Dave Byers Blog

How do I learn how to play the guitar?

Find a good instructor locally.

Everyone tells you to practice. Of course, that's a big key. But practice good stuff. I see a lot of guitarists dorking around rather than really practicing and wasting a lot of time. To your specific question, pick two chords. I suggest you start with the Em and then the E major. The simplest switch there is. Be sure and finger the Em with the 2nd and 3rd finger not the first and 2nd which obviously makes for an easy switch to the E major by adding the first finger. Go back and forth between these chords as you strum down once for every time your foot hits the floor. Start stupid slow which is as slow as you can possibly put up with it but evenly. When (not if) you mess up, go at a slower pace until all that you do is at the same exact tempo. Yes, use a metronome. Now add in a Am chord. Go back and forth between the E major and Aminor chords. The way you get better at switching chords is to switch between them a zillion times.

How do I learn how to play the guitar?
Well, like anything, you're simply going to have to practice... but practice what you have difficulty doing - changing between two chords. Simply go back and forth between them very slowly and then as you get that down slowly increase the speed. Now go from an A minor chord to a C chord. Notice that only the third finger needs to move? Here we've done an Em, E, Am and a C and we've barely moved our fingers much at all. Now beat up (practice a lot) two of those chords back and forth a while to you have the switch between any of them down well. Then make it 3 chords you switch between.
The next logical chords to add are G and D. Now you know the Em, E, Am. C, G & D. There's ton of songs you can already play now. The Guitar 3 Chord Songbook 3 Chord Hymns for Guitar and have some fun.
Music is about fun. Then graduate to: The 4 Chord Songbook, Easy Guitar and keep the fun flowing as you add in more chords. But remember, when you come upon a new chord learn it the same way. First analyze what's going on with your left hand. Then use the chord you're living from to go it and go back and forth a zillion times until you have it and can change between them in your sleep. Then go between the new chord and the following chord using the same principal. So yes, practice. But use this method to practice intelligently.
Have fun though. That's what music is about. Hum a goofy melody as you play these chords back and forth. When the fingers hurt simply don't press down. Simply finger the chords but don't press down. Practice changing back and forth without squeezing down which will give you the memorization but not the pain. There's no trophies for most pain as a guitarist. Lastly, make a journal of your chords. Images of them maybe on your phone that you can pull out of your pocket when you're bored, waiting at an apt, on lunch break etc. that helps also.

Rock on! Dave


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