Since most people want to play guitar in order to play songs, I teach songs to all of my beginning guitar students right away. For the first month or so, I usually assign one section from, The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume One and a few songs that I teach by ear.
Chords are notated in chord diagrams. Students learn how to read chord diagrams and play each chord clearly. Hint: Use the tips of your fingers so the fretted notes ring clearly and the adjacent strings are not accidentally muffled. To check this, play the chord one string at a time and listen for any muffled notes. If a note isn’t as clear as it should be, adjust your fretting fingers until the problem resolves.
I know that some chords have funny names (we’ll cover that later) so for now, I just ask students to play each chord clearly and memorize the name and fingering for each chord. For a lot of folks, this is enough work for the first week (along with the reading exercises). Some students are ready to try their first song after that, so we use those first chords to play a 12 bar blues with the chords and we may also include a shuffle riff and a scale for soloing.
The most common issue students raise during their second lesson is that they cannot transition from one chord to the next quick enough to play a song. Because so many students struggle here, I spent a lot of time and energy developing a system that is 100% effective in solving this problem. You’ll have to buy the book to see and use the system (sorry folks, I’ve got to eat, too.) But if this is an issue for you, or if you don’t want it to be an issue for you, take advantage of my hard work and get the book.
It really varies how fast students can memorize the chords, play them clearly, and complete the chord transition exercises. If students practice the exercises each day for about 10 minutes, most students have it down in a week. The biggest reason why people can’t do it in a week is because they don’t practice them every day, and building this kind of muscle memory requires folks practice. every. single. day.
When students have the chords and transitions down, they are ready for songs. To make a song sound like a song, you need to play the right chords and right strumming pattern. There are many strum patterns written out in the book for beginners to get them started. The biggest hurdle is for a lot of folks is getting their strumming hand to strum down on all the down beats and up on all the upbeats.
Playing with a consistant down and up strum pattern is so important, and it’s also the #1 problem I see in self-taught guitarists. I also should mention that this mistake can take weeks or months to fix. Very well meaning and hard working guitarists who want to learn as much as they can on their own before taking guitar lessons, learn their strum patterns incorrectly from things they see online and it takes a lot of time and energy to fix it. This is why even beginning guitarists need a teacher.
Still Not Convinced?
A bad strumming habit looks like a person trying to get down the street by hopping on one leg then randomly switching to the next leg and hopping on that one. There’s no rhythm. It’s so much more efficient and rhythmic to go consistently from your left foot to your right foot repeatedly.
How do you know if you are doing it correctly? Hire a teacher. You can sign up for one webcam lesson with me and I’ll teach you how to do it correctly and I’ll let you know if you are on track. It’s easy and it could save you a lot of time and energy.
If You’re Ready: The Songs and the Suggested Weekly Lesson Plan!
I picked these songs because most people are familiar with them and the songs help students develop proper strumming (consistent down+up motion), basic soloing and singing while playing. Once these skills are mastered, they can be applied to many other songs.
Week One: Pages 97-101
Concepts: First Chords, Chord Transition Exercises, Shuffle Riff, Minor Pentatonic Scale and Blues Solo
Suggested Songs: Blues in A
Week Two: Pages 101-107
Concepts: Second Group of Chords, Chord Transition Exercises, Chord Jams, Strum Patterns, Major Scale and Solo
Suggested Songs: Wild Thing, Twist and Shout, Amazing Grace, Bad Moon Rising, Pumped Up Kicks, What I Like About You
Week Three: Pages 108-114
Concepts: Third Group of Chords, Chord Transition Exercises, Chord Jams, Strum Patterns and Solo
Suggested Songs: Sweet Home Alabama, Brown Eyed Girl, Hey Joe, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, No Woman No Cry, Learning to Fly, Louie Louie
Week Four: Pages 115-120
Concepts: Fourth Group of Chords, Chord Transition Exercises, Chord Jams, Strum Patterns, Solos and Songwriting Chart
Suggested Songs: Hotel California, House of the Rising Sun, La Bamba, Little Talks, Blues in E, Let it Be
The cool thing about The Guitar Lesson Companion method book series is that they’ve got all the concepts, plenty of progressive exercises, and an included CD that actually sounds good. It was designed specifically for students who are taking guitar lessons because that is the best way to learn how to play the guitar. Contact me for lessons in Seattle or via webcam and reach your goals!