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Course Walk-Through: Session 1 - Starting Off Right

Thursday, January 06, 2011
Off the tails of the last post on New Year's Resolutions, I've decided to start a series of posts that will take you through the entire Gibson's Learn & Master Guitar course!  The series will be called Course Walk Through. Since the course is very long, the posts won't be consecutive, but will follow closely to the time-line expected for someone going through the course.  I estimate that it will take somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-13 months to complete this series.  Because it will take a long time and there will be multiple posts between sessions, I've created a category just for this series, aptly named: Course Walk Through (you can find the list of categories on the left side-bar).

Of course I can't put all of the material from the sessions in the posts, but I will give a good amount of material.  If you want the full course content, you'll have to buy it!  Let's get started....

Learn & Master Guitar: Session 1 - Starting Off Right!


(est. time: 1 week, 15-30 minutes a day)

The Parts of the Guitar, String Names and Hand Technique:


The following charts show the parts of the guitar and the names of the strings on an acoustic head (left) and an electric head (right).


guitar diagram and string namesFor hand technique, it is partly what's comfortable and partly what's right.  When holding the pick, make sure it is firmly between your thumb and first finger.  The point of the pick should be 90 degrees from your thumb.  Brace your pinky finger against the pick guard as this will provide a good reference point while picking.  For your left hand, brace your thumb on the backside of the neck (not the top).  There should be space between your wrist/palm and the neck of the guitar.  Your four fingers should be evenly spaced on the fretboard.  For beginners, part of the learning process will be finger strengthening and stretching so don't be upset if you can't have proper spacing right now.

Tuning The Guitar:

There are three main ways to tune a guitar.  The easiest way is to use an electric tuner.electric guitar tuner Tuners are inexpensive and you can get a basic tuner for less than $20.  The second way to tune is by ear.  This involves listening to the strings and adjusting them.  The third way is to tune your stings to a keyboard or piano.  Each of the strings (E A D G B E) corresponds with a key on a piano.  You can play the piano key and tune the string to match.

Finger Exercises:

As I mentioned earlier, part of learning will be strengthening and stretching your fingers.  Here are some simple exercises to help you do this.  You should start each practice by running through these exercises and you will soon have strong fingers and be able to reach each fret.  Even professional guitarists do similar finger exercises to maintain and build strength.

tabbed finger exercises for guitar
There are many more exercises in the course.  Although they aren't much fun, these are the foundation of becoming a guitarist.  Be sure to take some time each day to do these and other exercises.  When doing exercises in these first few lessons, the main thing to try and remember is that you want a smooth, steady rhythm.  Don't worry about playing these a certain speed.

Actually, there is a fourth way: Gibson's Learn & Master Guitar app for the iPhone and Android. If you have an iPhone (App Store) or a phone with the Android OS (Android Market), you can download our guitar app.  The app has a metronome, tuner, multiple lessons and more.  And, it's free!

C and G7 Chords:

Here's a good video for learning your first two chords! Practice these with your finger exercises for the first week and you'll be ready for session 2 in no time!



two chords for guitar

After about a week of these exercises, you'll have built up tough fingertips, stronger fingers an be ready to move on to the next session.  Remember your goal: Even, steady rhythm. Don't worry about speed.  You are ready to move on once you have memorized the names of the strings, can play all the exercises without hesitation, and can clearly play the two chords.

A great resource for you at this point would be the Student Support Forum.  This online forum is full of guitarist of all skill levels.  They are there to learn and assist.  Feel free to ask questions and introduce yourself.  It is a very encouraging place!

That's it for Session 1.  You are well on your way to learning the guitar and playing a song.  In fact, on the next session, you'll actually learn your first song on the guitar!

See you in about a week for Session 2 - Reading Music & Notes on the 1st and 2nd Strings.
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