Stringing The Pieces Together: My Journey Learning Guitar

Over the past few months I have been working towards learning the Guitar as an online-based learning project. I have had minimal experience with guitar in the past, mainly a grade 9 guitar class years ago, however it has always been an instrument that I wanted to learn the basics of. While I wouldn’t consider myself entirely fluent in guitar at this point, I have seen drastic improvement iin my ability to change chords efficiently, my technical strumming skills, and overall comfort of the instrument. I can see myself playing the guitar casually in the future, however I am mainly going to apply these acquired skills to my continued learning on the ukulele.

Photo Credit: Karlgoro1 Flickr via Compfight cc

Continue reading “Stringing The Pieces Together: My Journey Learning Guitar”

Sometimes Uk Just Need a Break…Ukay???

Are Uk sure we have to stick to the plan? I say not! Today is the switch up week. As I hinted to in previous weeks, we are going to spend some time with the Ukulele!

With the guitar, I actually have some proper learning experience through the high school guitar rotation. However, with Ukulele my only experience is goofing off at home with my sister’s cheap ukulele, and my newly purchased midrange one. I haven’t had any instruction aside from chord charts on various Tabs sites. Continue reading “Sometimes Uk Just Need a Break…Ukay???”

Scaling Up The Intensity

Chords, chords, chords, chords. That is all we have been learning lately! I am totally okay this this, chords are what make up the majority of music, and with them you can play nearly anything! However, until this point, aside from the rift last month, we haven’t really done anything with individual notes.

Cue Andy! This week we learned about the G Major scale. Now, anyone with music background might think of the G major scale in notes, and that is fine! You can read normal music notes while playing the guitar, or you could use tabs which work just as well. I personally prefer chord symbols, which in the end are inefficient, but it tells me exactly what I need to do, and I don’t have to think to decipher it like I do with TABs.

The common look of a “G Major Scale”

Continue reading “Scaling Up The Intensity”

Four Chords To Rule Them All!

Have you ever heard that rumor? That if you have the right chords, you can play the entirety of pop music? Those who claim that there is no creativity to pop, just different lyrics?


Whether or not this is true, and whether or not I over-exaggerated “the entirety of pop music”, there is some truth to this. No matter what note you start on, it is possible to play 4 chords that resemble many pop songs. For any music geeks out there who might not know this yet, this is the chord progression of I, V, vi, IV. For non-music geeks, this just means the distance between the first and second chord, second and third chord, and third and forth chord are set, and are just relative to whatever note you begin with (the only catch being, it has to be a happy Major chord). Continue reading “Four Chords To Rule Them All!”

Choose Your Song!

Welcome back to my journey towards guitar competency! This week I decided to take a small break from Andy’s channel. As you might know, last week I attempted to play the song 500 Miles, and it absolutely crashed and burned! So this week I thought it would be good to explore a way to do independent study with your class on guitar. Continue reading “Choose Your Song!”

Making The Switch Efficiently

As some of you might know, I am learning guitar for a learning project. Last week I explored some of the basics of guitar, such as string names and how to read TABS/Chord Symbols. I also learned my first chord, E Major. If you haven’t been following my journey, and want to catch up, click here to see my previous posts.

As I mentioned last week, I’m using a YouTube channel called AndyGuitar for my first couple of posts. I made a slight alteration to my plan from last week however. Andy makes a level 1 beginners course, 57 videos long, and it is an excellent resource for a semester-long study. I am planning on trying other resources eventually, so I opted for Andy’s “Learn Guitar in 10 Days” course, which is like an accelerated and simplified version of beginners guitar.


The A major chord fingering. Photo Credit: imventurer Flickr via Compfight cc

This week I learned 2 more chords (A Major and D Major), and a couple of tunes that resemble real songs. In terms of content, it wasn’t huge, but the big lesson this week was mastery of chord switching. It is one thing to play an individual chord, but to switch your fingers in rhythm, and with almost no time between the switch, is an entirely different ballgame.

The first big part of this was how to actually place your fingers on the guitar. To play a chord with the best sound and success, you should put your fingers to the lower part of the fret. For example, in the picture above with an A major chord diagrammed, your fingers should be close to that metal bar, without touching it (The yellow dots are almost exactly where your fingers go). This ensures that the string is held tight, and makes it more audible.

Secondly, you will naturally try to flatten your fingers a bit (They are reaching over the guitar neck in this position by default). This results in you holding the strings for chords near the front face of your finger (the fingerprint). This is a habit that has to be broken. Instead, your fingers should push down, fingertip first, into the string. This should look a lot like proper typing posture for your fingers, with a fairly decent bend in your knuckles. By doing this, you will again improve your sound, require less pressure, and avoid the “dead string” sound when your string isn’t tight enough.

The last big part is of course the main one, chord changes. Andy has taught us 3 chords, E, A, and D. The fingering we learned all involved the pointer finger on the B string. This helps with chord changing because you have a home placement for the one finger, and your other finger placements kind of build off of that. Andy also provided a step-by-step learning process for the exact movement when changing chords.

The results? I was able to play something resembling Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”. I also attempted 500 miles in the video, but my fingers were too sore to hold the chords. I will post a successful video of 500 miles in the future, just to prove I can do it with these chords! Next week I am going to do another large portion of Andy’s course, and I might explore other resources (UltimateTabs is one I will use with 500 miles). Until next week, happy blogging!

What note is that string suppose to be?

I have decided to begin my guitar adventure using a set of courses though YouTube. They are offered by a channel called Andy Guitar. I discovered him a couple of years ago through my own personal exploration of piano-based channels. Andy offers a sister channel Andy Piano, which offers similar services (lessons, basics, and some classic songs).

Now, I began with what Andy describes as his level zero course. That’s right, he doesn’t even consider these basics part of his level 1 beginner course. While working through this playlist, I realized that I have forgotten most of my Guitar 9 knowledge, and that maybe I should have been listening a bit better all of those years ago. None-the-less, I watched lessons regarding how to use a pick, tune the guitar, and what notes the strings should represent (in a standard tune).

On the left, you see the “pencil”/”hotel card” way of holding a pick. On the right, you see the “Mic/Ice Cream” way of holding a pick. Notice the slight offset of the pick’s rotation in the right picture.

So first, how to use a pick. A pick is this small, odd looking, almost triangular piece of nylon, plastic, or other hard but flexible materials. It is used for strumming the strings of the guitar. Some people prefer to use their fingers (I actually used them for the few times I played in the video). Other people use their finger nails, and Andy pointed out that artists like Ed Sheeran have made this trend explode. However, whether you are learning Ed’s style, or just starting, a pick will make this sharp professional sound without sacrificing your flesh to the pain of blisters and cuts.

To hold a pick, most people initially just pick it up, and almost hold it like a pencil or hotel key card. You could do it this way (it is how I played in grade 9), but Andy gives an alternative, and more proper way to use a pick. Your hand should be in the thumbs up shape, with a loser fist, and the thumb will simply drop overtop of the pick. Another way to think is this, is to pretend you are holding a microphone or ice cream cone. Then you drop the thumb and start gripping the pick, it should be pointed sideways, rather than straight out. This allows it to strum the strings with lesser resistance, and it requires less effort and energy to hold. You can reference the photo comparison from above for the comparison of styles of holding your pick.

Now, each string represents a different musical note. From the biggest string to smallest, these notes are E, A, D, G, B, and then E again (an octave higher). Andy introduced a mnemonic for remembering these stings: Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears. Another one I have heard is Every Adult Dog Growls, Barks, & Eats. I am currently working with these phrases, and my pure memory, to hopefully have these strings memorized by next week (Update: I learned it in time for the video!). It is good to memorize these string names for the use of note referencing, and even simply knowing what to tune the strings to.

Next we moved onto tuning, which was a bit easier for me with my musical background. With a tuner or piano it is easy to tune the note to match the pitch, or the tuner. A cool trick Andy showed was to tune the low E string, and then to tune the A string using the pitch from the E string’s 5th fret (which is apparently an A). This works for most of the strings as a way to almost self tune independent of technology and equipment (though your “tune” might not match other people if you play in a group or duet). In terms of the mechanism, turning the nut’s at the head of the guitar (called tuning pegs) would change the frequency/pitch of the string. Counterclockwise increased the frequency, making the note sharper. Clockwise lowered the frequency, making the note flatter. You increase/decrease the frequency of each string until you are happy with the pitch. In practice, this is fairly easy for both music and non music students to do, with the help of a tuner. The music students only get an advantage in that they might be able to audibly fine tune the pitches by listening closely with more experienced ears.

This shows a side by side comparison of traditional sheet music, and its related tabs positioning. – Credit: By Hyacinth at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Lastly, Andy taught us how to read chord symbols, and the guitar specific sheet music system called TABS. In terms of chord symbols, they visible show the neck of the guitar and use dots and bars to describe what strings and frets to hold down for that chord. Tabs on the other hand looks like your average sheet music, except it has 6 lines instead of the traditional 5. Each line represents one of the 6 guitar strings, with the top line as the thinnest, high E string, and the low line being the thickest, low E string. Instead of music notes, TABS will show a number on each string line. This number stands for the fret to hold down.

As someone with traditional music background, this is definitely an entirely different beast, despite looking similar to classic sheet music. It will take time to get used to it, but at least I understand it now. The last thing Andy taught was how to play our first chord, the E major chord, using Tabs and Chord Symbols. This will be the first chord of many I learn as I continue through this journey of learning.