Here’s a guest post from our friends over at ZingInstruments.com who are almost as obsessed about guitars as we are!
Now you have your guitar, it is important to get started with good habits!
Knowing where to put your fingers is an important part of this: most of what is considered ‘sloppy’ technique is due to fingers being in the wrong places at the wrong time. There are a few simple guidelines to consider when handling your guitar.
We’ll start with the fretting hand. If you’re right handed, this will be your left hand, if you’re left handed, it will be your right. Either way, the same rules apply! And those rules are…
1) Use Your Finger Tips
When you push down on the string, it is important to do so with the tip of your finger. This helps with precision, enables you to get the ringing sound you are after, and makes it more possible to get into chord shapes.
2) Put Your Finger Towards The End Of The Fret
Also important is putting your finger towards the right hand side (if you’re right handed!) of the fret when you’re playing. It doesn’t want to be on the metal, but does want to be just about touching it. This will produce a much clearer sound than if you push down somewhere in the middle of the fret.
3) Push Down Hard
With your fingertips at the end of the fret, you must also push down with some significant force. You are trying to change the note of the string, remember. Your finger needs to push down enough so the picking side of the string believes there was nothing before the fretting finger. That’s how the notes happen!
4) Learn Your Fretboard
Obviously, you will want to know what you are playing. While it might be fun initially to follow a tab without knowing the note names, enjoying how recognizable tunes come out, continuing to learn in such a ‘blind’ way will soon become frustrating. Try to take the time to learn using note names and sheet music, at least as a part of your learning journey. It will make you a better, more insightful player.
5) Shape Some Chords
So we all know that the most fun we can have when we are beginners is strumming along with well known songs, using a few easy chords! If you get used to a few basic ‘open’ chord shapes: C A G E D, and Am, Dm, Em, you’ll be away.
Remember to push down hard, with the tips of your fingers, towards the end of each fret…
Plucking / Strumming Hand
1) Go Above The Hole / Middle Pickup
With your plucking / picking / strumming hand (depending on which style of guitar you are learning to play!), it is important – for both sound and comfort’s sake – to put it in the right place.
If you’re on an acoustic, this correct position is right above the hole, to allow the sound to reverberate as it was designed to. If you’re on an electric, it’s around the middle pick up, to ensure that the string vibrates the amount it was designed to.
2) How To Pluck
If you’re learning classical / acoustic guitar, you will not need a plectrum – just your fingers. As we mentioned earlier, it is important to get into good habits straight away. If you get some good beginners sheet music, it should have small letters underneath each note saying ‘P, I, M, A’… P means pluck downwards with your thumb, I means to pluck upwards with your index, M with your middle and A with your ring finger.
This might not seem the easiest way of doing it to begin with, but if you follow these rules you are putting yourself in good stead for increasingly challenging pieces.
3) How To Pick
If you’re using a plectrum, it should be held between your thumb and your index finger. Not all your fingers. Also, your thumb and index finger should be the only fingers that follow the pick/plectrum. You want freedom, for speed and clarity’s sake. See your other three fingers like a ‘wing’.
4) How To Strum
Holding a pick in the same way as lead players, strumming is all about loosening up. Allow yourself to hear the rhythm you are trying to create/recreate, then just go for it. There are many popular strumming patterns, like the folk strum, which you can practise, but the important thing is that you are using your wrist – not your arm – and that you are relaxed. Just feel the music (man).
So there you have it, some good habits to begin right away. Happy jamming!