Basic acoustic Guitar lessons for Beginners
Nate demonstrates the proper way to hold the guitar using the Casual Method.
For more information and a dedicated video lesson on the different ways of holding the guitar check out How To Hold The Guitar.
The 3 Numbering Systems
Frets: The metal strips that go along the neck of the guitar. The one farthest to your left, if you are right handed, is the first fret. The next one to the right of the first one is the second and so on. This is very simple but it’s important to understand for when you start learning chords and scales.
Fingers: The numbering system for the fingers on your fretting hand is very simple but also important. Your index finger is your first finger, your middle finger is your second finger, your ring finger is your third finger, and your pinky is your fourth finger. Again, super-simple but really important for when you start learning where to put your fingers to make chords.
Strings: The final numbering system is for the open strings of the guitar. The thinnest string is the first string and the thickest string is the sixth string. Pretty easy to remember.
2. Basic Strumming
The two main things we will be focusing on here, are using a guitar pick and strumming technique.
The Guitar Pick
Choosing A Pick: Lot’s of students ask what type of pick they should use. I would recommend starting with a standard shaped medium thickness pick, about .73mm. From there you can try thicker or thinner picks and decide what you like for yourself. If you don’t want to use a pick you don’t have to. You can simply make the strumming motions with your thumb or thumb and index finger.
Holding A Pick: How you hold the pick, the pick grip, is pretty subjective. You can start with a pretty generic pick grip and experiment from there. Put the pick on the pad of your thumb and then come down on it with you index finger. Try to stay relaxed. Many newer guitarists have trouble holding on to the pick when strumming. If that is the case you can always try holding on to the pick with your thumb and first and second fingers. That just gives you a little more control and stability. Experiment with different pick grips and see what works for you.
Strumming Tip: The best analogy I’ve heard for this is to pretend like you have a feather stuck to your pinky with some honey. Pretend like you are just trying to shake that feather off. The motion of your wrist and your elbow working together is a great mechanic to think about when strumming. It helps you stay relaxed and keeps you from using just your elbow for the motion. Take your pick and try a few relaxed downstroke motions. Be sure to think about the honey and feather analogy.
Upstrokes: Upstroke strumming can be pretty challenging at first. I have a couple of tips for you that will make this a bit easier. First of all, when you do an upstroke you don’t have to strum through all six strings even if the chord you are playing uses all six strings. Most people generally only hit the top 3-5 strings with their upstrokes. Tip number two is to only use as much of the pick as you need to strum at the appropriate volume you need for the song you are playing. If you dig too much of the pick into the strings you will probably have trouble getting it through all the stings. Try some relaxed upstrokes and be sure to keep the previous two tips in mind.
Counting: Let’s talk about counting now. Most songs are in four-four time. That just means that there are four beats for each measure of music. Think about when you hear a drummer count in a song “1 2 3 4”. Those numbers are the beat of the music. Now try counting out loud “1 2 3 4” and strumming with downstrokes on the “1” of each cycle as you count. When you do this you are strumming whole notes. Now try strumming on every number as you count using downstrokes or alternating down and upstrokes. If you strum on every number you will be strumming quarter notes.
If you want more in-depth information on strumming check out this video lesson on How To Strum The Guitar. Also, be sure to sign up for The Strumming Bootcamp. It’s a free 5-part video series that will take your strumming to the next level.