10 Acoustic Guitar Songs for Beginners That Are Not Even a Little Cheesy

10 Acoustic Guitar Songs for Beginners That Are Not Even a Little Cheesy

10 Acoustic Guitar Songs for Beginners That Are Not Even a Little Cheesy

Nobody likes trudging through difficult music that they don’t like. If a song is too hard, it’s not going to sound good. And if you don’t like the song, why bother putting in the effort?

To solve this problem for you, here’s a very eclectic list of easy songs to play on your acoustic guitar.

DISCLAIMER: Making music is tricky business. There’s a lot of multitasking and it takes time to get things flowing the way that you want to hear them. Additionally, guitarists all have different strengths and weaknesses, so a song that your friend told you was easy, might be really difficult for you. Don’t get discouraged!

My hope is that this list includes enough styles and techniques that you’ll be able to find something that you enjoy and something that is easy for you.


Ventura Highway – America

This is a cool old song with great, simple harmonies and a fun lead lick, that’s a little more challenging. If you’re looking for an easy song to start with, you’ll want to focus on the chords first.

You can get through the whole song using just two chords: Fmaj7 and Cmaj7. If you play the two chords as shown in the link below, the switch between them should be fairly easy.

If you’re still having any difficulty, try keeping the first finger in the Fmaj7 chord down so that you’re playing the standard C chord shape. If you’re playing this along with the recording, you’ll want to capo at the 2nd fret, to make the chords Gmaj7 and Dmaj7 (played using the same shapes and fingerings).

Get the chords: Ventura Highway


Bend the Bracket – Chevelle

A little heavier of a song, but still great. Originally played on an acoustic, “Bend the Bracket” uses almost exclusively power chords, which you can just slide around on the fifth string. One tricky bit of business is that Chevelle plays this on a guitar tuned down one half-step.

If you’d rather not worry about retuning but still want to play with the CD, just move everything down one fret. There are no open strings, so you won’t have to worry about that. The one thing that could become difficult with the wrong fingering is the intro. If you play the power chord on the fifth string at the seventh fret (or 6th if you’re moving down a fret), you can reach the sixth string at the eighth fret with your middle finger without having to lift the power chord.

Get the chords: Bend the Bracket


Heroin – Velvet Underground

Despite the length of this song, there are only two chords in it, and one can be played with only one hand. How’s that for easy? Similar to the song by Chevelle, Lou Reed also has his guitar tuned down a half step. If you already retuned for the last song, then don’t tune back up yet!

If you can form a D chord with your left hand, you’re already well on your way to playing this entire song. Essentially, he bounces between a D chord in the usually formation and a G which can be played using the open 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings. Of course if you’re already comfortable with a six-string G chord, feel free to mix it in as you think sounds good.

These chords are generally played whole and then picked with the notes separately while the left hand stays unmoved on the chord. The only other part to the song is the ending.

Okay, I sort of lied when I said only two chords, but mostly only two chords. Besides, the chords at the end are played using the same D shape that you’ve already mastered, just slide up to the 7th and 9th frets.

Get the chords: Heroin


Bard’s Song – Blind Guardian

Metal you say? On an acoustic you say? Yes, and it can still be EPIC! Now, I may get some pushback on this being an “easy” song, but like I mentioned before; everyone has their own strengths.

I’ve personally had students for whom this would be less difficult than previous songs on this list. That being said, if fingerpicking isn’t one of your strengths, use this as an easy introduction to improve!

Get the chords: Bard’s Song


Disarm – Smashing Pumpkins

This song remains a favorite of mine. You may see versions of the chords of this song listed as G-Em-C-D. While you could play these chords along with the song with no trouble, it would lack some of the sound of the original, and, not to mention, be more difficult.

So in the same vein of keeping it easy and sounding better anyway, let’s look at the real chords. G-Em7-Cadd9-Dsus. If those look more complicated, don’t worry. While they’re more complicated from a music theory standpoint, they allow us guitarists to keep two fingers down for the WHOLE SONG!

Go ahead and plant your ring and pinky fingers on the 2nd and 1st strings at the 3rd fret. The rest of the chords can be formed as follows:

Get the chords: Disarm


Dumb (acoustic) – Nirvana

Another song that is all power chords, also known as 5th chords (A5 ). Like some others here, Kurt often played his guitar tuned down a half step. As with the Chevelle song, the power chords make it easy to play a fret lower if you’re in standard tuning.

Get the chords: Dumb


One Less Addiction – Embodyment

This is a hauntingly beautiful song that I’m guessing many of you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing before. I’m guess that it’ll also be a breeze for most of you to play.

The majority of the song just switches between these two chords in the seventh position. I like to keep my middle finger planted on the third string at the eighth fret as an anchor between these two chords.

Get the chords: Embodyment


Moorish Dance – Aaron Shearer

Another one will be really easy for the left hand, but if you have a hard time playing without a pick, it could be tricky. If you have trouble stretching for chords and getting all the notes to ring, this song will give your left hand a break. You’ll only need it for six, yes six, different notes.

Beyond that, your right hand will alternate between playing the tune with the thumb and playing some higher accompanying notes with the index and/or middle fingers.

Fun story: I was recently talking with a friend and fellow guitar teacher who had broken a bone in a right hand that connected his ring and pinky fingers to his wrist. He mentioned that some of his older students weren’t convinced he could still be a good teacher without all his fingers. He used “Moorish Dance” as his “show-off piece” to prove otherwise.

Get the chords: Moorish Dance


Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Crosby, Stills & Nash

Technically speaking, this is actually a set of four songs, but they’re all played as a complete piece of music and they all use the same tricks to keep it easy on the fingers. This is one of the more complicated songs on this list, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard!

If you look at a bare and accurate chord chart of this song, you’d see a whole bunch of complicated looking chord symbols with ‘sus’s and numbers and slashes. While you’re all smart players and probably know what those mean, it’s still more information to process and send to our fingers.

The key here, rather than dealing with all of these complicated and frequently difficult to change between chords, is to make sure you’ve got the tuning right. We’ve already covered songs in this list using an alternate tuning (Eb or half step down tuning), but this is a bit more radical. We’ll leave the highest two strings alone, so they’ll remain at E and B, going down from there, we’ll tune the 3rd string down to E, the 4th string **up** to E (always use caution when tuning higher than standard), and finally the 5th string down to E, to match the 6th string.

If you’ve been keeping track, that leaves us with, from low to high, EEEEBE. From there, follow the tab, since your sense of where chords usually are will be totally out of whack. It’s a whole bunch of open and straight barre chords with a few little licks sliding down the first two strings.

Get the chords: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes


Cruise – Florida Georgia Line

Were you worried there wouldn’t be any country on here? What good is an easy acoustic list without a little twang! Remember the chords from “Disarm”? Same deal here! If you prefer the sound on the Dsus chord, you can play a standard D shape, but keep that 3rd finger planted! The order is G-Dsus(or D)-Em7-Cadd9. Have fun!

Get the chords: Cruise


Hopefully you found a few new things on this list, even just something you can enjoy listening to. With a list like this you’re bound to find a song that suits your strengths and weaknesses.

If you haven’t, this list isn’t exhaustive, so don’t give up! A well versed guitar teacher is a great resource to find the right songs for you. You’ve got a knack for guitar (everyone does in one way or another) and you just have to figure out what it is.

Once you get some traction with that, then go after your weaknesses! There’s no problem in your guitar playing that can’t be fixed.


Kirk RPost Author:
 Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical, bass, and acoustic guitar instructor in Denver, CO. He earned a bachelors of music in Guitar performance at The College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and he is currently pursuing a masters degree in performance.  Learn more about Kirk here!


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Guitar Moves That Sound Hard But Are Actually Easy

5 Guitar Moves That Sound Hard But Are Actually Easy

Guitar Moves That Sound Hard But Are Actually Easy

Have you ever heard a guitar lick that sounded crazy complicated? Guitar teacher Christopher S.  explains how some of the hardest sounding techniques can actually be easy once you try them…

When taking up the challenge of learning to play the guitar, I strongly recommend finding the skills and techniques that you are best at and using them to create the music you love.

There is an endless amount of sounds which you can create with the guitar, and if you have the skills to produce them, you will have so many options literally at your fingertips!

Below, I will discuss different techniques that sound hard to play on the guitar, but with time and discipline, they are actually quite simple. I want to emphasis that some of these techniques may come naturally to you, and some may not. In my experience, it is better to take the ones that come naturally, as you will make the best music with them, and to give the others more time for practice.

For example, you may be great at fingerpicking guitar licks on the guitar right away. Or, you may be incredibly fast at picking with a pick after just a few hours. Whatever the technique, I say learn as many songs as you can using that technique. Make the music that works best in your fingers, and don’t fret too much over a technique that is giving you frustration.

So, let’s buckle up and get ready to do some “wood-shedding.”

1. Power Chords (Drop-D Tuning)

A power chord is one of the most common chord shapes on the guitar. It is easy enough to create, it is easy to move on the neck, and it sounds good in almost any style of music. The shape of the power chord looks like this, with your index finger on the low E string and your ring finger on the A string.

G Power Chord

This happens to be a G power chord. You can also put your pinky on the D string, right below your third finger to give it some more “power.” The rest of the strings are muted.

This chord shape is important to learn on the guitar, because it is used to play millions of songs. However, your fingers can get tired in some kinds of music (such as punk rock or heavy metal) when trying to imitate and play the songs of these experienced guitar players. To help you in playing those quick power chord changes on the guitar, here is a trick that you can use to make changing power chords a breeze.

Known as “Drop-D tuning,” you literally take the low E string and “drop” or tune it down a whole-step, so that it becomes another D string. By doing this, you can play your power chord shape with one finger instead of three! The shape now looks like this.

Power Chord in Standard and Drop D Tuning

On the recordings of bands that use this tuning, such as The Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine, or The Foo Fighters, these chords sound complicated. However, little did you know that they were actually playing all of those chords with just one finger!

An example of a song which uses a power chord shape with this drop-D tuning is the song “Hollywood” by Nickelback.

This song would be quite difficult if it were all played in standard tuning; however, in drop-D tuning, it is really quite easy to play! Here is the tab to help you learn it.


Hollywood Tabs

2. Fingerpicking

Fingerpicking is something that always boggles people. It is really not as hard as some make it sound; however, it does take some disciplined practice if you want it to sound good. To develop this technique, I often recommend to my students to learn songs by The Beatles. Although sometimes they say, “Oh, that song is way beyond my skill level,” the songs are really quite simple to play.

Take the song “Blackbird,” for example. The tune sounds like it is quite a difficult fingerpicking pattern; however, because you rarely change the strings that you are picking, it is actually quite simple to play. The majority of the song is picked on the A, B, and G strings. The right hand always uses the pattern of thumb and middle finger together and then index finger after. That is the whole picking pattern throughout the entire song. Beyond that, all you have to do is move the left-hand position.

Here is the tab to “Blackbird.” Try the picking-pattern, and see how it works throughout the entire song.


Blackbird Intro and Verse Tabs


Blackbird Chorus Tabs

3. Alternate Picking

This is a technique that will take some time to really master, but after you learn it, you will be playing the guitar faster than ever! The technique is basically how it sounds. When you are picking a crazy-fast solo on the guitar, your notes will come out much faster if you pick alternatively, rather than picking in one direction all the time. When you pick one note in a downward direction, the next note you should pick in an upward direction. See the diagram below for a representation of this movement.

Alternate Picking Diagram

“Snow (Hey Oh)” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers is a good song to see how fast your picking can be, after you get the hang of alternate picking by practicing with scales.

The guitar line sounds difficult; however, if you have the alternate picking technique down really well, then this song will be as easy as pie. Here are the tabs to start learning how to play the main riff!


Here is a link to the entire tab.

4. The “Pick Squeal”

Also known as the “Pick Harmonic,” this is a common guitar technique that came out of the music from the 80s and 90s and from the abundance of guitar solos in this time period. The sound is a high, screechy sound, but it sounds great if you’ve got the right amount of distortion when playing rock’n roll music.

Hold the pick so that there is only a small section of the tip showing. Then, as you pick the note in the same stroke, touch the side of your thumb on the string, but don’t hold it there. Continue the stroke so your thumb only touches the string for a second. Where you pick the string has a big effect on the sound that comes out, and every guitar has a different “hot spot.” Experiment a bit to find your guitar’s best location. Generally the hot spot is near the pick-ups of your guitar.

It will take some time to learn this technique, so don’t get discouraged trying to make the sound in the beginning. Just have some fun, and your guitar will soon be squealing! One group that frequently used this technique is the infamous Eddie Van Halen. You can hear Eddie squealing away on the song “Jamie’s Cryin’.” Here is a video of some awesome pick-squealing solos.

Here is also the tab for this song.


Jamie's Cryin' Intro Tabs

Jamie's Cryin' Chorus Tabs

Jamie's Cryin' Solo Tabs

5. Sweep Picking

This guitar technique sounds difficult, and in fact it is a bit difficult, at first. However, with the right amount of practice and a loose wrist, you can actually begin to play awesome-sounding fast sweeps before you know it!

Sweep picking is a technique used mainly in heavy metal music, in which you play arpeggios at an incredibly fast speed. This makes your music sound awesome and really makes you sound like a pro with really very little effort.

To achieve this technique, let’s begin with the right hand. Simply take your pick and pick up three, four, or five strings (however big the “sweep” is). Then, when you get to the lowest string, simply pick downward until you are back at the high string (high E string).

And that is it! You are simply moving the pick upward and then downward on three, four, or five strings. These are known as 3-string, 4-string, or 5-string sweeps.

In the left hand, you make an arpeggio shape, and you generally have a pull-off on the high or low string of the arpeggio.

A great example of sweep picking can be heard in the song “Altitudes” by Jason Becker.

Here are the tabs to his solo, which occurs at 2:05 in the song. He plays them very fast, and I know they look intimidating, but just take them as exercises. Try playing the first arpeggio very slowly with the right hand technique I described above, and don’t forget to include hammer-on’s and pull-off’s on any consecutive notes on the same string (unless otherwise marked with a slide “/“ marking). Do the exercises slowly at first, and then gradually build up speed and you will soon be sweep picking just like Becker!


Altitudes Solo Tabs

You can find a site to the complete tab here.

Think you’ve mastered these moves on your guitar? Getting some feedback and advice from a qualified guitar teacher can be the key to taking your guitar skills to the next level. Search for your teacher today!

ChristopherS.Post Author: Christopher S.
Christopher S. teaches bass guitar, guitar, and composition in Jamaica Plain, MA. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Humboldt State University and is currently atttending New England Conservatory for his Master of Music degree. Christopher has been teaching students since 2004. Learn more about Christopher S. here!

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How to Write a Song

How to Write a Song When You Know Next to Nothing About Guitar

How to Write a Song

Even if you just started learning to play guitar,  you already have the tools to write your first song. Guitar teacher Aimee B. shares how to get started…

You can write a song on guitar as early as after your first lesson or once you’ve learned a few basic chords. Whether you ultimately want to accompany your lead vocal, jam with others, or to be a wailing lead guitarist, you can, at anytime, write your own unique song.

So where do you begin? How do you write a song? Here’s how to write a song using only three chords.

Chord Progression

Listen to the pros. Numerous hits have been written using only three chords. Below is a list of ten songs that use three easy guitar chords.

I, IV, V

  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (G, C, D) — Bob Dylan
  • “Tush” (G, C, D) — ZZ Top
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” (G, C, D) — Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “Atmosphere ” (A, D, E) — Joy Division
  • “Release” (G, C, D) — Pearl Jam

I, V, IV

  • “Rock Around the Clock” (E, B, A) — Bill Haley & His Comets
  • “Margaritaville” (D, A, G) — Jimmy Buffett
  • “Wild Thing” (A, D, E) — The Troggs


  • “Get it On” (E, A, G) — T. Rex
  • “505” (Dm, Em) — Arctic Monkeys

Roman numerals are used to describe the chord progression, independent from what key you are in. For example, if you are in the key of G, the chords of the harmonized G scale are:

Guitar Chords

To note:

  • A capital letter or roman numeral indicates a major chord.
  • A lower-case letter or roman numeral indicates a minor chord.
  • “Dim” refers to a diminished chord.

Notice that eight out of the 10 hits listed above use the I, IV, and V chords. This is the arguably the most common chord progression in popular music. And this is where I suggest you start writing your first song.

The Verse

A very common and simple song format uses just two parts: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc.

The verse is the main narrative section of the song, or the part where the writer describes what is going on in the song. It is the place where the setting is established and characters and actions are introduced; in other words, where the story happens.

Here are a couple example verses:

Verse of “Knocking on Heavens Door”

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Verse of “Margaritaville”

Nibblin’ on sponge cake,
watchin’ the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin’ my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp
They’re beginnin’ to boil.

The Chorus

The chorus is often the most memorable and sing-along-friendly part of the song. It is the part that people will recall most readily when they ask, “Hey, do you know that song that goes like this…?” The chorus repeats numerous times, and it serves to drive home the overall sentiment or feeling being expressed.

The chorus is also the place reserved for a “hook” (easily-remembered melodic or lyric phrase that repeats throughout song). A chorus can be one hook phrase repeated, like in “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” or a group of words repeated, like in “Margaritaville” or “Wild Thing.”

Chorus of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Chorus of “Margaritaville”

Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know it’s nobody’s fault.

Chorus of “Wild Thing”

Wild thing, you make my heart sing
You make everything groovy, wild thing

Take a moment to listen to the ten songs listed above, and see if you can identify the verses and choruses.

You may also run across a third section that appears only once in a song that doesn’t sound like either the verse or the chorus. This is called the bridge of the song, and it serves to break the momentum and monotony of the song, while offering a very specific outlook on the lyrical information in the verses and choruses.

To keep it simple for your very first song, however, you do not need to write a bridge.

Easy Form for your First Song

Here is a suggested song form to start with to keep things very simple. You can write as many verses as you want while keeping one chorus that repeats throughout the song. It might look something like this:

Keys of G, C, or D

  • I, V, IV: (G, D, C), (C, G, F), or (D, A, G)
  • V, IV, I: (D, C, G), (G, F, C), or (A, G, D)

I, V, IV on each of the four lines

V, IV, I on each of the four lines


Here is a sample of my own first verse and chorus as an example.

“Summer Love” by Aimee Bobruk


I can see us when I close my eyes

Runin’ away on the 4th of July

Under a sky glowing with sparks

You took my hand and pulled me into the dark


Summer love
Summer love
Summer love
Summer love

As you’re experimenting with how to write a song, try to come up with a simple melody that you can remember and have fun while playing. A million melodies can fit over the same exact chord progression, so your choices are endless. You can explore using some rhymes at the end of lines or write free verse with no rhymes.

Just remember: Put the story part of the song in the verses, and reserve the chorus for your catchy phrase or theme.

Have a blast!

Aimee B.Post Author: Aimee B.
Aimee B. teaches piano, guitar and music theory in Austin, TX. She earned her B.A. in philosophy and art from St. Edward’s University, has worked as a professional musician for over ten years, and has taught over 100 students as a private music instructor. Learn more about Aimee here!

Photo by Daniel Montemayor

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How to Get Gigs

Musicians’ Checklist: 23 Little Things That Will Help You Nail Your Next Gig

How to Get Gigs

Congrats on getting the big gig! Whether you’re preparing for your band’s first show or your album-release party, these tips will help you learn how to promote your band, make your best impression on stage, and get invited back to the venue to do it all again.

Musicians Checklist Gigging Tips

Share this Image On Your Site

One Week Before

  • Put up posters around town. Don’t rely completely on social media and the Internet to promote your band. An eye-catching flyer or poster is another great way to grab attention and bring people out to your show.
  • Step up promotion on social media. Share and re-share your Facebook event and a digital image of your flyer or poster, and make sure you’ve invited all your local friends and followers.
  • Contact local bloggers, radio personalities, and alt weekly writers. If you can get a little media coverage for your gig, you’ll be able to reach new fans. Plus you can share the coverage you get on social media to keep your current fans engaged and excited. Look for people who specialize in covering local music or music in your genre to help you out.
  • Send an email to your local fans. Maybe you’ve noticed that it’s hard to reach all your fans on Facebook? For that reason, it’s a great idea to have an email list, as well. When you have a big show coming up, you can be sure your fans will get your email. The same can’t be said for your Facebook posts.
  • Confirm advance information with the venue. Make sure you know what time you need to set up, how long your set is, and the terms for payment have been agreed upon.

The Day Before

  • Double-check your gear. Do all your cables work? Do you need new strings? Better to take care of those things now than have an equipment issue on stage.
  • Pack your gig bag. I like to bring a bottle of water, a couple protein bars, a roll of duct tape, extra ear plugs, sharpies, spare guitar strings, a handful of guitar picks, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a small notebook with me to each show. Pack your bag the day before to get it out of the way and reduce stress the day of the show.
  • Print or write copies of your set list. Don’t wing it on stage. Make sure you’ve planned your set and practiced it before your show.
  • Plan your outfit. Figure out what you want to wear and lay it out somewhere. Don’t add stress by scrambling to find the right stage look at the very last minute. If you’re in a band or ensemble, talk about what you’re going to wear with the group so you can present a cohesive image.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. You’ll perform better when you’re rested, and you’ll have more fun.

The Day Of

  • Banish your stagefright with a calming activity. Get into a good mindset by reading a book, meditating, exercising, or watching your favorite show. Figure out what calms you and helps you prepare to play like the rockstar you are.
  • Eat a light meal two to three hours before you perform. When you’re on stage, you don’t want to feel heavy and sleepy like you’ve just eaten five Thanksgiving dinners, but you also don’t want to get hungry and lightheaded. Have a healthy meal so you’ll be on top of your game.

At the Gig

  • Be there on time. Being punctual shows the venue that you respect their time, appreciate the opportunity you’ve been given to perform, and that you’re professional. Seriously, if you don’t follow any of these other tips, you must at least show up on time.
  • Always be polite and professional. Save your complaints about the crowd, venue, or other bands for the privacy of your rehearsal space. When you’re at the gig, be positive and kind. You never know who’s watching, and you want to make a great impression.
  • Say ‘hi’ to the sound person, and remember their name. The sound guy or gal is the person who has the biggest impact on how you’ll sound in the audience. Be nice to them, and always remember to thank them for the help.
  • Make friends with the other bands. Hang out and watch their sets, and they’ll want to stay for yours, too. If you’re lucky, the other bands will like you and offer you another great gig.
  • Don’t forget to bring merch. One of the best ways to make money at a gig is to have something for sale. Additionally, people will remember you better if they have something to take with them. Whether you’ve got stickers and CDs or vinyl records and t-shirts, don’t play a show without putting something on the merch table.
  • Always thank the venue, the fans, and the other bands during your set. Be gracious, and spread the love. Being likable will help you get further in your local music scene than just talent alone.
  • Have fun on stage!!! Enjoy your time in the spotlight. Your audience will feel the vibes and have a great time, too.

The Next Day

  • Post thank you’s on social media to your fans, the other bands, and the venue. Keep the good times rolling by thanking everyone again. They will notice and appreciate it.
  • Re-post the photos that your fans shared at the gig. If someone captured a really great live shot of you, show other people what they missed out on by sharing it. You can generate buzz for your next show by sharing how much fun your show was last night.
  • Update the upcoming gigs list on your website. Make sure your concert listings stay current by updating your site the next day. Or, if remembering to update your list is too hard, sign up for Songkick and their widget will update for you when the gig has passed. All you have to do is enter your performance dates, and Songkick will display them on your website, Facebook, SoundCloud, and other sites.

Once the gig has come and gone, remember that the most important thing is the music. Keep practicing and working on your craft, whether you have a show coming up or not. You can always improve musically, and you’ll likely find you get better with every gig you play. Rock on, and good luck!


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3 Simple Guitar Exercises that You'll Never Outgrow

3 Simple Guitar Exercises That You’ll Never Outgrow

3 Simple Guitar Exercises that You'll Never Outgrow

Do you play a warm-up exercise when you practice guitar? Guitar teacher Kirk R. shares three guitar exercises that are perfect for players at all levels…

There are literally thousands of exercises and studies for the guitar. There are some that are great for beginners who are just getting used to having their fingers on the guitar, and some that are designed to challenge and grow the technique of seasoned players.

But who has time to learn thousands of guitar exercises, even over many years? Wouldn’t you rather learn a few simple routines now that will continue to push your technique as long as you choose to play the guitar?

Here are a few guitar exercises that will benefit guitarists at any level.



This is one of the simplest guitar exercises that I use every day. It begins with your first, or index, finger on the first fret of the lowest string.

You’ll then ‘hop’ the same finger to the fifth string, also on the first fret.

Continue moving up one string at a time until you reach the first, or highest string and then return, one string at a time, to the lowest. Repeat this on the first four frets each time with a different finger.


This is a great technical exercise for beginners that may seem too simple for more experienced guitarists at first. If you think it’s too easy, make sure to pay attention to the articulation and connection of each note. Play it slowly and try to make one note fully connect to the next, with no gap in the sound caused by lifting the finger too early.



This is another one of my favorite guitar exercises that I still practice every day. Not only do I currently use it, but I’ve been playing chromatic scales since my first guitar lesson when I was a kid. It can be played in a variety of ways, but let’s start with the simplest.


It can be played on any string, but here I’ll use the second string as an example. We begin on the open note followed by the notes of frets 1, 2, 3, and 4 played with the index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers, respectively. After reaching the highest note, follow the same pattern back down.

It’s simple, uses all the left hand fingers, and it’s easy to memorize: sounds like a useful warm-up to me!

Once you’re comfortable playing this on every string, you can combine the patterns and move from the low E all the way to the G# on the fourth fret of the first string. One hiccup in the pattern happens between the third and second strings.

If you play both the fourth fret, third string, and the open second string (marked with parentheses below), you’ll have two B naturals. The solution is simply to play one or the other. I like to change it up to keep on my toes.


You haven’t had enough chromatic scales, you say? There are plenty more permutations of this same basic pattern.

The next step is to continue beyond the high G# all the way to the 12th fret E on the first string. You can do this in a couple of ways, but my recommendation is to shift up a single string from the first to the 12th fret (three groupings of finger 1, 2, 3 and 4). I like to do six complete scales (low open E to high 12th fret E) each time shifting on a different string.

As with all shifts, pay close attention to your left forearm.

Once you’ve mastered all of these, try playing them in parallel octaves.



If you’ve been trying out the exercises thus far, your left hand could probably use a rest. This exercise is designed to give you better control of the accenting of notes regardless of how they’re struck and what the notes before and after them are doing. The concept is quite simple. You’re going to play a group of 2 to 10 notes with certain ones accented, or played more loudly, and the rest more quietly.

Let’s begin with an easy one. Play a group of two notes, accenting the first and playing the second more softy. Continue repeating this pattern until it is comfortable and can be done without focusing on it.


Next let’s reverse our pattern, accenting the second note of the pair. This may seem like a small change, but remember you’ll be using different muscles to accent this second note. For players using a pick, this will change the accent from happening on a down stroke (the natural accent), to happening on the up stroke.

If playing without a pick, keep your pattern of right hand fingers the same (imim or mimi) so that a different finger is accented.


Additionally, use unusual right hand patterns such as all the same finger, or all down strokes.

These simple ideas can produce a variety of helpful patterns that, if practiced regularly, will give you the flexibility to accent the notes you want regardless of the finger or direction of the stroke forced by the context.

Here are a few more suggested patterns to get you started.


Remember to always make sure that your notes are an even length and that playing the patterns comfortably and accurately is more important than playing them fast and impressively.


What guitar exercises do you play every day? Tell us your practice routine in the comments below!

Kirk RPost Author:
 Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical, bass, and acoustic guitar instructor in Denver, CO. He earned a bachelors of music in Guitar performance at The College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and he is currently pursuing a masters degree in performance.  Learn more about Kirk here!

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5 Beginning Guitar Mistakes to Watch Out For

5 Beginning Guitar Mistakes to Watch Out For

5 Beginning Guitar Mistakes to Watch Out For

Are you excited to begin learning to play the guitar? To help you get started, guitar teacher Noel S. made this list of the five most common mistakes beginning guitarists make…

1. Angling the guitar too far back so you can see better.


Many students who have just begun guitar lessons tend to angle the guitar towards themselves too much to see the fretboard and right hand picking area better. However this position puts your left wrist in a bad position because it’s operating within an extreme range of movement.

Muscles function most efficiently within their midrange of movement. You’ll just develop bad contact and movement habits instead of developing good coordination, minimal left hand pressure, and good finger contact habits.

Remember, you have two other senses involved in playing the guitar; use your sense of hearing and your sense of touch also! Angle your guitar back just a little, then adjust your vision to get accustomed to viewing the strings and fretboard from a slight angle.

You’ll be able to see everything just fine; also be aware of the information being received from your senses of touch and hearing.

2. Holding the pick at too much of an angle to the strings.


Many students start out with downstroke picking, and hold the pick angled towards the floor to facilitate downstrokes.

This makes it harder though, to execute an up­pick. Holding the pick perpendicular to the strings will result in good right hand coordination as you launch into alternate picking. In addition, practice using minimal movement away from the string, as you will have to travel that same distance back to the strings in order to pluck again.

3. Not contacting the strings on the left­hand fingertips.


Many students start out contacting the string with the fingerprint pad of their left hand. Remember what I said in the first point about muscles functioning most efficiently in their midrange of movement? Contacting the string on the back fingerprint pad puts your middle and tip joints in their fully extended range, and you need them for the following functions:

  • The big knuckle joint moves the finger on and off the string.
  • The middle joint moves the finger from one string to another, changing strings.
  • The tip joint facilitates the application of the pressure needed to push the string down until it touches the metal fret bar.
  • Contacting the string on your fingertip allows each of these joints to maintain a good curve, right in the midrange of movement, where your have the most strength to use your finger muscles.

This brings up a related point and a cool beginning guitar exercise about just how much pressure is needed to move the string until it touches the metal fret.

First of all, contact the string as close to the metal fret bar (the right side of a fret, not the left side) as possible. It makes sense that if it’s your goal to push the two together until they meet, start pushing at a contact spot as close as you can to their meeting point.

Then, without pushing at all (just touching the string), begin to pluck. Gradually apply more and more pressure until you hear a buzzy-­sounding note.

Finally, apply just a little more pressure until you hear a clear and correct sounding note. Practice releasing and applying pressure to activate buzzy notes and clear ones alternatively as an exercise to help you learn correct left hand pressure levels.

4. Disregarding fingering information.


Your teacher and method book give you finger indications for the left hand, for example, playing a first­ string “g” note with your ring finger as in the photo above. Follow fingerings consistently to get on the fast track to performing your music!

Why do we practice? To set up the neural and muscular pathways, or patterns, for performance; your presentation of the music will “just happen” because you’ve already established good habits from rehearsing the music correctly. Plus, you’ll avoid moments of confusion or hesitation in which you don’t have time to analyze, think about and decide what finger to use, then desperately grab for a note.

Remember, it’s called music; to muse, or to be amused, is the whole point. That’s what happens when you practice correctly, not what happens when you’re navigating nervously around the music, with random fingerings, like you’ve got a “tiger by the tail”.

5. Inefficient Practice Habits

Not knowing how to practice, not practicing much at all, or searching for that magical 101st attempt when, “I’ve finally got it!”. No, the student doesn’t actually “have it”; he or she has instead, 100 incorrect rehearsals of that musical passage, or guitar riff.

Give yourself a chance to get it right a few times, as many as five repeats. If the music’s still not the way it should be, slow down your tempo to a manageable one. Isolate a smaller part of the music. Once you’ve got that, try it again at full speed.

I regularly drop from 160 beat per minute performance tempos down to 80 bpm to practice my music correctly if it’s not exactly the way I want it. Then I hit it again at 160. If I need to, I’ll drop back again to 100, then 120, and so on.

What’s happening here? I’m getting the song or isolated passage correct, over and over again. There’s a huge difference here (and it shows!) between this approach and the “magical 101st attempt” approach.

Along the same lines, beginning guitar students often get so focused on playing the correct pitch, they forget about playing in time. Maintaining a steady pulse represents the first skill a guitar student needs in order to make music. Get a metronome as soon as you can after starting to learn the guitar, and make use of guitar tablature that either includes the correct rhythms or at least refers you to a good audio representation.


You’ve chosen one of the best instruments in the world to learn; that’s why so many people play guitar. Soon you’ll be performing at your best, even beyond what you thought you could accomplish!


Noel SNoel S. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Beachwood, OH. He holds a Masters degree in music from Dusquesne University and he has been teaching since 2001. Learn more about Noel




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11 Ways to Practice Guitar While You Watch Shark Week

11 Ways to Practice Guitar While You Watch Shark Week

11 Ways to Practice Guitar While You Watch Shark WeekYou know the best way to practice guitar is with deep concentration, carefully chosen music, and commitment to reaching your guitar goals. But this Shark Week, I have a confession to make.

Sometimes I love to make a deep dent in the couch, play guitar, and watch TV for hours.

This practice doesn’t suit every guitarist, and it drives my family crazy, but I find playing guitar with the TV on incredibly relaxing and I think it’s actually helped me become a better player in three distinct ways.

The Benefits of Watching TV While Playing Guitar

The Benefits of Watching TV While Playing Guitar

When I first started learning to play guitar, I stared too much at my hands which really slowed down my ability to read tabs or chord charts while I played. Playing with the TV on pulled my eyes away from my hands and forced me to learn to rely on my muscle memory to form chords, scales, and riffs.

I also used to get bored easily while practicing technical exercises such as scales and arpeggios. With the TV on in the background and my metronome clicking happily away, I can run through technical exercises for a whole episode of Shark Planet.

Finally, watching TV distracts the nervous, busy parts of my brain that are mainly responsible for criticizing me constantly and wondering if I left the oven on. With my focus split and my busy-brain occupied, I can improvise in a freer, less-inhibited way. I find I feel less self-conscious and much more relaxed.

Plus, it’s great to just spend more time with a guitar in my hands. If I’m sitting around at home anyway, I might as well be playing!

How to Practice Guitar While Watching TV

How to Practice Guitar While Watching TV

For best results, I play an unplugged electric or hollow body electric guitar while watching TV. It’s a little less annoying to the other members of my household, but I can still hear myself well enough to get the job done.

When I’m alone, I bust out my metronome for TV practice sessions as well.

11 Things You Can Practice While You Watch TV

11 Things You Can Practice While You Watch TV

Ready to give it a shot? I’ve selected 11 shark-approved things you can practice while you enjoy Shark Week, your next Netflix binge, or a week long Harry Potter movie marathon.

1. Play Chromatic Scales

Chromatic scales involve all the fingers of your left hand and they’re a great way to refine your right hand skills with your pick. Just like any other exercise, start with your metronome on a slow speed and work up to a faster tempo.

2. Play Pentatonic Scales

Pentatonic scales are at the root of many of your favorite rock, pop, and blues songs. Plus, they are a great tool to have at your disposal when it comes time to improvise a solo. Practice them in many positions on the neck to get the pentatonic patterns locked in your muscle memory.


3. Play Major Scales

Practicing major scales is a must for all musicians, no matter what instrument you play. There are five patterns you can learn to play major scales all over the fretboard.

4. Play Minor Scales

Minor scales give you a sadder, moodier sound. The melancholy vibe of these scales will help you express your grief when Shark Week is over.

5. Play Scales in Different Modes

Each scale can be played in a different order, known as a mode, for even more variety in sound and feeling. This guide from Guitar Habits can help you learn all seven modes in seven days.


6. Practice Chord Changes

Keep your eyes on the TV as you practice switching from one chord to another. You can work through the chord changes in your favorite songs, or make up chord drills to give yourself a little extra challenge.

7. Play Arpeggios

Arpeggio is a fancy word for “broken chord”, and they’re extremely versatile piece of your guitar-skills arsenal. Arpeggios are great for picking an accompaniment to a singer or for improvising solos.

8. Practice Fingerpicking

It can take a lot of time to master the coordination that fingerpicking requires, so why not practice this technique while you’re vegging out in front of the TV?


9. Practice Something That Challenges You

Sometimes when you’re playing something hard, the biggest obstacle to mastering it could actually be your own mind. Get a little bit distracted with some TV while you play through challenging pieces (or parts of pieces) and you might break through your mental block.

10. Practice Something Easy

Unwind by playing through your favorite, easy, fun pieces. After all, the best thing about playing guitar is the pleasure you get from making music. Enjoy yourself!

11. Get Creative

You might like to improvise along with your TV, perhaps playing along to music in the show you’re watching, or writing riffs inspired by what you see on the screen. Find what you enjoy and what makes sense for you to play.


Remember, though playing in front of the TV can be fun and relaxing, it’s no substitute for focused and dedicated practice time. Your guitar teacher can help you make a plan for great guitar practice that helps you meet your musical goals.

Practice every week like it’s Shark Week!


Do you like to play guitar while you watch TV? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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jazz guitar licks

5 Delightful Jazz Guitar Licks – Tabs and Audio

jazz guitar licks

Having a few guitar licks up your sleeve is super helpful when you’re improvising. Guitar teacher Samuel B. shares a few of his favorite jazz guitar licks…

Before we begin playing these jazz guitar licks, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the pentatonic scale.

The pentatonic scale is a more versatile and useful scale than you might think. While being an easily-recognized basis for blues, rock, and country solos, it can be (and frequently is) a scale used for jazz solos, too. Adding a few accidentals (notes other than the baseline ones indicated below) can make for some memorable moments in jazz guitar licks.

jazz guitar licks


I’ve heard jazz called “the American classical music,” and here’s why I agree: its chord structures are more complex than those in blues, rock, and country. Sixth, ninth, eleventh, augmented, and diminished chords are all common to it. Solo jazz guitar licks feature a level of intricacy comparable to that of their chord counterparts.

Here are a few tricks guaranteed to spice up any pentatonic-based jazz solo.

Lick One

The first of these jazz guitar licks covers the segment between the fifth through eighth frets. Notes 2, 5, and 12 are the only ones foreign to the scale itself:

jazz guitar licks


Lick Two

The next one is grounded in the second-through-fifth-fret territory. It features three open-string notes and only one otherwise “outsider” (the note that’s both ninth and twelfth):

jazz guitar licks


Lick Three

Lick three is a different animal entirely. It’s plucked with an open hand (not a pick) and is based on notes comprising a moving triad. As indicated, the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth notes are pairs (not single notes) and are played simultaneously with the thumb and index finger. The remaining ones can be played with an index-and-middle-finger alternation:

jazz guitar licks


Lick Four

Like the first two, the fourth and fifth jazz guitar licks are based once again on pentatonic segments (the highest and the lowest ones respectively).

jazz guitar licks


Lick Five

While the fourth lick involves four accidentals (the second, fifth, ninth, and eleventh notes to be exact), this fifth lick is comprised entirely of notes that are pentatonic:

jazz guitar licks



As seen above, these five jazz guitar licks are intricate and unique creations that can make any jazz guitar solo an instant hit. Learning the pentatonic scale on the guitar is essential for jazz guitar licks, and once you do, you can apply it to other genres, as well. Be creative, have fun, and if you’re looking for further practice with your jazz guitar, ask your guitar teacher to help you out with some new moves and grooves!

SamuelBPost Author: Samuel B.
Samuel B. teaches beginner guitar lessons in Austin, TX. He teaches lessons face-to-face without sheet music, which is his adaptation of Japanese instruction (involving a call-and-response method). Learn more about Samuel here!

Photo by Larry Johnson

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guitar goals

50 Awesome Summer Guitar Goals

guitar goals

Summer’s here, so grab your guitar and set a new goal with the help of guitar teacher Jerry W.

Summer has officially arrived, which means the sun is out, the days are long, and you have plenty of opportunities to pick up and practice your guitar! Now is the time to go after those dreams you’ve had of mastering the tricky aspects of learning guitar that have been a roadblock in your practice throughout the year.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled 50 guitar goals that you can focus on when practicing your guitar this summer.

Some are easy fixes, while others take more work, but altogether, they will improve your skills as a guitarist and get you back on track to reaching your guitar goals. So get out your guitar and sunglasses, head out to the beach, and start practicing.

There’s no better place to learn the guitar than in the summer breeze!

1. Take lessons.


The quickest way to improve is to take guitar lessons. A good guitar teacher will be able to tell you what you need to work on and help you achieve your goals.

2. Teach someone else how to play the guitar.


Teaching what you’ve learned to someone else has been proven to improve your memory as well. Plus, now you’ll have a new jam buddy. It’s a win/win!

3. Learn a new song.


Use your summertime to add a few new songs to your repertoire. Consider learning a new song that forces you to become a better player.

4. Memorize a new song.


Memorizing a song will help you master both the music and the techniques and allows you to play it anytime you have a guitar. If you struggle with memorization, these tips from Easy Ear Training might help you look at memorizing music in a whole new way!

5. Learn a new music style.


Do you always play one style of music? Learn to play a different style. The challenge will give you a reason to practice.

6. Restring your guitar.


How long has it been since you put new strings on your guitar? The beautiful sound of new strings will make your practice time more enjoyable.

7. Get your guitar set up.


Setting up your guitar involves adjusting the parts of the guitar to get the best action and intonation possible. Having your guitar set up will make it easier to play and better in tune throughout its range.

8. Upgrade to a new instrument.


Is now the time to upgrade to a better quality guitar? Better quality guitars can not only sound better, many are also easier to play. And, as every guitarist knows, having an instrument you’re proud of is great motivation to play every day.

9. Learn how to play classical guitar.


Are you looking for a different challenge? Learn to play classical guitar. It will help develop your music reading and fingerpicking skills.

10. Learn how to play electric guitar.


Do you only play acoustic guitar? Stretch yourself a little by learning how to play electric.

11. Learn how to bend the pitch.


Bending the pitch is one of the classic soloing techniques for guitar. Add this to your skill set to become a better lead guitar player.

12. Learn how to pull off.


The pull off is another standard guitar technique that works well for solos, strumming, and picking.

13. Learn how to hammer on.


Like the pull off, this technique will help you for solos, strumming, and picking. This lesson from Ultimate Guitar will help you learn the basics of both hammer ons and pull offs.

14. Learn how to use a capo.


Learning how to use a capo is easy and can really increase the number of keys you can play comfortably.

15. Learn how to palm mute.


The palm mute is great technique to add to your strumming patterns.

16. Learn how to left-hand mute.


The left-hand mute can add a lot of spice to your strumming.

17. Increase your practice time.


There is no other way to get better at the guitar than to practice. As a general rule, the more you practice, the better you will become.

18. Improve your technique.


Work on improving your technique on the guitar. Remove string buzzing from poorly fingered chords, make sure you are hitting the right strings with your pick or fingers, learn to use the tip of your fingers to reach fret notes, etc.

19. Learn to read music.


Set yourself apart from the crowd of guitar players by learning how to read sheet music for the guitar.

20. Learn to read TAB.


If you learn to read tablature, you will find you have a much larger repertoire of music to play.

21. Learn to read Nashville Number charts.


Nashville Number charts are one more method musicians use to share music. If you’re not already familiar with them, summer is a great time to learn.

22. Learn a new strumming pattern.


Don’t be stuck with using only a couple strumming patterns. There are so many possibilities.

23. Learn to fingerpick.


To make your playing even more interesting, learn to fingerpick. It will make the guitar sound smoother, and you will be able to play more complex patterns.

24. Learn a new picking pattern.


The number of fingerpicking patterns is nearly infinite. Add some new ones to your bag of tools.

25. Learn to keep a steady tempo.


No one wants to play with a musician who can’t keep a steady beat. Try practicing with a metronome.

26. Join a band.


Playing with others will always make you a better player. Just steer clear of these band practice mistakes!

27. Start a band.


Have you always wanted to have your own band? Summer is a great time to start! Try these tips from Music Industry How To to get the ball rolling.

28. Find someone to play duets with.


Playing duets is easier to do than putting together a band, but you still gain the benefits of making music with someone else.

29. Learn a new tuning.


Using an alternate tuning, or “scordatura,” can make playing certain types of music or certain songs easier to play.

30. Learn how to improvise a solo.


Do you only play chords on your guitar? Use the extra time you have during the summer to learn how to solo.

31. Learn some new guitar licks.


A great way to get started with soloing is to learn how to play some common guitar licks. As you get comfortable playing licks, work your way up to solos.

32. Learn the pentatonic scales.


The pentatonic scale is one of the most common solo scales.

33. Learn the blues scale.


The blues scale is also very common for playing solos, but a little more colorful than the pentatonic scales.

34. Learn major scales.


Most songs are in major keys, so knowing these scales will make it easier to feel the key when playing a solo.

35. Learn minor scales.


This scale is essential for mastering those minor keys.

36. Learn the modes.


Modes are alternative scales that are generated by starting the major scale on a different tone. The modes are most common for jazz improvisation.

37. Learn arpeggios.


Arpeggio is an Italian word that means, broken chord. Essentially, when you play an arpeggio you are playing the notes of the chord individually instead of strumming them. Arpeggios are great for picking an accompaniment or for solos.

38. Increase your speed.


Take any technique, arpeggio, or scale, and learn to play it faster. Use a metronome, and gradually increase the speed.

39. Experiment with new tones.


Whether you’re playing an electric guitar and using new amp, pedal, and tone settings, or you’re learning to change the tone of your acoustic by picking or strumming in a different place on the guitar (closer to the fretboard will sound mellower and closer to the bridge will sound brighter), learning to change your tone will make your music much more interesting for you to play and for your listeners.

40. Learn chords in a different range.


Are you still only playing chords in the first few frets? Expand your range by learning how to play chords in the higher frets.

41. Learn barre chords.


One of the best ways to play chords in the higher frets is to learn to play moveable barre chords.

42. Learn Dominant 7th chords.42

Add some color to your playing by learning to add the 7th to your dominant chords.

43. Learn Major 7th chords.43

Give your music a little jazz flavor by learning the Major 7th chords.

44. Learn 6th chords.


Another simple way to add color to your music is by learning the 6th chords.

45. Learn added 9th chords.


The added 9th chords and 2nd chords can make a major chord sound much more interesting.

46. Learn how to play power chords.


Power chords are the foundation of much pop music and essential for making distortion sound good.

47. Learn basic music theory.


Maybe you don’t even know what a 7th chord is or what chord is the dominant. Learning basic music theory will make you a better musician and make it easier for you communicate with other musicians.

48. Learn basic song forms.


It is easier to memorize songs and play with a band if you understand the basic song forms.

49. Write a song for the guitar.


Take your musical creativity to the next level by writing your own song.

50. Become more musical.


Musicality is an intangible skill that is hard to describe but will set you apart from the average guitarist. Learn to use dynamics, tone, and variety to express your music rather than just blandly playing the notes.


Feeling inspired? Time to start practicing! As you’re trying to establish your guitar goals for the summer, be sure to seek help from your guitar teacher, who can point you in the right direction. Best of luck!

JerryPost Author: Jerry W.
Jerry W. teaches classical guitar, composition, trombone and trumpet in Grosse Pointe, MI. He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive both his Masters and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State University.  Jerry has been making music and teaching students for over thirty years.

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11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts HEADER

11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts

11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts HEADER

While it’s true you don’t need to read music to play guitar, you do want to learn to read chord charts. A chord chart is a visual representation of a guitar chord. Chord charts are a little like music-by-numbers—they tell you which finger goes where and on what string, so in case you come up against a chord you don’t know, you’ll be able to play it.

Guitar Chord Chart Em

Chord charts are a cinch to read once you learn what all the lines, numbers and circles mean. Here are 11 things you need to know to master this skill:


Guitar Chord Charts Visualization

The grid of six vertical and five horizontal lines represents the guitar fretboard. If you’re having trouble understanding the basic layout of the image above, hold your guitar in front of you so that the strings are facing you and the headstock is pointing up. The image of the chord chart represents this same view of your guitar, with strings running vertically and frets horizontally.

Which End Is Up?

Guitar Chord Charts: Which End Is Up?

Chord charts are more commonly situated vertically (like above) rather than horizontally, especially in songbooks. It’s good to learn to interpret both vertical and horizontal grids though.

Righty or Lefty?

Guitar Chord Charts: Righty or Lefty?

Since chord chart are typically written for right-handed guitarists, they provide a challenge to left- handed players, who have to do a bit of revisualization by flipping the chart around. If a given source doesn’t provide a left-handed version, you can download left-handed charts online.

Chord Name

Guitar Chord Charts: Chord Name

The letter at the top of the chart is the name of the chord.

Vertical Lines

Guitar Chord Charts: Vertical Lines

The vertical lines on a chord chart represent the six strings of the guitar. The low E string (the thickest one) is on the left of the diagram, followed by the A, D, G, B and high E string, which is on the right of the diagram. The string names are sometimes noted at the bottom of the chord chart.

Horizontal Lines

Guitar Chord Charts: Horizontal Lines

The horizontal lines on the chart represent the metal frets on the neck of the guitar. The top line will generally be bolded or marked by a double line, which indicates the guitar’s nut. Fret numbers are sometimes noted to the left of the sixth string.

Chords Beyond the Fourth Fret

Guitar Chord Charts: Chords Beyond the Fourth Fret

If the chord chart is depicting frets higher than the fourth fret, the top line on the chart will not be bolded (or doubled) and fret numbers will be shown, either to the left of the sixth string or to the right of the first string, to help orient you on the fretboard.

Black Dots

Guitar Chord Charts: Black Dots

The black (or red or any other color) dots on the diagram tell you which frets and strings to place your fingers on. The numbers inside the dots indicate which fingers to use on each of the frets. They correspond to the four fingers of the fretting hand.

Number 1 is the index finger, 2 is the middle finger, 3 is the ring finger, and 4 is your pinky. You don’t use the thumb to fret, except in certain unusual circumstances. In those cases there would be a “T” inside the black dot.

Fingerings can also sometimes be found written along the bottom of the strings of a chord chart or between the nut mark and the chord name instead of inside the dots.

X’s and O’s

Guitar Chord Charts: X's and O's

An “X” above the bolded nut mark indicates a string you don’t pick or strum. An “O” in the same location means to play the string open.

Alternate Fingerings

Guitar Chord Charts: Alternate Fingerings

You may come across a suggested chord fingering that you simply cannot contort your fingers to play. In this case try experimenting with alternate fingerings. The most commonly used chord fingerings, however, will work for most guitarists.

How a Barre Chord Is Charted

Guitar Chord Charts: How to Chart Barre Chords

As you probably already know, barre chords are chords that involve using one finger, usually your index finger, to hold down multiple strings in a single fret simultaneously. A barre is noted on a chord chart by a curved or solid line running through a fret from the first note to the last note of the chord, or by a series of dots in the same fret that all bear the same number.


Now that you know how to read a chord chart, give them a try and see how they can help with your chord playing!

About The Author

Guitartricks.com is an online subscription service that has provided video guitar lessons for beginners and advanced players since 1998. The site has more than 11,000 video lessons with 600+ song tutorials, and more than 2 million members. With an unending appetite for improvement, via ongoing course production and licensing negotiations, the site continues to expand and progress.


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