can find all your music. You might get lots of loose papers in the cause of learning guitar. And it's good to have a system to organise them. 

You could use the filing cabinet to store music books as well based upon what they are about.

Motivational Posters

Guitar practicing takes a lot of work. You should motivate yourself by putting some posters on the wall. These can be pictures of your famous players, famous music quotes, and so on. These will give you added motivation when you play. you could also put pictures of scales, chords, and other things you can refer to them.

If you don't have wall space. You could have images on your phone and follow inspirational guitar players online to help inspire you. 

Set up a schedule

You could put this on your wall if you want.

This is where you can write down what's your plan to do during the practice session. You could make a poster out of this, so it's large and easy to read. This gives you an incentive as you practice.

Check off each thing that you practice. This lets you know that you have accomplished something.

Or you could write it down in a notebook when you are planning on practise. It doesn't have to be a lot of time. But every little bit will help you build up a habit. 

Conclusion

By following these tips, you should have a great practice room. this keeps you organised and gives you the space you need to practice your guitar.

If you would like help on what to practise during your time. Whether you are getting a bit lost on what yo do. Or want to avoid practising the wrong things and wasting time. Find out more how we can help with our Guitar School based in Stratford, East London.


How to look after my guitar

changing guitar strings looking after your guitar

Your guitar requires some basic maintenance and care.

If you neglect your guitar, you may develop problems with it. Which would be a shame after buying something.

Here are several steps to help you take care of your guitar. Following them will help your guitar play well and look good for years to come.

If you have bought a guitar yet and would like to, read our "Ultimate guide to buying a guitar" to help you. 

Changing Guitar Strings

Whether you have an electric or an acoustic guitar, you need to change the strings often.

Strings get corroded and this transfers debris onto your fretboard. Your hands also sweat when you play.  This sweat reduces the strings life. If your hands sweat a lot, you’ll need frequent string changes.

You are always leaving tiny skin particles on your strings every time you play it too. Sounds gross - but that's why it's useful to change your strings. 

changing guitar strings looking after your guitar

How often should I change my guitar strings?

If you have the time and money. Then it would be great to change the strings once per month.

The longer you leave them, the more they lose their tone.

You’ll notice this more on acoustic guitars. Electric guitar strings have a longer life.

That's why it's a good idea to get good quality strings. You can find coated guitar strings last longer. And these need changing less frequently.

To preserve string life, wipe them down with a cloth after you play. Wash your hands before you play to reduce grime build up.

Clean the finish on your guitar

Use guitar polish and a polishing cloth to clean the finish.

Don’t use household cleaners.

You can buy these supplies at a guitar store.

Use a few drops of polish on a cloth. Clean the back, sides, and top of the guitar.

Take the strings off before you do that as it’s easier. Polish your guitar about once per month to remove smudges and debris.

wiping guitar down looking after guitar

Cleaning your fretboard

Your fretboard can build up with grime and debris.

Before you put fresh strings on, you should clean in the fretboard.

Take a credit card or another thin piece of plastic. You can gently scrape the grime off of the fretboard. There may also be debris by the frets themselves too.

You need to scrape this away. You should only do this if you noticed debris. Usually you only have to do this once every couple of months. 

If you're not sure how to clean your fretboard, talk to a guitar technician.

Watch the humidity

If you have an acoustic guitar, watch the humidity.

If you live in really humid climate, a dehumidifier might be useful.  This will help maintain the quality of the wood of the guitar.

Keep the guitar out of extremely cold or hot conditions.

hot cold weather for looking after guitar

Don’t leave your instrument overnight in a car in case of extreme weathers.

Leave your guitar away from radiators and AC units in the house. 

Electric guitars don’t need humidifiers. But may be worth getting one, if the guitar is quite expensive.

Using strap locks

Guitars have strap buttons, but straps can fall off of these easily. If you’re standing up, your guitar may fall and suffer serious damage.

Use strap locks that keep the strap secure on your guitar. These don’t cost you a lot and can be a lifesaver for your instrument.

Strap Lock for guitar straps


Especially if you want to look cool and have your guitar around your back or do cool stage moves.

Use a Guitar Stand

When practicing, ensure that you use a guitar stand.

Don’t lay your guitar on the bed or against a couch as it may fall over.

A good guitar stand will help keep your guitar secure. And are a good investment.

Keep your guitar in a case when you leave the house

When you’re not using your guitar, keep it in the guitar case. If it’s lying around, it’s easier to knock to over and damage it. You can also buy guitar hangers to hang it on the wall, so it’s out of the way.

Get a good quality Guitar Case

strong guitar case

Getting a good quality case to hold your guitar is important too. 

There are a number of things to watch out for with a guitar case. For example, are the straps going to last? 

Is the case padded that it will protect your guitar if it gets knocked? 

Does it have a good quality zip that won't break?

When you put your guitar in. Make sure both your zip closures are near the top of your guitar. This is to reduce any weak points at the base where the guitar might fall out. 

(Trust me - I've seen it happen) 

 Getting your intonation checked

You may want to have your guitar's intonation checked. This ensures that the guitar is in tune up and down the fretboard.

This is best done by a qualified guitar technician. You can do it yourself, but it takes time to learn.

You don't have to do this, but it can make a difference in how the guitar sounds. Beginners may not notice the difference in the tuning, but you will once you've played for a while.

Be careful with your belt buckle

If you wear a large belt buckle, this can damage your guitar. If you're standing up and playing, the guitar body can bang into the belt buckle. It's best to avoid wearing large belt buckles when standing as you play. If you do wear them, you have to be careful to ensure you don't get any scratches on your guitar.

Periodic Check-Ups

Take your instrument to a guitar technician once per year. Do this to ensure that everything on the guitar is working as it should be. Your guitar technician can do simple checks on your instrument to rule out problems. Just like an MOT for a car. 

Conclusion

These are some simple ways to look after your guitar. With a good quality guitar, if you take care of it. A guitar can last more than a lifetime. 

elderly man playing guitar

Getting the most out of your guitar

If you would like to improve your guitar playing and you live in London, England. Head over to our homepage to learn more about our guitar lessons.

We can teach you how to look after your guitar. But more importantly, how to have fun and enjoy the learning experience of playing guitar. 

Change Your Guitar Playing Forever

improving guitar playing

Change Your Guitar Playing Forever

Do you wonder how the most amazing guitar players get that way?
Do you want to know how you can get there too?

What do you always hear about practising guitar?

"Every day you are not practising, you are getting worse"
"How do you get to play at Carnegie Hall? Practise, practise, practise."
"Practise makes perfect."

These are the types of things you hear about practising music and how important it is towards improving on the guitar.

There is more to practising than just "practise, practise, practise". It has to be deliberate practise, with purpose, direction, using the correct techniques. On top of that, enjoyment. 

A lot of people will often practise without purpose, or play the same thing over and over again. 

Or they will force themselves to practise while not enjoying the process. 

What really isn't talked about when it comes to practising guitar

Yes, hard work is important when it comes to achieving what you want. And if you want to get to a high level of anything, it's important. 

However, the emotional connection you have with what you are doing is important too. 

So, try to enjoy your practise on guitar. 

Because it is part of your journey, and as I always say: 

If you can stay optimistic, joyful and enjoy as much of it as possible, then you will keep going. 

And when you don't give up, you will always get there in the end. 

Plus, the more you enjoy something, the more you will want to do it too!

Here are some ideas on how to practise your guitar for beginners

What to enjoy learning the guitar more?

Find out how we can help you with our guitar lessons at our school, with our focus on the enjoyment of learning guitar in a community of supportive musicians. 

How to get started with “Jamming”

Women playing music together at home

Jamming with friends is a fun and social way of improving your guitar skills and becoming more creative.  

What's Jamming?

No, it's not spreading strawberry jam. 

Strawberry jam in a glass jar.

Jamming is playing with another musician. 

This might involve just two guitars or it could be more.

And it sounds really cool when  you play with other musicians with other types of guitars. Like the electric guitar with an acoustic guitar. 

A bass guitar is a good addition to spice up the pitch range as well.

How to have a good jam session  

Some of the key tips to having a good jamming session is knowing how you can fit in with the other players. (Normally someone is play more of a lead part and the other as the rhythm player).

jamming guitar players

The rhythm player may be more focused on rhythm and good dynamics, while the lead guitarist may be playing around on a different area and range of the guitar's fretboard. The difference in their playing styles is what brings about an interesting jam session. 

Including other instruments in your jam 

Jamming can also be in the form of a band where other musical instruments like the piano and the drums are added.

Women playing music together at home

And when this happens, it's important to know how to communicate with other type of musicians. This is where a lot of guitarists fall short. 

Even if they have been playing for years, they might not understand fully what they are playing. 

And it is also useful to be able to have a basic understanding of other musician's instruments too. 

If you would like to improve your musical understanding, and have lots of opportunities to play with other musicians and even other instruments too. Contact us about our guitar lessons for adults to find out more. 



Want a guitar with five necks? Well, it already exists!

Does a guitar get more custom than this?

This was a guitar with five separate necks on one guitar body. 

With 72 strings divided into a twelve-string, a fretless, a standard and a whammy neck.

 You can imagine tuning such an instrument might take a good while!!

Who created such a monstrosity of a guitar? 

Rick Nielsen scribbled the idea down and got Hamer manufacturers to create his Quin Neck Guitar. 

Quint neck guitar by rick nielsen

Created back in 1981, such an instrument was born from the desire of Rick Nielsen wanting to play multiple guitars in a song.

Before the hammer quintuple neck guitar, he would strap five guitars on his neck and play each as he removed them.

Rick was creative enough to even imagine a revolving six neck guitar, but decided to stick to something a bit more simple for now... only five necks. 

If you had to design your own wacky guitar, what would you do?

If you have a five neck guitar.... I wouldn't know how to teach you how to play all five necks effectively! But we are real good at playing with just the one, or maybe at a push... two. 

There are lots of other musicians who also have great stories about their guitars like Brian May's Red Guitar.

If you love your guitar too, and want to learn how to play it better. Come down to our guitar school in London to find the right lessons for you and see how you get on with our guitar teachers. 


How learning guitar for children is different from grown-ups

children learning to play guitar

One of the ways to develop what we know as "talent" is to help nurture it from a young age. 

When children are young, they have less distractions and more time on our hands than adults. This gives them the opportunity to develop their skills into a talent. 

 If we encourage children with interest in music to start pursuing early enough, they can develop into better musicians and music experts of the future.

Getting children to learn music like learning a language

Kids can be taught how to play the guitar the same way they are taught how to talk.

That's because music is like a language.  

learning music speaking language

How does this relate to playing the guitar?

By helping them to play guitar in a way similar to how we learned to speak.

Listening, playing, communicating and understanding.  

With these key components, they can grow to understand the music language. 

How to make this easy for children?

Children have a different level of comprehension compared to adults, and that's why we can't compare the learning speed of a child cannot be compared to that of a grown-up.

Music theory for children

The musical language/grammar for guitar is called music theory. 

The music theory needs to be simplified in language for kids to understand.

For example, you can teach children songs on the guitar and use a story and graphics to enhance their understanding.

We can also try to deal with challenges kids face using creative ways.

Some of these challenges include guitars with metal strings hurting their fingers and having small hands that struggle hold certain chords because of the fret spacing. Having the right guitar teacher for your child, the right guitar will help your child be able to overcome these things. 

For children younger than 10 years old learning guitar

Steel stringed guitar

For kids especially those younger than ten years old, it may be challenging to hold down the steel strings. 

As most people who play guitar know, holding down the strings especially on acoustic guitar can hurt the fingers and give them hard tips.

children learning to play guitar

That's why a lot of kids will start off a classical guitar with Nylon strings to help them press down on the strings easier. 

Fretboard on the kid's guitar

Another challenge children face is the distance between the frets. Guitar chords like C require one to stretch the fingers across three fret divisions. Children have small fingers making these challenging to them.

kids fretboard guitar

A solution to this teaching kids easier alternatives to standard chords at the beginning and thereafter when their fingers have grown appropriate size, teach them again the standard chords which will be easy as the half chords will have been derived from the standard chords.

This should be something that if your child has a guitar teacher, they should know how to help your child already. 

If you want to find a children's guitar lessons in London, England, then get in touch with us to find out if we are the right people to help your child to learn to play the guitar. 


Ideas to help you progress learning guitar

choosing electric guitar to buy

Making progress for your guitar playing can be quite easy, when you feel inspired, you've got music you want to play, and you know the methods and path you need to keep getting better. 

Learning to play a song in a way that helps you progress

One way you can do this is by asking your tutor to teach you to transcribe the song in a way that will help you improve your playing.  

With the song designed specifically for you by your guitar teacher.

You can progress to learning new chords, strumming or picking technique that goes well with the song and starts practicing these new skills.  

You can also use this as a learning opportunity to help you train your ear to identify rhythm and melody in the songs as well. 

The better your ear becomes, by practising different variations of your songs, the more you will be able to be learn songs faster in the future. 

Constantly be challenging yourself

Challenging yourself is another way of progressing in guitar.

Repetition is good when you want something to stick. But giving yourself challenges and getting out of your comfort zone is going to help you get better at the guitar. 

Use your understanding to help you progress

Some ways you can challenge yourself is by using what you have learned in music theory to come up with your own melodies and chord progression.

Play those new chords with basic strumming patterns and use other methods like fingerpicking, bending, tapping and others to make it more interesting and challenging.

You can also challenge yourself by learning to play a harder song instead of sticking to simple songs.

Improving your confidence on guitar

A lot of people think progressing means similar improving technique. But guitar is multi-faceted animal. 

Improving your performance and confidence on guitar is one form of progress. 

How to do this?

One way you can progress confidence is by performing in front of an audience.

This builds up your confidence in contrast to keeping what you have learned to yourself.

Musicians feed off the energy of their fans and that's why they work hard to become better at what they do.

You don't have to start big, you can simply start by performing in front of your tutor, then advancing to friends and family and then later you can try out a bigger audience like a church.

Doing this helps you find which areas you have not perfected and allows you to polish up on those areas.

More opportunities to progress on guitar

If you would like more opportunities to jam and play in front of supportive people, then get in contact with us. We have lots of extra-curricular activities for our students to help them develop into well rounded musicians. 

Find out more by contacting us about our London guitar lessons, where lots of beginners and even more advanced performers come to us for more guidance on how to progress on the guitar. 

Different Types of Bridges for Acoustic and Electric Guitars

Guitar bridges are designed to hold the strings in place as well as keeping them in tune.

There are three main type of design for bridges. Which are different for:

  • Classical guitars
  • Acoustic guitars
  • Electric guitars 

Classical Guitar Bridge

A classical bridge is composed of a standard wooden bridge made of mahogany, a saddle made of composites, and nylon strings that are pushed through six holes in the wooden bridge then wrapped around themselves to hold them in tension. 

Acoustic Guitar Bridge

For the acoustic bridge, it consists of a wooden bridge made of rosewood, a composite saddle, steel strings that go into the body of the guitar and are held in tension by string pegs.

Electric Guitar Bridges

With the electric guitar, there are 2 main types of bridges, Fixed bridge and Tremolo Bridges: 

Fixed Bridge

The first is the standard electric bridge with a single bridge with adjustment screws and six saddles that are adjusted with these screws individually to keep the guitar in perfect intonation. And the strings are fixed. 

The steel strings are driven through the body of the guitar from the back and then pulled across the bridge.

The holes through which the strings are pulled through get thinner towards the top of the guitar body making it able to trap the ball bearings at the end of the guitar strings.

Similar to the acoustic guitars, the strings are set in place. 

Examples of bridges:

The Strato Bridge 

The Strato Bridge can be lifted to loosen the tension of the strings making them lower pitched or lowered to tighten the tension of the strings to make them higher pitched. The strings also pass through the back but with three springs to counter the tension of the strings.

The relationship between the strings and the back springs is such that when the strings are tightened, the spring stretch and when the springs are tightened the bridge is pulled and the strings get stretched. The two work off each other in harmony and balance.

Evertune bridge

The Ever tune bridge is a new bridge in the market. This bridge has six spring at the back instead of the normal three springs for each guitar string. It also has a floating tensioning area where you can set the bridge so that each of the saddle points is floating. What this means is if you play a note and bend it, you can keep the exact tune. This means that you will always have perfect intonation with this guitar. Also if you want to bend, you can set the saddles all the way out.

Tremolo Bridge

A floating tremolo bridge

A floating tremolo bridge found on the Floyd rose guitar. This bridge is similar to the Strato bridge as but with additional locks and gadgets to help keep the guitar in tune. In this setup, the strings' end ball is cut and pulled through the bridge and clamped at their ends with Allan clumps.

A locking system exists on the neck end of the guitar to help keep the strings in tune even when it's bent.

If you bend the guitar too much you could potentially break the strings but as long as the strings don't break the guitar will always get back in tune. Which is pretty cool because you don't have to tune your guitar very often. 

And you can do super cool rock star moves on stage and have your guitar stay in tune. 

Once I dropped my Floyde-Rose bridged guitar on the floor and it still stayed in tune! 

ZR bridge system

The ZR bridge on Ibanez electric guitars works off ball bearings which is also a floating system. The spring guitar relationship is similar to the Strato Bridge and the floating tremolo bridge but instead of springs being tensioned individually using screws it uses Allan key. This guitar has a better floating system than the Floyd rose guitar. 

Hope this article has given you some ideas about the design and types of guitar bridges. 

To get a general idea of what to look for when buying a guitar, read out guide of buying a guitar. 

If you live in London, England and looking for guitar lessons for acoustic or electric guitar


Brian May and his red guitar

Brian May red guitar

For most guitar players, there's just that one guitar that they can't live without. 

Some of the famous musicians of all time have amazing stories to tell about the journey they had with their musical instruments.

Brian May's had a symbiotic relationship with his red special guitar.

The creation of his "Red Special" guitar

He made his red guitar together with his father, Harold when he was just 16.

And he named it the "Red Special". 

The guitar was built was very unique. One thing - most guitar players do not build their own guitar.

Construction of his one off original

The other is the construction of the guitar. 

Brian May red guitar

The neck was built from an old fireplace mantle and the body was built from a table. And the tremolo system rigged out of motorcycle parts. 

This true labor of love that shows the great length a musician will go to for their musical instrument.

Brian May still plays this guitar to this day even though sometimes he does play a replicate as well. 

Thinking of designing your own guitar?

If you got to design your own guitar, what would you have it look like? What interesting materials can you use to make your guitar? 

If you aren't a carpenter, there are plenty of custom shops that will build your dream guitar for you. Though they might not use as innovative materials as a mantlepiece. 

Learning to play a unique guitar

Besides building your own guitar, if you want to get better at playing the guitar or just to hear our guitar teachers tell fun stories at our London guitar school, then get in touch with us to find out how we can entertain you with inspirational stories. 


Basics Music Theory for Guitar

ipad goodnotes guitar tab

Before diving into playing the guitar, it is essential to understand the music theory for guitars.

Understanding music theory for guitar

Music theory is like a language for music.

Similar to a language where letters form words and words form sentences, music theory adopts the same principle.

This article will cover the very basics, but for a more thorough run through of beginners guide to music theory. 

Check out this article: 

Okay, let's get back to a few of the basics that we will cover including: 

The musical alphabet

  • Creating a scale on guitar
  • Circle of Fourths
  • Circle of Fifths
  • Triads in music
  • Chords in scales

The musical "alphabet"

A great place to start is the music alphabet which is composed of twelve letters.

The base letters or natural notes are seven and they include; A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Then we have five other notes that are known as sharps and flats. Sharps represent a higher form of the natural note while flat represents a lower form of the natural note.


A

A#

B

C

C#

D

D#

E

F

F#

G

G#

Bb

Db

Eb

Gb

Ab

These notes are also the basic guitar chords.

The distance between notes

It is also important to define the distance between notes. 

There are two forms of steps, the half step which is the smallest distance between notes.

e.g. from B to C and the whole step which is two half steps apart e.g. from C to D. 

What does this mean on guitar?

Interpreting this to guitar language, every single fret on a guitar is a half-step, so if you play the sixth string of the guitar, at standard tune its E when open.

Pressing on the first fret makes it an F and this is half step movement form E, moving on to the second fret raises the pitch by another half a step making it an F sharp and so on.

Creating a scale on guitar

Having understood the music notes, we can select several notes in an orderly manner and come up with what is known as the major scale, which is a set of notes that are commonly used in music.

The major scale is set up in such a way that if you start with a particular note, you will end up on the same note.

The formula for this is given by WWHWWWH where W represents the whole step and H represents half step.

A clear example will be starting from G going through A B C D E F# about the formula then back to G again.

 The standard major scale only accommodates seven notes at a go.

The circles of fourths

Another thing to take note of is the circles of the fourths.

It's known as the circle of forth because the guitar is tuned in fourths.

The circle of forth is a simple tool that organises all scales in a neat graph that can be easily interpreted.

The circular graph starts with a C note at the 12 O'clock position and moves anticlockwise.

With this movement to figure out the next position on the circle, we move to the fourth note of our C scale which was F.

The next note would be the 4th note in the F scale, which is Bb.  

You keep going with this pattern, and it creates a circle is arranged in such a way as you move down you generate more flat notes, making the next letters be Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb. 

When you come up with the other side of the circle you encounter natural notes B, E, A, D, and G.

Circle of fourths music theory

In scales, flats and sharps do not exist in the same scale. 

So when looking at this circle, remember that: 

The Db is the same as C#, the F# is Gb and the natural B is same as Cb. 

These notes are identical and sound the same when played on a guitar.

That's why writing out the circle of fourths, you end up just with flats instead of a mixture of sharps and flats.  

When you take the circle of fourths and move in anti-clockwise direction it becomes the circle of fifths where you will encounter sharps instead of flats.

Circle of Fifths

With the circle of fifths, the next note is of the C scale will be the fifth note which is G. And if you keep going, we will end up writing up writing some sharp notes instead of all flats. 

Music theory seems confusing?

These show how music theory can be an abstract language to learn but the more you understand it, and is able to apply it, the easier it is to understanding playing guitar and music. 

In our acoustic and electric guitar lessons, we would be able to apply these concepts into music. So you aren't just trying to understand these concepts, but actually know what this means for you. 

Understanding basic triads

The other important subject to learn in music theory basics for guitars is basic triads.

 The word triad is another name for a three-note basic code.

So basically it's just taking the major notes and cramming them together in different combinations to get a different type of chords.

The three basic triads found in the major scale include; the major chord, the minor chord, and the diminished chord.

Creating an emotional effect on your listener

These chords have different emotional effects on a listener, for example, major chords in a song create a happy or triumphant scene, and the minor chords create a sad and somber scene and diminished chords which are used to create tension. 

In our guitar lessons, we can help you understand more about how to use triads all over your guitar, in playing, and songwriting to create more expressive music. 

Chords in your scale

Finally, another important subject to take note of in music theory basics for guitar is the chord scale. Chord scale basically allows you to take a scale in a particular key and figure out what chords you can play on that scale and will sound good together.

The process is simple, we start by building a triad which is a group of notes, we then compare these group of notes to get to their own major scales, and by comparing it to its key, we determine what type of chord it is whether major chord, minor chord or diminished chord.

Building a chord scale helps a guitar player discover which set of chords sound good together and makes it easy for a guitarist to come up with interesting music.

To see a better illustration of this, go to our beginners music theory guide. We even have downloadable content so you can have references sheets that help you learn to use these in your own guitar learning as a beginner: 


Practising the guitar for beginners

electric guitar beginner player

Beginners in guitar playing may be overwhelmed by the many things available to practice.

This is because guitar playing cuts across many music genres. Such as country, jazz, rock, a soul among others.

To avoid this confusion in your guitar practice sessions. It's best to break down these sessions to small manageable tasks that can be accomplished.

How to get started

As a beginner, you don't have to start with composing songs. You can start by copying songs that you enjoy listening to. And then start your practice session by reminding yourself of the basics. This might include the chords and strumming patterns in the song. 

Practicing a song you love makes it easy and quick to learn guitar.  And once you get to play the song in full. It really brings a sense of satisfaction motivation that helps you carry on.

Don't only practise guitar by copying songs 

Besides just learning songs for motivation. It's important to consider the make up of the song too. 

When thinking about guitar chords in the songs. We should always keep in mind that the quality of sounds the guitar produces. This might depend on how hard you are pressing the string down. Or where on the fret you are placing your fingers. And how you are transitioning in and out of your chords.

Practising your strumming dynamics

The pressure required on the strings can vary depending on whether you are playing an acoustic and electric guitar. 

For electric guitars, you don't need to press the strings as hard as on acoustic guitars. 

This is because the strings of the electric guitar are thinner. And often the strings are closer to the fretboard depending on the set up of your guitar.  

On acoustic guitar, it might hurt to hold the chords down in the beginning. This is only while you build up callouses on the tips of your fingers. And this is completely normal.  

Practising finding notes on your guitar

In addition to learning how to hold chords correctly. We need to practice identifying guitar notes on the fretboard. 

Joe Satriani is a famous guitarist. He once wrote in a magazine for practicing musician in the 1980's a simple concept. 

To play like this, you've got to know the notes on your guitar

His exercise was picking a note and trying to find every single one on the fretboard.

This method can also be used for triad chords as well. Trying to find each type of triad chords all over the guitar. 

Developing muscle memory for your guitar playing

Another good practice technique involves the development of muscle memory. 

Guitar playing requires very specific muscle memory. Especially for your right hand. 

To improve you can challenge yourself with different picking techniques.

You can start simply by picking the strings in a systematic pattern from top string to bottom string. Keeping it simple and in a way where you can hear each string individually.

Later you can vary this picking pattern and jump some strings. When you are good enough you can move on to playing the individual strings randomly. 

You can even do this with your eyes shut!

As you do this through each level, you will start improving your speed. And you will get to the point where your right hand will get used to picking different strings without looking down at your strings all the time.  Which makes you look a lot more confident. 

Listening to the pulse of the music

Music is all about the pulse. 

When you practice, you should train your ear to listen to the pulse. And make sure you are keeping to the groove of the song.

One of the ways you can do this is by using a metronome.

This is a device used by musicians and guitarists to mark time at a selected rate by giving a regular tick.

The metronome can be set faster or slower as well depending on the exercise.

For beginners, a slower pulse is used to give time for our brains to figure things out. 

Whether they are practising chord progressions; strumming or plucking style. After some practise, they can slowly increase the speed. Until they are able to play the song at its actual speed.

Using a backing track is a nice way to add more flavour than a plain metronome. 

Here's a backing track in C that can help you keep time. And also make you feel like you are playing music while practising chord changes.

Getting more help on practising and learning guitar as a beginner

If you need help with how to practise effectively. Or you want to progress quicker learning the guitar. Then get in touch with us and schedule in a free introductory guitar lesson for beginners in London


Guitar techniques…where do I start?

elderly man playing guitar

There are numerous ways one can play the guitar. As a beginner guitar player, the most common and easy technique for you would be strumming. 

This is where you hold your chord and strike all the strings, and you can do different ups and downs depending on the song. 

And vary this with how loud or quiet each strum.  

Going beyond that though, there is a whole world of guitar techniques we can work on.

Other guitar techniques include:

  • Fingerpicking 
  • Hammer-on
  • Hybrid Picking
  • Vibrato
  • Pull-offs
  • Legato
  • Bending
  • Thumb muting
  • Tapping
  • Harmonics
  • Scratching
  • Muting
  • Slapping 
  • Slides
  • Palm muting 
  • Percussion

And many more...

Does this list seem overwhelming? 

Where to start?

Maybe if you've been playing for awhile, you've already given most of these a good go. 

But there's a difference between knowing how to do them, and being able to pick them out of your tool box at any time. 

For beginners, this might be the first time you are seeing some of these names.

What we would recommend for beginners guitar players

How are you getting on with your strumming? I would make sure that you are doing okay with your strumming and keeping with the pulse of the music. 

Then I would have a look at the type of music you like and want to play on guitar. Maybe it's more acoustic fingerpicking, or maybe it's more rock and punk. 

The techniques that will be more relevant to you will stand out and I would start by practising those techniques on its own. This way, instead of copying just the song, you will be able to use that skill in other new songs that you like. 

What we would recommend for intermediate guitar players

I would write a list...

Write down all the techniques that you already know. Go through them, and see which ones you are really comfortable with and which guitar techniques you are less sure about. 

And then every time you across something new, add it to the list for you to practise in isolation. 

Soon you will have an array of guitar technique and tools at your disposal. 

You might find there are even sub-categories of certain techniques .

Eg. muting. 

You can use different fingers on your right and left hand to help you mute. 

So it's important to find out what works for you and the type of music you want to play. 

Do I need to learn all of these guitar techniques?

If you only want to play a certain type of music then now. But there are definitely several genres of music that require a high level of competency to be able to play. 

So I would assess what it is that you need and focus on those first. Going through your list and make sure you stay rounded with your practising. 

What if I'm worried about developing bad habits or not playing them right? 

That's a common reason why people will find a guitar teacher to help correct them and give them feedback. If you live in London and would like someone to guide you in the right direction. Learning the right guitar techniques for you to play music you like. Or making sure you aren't developing long term bad habits. 

Or even just making sure you are definitely learning what you need and haven't got any missing holes in your playing. Then get in touch with us below to find out more about our guitar lessons and how we can help you. 



Common Guitar Tunings

keith richards rolling stones

Standard guitar tuning exists, so that we can transition easily between simple of chords. On top of that, be able to play scales with ease and minimising the hand movement. 

A standard guitar has six strings named E, A, D, G, B, E from top to bottom.

The main ways to tune a guitar  

Some people are able to tune their guitar by ear. This does take some ear training and practise to be able to do this.  So don't worry if you are just starting out and can't do this. 

You can use an electric guitar tuner, or download a guitar tuning application for your phone if you are a beginner.

It's useful to use an electric guitar tuner that clips onto your guitar. Because  the tuner uses the vibration of the guitar to detect the tuning. Meaning that you will get a more accurate reading. Even if you are surrounded in a busy environment. 

Getting more creative with your guitar tunings

If you want to get extra creative, it is useful to know options of alternative guitar tuning.

Black Key Tuning

Some of the popular alternative tunings out there include the black key tuning. This was made popular by Curtis Mayfield a famous guitar player in the 1960s.

Mayfield was so good that he inspired famous musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Funkadelics.

The black key is the black keys on a piano translated to a guitar. It starts with F#, A#, C#, F#, A# and finally F#. This tuning fits with R&B songs.

Open G Tuning

The next tuning is open G. And was made popular by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

keith richards rolling stones

The open G is a five-string guitar tuning. However, it will be tricky to tune your low E string to a G. So what makes sense is that we tune the top and bottom E string to a D. Tune the rest like a banjo: D, G, D, G, B, and D. 

Open D Tuning

Another tuning is the open D and its spelled D, A, D, F#, A, and D. And is used a lot by fingerpicking guitar players on the acoustic guitar. 

This tuning has been used by famous artists players like Joni Mitchell and Eric Johnson.

Violin style tuning

The next tuning is the new tuning created by Robert Fripp of King Crimson. The tuning spells C, D, G, A, E, and G.

This tuning has the potential to break your guitar strings. But when done correctly can produce music like another instrument like a violin.

The tuning has a wide range of harmonic possibilities.

Nick Drake Tuning

The Nick Drake tuning is more complementary to acoustic guitar. It is a very good tuning for a chord progression type of strumming.

And the tuning is: C, G, C, F, C and E.

Nick Drake guitar tunings

Try out different tunings and see how you get on. We've got another article about this. Written by a friend of ours with more about opening guitar tunings and DADGAD if you are interested: 

If you would like to get more creative with your guitar playing then get in contact with us about guitar lessons in London

We can help you understand the guitar and the fretboard, so that you can create your own music and songs. 



Understanding Music For Beginner Guitarists

Learning music as a guitar player

Understanding Music For Beginner Guitarists

Understanding music for beginner guitarists

This guide is NOT full of jargon and fancy terms for music.

This is designed for you if you are learning guitar for the first time and would like help on understanding music and the terms associated.

And you would like help and clarity on what it all means.

Getting notes and chords confused? We’ve got you covered.

I hope as you go through this that you will pick up your guitar to go through the exercises to help you pick it all up even faster.

Note: With this guide, you are also going to get our amazing quick reference music theory terms guide. Read to the end of references of these.

Learning music as a guitar player
Learning about notes on guitar fretboard and strings
Learning about melody with guitar
Ch. 4. Learning about scales
Ch.5. Learning chords on guitar
Ch. 6. Major and minor chords. png
Musical keys on guitar music theory
Rhythm on guitar
Bonus Tips Guitar music theory

Chapter 1 

Why Understand Music?

1. Why understanding Music is important for guitarists
What is music? 

Music is anything that’s combined together to create it’s own artform, and a great way for you express yourself.

This guide is going to help to understand some of the ingredients that’s used to create music.

Is this related to Music Thoery

You may have heard of the term “Music Theory”, that’s just terms that people have invented to explain music and the general principles and guides in music.

1. Pizza making with music
Why is it useful to understand music?

It’s kind of like when you go to make a pizza. If you don’t know what the ingredients are to make a pizza, and you don’t have the recipe. It becomes hard to do it from scratch. You would be stabbing in the dark.

Now if someone gave you the base, and a few options for the toppings and how to cook it. Then you can start creating your own pizza.

If you understand the actual ingredients, then you can create more than just pizza, but calzones, and even doughnuts with the same ingredients!

1. how will this help me music
How is it going to help me? 

With music, once you understand the foundations and what you can do with it. You can do way more things with music than before.

1) Be able to be original, and not a copy cat when it comes to playing music. 

2) Create your own original music 

3) Be able to use your instruments fully rather than just "paint by numbers"

4. Be able to express yourself 

5) Feel like a musician and be able to be creative

6) Being able to play and communicate with other musicians

Can’t I just download chords and tab and play them without understand what’s going on? 

And of course you can do that. This is what happens for 90% of musicians.

You can play a lot of very popular songs and sound great without understanding what’s really going on.

But as you improve on guitar or any other instrument, you may find yourself trapped.

When you lack knowledge in some key areas, it makes it difficult to put your own stamp on the music you play.

With many students when we first meet them, are both frustrated and bored of copying and repeating the same things. Without being able to expand on anything.

If you ever want to play with other people too. It’s a great idea to have understanding of music, because it becomes a musical language you can use to communicate with other musicians.

Often students come to us with confusion about certain terms or are missing understanding on things that make it much more difficult to understand more complex music theory too. So we are going to go through some main foundations of  music that will help you.

The components of music are all linked together.
Components of music terms and music theory for guitar

They all work together interlinked with each other, so let’s start with the most simple component – Notes.

Chapter 2 

Notes

2. Notes on Guitar

You may hear a lot of people confuse learning “notes” with learning ”chords” on the guitar.

A note is a singular pitch.

If you sing out loud one pitch and don’t change it. That’s a “note” that you are singing.

On the guitar, if you pick one string only for on one fret, you will be playing one note.

So how many notes are there?

There are almost infinite notes because notes are refined by the pitch of a sound. In musical terms, we like to name them using letters. A to G to help us identify them.

Notes On A Fretboard Of The Guitar

Between A-G, there are notes in between the letters as well.

Here are all the notes in order and what you can call them. Don’t worry about the notes in between yet.

1. Fretboard on Guitar notes

Sorry if it's a little small on mobile, but the note order is: 

  F | F#/G♭| G | G#/A♭| A | A#/B♭

 | B | C | C#/D♭| D | D#/E♭| E | F

The reason why I’ve started on F is because for your first and sixth string on the guitar. When you press your finger down on the first fret, that’s F.

Try counting up the frets to find the notes:

F, G, A, B, C, D, E 

on the first and sixth string on the guitar*.

*The first and sixth string is the top and bottom string on your guitar.

Notes With No Strings Pressed Down on Guitar

If you play the string “open”, with no fingers on any frets. Then you get a “E” note.

This is what you use to tune your guitar with a tuner.

2. guitar fretboard strings

Can you work out what the other notes are on the other frets of strings 2, 3, 4, 5 given the names of each strings? *

Download our full guide for a copy of an empty  fretboard diagram and one with the answer.

Tip: Use the same order of letters and gaps in between from previous page and repeat for the other string but start on the name of the string.

Reading Notes in Music

When you read guitar music, you will either be reading tablature or score.

This is how each note is shown in both occasion:

2. Notes on guitar and strings

For score, the notes are shown on each line, which tells you what notes are but not where to play them.

With tab, the fret number and lines help tell you which specific note to play.

Finding Notes in Music on Your Fretboard

If you see a A note on score or in passing. It can be played in multiple different places on the guitar's fretboard.

Try finding all the As on the guitar and playing them!

fretboard note A on guitar

This is why guitarists use tab for music most of the time because it’s easy for them to understand where exactly they have to play each note on the guitar.

 fretboard note A on guitar

Octaves and Notes

When you tried playing all the different A notes, can you tell some are higher than others?

When you get a higher or lower A to each other. That’s called an Octave.

2b. guitar notes A on score

On guitar, even the same pitch A note gives a slightly different sounding A note tonally.

Try playing your different A notes again on the guitar, and this time try to listen to the difference between each A note and see which are an octave away from each other.

Will you tell me what ♭♮♯ mean?

♭♮♯are called "accidentals" on score music.

♯ is pronounced “Sharp” and it means one note higher than before.

♭is pronounced “flat” and it means one note lower than before.

♮means “Neutral” and the note goes back to what it was before.

G♯ = A ♭ which is the fret in between G and A.

You will notice that some notes don’t have a fret in between them:

Between     B and C       and also      E and F.

If you ever see B♯, it just means C.

And if you see F♭, it means……?

1. Fretboard on Guitar notes

What about semi-tones, tones, intervals,
note functions?

These are all different ways of measuring the distance between two notes. And Note function is more special because it’s used to measure specific relation.

2c. Fretboard frets and notes and tones

What do we do with these Notes now?

Notes is used for nearly everything in music. They are like the letters used in languages. Used in phrases, sentences, paragraphs.

But a lot easier because there’s only 13 notes instead of 26 letters! It’s just a new language that we are learning.

Using these 13 notes, we can create music with it.

Knowing your notes on the fretboard is going to make the whole process of learning to play guitar a lot easier.

Chapter 3 

Melody

understanding music theory melody on guitar for beginners

Melody ties nicely into notes because:

A melody is a sequence of notes that is pleasing to the ear.

If you sing out loud going from one note to another, creates a melody.

On the guitar, if you play a sequence of notes that sound pleasing to the ear, you’ve just played a melody.

What makes a great melody?

This is really down to the listener, as your ear develops, you may appreciate different melodies than you do now. While there are principles that can work as guides, there are always exceptions for melodies.

3a. image on music notes

Can I play any notes to create a melody?

Technically, yes you can. But it may not sound very appealing.

There are specific notes you can use to help.

Certain notes following each other make melodies sound more attractive and create a sense of entity.

Rhythm is also very important when it comes to creating melodies.

When you first start playing guitar, the main focus is chords and melodies are often either provided separately by a singer or a lead guitar player.

Playing through fingerpicking songs and some other genres, you will find a melody being played at the same time as the rhythm part, which is pretty cool!

As we go through this article, I’m going to try and explain the fundamentals in as linear order as possible.

Because we are working through paper rather than with your instrument in person. But there will be little references jumping back and forth a little.

Chapter 4 

Scales

understanding scales on guitar
What’s a scale?

A scale is a collection of notes

Why are these useful? 

People always want to learn more scales but what do they mean for music?

Besides scales being a good dexterity exercise when you play through. Scales are used as the basis of understanding music.

Understanding how you scales are created, you can then use it to understand the fretboard, how to build chords, where the notes in melodies come from.  So even if you aren’t interested in playing “lead”, it’s still important to understand.

 

How do scales work on guitar?

We are going to focus on the most common scales here.

A standard scale has 7 notes, and includes one of each letter.

Remember the A, B, C, D, E, F, G?

That’s where we will start from. 

What's in a scale?

C Major Scale

You have the naming note of a scale, which is also called the tonic note. (Some people call this the "root" note)

In this case, the tonic note is C.

The main two types of scales are major and minor.

And the most popular scales have 7 notes in. – Great news is that there are 7 letters available for you to use!

Tonic Note

Major or Minor

Common Scale

7 Notes

Major Scale on Guitar

Building a major scale. All Major scales follow this specific pattern.

On mobile, you might find it easier to see these diagrams on landscape view

Tonic fretboard note intervals music theory

Next thing we do is number the position of each note in relation to the scale.

We like doing this with C Major Scale first, because all the numbers land on the letters without any accidentals.

So the notes in a C Major scale is:

C D E F G A B C

No matter where you play the scale on the guitar, no matter what note you start on, every major scale follows the same pattern of tones and semi tones.

Try doing it yourself, start on any note on the guitar, and see if you can follow the same pattern to play a scale along a single string.

If it’s confusing, go back to C major scale and follow the fretboard diagram to find the right notes.

Fretboard diagram notes on fretboard

Major scales are also known as “happy” scale, because it sounds cheery as you play through it.

Minor Scale on Guitar

A minor scale is built differently because the distances between each note is different.

Numbering the positions, the 3rd, 6th and 7th note is “flattened”.

The notes in a C Minor scale is then:

C D E♭ F G A♭ B♭ C

Now try playing through the minor scale starting at any note, following this pattern.

You might notice that when you play through a minor scale, it sounds sad.

minor scale fretboard note interval music theory

The other common minor scale you will see is A major scale:

A B C D E F G

This is because the A minor scale is in an easy positions to play, and uses all the letters without any accidentals too.

Notes on fretboard guitar music theory beginner

Playing through all the scales, you can see why it’s important to know your notes on the neck.

Chapter 5 

Chords

5. chord & chord progression on guitar

Nearly all songs have melodies and chords.

What is a chord?

A chord is two or more notes played at the same time.

There are lots of names of different chords, and a lot of different versions of the same chord because you can have same notes on different places on instruments.

What is a chord progression?

Chord Progressions is a series of chords played one after another. They often repeat throughout a song. 

Can I put any notes together to make a chord?

Kind of – but like melodies, it might not sound very good. So let’s start with the basic foundation of chords first and go from there. J

The most popular chord you will come across is chord with 3 notes consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 5th Note.

Using your knowledge of a major scale, we can build some chords!

5

5th Note of Chord

3

3rd Note of Chord

1

Naming Note of Chord

Remember how we named each position of the scale with a number? This comes in really handy now.

Major chord scale fretboard notes construction

To build your first chord, C major. We are going to use the 1st, 3rd and 5th note starting from C: C, E, G.

The most important note is the root note – which is C for this chord. And like scales, the main type of chords are major and minor.

But when I play a C chord, I play through 6 strings? Why is there only 3 notes in a chord?

That’s true, but have you ever worked out what you are playing on the 6 strings?

Go through each string and figure out what the notes you are playing are.

tableture guitar C chord
Playing a c chord on guitar fretboard

What’s the next chord in this scale? If we start from D, and take the 1st note as D, and the 3rd and 5th note in relation to D (which is the 2nd, 4th and 6th note on the scale), we get D, F, A.

D chord based on the C scale as minor chord

Notice how the 3rd note is in a different relationship to the root note: D.

This 3rd note is “flattened”. And it is 3 frets away from the root note.

This creates a “minor” chord. And starting from D,  we have D minor chord.

Comparing Major and Minor Chords

We call the two different relationship between the root note and the 3rd as either “Major 3rd” or a “Minor 3rd”. And this is the main thing that distinguishes between a major chord and minor chord.

Eg. C major chord = C E G

Whereas C Minor chord would have a flattened 3rd, so it becomes:

C, E♭, G.

All 7 chords built on the C Major Scale

all 7 chords based on the C major scale

This is the start of writing chord progressions.

When you know what type of chords are used, major or minor. You can write songs based on those chords.

Using any major scale, the chords always come out in this order:

Chord Number

Type of Chord

In Numerals

1

Major

I

2

Minor

ii

3

Minor

iii

4

Major

iV

5

Major

V

6

Minor

vi

7

Diminished

VII

All chords built on the same scale are called diatonic chords.

In music, we like to write to write the chord numbers in Roman Numerals.

Major - Capital Letters

Minor – lowercase letters

The Most Common Chord Progression

Now that you can see where chords come from, just like melodies, you can randomly pick chords to play one after another, they may not sound great at random.

Let’s look at what some of the most common chord progressions are.

I V vi IV

  Sounds like this:

Used by thousands of songwriters, it creates a hopeful, cheery sounding song.

80% of top pop songs only use 4 chords that repeats throughout. Let’s see what popular songs use exactly this chord progression.

Songs that use Chord Progression: I V vi IV

Song

Artist

Flashlight

Jessie J

Girls Like You

Maroon 5

When I come around

Green Day

Don’t stop believe

Journey

Hair

Lady Gaga

Torn

Natalie Imbruglia

Happy Ending

Mika

Hey Soul Sister

Train

It’s all about you

Mcfly

Letter to Elise

The Cure

Walks Like Rihanna

The Wanted

Under the bridge

Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Complicated

Avil Lavigne

For more songs, go to downloadable to get the more songs with this common chord progress. 

This means that you technically only need to learn 4 chords and you can play an endless amount of songs!

It’s the melody, the rhythm, timing, instruments that makes each song unique.

Second Most Common Chord Progression:
Vi IV I V

The other common progression is:

Vi IV I V

Listen here:

Which uses exactly the same chords, but the feeling it creates is slightly more sad.

This is because of the relationship between each chord changes to create a different feeling.

It’s interesting how the relationship of different notes make a chord sound different. And the relationship between chords make music sound different too.

Perfect, so all I have to do is learn 4 chords?

Fortunately there’s a lot more to playing guitar than learning 4 chords! Otherwise it would be quite boring and you would be done in a week.

In lessons with us, you will understand how to best use these chords to create your own music. And understand why the relationships have an impact on the feeling you get from the song.

On top of that, it’s the execution of these chords, and the confidence in playing them. And the creative flare you provide, that makes the song unique to you and your guitar playing. (Even if you did just play those 4 chords. ) That’s the type of things we can really help you with in person.

Of course, there is so much more you can learn for your guitar playing besides playing 4 chords really well. Which makes learning guitar really fun! And a wonderful journey to embark on.

Chapter 6 

Major & Minor

6. major and minor key and scales guitar
What does major and minor mean? 

Major and Minor is a way of describing happier and sad sounding music components.

The reason why something sounds happy and sad is because of relationships of the notes away from each other.

So far, we’ve explored major and minor chords & scales.

Major happy face

Sounds Happy

=

Major

Minor sad face

Sounds Sad

=

Minor

Let’s do a little bit of ear training to see if you can recognise if something is major or minor!

What type of scales are there? 

Can you tell by listening to the following scales if they are major or minor? (Does it sound happy or sad?)

Answers at right at the bottom of this guide. So no cheating.

What type of chords are there? 

Can you tell by listening to the following chords if they are major or minor? (Does it sound happy or sad?)

Again, answers are at the bottom if you need to check.

How did you find it? This exercise can be really hard or really easy for you depending on your level of ear training. And it's definitely something you can improve at. 

This "feeling" you get some major and minor chords and scales carry over into the Key of music. 

Let's have a look at this in the next chapter. 

Chapter 7 

Key

music keys on guitar
What’s a key? 

A collection of chords built from a scale.

When people talk about a “key” of a song. This is the naming note of the scales, and chords used in the song.

For example:

A song in the key of C Major:

Has the notes from C Major Scale in it – and these notes can be used for the melody.

And the chords used in the song come from the chords built from those notes. As discussed earlier in the chord progressions.

 

The Key of C Major

Where C is the tonic note and C Major is tonic chord.

C Major

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

Dm

Em

F

G

Am

Notes in a C Major Scale

You can work out what the notes are from starting at C and following the tone and semi tone relationship.

Chords in C Major

Following the pattern for major scale:

Major – Minor – Minor – Major – Major – Minor - Diminished

The Key of C Minor

Where C is the tonic note and C minor is tonic chord.

C Minor

C

D

E♭

F

G

A♭

B♭

C

E

F

G

A

Notes in a C Minor Scale

You can work out what the notes are from starting at C and following the tone and semi tone relationship.

Chords in C Minor

Following the pattern for minor scale:

Minor – Diminished -  Major – Minor – Minor – Major - Major

You can see here how the notes relate to the chords from the previous chapters. And how the key is made up altogether. 

Applying Different Chord Progression
to Different Keys

Thinking about the I V vi IV progression before. We can move the chord progression in different keys:

Example

I

V

vi

IV

C Major

C

G

Am

F

D Major

D

A

B

G

E Major

E

B

C♯

A

F Major

F

C

D

B♭

G Major

G

D

E

C

A Major

A

E

F♯

D

B Major

B

F♯

G♯

E

If you play a song that has the chord progression: C, G, Am, F,

You know it’s the same relationship as chord progression: D, A, B, G

This is called transposing, when you move all the notes/chords to a different key but keep the same relationships. The feeling you get from the song is the same!

guitar keys learning music theory
Understanding keys and chord progressions:

A lot of guitar players don’t understand about keys and chord progressions because it’s not necessary. On a lot of guitar tab or chord sheets.

The chords are there and it’s not easy to see how they are linked together.

Once you understand, it can open options for you in personalizing songs, writing leads, trying different chords, being creative with your own songs.

If you are with other musicians and they request for you to transpose a song to a different key, you can do that too!

Go to the bonus tips section for a full list of notes and chords in each key.

Chapter 8 

Rhythm

8. rhythm on guitar
What’s Rhythm?

A placement of sounds in time with music.

Rhythmic patterns tends to follow the beats of a song.

Beats is like when you tap your foot along to a song and is liked to the pulse of the song. 

If you had nothing else going on in a song, no melody, no chords. Having interesting rhythm is something you can still express a lot of emotion and have a lot of fun with!

And without rhythm, a note – is a pitch and is not music. Even a chord by itself with no rhythm is just a chord. This is why rhythm is so important.

The two things that create rhythm is the presence of a sound and the absence of one.

These sounds can be created by notes or chords played on your guitar, or even using your guitar as a percussion instrument.

length of note duration music theory rhythm reading

Different duration of notes

And when there are no notes and chords being played. That’s a rest.

musical rests in music theory rhythm reading

Different duration of rests

There’s a complete system for rhythms to make it easy to read for musicians and guitar players. 

This is also why for if your piece of music has lots of different rhythm in, instead of a straight-forward strumming pattern. It’s much easier to read the score music than tab or chord sheet. 

Different Durations of Sounds/Notes & Rests

Through score notation, you can see the duration of each sound/note and also rests last for. These are some of the common notations: 

Note

whole note rhythm
half note rhythm
quarter note rhythm reading music
eighth note rhythm reading music
Sixteeth note rhythm

Rest

whole note rest rhythm reading music
half note rest music rhythm reading
quarter note rest rhythm reading
eighth note rest rhythm music reading
sixteeth note rest music rhythm reading

Note Length

Whole Note

Half Note

Quarter Note

Eighth Note

Sixteenth Note

In 4/4 Time

4 beats

2 beats

1 beat

1/2 beat

1/4 beat

How do all the different notes and rest durations relate to each other?

Scroll across to see table on mobile:

Duration of Note

Symbol

1 x 1

whole note rhythm

2 x 1/2

4 x 1/4

8 x 1/8 

eighth note rhythm

16x 1/6

16th notes rhythm reading

1/8 notes and 1/16 notes are written like this to save space:

eighth note rhythm 2

How do we group these rhythms symbols? 

Bars are what we use to organise beats, notes and rests.

beginner and end of musical bar

90% of popular songs has 4 beats in a bar and each beat is ¼ note: Q

This is called  

The top 4 is the number of beats and the bottom is the duration of each beat.

¼ =  

So 4 x   =  1 bar

Here is 4 bars as an example of how all the durations of beats and rests fits together:

Count of beats in a bar:

4 bars of rhythm reading score music

Each bar adds up to 4 beats.

The third line is the duration length of each symbol. I’ve represented rests in brackets ( ) so you can see clearly. 

mobile 4 bars score rhythm music reading

When you count out loud, you would say:

1, 2, 3, 4,   1, 2, 3, 4,   1, 2, 3, 4,   1, 2, 3, 4

Try counting out 1 louder when you first start 

How does this apply to guitar? 

This might seem scary, and rhythms can get even more complex.

When you first learning the guitar, the most important things you need to focus on is what this means for your strumming patterns.

You may see this type of strumming pattern written out:

strumming pattern rhythm on guitar

The top line shows this to be 4 beats in 1 bar

If we wrote this rhythm out in score, it would be:

strumming rhythm score guitar reading

A muted percussion sound/note is shown with X at the bottom of the symbol.

What does it mean?

The symbols represent whether your hand is strumming up or down, or if it’s a muted strum. If it’s blank, then there is no strumming. 

down strum

= Down Strum

up strum in guitar

= Up Strum

Muted strum on guitar rhythm reading

= Muted Strum

Tip: In most popular guitar music, a chord is held for the whole bar and a 4 chord progression repeats through 4 bars.

A few more rhythm keywords to mention:

A few other things that are related rhythm I will quickly mention includes:

Tempo: 

How fast the music is going

Normally you count this as the number of beats per minute.

The most popular songs are often around 80-110 BPM.

Accents: 

How you make the note sound.

The note could be played louder, or softer, so making it sound shorter and pointy or having a note held for longer.

In a 4 bar beat bar as we’ve been going through, the first and third beat are commonly played louder than the other beats.

This all still seems very confusing...

Rhythms can seem very confusing, and it’s one of the things that a lot of guitar players ask us for help with.

Especially when it’s not applied to music that you are working on.

In lessons, we would be able to show you how this all applies to your favourite music, and you understand it and is able to use it.

We will help you not only know all the facts, but actually be able to apply it to music so you can become a great guitar player.

Any questions, contact us on 02031434809 or email at lessons@guitartuitioneastlondon.co.uk today if you want to ask how we can help you in our lessons.

Oh wait! You’ve still got bonus tips in the chapter below waiting for you!

Chapter 9 

Bonus Tips For You

Bonus music theory understanding for guitar tips

Well done for getting this far!

I tried to make everything as easy to understand as possible. But if there is anything that is confusing or you think could have been explained easier. Drop us an email:

lessons@guitartuitioneastlondon.co.uk so we can help you. J

In this bonus section, you can download the following:

Fretboard Diagram – important for learning your notes

All notes in all keys – useful reference guide for melody writing

All chords in all keys – useful in chord writing and working out keys of songs.

Fuller list of songs built on the idea of the most common chord progression: I V VI vi 

I've also got the answers to Ear Training exercises from earlier.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this article/workbook. It took some time to put together, so if you appreciate it, share it with anyone you know that you think would benefit from it!

Downloadable Content:

This content is too difficult to upload online and will be much easier for you to access to help your musical understanding for your guitar playing as a beginner: 

Click on the link below to download this whole guide which includes your bonus content. 🙂 

If you choose to download the guide, you may get other guitar learning email advice from us in the future. 🙂 To opt out, just unsubscribe from the email you get from us. 

Oh I nearly forgot! 

The answers to your ear training exercise from Chapter 6 - major and minor. 

Scroll down to find them:

downloadable content for beginner musician guitar

What type of scales are there? - Answers 

C Minor

G# Major

F Minor

C Major

C Major

E Minor

G Major

A Minor

(Harmonic)

What type of chords are there? - Answers 

A Minor

D Minor

G# Major

C Major

D Major

A♭ Minor

G# Minor

G Major

author jennifer guitar tuition east london

 Author: 

Jennifer 

at Guitar Tuition East London

Handmade and crafted by me 🙂 

I hope you've enjoyed this guide

“Understanding Music for beginner guitar players.”

Any questions, contact us on 02031434809 or email at lessons@guitartuitioneastlondon.co.uk today if you want to ask how we can help you in guitar lessons at our school. J