How To Play An Electric Guitar
Learning how to play an electric guitar is a fun and easy way to get involved in making music. Once you learn the basics, you'll be able to play your favorite songs and even write your own. And the electric guitar offers a flexibility that allows you to push the limits of your creativity. Just think of all the most famous guitarists and how different they are: Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Duane Allman, Jimi Page, Tom Morrello, Bruce Springsteen…and the list goes on. Few would deny the fact that the electric guitar is "the" gateway to a higher consciousness of rock'n'roll music!
To begin rocking, you will need the following things:
- an electric guitar
- an instrument cable
- a guitar amp
- a guitar pick
- Guitar Anatomy: The body is the main section of the guitar. When you pick your guitar up, hold it primarily by the body and not by the neck alone. The neck is where the frets and strings are found. There are usually 22 frets--the thin metal strips--on an electric guitar. The head stock is at the top of your guitar where the strings and the tuning pegs meet. It also bears the model and brand name of the guitar. The volume/tone knobs adjust the signal level and can be used to dampen the high end frequencies of the signal. They are found on the body near the bridge. The bridge is the metal mechanism at the opposite end of the guitar from the head stock, where the strings stop vibrating.
- Holding the guitar correctly: When you sit down with the guitar, the tuning pegs should be on your left and the thicker strings should be closest to you. Hold the neck in your left hand and a guitar pick in your right hand.
- Holding the guitar pick correctly: stick your thumb up like a hitch-hiker, hook your index finger behind it and close them on the guitar pick with the pick's point facing to the left. When you strum the strings, hold the pick just tightly enough so that it doesn't fall out of your hand. Keep it loose enough so that you can strum up and down with ease. You need to be able to strum up and down with equal ease.
- Plugging in: take your instrument cable and plug it into the guitar's input jack, usually found near the volume knobs. Connect your cable to the amp's input jack.
- Playing your first notes: make sure that your thumb is firmly on the back of the guitar neck when you play a note. it is a common tendency among beginner students to wrap the thumb around the neck so that it hangs over the top of the neck, but this can get in the way of learning to play clearly. Press the very end of your finger tip down on the string just to the left of a fret (from where you are sitting, looking down at the guitar). This is where the note will ring most clearly. If you play directly on a fret, it will buzz.
- Playing your first chords: It is best to use an illustrated chord guide to learn the positioning of your first chords. You can easily find one of these books, possibly used, at any musical instrument store. It is most common to start with open chords as they are all situated in the same place, near the beginning of the neck. The chord progression G-C-D is one of the most common chord progressions in popular American music.
- Basic Strumming patterns: These require competency with a guitar pick. "Down" means strum down on the beat. "Up" means strum up in between the beat. Some examples are: Down-Down-Down-Down (counted just as 1-2-3-4). Down-Down-Down/Up-Down (counted as 1-2-3and-4). Down/Up-Down/Up-Down/Up-Down/Up (1and-2and-3and-4and). Try to keep your arm steadily going up and down to a rhythm, and strum at the necessary time. Eventually, this will become second nature.
Some Useful Resources:
- Illustrated chord books.
- Guitar Tableture (online or in book-form. An easy-to-use representation of songs that doesn't require note-reading ability).
Instruction books (these provide structure, direction and focused instruction).