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Meet Your Guitar
This is part of the "How To Folk" series of Very Basic Guitar articles. In an effort to "jump start" your enjoyment of Folk music and your ability to join in, no matter what instrument you play, we are providing some very basic notes about guitar chords and how to recognize them, even if you don't play guitar.
Note: - This part of the Folkarama page, which is dedicated to helping beginners "get into" Folk music and join Folk communities as easily as possible, with simple articles and links to resources that provide hands-on instruction in traditional acoustic instruments.
Folkarama, in turn, contains many references to more extensive articles and resources in Paul Race's CreekDontRise.com site, as well as other related pages.
Getting to Know Your GuitarWe need to talk about the parts of the guitar somewhere, since we'll be mentioning them again and again.
Your guitar may look different than this, but it will include the neck, the strings, the bridge, and the frets. Those are the bits you need to "get to know"
About Guitar TuningThere are a thousand resources about how to tune your guitar, but that's not what this is about right now.
When you start, get someone else to tune your guitar the first time. After that, use a digital tuner if you have one. We'll talk about which strings play which notes later. Believe it or not, that's not the first thing you need to learn.
The little chart at the right shows how to tune to a piano or keyboard. But you shouldn't bother paying attention to it right now unless you need to.
But in the meantime, tuning to a digital tuner helps you train your ear to recognize a well-tuned guitar. And playing a guitar that is out of tune, even a little, will "train" your ear to be satisfied with poor tunings. "Close enough for Rock and Roll" is not good enough.
Assume a PositionAssuming you're going to play right-handed:
Having your hands in comfortable position is critical. If you need to use a strap or to stand or sit on a stool to accomplish this, do so. Otherwise you could develop bad habits that lead to chronic repetitive motion injuries, or, worse yet, sloppy playing.
By the way, if you want to play guitar left-handed, you should meet with an instructor and get suggestions from him or her. There are several ways to play left-handed, and all of them are outside the scope of these articles. In the meantime, I would urge you to learn the basics right-handed. That way you'll always be able to pick up a guitar in a music store or at a party and play something.
Holding the Pick:Assuming you use the most-common, egg-shaped pick, grasp it between your thumb and forefinger so that only about 1/4" to 1/3" of the pointed end sticks out.
Picking the Strings:When you are holding the guitar, the back of your right hand should be more or less parallel to the face of the guitar. The pick should be about perpendicular to the strings.
Initially, it may be easier if the inside of your right forearm (just below the elbow) rests lightly on the face of the guitar to help stabilize your right hand. Eventually you'll be able to play without this accommodation (which, unfortunately, deadens the guitar a bit). But for now this will help you get used to your right hand position.
Practice picking the strings lightly, using only enough of the pick to set the string in motion - perhaps about 1/8". Picking harder or picking with more of the pick will not make the guitar much louder and will be hard on the strings.
When you pick or strum the guitar, most of the action comes from rotating your wrist, rather than windmilling your whole arm like the rockers on TV do. When you go from picking the lowest strings to picking the highest strings, your hand will move up and down an inch or two. But the quickest way to lose flatpicking accuracy - and to put unnecessary scratches on the face of your guitar - is to use your elbow as the primary fulcrum of your movements and "wail" on the poor instrument.
ResourcesThere are plenty of guitar instruction materials, online, of course. But we are working on a few that will help you learn the most basic, but necessary, information quickly.
The current resource we have ready to publish is:
Other resources should follow soon.
Return to the VERY Basic Guitar page.
ConclusionThe first several days of learning on guitar are the hardest. If you can learn the chords in our Three Magic Chords lessons and practice 3-chord songs you like for a while, you'll build up the left-hand strength and callouses (and hopefully the right-hand coordination) you need to keep moving forward.
Once again, even if some other instrument is or becomes your core instrument, knowing at least some guitar will benefit you in many ways.
Other resources will be listed as I get to them.
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