Every beginner guitarist pines to sound amazing, feel the music and enjoy the music. This is what playing the guitar is all about.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks for sounding as awesome as possible:
Movable Chords and Scales
One very important thing to know is that chords and scales have universal shapes that are basically the same when you go up or down the guitar neck. You do not have to memorize unique chord shapes, one by one, like on the piano—that is the beauty of the guitar.
So, let’s say that you make an A major bar chord where you are pressing down and strumming all six strings. In such a situation, let’s also say that your fretting hand is making a shape where the root of the A major chord, A, is on the low E string (the root of a chord can be on any string, but in this situation it is on the E string). The shape that your hand is in will produce a major chord if you move it up or down the fret board. If you move your fretting hand, while it is still making that shape, up or down the fret board, you will get a major chord. However, the root of the major chord—which is the name of the major chord—will be whatever note is on the E string (in this situation). So, if you move the A major bar chord shape down to the first fret—F, you will be playing F major.
With this in mind, you can learn a bunch of movable chord shapes and experiment with how they sound in different keys and combinations. A good place to start would be to learn at least one chord shape for major, minor, major 7, dominant 7, minor 7 and 9. There are so many different chord shapes for each type of chord that it can be overwhelming to decide which you should learn first. First, try learning bar chord shapes where the roots are on the 6th and/or 5th strings.
There are also scale shapes that you can use, as well, that are movable. Consider learning the fingering patterns for the pentatonic scales. These shapes can be moved up, down and across the neck, depending on what key you are playing in and what kind of sound you want. You should really understand the music theory behind pentatonic scales. However, if you are a beginner who has just learned the pentatonic scale shapes, you will sound just as good playing them as any professional. Pentatonic fingering patterns just happen to sound really good. Even if you are a beginner, you will sound like a seasoned expert if you play them.
As you have your fingers pressed down on the fret board, you can slide your hand up or down, making a cool sound. In order to achieve this sound, you would strum notes, and then side up or down as the strings are still vibrating.
Bending the String
Another embellishment that sounds cool is string bending. When your fingers are on a string, you push it, vertically (the direction from your head to your toes, not the direction from the top of the fret board to where the hole would be in the guitar), either up or down. Generally, you should push up if you are bending one of the lower three strings (“lower” referring to lower down from your face), and pull down if you are bending one of the higher three strings (“higher” referring to the strings physically higher up and closer to your face in proximity).
Bending a string will make the note of the fret that you are playing go up. The more you bend the string, the more the note goes up and the more dramatic the bend will be.
Learn Music Theory Formulas and Ideas
A good way to get good at the guitar is to know music theory. It is definitely worth it to memorize the table of fifths, the pentatonic formulas (major and minor), the formulas of chords, the differences between chords, modal formulas and blues formulas (major and minor). Understanding music theory will greatly enhance your understanding of the guitar and what you can do to make great music.
A hammer-on is when you are playing a note with one finger, and then, all of a sudden. place another finger on a fret ahead of that one. You would play the first note, and then just hammer on the finger ahead of it without plucking the string a second time.
The pull-off is the opposite of the hammer-on. It involves playing a note, and then removing the finger that is playing the note as the string is still vibrating.
Vibrato is that lovely vibrating sound that you hear in various instruments, as well as people’s singing voices. To achieve vibrato, move your hand, wrist and fingers back and forth, parallel to the length of the fret board.
Surprisingly, there are a lot of famous songs that are really easy to play on the guitar. If you have an untrained ear, you might think that every song that you hear is really hard to play and was made by a rocket scientist. This kind of impression is not true. Many artists have written their songs in such a way where only a few easy chords are being used. This can be seen in the fact that countless songs from the 20th and 21st centuries use the same four chords.
There are some songs that really are a bit more complicated to learn on guitar, though you can just simplify them by learning their chords, matching the chords to the words and playing whatever rhythm you feel like playing. Even if you are not playing the song note for note and/or chord for chord, you will still sound good.
Go online, or go through books at your local music store, and try to find tutorials on easy songs. There are books, sheet music and online tutorials specifically designed for beginners that have popular songs in them that everyone loves.
Cameron is a contributor to The Singer’s Corner, which is a great place to learn, refresh, and delve into the music world. Whether you want to learn a new approach to singing, give you tips to make you better, and teach you ways to be the best of the best.
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