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Learn to Play Guitar

In-Person, Online, or DIY: What’s the Best Way to Learn Guitar?

Learn to Play Guitar

The guitar is a beautiful instrument that lends itself flawlessly to expression and creativity. Adaptable and versatile, it allows the intent and emotion of the artist to flow through it.

On top of that, the guitar is also very accessible for beginners. After learning only a few easy chords, you can not only play songs, but write them! Once you get the hang of it, playing guitar allows you to emulate your musical heroes. Many of your favorite songs are simple to learn on guitar, and it’s a wonderful feeling to play for your friends and family.

With musical elements like chords, scales, and strum patterns, learning guitar can seem intimidating at first. Unlike piano, scales on the guitar are not set out in straight, obvious lines, and chord patterns can be difficult to master. Luckily, learning guitar does not depend on your ability to read musical notation, or ‘notes-on-staff’. Instead, you may prefer tablature, which marks the notes to be played on lines representing strings as you would see on the guitar itself.

Whether you’re interested in learning acoustic, electric, or bass guitar, you need to begin with some sort of instruction. There are many options available: lesson videos on YouTube, private online lessons, books with audio discs, or a traditional private tutor. When seeking instruction for yourself or your child, deciding what is the best way to learn guitar can be overwhelming, so let’s go over the options in more detail.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY)

At-your-leisure learning, whether through books, CDs, DVDs, MP3s or online guitar videos, is a flexible and convenient way to begin.

Pros:

  • Due to the plethora of materials and teachers, you can sample many media and teaching styles easily to find what works best for you.
  • Lessons can happen any place or time you find convenient.
  • You can decide precisely what you would like to learn, and take as much time as is needed to master it.
  • In most cases, DIY is the least expensive option for beginners.

Cons:

  • If you are practicing incorrectly, there’s no one to correct you.
  • Progress can be slow due to not being motivated by a teacher and not having a set schedule.
  • Important skill building may be missed when you are creating your own lesson plan ad-hoc.

Conclusion: While learning on your own is a flexible and affordable option, it is not the fastest way to learn guitar. Unless you’re highly motivated and laser-focused, it’s challenging to reach your full musical potential when you go it alone.

Remote Instruction

Online guitar lessons via video calls provide an alternative to in person lessons, where you can communicate in real time with your teacher without leaving your home.

Pros:

  • Great for students with mobility issues or tight schedules, including busy kids and their parents.
  • Assistance is available as you learn, and you progress at your own pace.
  • The selection of teachers is not limited to those in your geographical area.
  • Often this option is more affordable than in-person lessons.

Cons:

  • Internet connections and software are not always reliable.
  • It can be quite challenging to learn guitar when your only model is a reverse image of what you’re trying to play.
  • It may be difficult to catch subtle mistakes when your teacher is not there with you.

Conclusion: Remote guitar lessons are by far the best way to learn guitar online. YouTube videos and instructional articles can’t give you the personalized feedback that an online instructor can. The more online lessons you take, the more natural it will feel to learn the instrument remotely. You’ll quickly get used to quirks such as the reverse image, and your teacher can even flip their video feed to avoid this issue entirely.

Group Instruction

In larger towns and cities, group lessons are sometimes offered at community centers or after hours in schools. Often high school or college students, or retired musicians, provide weekly lessons to a small group.

Pros:

  • Learning with others can be enjoyable, especially if you find a group that fits your age and skill level.
  • Unlike online guitar lessons, there is a teacher on-site to help you correct mistakes.
  • This is a great way to meet other musicians. Who knows, you may even start a band!

Cons:

  • There is little personal attention. Your teacher may not catch your mistakes, leaving your skills sloppy and incomplete.
  • There can be many distractions as it’s easy for a group to get off topic.
  • Much of your time may be devoted to solving other people’s problems.
  • You have little input into what you’re learning.
  • Everyone moves at the same pace, even if you are capable of learning more quickly, or need more time.

Conclusion: If you’re an absolute beginner, group lessons can be one of the best ways to learn to play guitar. That’s because learning alongside other beginners can help you stay motivated. There are even online guitar classes that combine the convenience of online lessons with the collaboration of a group setting. Once you’re ready to refine your skills beyond the beginner level, turn to a private instructor.

Private Lessons in-Person

One-on-one learning with a teacher focused on you, your interests, and your progress.

Pros:

  • Your teacher is a professional who can bring all the benefits of years of practice to you.
  • All of their technical skills and tricks are at your disposal.
  • You set the pace. You can choose between styles and methods, notation or tablature, and which songs you want to play.
  • Regular lessons and homework keep you on track and motivated to do your best.
  • The education you receive will be complete and will give you the skills you need to become truly talented.

Cons:

  • One-on-one lessons are generally the most expensive option.
  • You’ll need to find someone in your area whose schedule is compatible with your own.

Conclusion: If you’re looking for the absolute best way to learn to play guitar, nothing beats private lessons. Your teacher will provide you with a personalized lesson plan that helps you reach your full potential as a guitarist. Those who are serious about learning guitar should seek the help of a professional teacher, whether online or in-person.

Whether you choose online guitar courses or a more hands-on experience, learning guitar is a rewarding and enjoyable pursuit. Remember to take pride in your accomplishments and have fun. The best way to learn guitar depends on your own goals and learning style. No matter what path you choose to master the instrument, we wish you the best on your musical journey!

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Photo by bennylin0724

Ultimate Guide for Tuning Guitars

How to Tune a Guitar – Easy Tricks and Pro Tips

Ultimate Guide for Tuning Guitars

What’s the first thing you should do every time you pick up a guitar? Resist the urge to shred for a moment, and make sure you’re in tune.

If you’re just beginning to play the guitar, an out-of-tune instrument can be incredibly frustrating and make every note sound like a mistake. Knowing how to tune a guitar properly will ensure that you always sound your best when you play.

This guide will teach you exactly how to tune a guitar using several different methods so that you can play like a pro.

How to Tune a Guitar

The mechanics of tuning a guitar are simple. To adjust the pitch of a string, turn the string’s corresponding tuning key on the head of the guitar. (Hint: here’s our guide to the parts of a guitar).

Turning the tuning key away from you will tighten the string and raise its pitch. Conversely, turning the tuning key toward you will loosen the string and lower its pitch.

How to Tune Using Standard Guitar Tuning

Most guitarists tune their instruments to “standard tuning.” If you’re just beginning to play and aren’t sure which tuning to use, you should stick with standard tuning for now. As you get more comfortable with your instrument, feel free to experiment with other tunings to achieve different sounds with the guitar.

The strings on the guitar are numbered one through six, starting with the highest string.

Guitar String Tuning Notes

You’ll commonly name the strings in ascending order, starting with string six: E, A, D, G, B, E. Take a look at the following image to see to which note each string should be tuned. Note that your highest and lowest strings are both E, the same note spaced two octaves apart.

Each note corresponds to the pitch your string should produce when played open, without holding down any of the frets. When you’re tuning, it’s best to start with the sixth string and work your way down.

How to Tune Guitar with a Chromatic or Pitch Tuner

When you’re learning how to tune a guitar, it’s very important to have a reliable method of finding the right pitch for each string. Most guitarists either use an electronic tuner, app, or another instrument. Each method comes with pros and cons.

For most beginners, using a tuner is the simplest way to find the right pitch for your guitar. Tuners come in a few different varieties. Chromatic tuners “hear” the note you’re playing and display the pitch your string is currently tuned to. You will be able to see if your guitar is sharp or flat, and also see when you’ve adjusted the string to the correct note. Here’s a video to show what this process looks like:

Pitch tuners play the pitch for each string, and you must match each note by ear. You can also get a tuning fork, which you strike to produce the correct pitch for your guitar string. If you happen to be near your computer when the need to tune arises, it’s easy to find a free online guitar tuner, such as this one by Fender. There are also plenty of “tune my guitar” apps available on your smartphone.

If you do decide to invest in a tuner or tuning fork, ask yourself if you’re a more visual person or if you’ve developed an “ear” for musical notes and intervals. Visual people and beginning musicians will benefit greatly from the use of a chromatic tuner, and over time may begin to develop a better ear for music by using a tuner as a guide.

If you feel confident in your ability to hear and distinguish pitch (or if you like a challenge), you might be happier with a tuning fork or a tuner that plays pitch.

SEE ALSO: 5 Basic Guitar Chords and 20 Easy Songs for Beginners

How to Tune a Guitar Without a Pitch Tuner

If you find yourself playing solo without a tuner, you can make a guitar sound decent by tuning it “to itself.” Check out this helpful tutorial or follow the steps below.

Start with your sixth string held down on the fifth fret. You’re now playing an A on your E string. Adjust your fifth string, the A string, until your A string played open matches the pitch of the E string played on the fifth fret. It can be helpful to hum the correct note as you tune your open string, so you can hear if the string is tuned too tight or loose.

Next, tune your D string to match the pitch of your A string played on the fifth fret. You can continue tuning each string to the fifth fret of the string above it, except for the B string. To tune your B string, hold the G string down on the fourth fret. If each string is tuned to the correct interval from the next string, your guitar will sound fine by itself.

How to Tune a Guitar by Matching Pitch with a Keyboard

If you don’t have a guitar tuner handy, but you do have access to a piano, you can use the piano to find the correct pitch for your guitar. Tuning to a piano or keyboard is a great way to get the right pitch for your guitar, and is especially useful if you will be playing along with a pianist or other instrument.

Just tune your sixth string to the E two octaves below middle C. From there, you can tune your guitar to itself or continue to match each pitch to the right notes as you go up the keyboard. As a bonus, tuning this way can help you develop your note-seeking skills on the piano!

Alternate Guitar Tunings

What do Joni Mitchell and Black Sabbath have in common? It’s all in the tuning! Both artists often used alternate tunings to get unique sounds from their guitars. Once you have a good grasp of standard guitar tuning, it can be a lot of fun to experiment with alternate guitar tunings. There are hundreds of possible alternate tunings for the guitar, but two of the most common alternate tunings are Drop D and Open G.

Drop D Tuning

Tuning your guitar to Drop D is pretty simple. Start with your guitar in standard tuning, and just tune your sixth string down a full step from E to D. You can also tune down the E string until it matches the same pitch as the D string, but an octave lower. Famous songs in Drop D tuning include the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”, and Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”

Open G Tuning

If you love Keith Richards’ guitar playing in the Rolling Stones, you’re already a fan of Open G tuning. In Open G, your guitar strings are tuned to the notes of the G chord, so when you strum open, you’re already playing a complete chord. Starting from the sixth string, tune to the following notes: D-G-D-G-B-D. This is a great tuning to explore if you’re interested in bluesy slide guitar!

DADFAD Tuning

This is another open tuning that is popular in blues music. Instead of tuning to a G chord like with Open G, DADFAD tunes your guitar to an open D minor chord. To change this tuning to a D major chord, simply tune the F note up to F# – you’ll then have DADF#AD. This tuning sounds great with open strings, so it’s a good option for those who don’t know any chords yet but still want to produce a powerful sound. If you know a child that likes to bang on the open strings, tune the guitar to DADFAD first!

How Often Should I Tune a Guitar?

Guitars are sensitive instruments. The wood in your guitar expands and contracts slightly due to changes in temperature and humidity. In turn, it can change the tension in the strings and cause them to go out of tune. You might notice your guitar going out of tune as you play it, if you tend to play very hard or frequently bend pitches.

Due to the guitar’s sensitivity, it’s best to tune at the start of your practice, and again any time you sense that it doesn’t sound right. You will notice that even professional musicians occasionally need to take some time during performances to tune a guitar. New strings will also need to be tuned more frequently until they break in.

How Can I Make My Guitar Stay in Tune Longer?

Keep your guitar in tune longer by changing your strings regularly. Depending on how often you play, you might want to change your strings anywhere from once a month to once a week. When you’re not playing, store your guitar in a hard case in a cool, dry place to avoid changes in heat and humidity. It’s also a good idea to wipe your strings down with a clean, dry cloth when you’re done playing to keep your finger oils from corroding the strings.

If you follow these tips but still have issues with your guitar going out of tune, there may be an issue with your instrument’s intonation. Intonation refers to your instrument’s ability to hold pitch up and down the fretboard. The most common example of bad intonation is when the open strings on your guitar sound in tune but fretted notes sound out of tune.

Intonation may be affected by wear and tear as you play your guitar or by the way your guitar was manufactured. Visit a guitar shop and ask them to take a look at your guitar’s intonation. They will be able to help you find the right solution to your tuning woes.

how to tune a guitar infographic

How to Tune a Guitar Step-by-Step:

  • Step 1: Start by tuning the low E String.
  • Step 2: Next, tune the A String.
  • Step 3: Tune the D String.
  • Step 4: Tune the G String.
  • Step 5: Tune the B String.
  • Step 6: Tune the High E String.
  • Step 7: Play a chord to check that all of the strings are in tune.
  • Step 8: If any strings sound off, retune them.

Free Online Guitar Tuners

There are several free online guitar tuners you can use to help you tune your guitar. Here are a few of our favorites:

8notes.com – You can use this tuner to hear the correct pitch, or activate your computer’s microphone to enable pitch detection.

JamPlay – This free online guitar tuner from JamPlay also allows you to tune by ear or use your computer’s microphone for pitch detection.

TrueFire – TrueFire makes a great free guitar tuner you can use on your computer in addition to their fantastic Pro Guitar Tuner app.

GuitarTricks – This tuner uses real guitar tones so you can match your instrument to its sounds.

Now that you know how to tune a guitar, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals on the instrument. If you’re serious about taking your guitar skills to the next level, there’s no better way than with private lessons. The online guitar classes at TakeLessons Live make it easy to improve your playing from the comfort of your own home.

Whether you work with a teacher online or in person, the first part of the lesson will always be to tune up. You’ll then be ready to learn how to play different chords, new strumming patterns, and some of your favorite songs!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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Notes on a Guitar

Roadmap of the Notes on a Guitar

Notes on a Guitar

At some point along your guitar journey, you’ve probably wondered, “What are the notes on the guitar?”

Whether you want to learn how to improvise rock solos or play perfect classical etudes, knowing what the notes on the guitar are will be a huge help in your journey.

This roadmap will show you where you can find each note, so you can take your playing to the next level. No matter what your goals are as a guitarist, knowing which notes you’re playing will help you communicate musical ideas and learn new techniques in a more efficient way.

For many beginning guitarists, learning the notes on the fretboard is not a priority. While many other musicians learn the note names for their instruments from the very start, new guitarists can rock out basic chords without ever learning what the notes on the guitar are. While this is fine in the beginning, you’ll eventually want to get a grip on the note locations!

In this article, we’ll show you how to memorize the notes on a guitar. We’ll also teach you a few shapes to help you play scales and chords in any major key you want!

Guitar Notes for Standard Tuning

A great place to start getting to know the notes on a guitar is by memorizing the notes of each string played open. “Play open” means without holding down any of the frets.

If your guitar is tuned to standard tuning, these notes should be E-A-D-G-B-E, starting from the lowest pitched string and moving up to the highest.

Memorize the sentence “Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears.” This will help you remember the order of the open strings in standard tuning.

The guitar, like the piano, is based on a chromatic scale. In chromatic music, there are 12 notes in an octave, each a half step apart. Each fret on the fingerboard of the guitar raises the pitch of the string by one half step. If you were to hold down all strings on the 12th fret, the notes are the same as the strings played open, just an octave higher.

Guitar Notes on the E and A Strings

For many beginners, the notes on the E and A strings will be the most important notes to memorize. This is because these notes are the root notes for the most common movable chord shapes. The E note on guitar is the easiest to find — there are two open strings to choose from!

One way to figure out what the notes on the guitar are is to think about each open string as the base note of a scale. Take a look at the guitar tab below to see what a scale looks like on the low E string:

notes on guitar e string scale

(If you need help reading charts like the one above, check out this article on how to read guitar tabs).

Following this tab, you will play the notes E, F, G, A, B, C, D, ending with E an octave higher.  These are called “natural” notes. If  you were playing the piano, these notes would be the white keys. Sharp and flat notes occur between the natural notes; on the piano, those would be the black keys.

Most natural notes on the guitar are two frets apart. The exception is the single fret intervals between E and F (open string and the first fret) and between B and C (seventh and eighth frets).

For another example, take a look at the natural notes in an octave on the A string:

notes on a guitar a string

As you follow this tab, you will play the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and A. Notice again that there is just one fret between B and C (the second and third frets) and between E and F (the seventh and eighth frets).

To memorize the guitar notes on the E and A strings, practice playing just the natural notes going up and down the strings. Say the name of each note as you play it. Repeat this a few times at the beginning of your guitar practice each day until you feel comfortable.

The Notes on a Guitar Fretboard

You can continue learning the natural notes on the guitar one string at a time following along with the diagram below. Note that this diagram shows sharp notes (ie. F#) but not flat notes (ie. Gb).

guitar notes on the fretboard

A sharp note is a half step higher than the natural note. A flat note is a half step lower. Depending on what key you are playing in, the same note may be referred to as F# or Gb.

Here’s the same diagram, this time showing flat notes instead of sharps:

flat notes on a guitar

Practice Guitar Notes with Movable Scales & Chords

Simply memorizing each note on the guitar won’t improve your playing very much. You also have to understand how the notes relate to each other! The layout of notes on a guitar may seem random, but these simple scale and chord shapes will help you to remember them.

Try this guitar tab for a scale in G major:

movable guitar scale 6th string root

Notice that the scale starts on G, on the third fret of the low E string. For your left hand fingering, we recommend using your index finger for all notes on the second fret, your middle finger for all notes on the third fret, your ring finger on the fourth fret, and your pinkie on the fifth.

Now, try starting on the 4th fret and play this scale pattern again, moving each note up by one fret. Congratulations!  You just played a scale in G# major. Even if you weren’t able to name all the notes you just played, knowing the correct intervals ensures you’re playing notes within the correct key.

Using the same fingering, you can play a scale starting with any note on the fretboard. The first note of this scale is the root note and determines the key of the scale. Practice this scale by moving it up and down the fretboard, one fret at a time.

Here’s another movable scale pattern for you to practice, this time starting on the A string. This scale is shown in D major, but it can also be moved all over the fretboard.

movable guitar scale 5th string root

You can also learn chord shapes that can be moved around the fretboard. The simplest of these shapes are called “power chords.”

To play a power chord in F with the root note on the low E string, place your index finger on the first fret of the E string. Next, use your ring finger to hold down the A string at the third fret and use your pinkie to hold the D string at the third fret. Strum just the three strings you are holding down.

Maintaining the same shape with your left hand, move each finger up one fret. Strum only the strings you have fretted. Now you’re playing a power chord in F#.

Practicing Guitar Notes with Power Chords

Now move each finger down one string, so that you are holding the second fret on the A string with your index finger and the fourth fret on the D and G strings with your ring and pinkie fingers respectively. Strum these three strings. You are now playing a power chord in B.

You can move this power chord shape up and down the fretboard as long as your root note starts on the low E or A strings. Remember, the root note is the note your index finger is fretting. This note will determine the key of the chord.

The Guitar Note Game

Ready for another fun way to learn what the notes on the guitar are? Try a game of guitar note hide-and-seek!

This game is simple: Pick a note and try to find where it is on every string. Then, see if you can play them one after another in rhythm! It may sound easy at first, but it takes some practice.

For example, let’s find all the C notes on the guitar. On the low E string, the C note is found on the eighth fret. If you have any doubts, start at the open E note on the guitar and count the half steps (frets) all the way up to C.

On the A string, C is found on the third fret. On the D string, C is found at the tenth fret. And so on! Check the fretboard diagram above if you get stuck.

Next, put on your metronome and try to play each C note, on every string, in rhythm! Though it may not sound very musical, jumping all over the fretboard like this is a great way to get to know your instrument.

Now that you’re more familiar with guitar notes, it’ll be easier to learn chords and scales. You’re one step closer to mastering your favorite songs. Remember to keep practicing, and good luck on your musical journey!

If you need help mastering the fretboard, find your guitar teacher today!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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How to Read Guitar Tabs

How to Read Guitar Tabs Like a Pro

How to Read Guitar Tabs

Want to learn how to read guitar tabs? You’ve come to the right place.

The traditional method of learning guitar involves scales, reading music, and other music theory skills. It’s a time-honored process that takes practice and intense study. Tablature is a popular alternative way for guitar players to read music.

Think of guitar tabs as the Cliffs Notes version of guitar playing. Guitar tabs offer a brief and swift way to learn how to play songs. You’ll learn where to position your fingers to play notes, but you won’t be able to see rhythm, timing, or other musical information. This makes learning guitar tabs much easier than traditional music reading.

Neither method of guitar playing is wrong. If possible, it’s best to learn both methods to become the most well-rounded musician you can be. However, if there is a song you need to know quickly, then guitar tabs are probably the fastest way to learn it. In this guide, we show you how to read tabs, so you can start playing your favorite riffs today. 

Guitar Lessons

How to Read Guitar Tabs: The Ultimate Guide

4

An Introduction to Guitar Tabs

Let’s start with the basics of how to read guitar tabs. There are six strings on a guitar and a tab is written using six horizontal lines, each representing a string.

how-to-read-guitar-tabsThe bottom line is meant to be your thickest string (low E), and the top line is your thinnest string (high E). The lines in between are the rest of your strings. The six horizontal lines are as follows, top to bottom: high E, B, G, D, A, low E.

To learn guitar tabs, you’ll need to first become familiar with the parts of your guitar. This is essential for understanding some of the lingo that goes along with learning tabs. You’ll want to know what a fret is and which one is closest to the headstock.

For guitar tabs, the fret closest to the headstock will be 1. The frets are numbered 1,2,3,4 and so on as you move toward the body.

If the number is 0, you will be playing an open string (no finger on it).

Although guitar tabs are a quicker method for learning how to play the guitar, it still takes some time and practice to master. It’s important to realize that your fingers will still bear the brunt of learning.

Each day you should spend some time playing and giving your fingers, hands, and brain some exercise. There will be some pain as your fingertips toughen up. The more effort you put into it, the easier it will get. Picking up the guitar for a little bit each day is the best way to progress.

Start off slow. Remember when your heart is begging you to attempt Jimi Hendrix, you’re probably better off starting with “Happy Birthday.” Put in the practice time, but don’t overdo it! If your playing muscles are yelling, “Stop!” listen to them and take a break.

Reading Guitar Tabs

How to Read Guitar Tabs and Play Them

Here are a few key pointers for reading and playing guitar tabs.

  • Read from left to right, just like you would read a book. Once you’ve gotten to the end of the “line,” you’ll move to the next line, starting again left to right.
  • Single notes will be represented by one number on one string. If you see stacked numbers, you’ll play them at the same time—it’s a chord.
  • You can find full guides to guitar tabs using apps like Songsterr, or by searching the web. As you advance, you’ll need guidance for terminology and keys to decoding guitar tab symbols.

The rest is practice and more practice, and maybe even some guitar lessons. It’s also helpful to understand the basics of rhythm.

To become really proficient in playing guitar with the guitar tab method, you’ll need to understand technique. Study fingerpicking, which you’ll use to play single notes. Focus on firmly holding the string down to get the best sound from your guitar. Watch others play to see what they do.

Read Guitar Tabs for Chords

How to Read Guitar Tabs for Chords

After you’ve mastered single notes, it’s time to move forward and try guitar chords. In tab, chords are written as shown in the diagram below, with all the notes of the chord stacked directly on top of each other.

how-to-read-guitar-chord-tabs

Begin with simple chords. One of the most challenging aspects of chords as a beginner is finger placement. It can feel awkward, especially at first. What takes more time to learn is switching from one chord to the next.

Again, practice will become your best weapon to push through the awkwardness.

A few tips that will help you play chords more cleanly are:

  • Square up your fingers. This is an important skill—it keeps you from hitting and muffling other strings.
  • Understand ideal fret location. The ideal spot is three-quarters of the way toward the next fret (in-between the two frets). In other words, don’t actually land your finger on the fret itself.
  • Place enough pressure on the string with all fingers. With whatever chord you’re playing, make sure all the fingers in use are pressing the string firmly enough. If you have a weak or muffled sound, check your fingers to make sure they are all held down securely.

Although there are general finger placements for each chord, variations aren’t unheard of. In the end, what works best for you and allows you to easily move from one chord to another is most important.

Reading guitar tabs for riffs

How to Read Guitar Tabs for Riffs

A guitar riff is a series of notes that is repeated throughout a song. Many catchy guitar riffs are instantly recognizable, and luckily for beginning guitarists, they can be very easy to play too.

how-to-read-guitar-tabs-melody

Riffs in a guitar tab will look like the tab shown above. Start from the left and work your way to the right, playing each note.

If you’re just getting started with guitar, don’t get frustrated if it takes you more than a couple tries to sound as good as the Beatles. Feel free to go slow and understand that mistakes are OK.

Again, guitar tabs only show you the order of the notes; they do not show rhythm. To get a feel for the rhythm of a song, you should always listen to the music while you look over the tab.

other symbols in guitar tabs

Other Symbols in Guitar Tabs

As you learn how to read guitar tabs, you might start to come across letters and symbols in addition to numbers.

These letters and symbols are there to let you know about some special guitar techniques. Below are a few of the most common symbols you’ll come across and what to do when you see them.

Hammer Ons

You might see the letter H pop up between two numbers, something like this: 5-H-7. This represents a technique known as a “hammer on.”

For this example, you would play the fifth fret note and while it is still ringing out, use another finger to press down the seventh fret on the same string. This technique results in a quick change between notes and is popular in guitar solos.

Pull Offs

Very similar to a hammer on, a pull off is notated with a P between two notes, like this: 7-P-5. To play the pull off in the example, play a note on the seventh fret.

While you play the seventh fret, place another finger on the fifth fret and pull your finger off the seventh fret.

Slides

Slides are represented with a forward-slash or backslash between two notes, like this: 5/7 or 75. Basically, you hold down a note with one finger and while you’re playing the note, slide your finger up or down the neck of your guitar to the other note. A forward-slash indicates that you need to slide up the neck, while a backslash is used to represent a slide down.

Bends

Bends are another popular technique used in many guitar solos. They are represented in guitar tabs like this: 5-B-7. To play a bend, hold the note on the fifth fret and as you play, push with your left hand finger to bend the string until the pitch changes to match the pitch the same string normally has on the seventh fret.

Vibrato

Vibrato, or a quavering effect, is achieved by rapidly bending and releasing the bend, a kind of vibration of your finger on the fret. When a piece calls for vibrato, you’ll see this symbol on the tab: ~

Muted Notes

In guitar tabs, when you see an x over a string, this indicates a muted note. To get this sound, hold your finger on the string without pressing down a fret. This creates a soft, “muted” sound.

As always, when you come across a special symbol in a guitar tab, listen to a recording of the song as you practice the technique. If you have trouble with any of these techniques, a qualified guitar teacher can help you master them and incorporate new sounds into your repertoire.

 

Reading Bass Guitar Tabs

Bass Guitar Tabs

The bass guitar rarely uses chords, making it easier to pick up. However, there are musicians who have taken the bass from ordinary to extraordinary. Musical genres like funk, soul and progressive rock often give bassists solo lines.

The bass guitar has four strings. The tablature is similar to the guitar, and again the horizontal lines are the thinnest string on the top, with the thickest string on the bottom. The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up a bass is that the strings are much thicker than a guitar. Because of this, it may take a bit more strength to hold down a string on the bass.

In this case, the strings are (from highest to lowest) G, D, A, E. The frets are numbered the same, with 1 near the head of the instrument, and the fret numbers getting higher as you move toward the body. Zero will represent an open string.

Since bass is usually used alongside the drums as a rhythm instrument, timing and groove are of utmost importance. On the bass, having a great sense of rhythm is more critical than knowing flashy solo licks (although those are cool, too). Find some drum backing tracks to play along with, and take the time to get your rhythm right when you work with bass tabs. Putting one note in the right place is better than putting a dozen where they don’t belong!

Lessons on the bass guitar can be beneficial to learn some of the basic techniques. Some of the techniques you’ll learn about when you first pick up the bass are:

  • Playing with the fingers vs. a pick
  • Slapping and popping
  • Fretting techniques such as slides, hammer ons/pull offs, and vibrato
  • Finding the “pocket” — the perfect sense of timing
  • Reading and playing along with chord charts

Your bass teacher will walk you through techniques like these, so you can master them as efficiently as possible. Jamming with other musicians is also a great way to develop your bass skills.

Apps for reading guitar tabs

Best Apps for Learning How to Read Guitar Tabs

Before you start the hunt for the perfect tablature resources, you should know that not all tabs are created equal. Since anyone can upload a tab to the internet, there may be some wrong notes in the mix. Fortunately, many people also provide corrections and improvements on previous tabs. When you search for a popular song tab, chances are there will be several versions, so check out the reviews to determine which one is the best.

  • Ultimate Guitar TabsOften considered the number one app for guitar tabs, Ultimate Guitar Tabs stands out with its option to go pro.” The app is easy to navigate, and users have the ability to search for songs, plus, there is a large community of people who upload and correct songs. The app has other interesting features, like tempo control, audio track accompaniment, and scrolling playback.
  • GuitarTabGuitarTab allows you to search for videos, filter by guitar tablature style, query band and song info and have access to more than 500,000 guitar tabs and chords. It’s well-liked among users, and matches up well against the competition for a slightly lower price.
  • Guitar Pro – One unique part of Guitar Pro is having traditional notation along with the tabs. As a tab learning app, it is straightforward, with tabs played in real time as it moves across the screen.
  • Guitar Chords and Tabs – Easy to search and free, this is a popular Android app offers a large library of songs.
  • Songsterr – This app has a selection of 500,000 tabs, making it one of the top apps for tab-lovers. The tempo feature for Songsterr is among the best, and the appealing interface will is popular with users. Getting the monthly subscription is a worthwhile investment.

Resources for reading guitar tabs

Even More Resources to Learn How to Read Guitar Tabs

Beyond essential one-on-one instruction, where you can ask questions and get instant feedback, the internet provides access to numerous songs, tutorials, and skill-building applications.

Whether you’re looking for free guitar tabs or an app for your phone, there is something out there on the web that will fit the bill. The top sites are continuously changing, but some favorites for guitar tabs include Guitar Tab Universe, Songsterr, and Ultimate Guitar Tabs.

Ultimate Guitar is a good place to learn some of the terms and techniques for playing guitar tabs, and Education Reference Desk has a list of 100 sites for teaching yourself the guitar (both regular and bass). Check out this additional article for easy guitar tabs to play now.

Some of the attributes you’ll need to become the best guitarist you can be are patience, persistence, and a willingness to work hard every day. If you plan on learning how to read guitar tabs and play them, be ready to work hard and enjoy the process. Most of all, remember to have some fun!

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Easy Guitar Tabs

Easy Guitar Tabs for Popular Songs

Easy Guitar Tabs

One of the things that makes the guitar so fun and easy to learn is the prevalence of guitar tabs online. Tablature, or tabs, is a form of musical notation meant for fretted instruments like the guitar. Beginners can use easy acoustic guitar tabs to learn songs without needing to know how to read standard musical notation.

In this article, we’ll share tips on how to read tablature and provide several easy guitar tabs for popular songs, so you can start playing some new music today!

How to Read Guitar Tab Music

Before we dive into the songs and riffs, let’s start with an overview of tablature. Guitar tabs are written out as six lines with each line corresponding to a string on your guitar, e-B-G-D-A-E from the top down, as shown in the diagram below. Since there are two E strings in standard tuning, the higher-pitched string is written with a lowercase “e.”

how to read guitar tabs

Guitar tabs show you which note needs to be played on which string by placing a fret number on the corresponding line, but they do not tell you which finger to use or the timing of the piece. Since tablature gives you no information about the rhythm of the notes, it is not a good substitute for standard musical notation. It’s well worth it to learn how to read standard music notation along with tabs to get the full picture.

Read guitar tab music from left to right and use your ear to determine the timing of each note. You’ll have to listen to a recording of the song (if you don’t already know it by heart) to hear how it should be played. If you’re struggling with a tab, work with a guitar teacher for some extra help!

3 Easy Acoustic and Electric Guitar Tabs

Before playing the songs and riffs below, make sure your guitar is in tune. You can easily tune your guitar with an app on your smartphone. Here’s a guitar tuning tutorial that shows you how. You can play these tunes on either electric or acoustic guitar. While the thinner strings of the electric guitar are often easier to play, performing these easy guitar tabs on acoustic guitars will help your fingers build up strength!

Now, onto the tabs!

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”

You can play a wide range of notes without sliding all over your guitar neck in the intergalactic anthem, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

twinkle twinkle little star guitar tab

For this tab, keep your left hand in what is known as “first position.” Your index finger will play all notes on the first fret, your middle finger plays all notes on the second fret, your ring finger plays the third fret, and your pinkie plays the fourth fret.

Keeping your left hand still and using this fingering will help you build better speed and coordination as you learn how to play the guitar.

“Three Blind Mice”

You can also play “Three Blind Mice” in the same position noted above. Here is the tab for this catchy nursery rhyme.

three blind mice guitar tab

“Happy Birthday”

Knowing how to play “Happy Birthday” on the guitar always comes in handy! Try out this familiar tune using the tab below.

happy birthday guitar tab

As you can see, “Happy Birthday” is a melody that can be played on just one string and is composed of four short phrases. The tricky part of this guitar tab is deciding on the right fingering.

We recommend starting with your index finger on the second fret, your pinkie on the fifth fret, and your ring finger on the fourth fret. You can play the first phrase with your left hand in this position.

To play the note on the seventh fret in the second phrase, you will need to slide your pinkie up to reach. You can then play the fifth fret with your middle finger.

In the third phrase, you will have to slide your pinkie up again to reach the ninth fret, and then slide back down to play the fourth fret with your ring finger and the second fret with your index finger.

For the final phrase, use your pinkie to play the tenth fret and your ring finger to play the ninth fret. Then, slide your hand down to play the fifth fret with your index finger and the seventh fret with your ring finger.

Following this guide to the fingering of this piece enables you to hit all the notes while making minimal movements with your hand up and down the neck of the guitar.

Easy Guitar Tabs for Popular Songs

A guitar riff is a short, catchy series of notes that is usually repeated a few times within a song. Riffs are typically simple to play and easily recognizable.

Rock and pop music are full of great riffs that you can learn to play quickly. Here are a few examples with easy electric guitar tabs!

“Smoke on the Water”

This popular guitar riff comes from Deep Purple’s classic song “Smoke on the Water.”

smoke on the water guitar tab

You’ll notice that you need to play two notes on the same fret at the same time in order to play this riff.

One easy way to accomplish this is to lay your index finger across multiple strings in a partial barre chord and only strum the G and D strings. Hold the partial barre shape with your left hand and move your hand from the third fret to the fifth and sixth frets as needed.

“Sunshine of Your Love”

This riff from Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” is also quick and easy to learn.

sunshine of your love guitar tab

To use the proper fingering on this riff, start with your ring finger on the twelfth fret and your index finger on the tenth.

Now, this is a little bit tricky. When you play the first 10th fret note on your E string, slide your hand slightly up the neck to play the 10th fret with your ring finger. Now you can easily reach the 8th fret note that is coming up next.

You’ll notice that this riff calls for a bent string, as indicated by the “b” on the eighth fret of the A string. To bend this note, push the string up the neck of the guitar as you play. Bending a note creates a distinctive, bluesy tone.

“Satisfaction” – Guitar Riff Tabs

One of the most-loved riffs in rock and roll comes from the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Check out the tab below:

satisfaction guitar tab

You can play this awesome guitar riff all on one string! To practice the correct fingering and play with better speed, use your index finger to play the second fret, your ring finger on the fourth fret, and your pinkie on the fifth fret.

Free Electric Guitar Tabs for Beginners

There are a ton of free resources online where you can find easy guitar tabs for popular songs. A couple of our favorite sites with popular songs include Ultimate Guitar and Songsterr.

Keep in mind as you browse guitar tabs that most of what you see online was submitted by other guitarists just like you. If a tab doesn’t sound quite right, somebody may have heard the song differently or made a mistake when transcribing it. Look for the tabs that have the highest reviews, and if it doesn’t sound right, trust your ear!

Also, realize that tabs are just a starting point when it comes to learning the guitar. Critical elements to the guitar such as rhythm, technique, and jamming with others are missing if you just stick to tabs alone. Think of them as a supplement to your guitar learning journey, rather than a comprehensive resource.

By far, the best way to learn guitar is through private lessons. Working hands-on with a professional guitar teacher will help you develop good playing and practicing habits for the long term. If a local teacher is not an option, online lessons can also be a great way to get your questions answered and learn new material. With the right teacher, you’ll have the support you need to reach your musical goals.

Check out the guitar teachers at TakeLessons to get started today!

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How to Play Acoustic Guitar

5 Easy Acoustic Guitar Chords & 20 Basic Songs for Beginners

How to Play Acoustic Guitar

One of the best things about the guitar is that you only need a handful of chords to unlock an impressive repertoire of songs. Open-string basic chords are where everybody starts when they first pick up the instrument, so whether you’re looking to learn classic songs or write material of your own, knowing these easy acoustic guitar chords is a must.

It takes some practice to be able to memorize chord shapes and switch between them quickly enough to play a song. The good news is that once you have just 5 basic chords down, you can play along with dozens of your favorite tunes.

In this post, you’ll learn how to read guitar chord grids along with the 5 important guitar chord shapes. We’ll take a look at one chord-change exercise that will help you get your chord playing skills up to speed in no time. And we’ll review some of the most popular songs that use these basic chords, so you can strum along!

How to Play 20 Guitar Songs with 5 Basic Chords

Smart Practicing

If you’re just starting out on the guitar, it’s good to be aware of some of the challenges that every new player faces. The fact is that everyone’s fingers feel awkward the first time they try to learn the guitar, but it’s important to stick it out at least until you have the basic chords down. Your fingers need to develop some strength and dexterity in order to switch between chords quickly, and the only way to do this is to keep on playing. Even five minutes a day for a couple of weeks will make a huge difference!

Understanding Chord-Grid Notation

Along with guitar tablature (or “tabs”), chord grids are an important shorthand method of notating guitar music. Although it is important for all guitar students to learn to read music notation eventually, tablature and chord grids are usually a better option for beginners who just want to learn simple rock, pop, or folk songs quickly. Remember, the notation is just a means to an end, and just another way to learn something you’ll play on your guitar.

basic guitar chord gridWith chord-grids, you are looking at a simple diagram, or snapshot, of the guitar neck. The guitar is oriented so that the headstock is pointing upward; horizontal lines represent the fret-wires that separate the frets (spaces), and the vertical lines are strings.

Dots inside the diagram represent left-hand fingers, which are placed over the string inside the indicated fret. For the ‘A’ chord pictured here, all three fingers sit inside the second fret. Set your fourth (pinky) finger on the 2nd string, your third (ring) finger on the 3rd string, and your second (middle) finger on the 4th string.

Often the left-hand thumb will stay anchored on top of the neck to deaden the sixth string. Alternatively, the edge of a fretting finger can be used to mute an adjacent string. This is called a flesh mute and allows the guitarist to strum all six strings so that only five strings are heard.

5 Open-String, Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners

A, C, D, Em, G Guitar Chords for Beginners

Once you understand the notation, the next step is to get the chords down by memory. In some cases, these basic guitar chords can be remembered easily by comparing them to geometric shapes. If you connect the dots inside each grid, you’ll see that the ‘A’ is a straight line, the ‘C’ is a diagonal line, the ‘D’ is an equilateral triangle, and the ‘G’ chord forms an isosceles triangle.

After you have the chords memorized, it’s time to check each chord string-by-string to ensure all the notes are sounding. Pick through each string going downward from the bass strings to the treble strings. Listen closely to verify each note. If a string is muted, try resetting the fingers so they sit higher on the fingertips. Make sure the fingers do not touch against any open strings, thereby dampening them.

Chord Change Drills

guitar chord progressions

Practice changing between any two chords using this simple drill. Play each chord on beats 1 & 3, lift the fingers completely on beats 2 & 4, and repeat. Make sure to set and remove all the fingers together (simultaneously). By doing this for a few minutes each day, you will learn to do fast and clean chord changes in the left hand, which is key to being able to play songs well.

20 Beginner Guitar Songs Using Only A, C, D, Em, and G Chords

Now that you’ve mastered the easy guitar chords for beginners, you can move on to learning dozens of new songs. When taking on a new number, start slowly and work your way up to the tempo of the song. Once you’ve got it down, try playing along with the recording or grab friends and ask them to sing along! Many songs will have small variations in how the chords are played, and you can explore that after you’ve got a grip on the basic chords.

Here’s a list of 20 easy guitar songs that use only these five chords:

1. Bad Moon Rising (Credence Clearwater Revival)

2. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)

3. Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)

4. Catch the Wind (Donovan)

5. Clementine 

6. Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

7. Lightly Row 

8. Amazing Grace 

9. Time of Your Life (Green Day)

10. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star 

11. Heart of Gold (Neil Young)

12. Old MacDonald 

13. Story of My Life (Social Distortion)

14. Louie, Louie (The Kingsmen)

15. What I Got (Sublime)

16. Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)

17. Anything, Anything (Dramarama)

18. Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young)

19. Mary Had a Little Lamb 

20. Viva la Vida (Coldplay)

These songs are just the beginning! If you need help mastering these chords or want to add more difficult chords (such as the F Chord) to your repertoire, the best way is to work with a guitar teacher near you. Taking guitar lessons is a great way to ensure that you’re building your skills on a solid foundation. Now go have fun rocking out!

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7 Easy Jazz Guitar Songs for Beginners

Beginner jazz guitar songs

Looking for some easy jazz guitar songs to get you started? Jazz music can sound very complicated, at first. It requires a combination of skills like speed, precision, and endurance. There are many great jazz guitarists that can attest to that.

While advanced jazz can take quite a while to work up to, beginner jazz guitar songs aren’t difficult or time-consuming to learn. In this article, we’ll provide videos and tabs for seven jazz songs that any beginner can start learning today. Let’s jump right into it!

7 Easy Jazz Guitar Songs for Beginners

Summertime

“Summertime” is a catchy jazz standard composed by George Gershwin. It was originally written for the opera Porgy and Bess. Sublime’s “Summertime” is based on this piece.

This eerie melody will stick in your head all day! Below is a simplified tutorial. I think this person does a good job breaking it down (even better than reading tabs):

Jazz musicians like to embellish simple melodies. Here is a more advanced version of “Summertime”:

Autumn Leaves

“Autumn Leaves” is medium tempo jazz piece by Joseph Kosma. Here is a nice recording by Eric Clapton. Listen to the song, and then learn the chord progression.

Be sure to look up any chords you’re unfamiliar with. Strum along with the recording and pay attention to the tempo! It’s not very fast. Take a look at the chords here.

Fly Me To The Moon

“Fly Me To The Moon” is a jazz standard made famous by Frank Sinatra. The steady quarter note pulse is a great way to practice changing 7th chords, a staple of jazz music.

This is one of our favorite easy jazz guitar songs. Watch this video of the Jason Mraz version to find out why! You can find the the accompanying chords here.

Blue Monk

“Blue Monk” is a B flat blues piece written by Thelonious Monk. Try learning both parts and playing it with a friend! Look here for the chords and tabs. Here is an advanced version of the piece:

Next, check out this simplified version:

Blue Bossa

“Blue Bossa” is a bossa-nova piece with an infectious groove. (Bossa-nova is Latin-influenced jazz).

Here are the chords and tabs to the song. Watch the video below and familiarize yourself with the melody. Notice the choppy way the chords are being played:

So What

This is a famous piece by Miles Davis. “So What” is a piece of modal jazz, which is built on modes rather than major and minor scales. If you’re not sure what a mode is, ask your guitar teacher for a lesson on them!

Check out the tabs for this song. This video is a great example of the main theme on guitar:

I also recommend you watch this video of Miles Davis and John Coltrane ripping the piece apart in 1959:

Nuages

“Nuages” is a piece of gypsy jazz by Django Reinhardt. Django played at incredible speeds with only two fingers! He lost his other two in a fire.

Django’s solos and improvisation move at intimidating speeds, but the main melody of Nuages is easy to understand. Here is a version of the piece for solo guitar.

“Nuages” is based on a classical piece by the same name, composed by Claude Debussy. Look up that piece and see if you can hear the similarities. Here is a recording of Django:

If it’s too difficult to play the chords and melody at the same time, just play the melody. You can do this by only playing the highest note in each chord cluster. Here is a close up version with a simplified melody:

As you begin to learn beginner jazz guitar, don’t worry about the improvisations and embellishments (the fast, fancy stuff). Start by making sure you understand every chord in the song, then move on to the melody.

Try learning one of these songs with a friend so you can both practice trading lead and rhythm.

Bonus!

Want to hear some advanced jazz? Check out this video by Snarky Puppy! There’s a cool guitar riff at about a minute in:

Once you learn some of these easy jazz guitar songs, you’ll be ready for more advanced playing. Even better, you’ll be better equipped to write your own jazz song. Have fun with your playing and make sure to practice every single day!

Post Author: Dylan P.
Dylan P. teaches guitar, music theory, and music performance lessons in Independence, MO. He has trained in many genres of music and has experience teaching students with learning disabilities. Learn more about Dylan P. here!

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Gibson vs Fender best guitar brand

Gibson vs. Fender: Which Brand Do Pro Guitar Players Prefer?

Gibson vs Fender best guitar brand

In the Gibson vs. Fender debate, where do you stand? Here, professional musician Michael L. shares his thoughts on the two brands…  

There’s nothing like being a guitar player, am I right?

You’ve got your pick of genres to explore, from jazz to country to metal. You have amazing guitarists to look up to and learn from. And when it comes to gear, you have your pick of some of the coolest innovations to make your sound rock.

If you’re like most guitarists,  you like to talk about your gear, too. You’ll find heated debates online about the best guitar amps, strings, pedals, and more. And if you’re in the market for your first guitar, you’ll likely get a lot of (unsolicited) advice about the best guitar brands and models.

One of the biggest rivalries in the world of electric guitars is Gibson vs. Fender. Many guitar players have allegiances to their favorite company, although both produce professional-grade guitars.

So, which brand is better? To start, let’s review the history of both companies, as well as a general breakdown of the types of guitars offered. Then, I’ll share my personal preference between the guitar manufacturers.

All About Gibson Guitars

Gibson dates back to the late 1800s, when Orville Gibson patented a mandolin design that was much more durable than other instruments at that time. He sold these instruments out of a one-room workshop in Kalamazoo, MI, until his death in 1918. The designs lived on, however, as the company hired designer Lloyd Lear to continue creating new instruments.

In 1936, the company invented the first commercially successful Spanish-style electric guitar, the ES 150 (ES stands for Electric Spanish). Next came the P-90 pickup in 1946 and the Les Paul in 1952.

The Les Paul, perhaps the most iconic model from the company, was Gibson’s first solid body electric guitar. In 1958 Gibson also introduced semi-hollow body guitars with the ES-335. Afterward came the Gibson SG and Firebird in the 1960s.

Since then Gibson has stayed on top of the list of premier instrument manufacturers.

All About Fender Guitars

Leo Fender started Fender Guitars in 1946, and his first innovation was the production of solid body guitars. Up until then, electric guitars were made with hollow bodies, meaning that they were somewhat fragile and somewhat complicated in design. Leo Fender’s guitars offered a more straightforward design; the were bodies made from one solid block of wood and the bridges were simply attached to the body, removing the need for extra calibration of elevated bridges.

The first commercially available guitar from Fender was the Telecaster, originally called the Tele, in 1951. That same year Leo Fender also invented the electric bass. Until then, bassists had to use an upright bass, making it difficult to hear the bass while electric guitars and drums were being played.

Next, the Stratocaster hit the market in 1954, introducing a tremolo bridge (or whammy bar) to the world. Fender kept the amazing innovations coming, introducing the Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Jazz Bass, and Twin Reverb amp over the next decade.

Gibson vs. Fender: Style & Adaptability

When choosing between Fender or Gibson, there are many factors to consider. The main factor for me is style adaptability. Both Fender and Gibson have different models for different musical styles and tastes.

Gibson vs Fender

The Gibson Style

Gibson’s electric guitars generally sport humbucker pickups, known for their thicker, rounder tone. You also get less feedback, which limits the types of delay and overdrive tones you can experiment with, but ensures a cleaner and more consistent sound. Gibson mainly uses mahogany for their guitar bodies, which is what gives it that slightly darker sound.

Another feature that affects a Gibson guitar’s sound is the scale length. Gibson typically uses a 24.75″ scale length, producing warmer, muddy overtones.

Outside of the sound created, Gibson guitars also feel different to players. Gibsons typically have a longer fingerboard radius, at 12″, which means a fatter neck. With a fatter neck, the strings are at a more even height, which may help you play faster.

Gibson Guitars

Gibson Les Paul

Les Paul guitars in particular boast a full tone that can serve as an entire rhythm section if need be. With a switch of pickups, you can also find a lead tone that cuts through, while still maintaining low-end frequencies. Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, and Zakk Wylde are known for playing Les Pauls.

A Gibson SG, another example, is a straight rock-n-roll or punk rocker guitar. It’s shrill with big low frequencies, which is great for blues. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Angus Young, and Tony Iommi favor the SG.

The Fender Style

Fender guitars have a bit of a different sound, again because of the way they’re made. Fenders are usually made with alder and ash, producing a brighter tone and offering a lighter feel.

Fender typically uses a 25.5″ scale length, which provides a rich, almost bell-like tone.

And for its fingerboard, Fender typically uses a shorter radius (7.25-9.5″), offering a thinner, curved neck. Beginners and players with small hands might find these thinner necks more comfortable.

Fender Guitars

Fender Stratocaster

The single coil pickups of a Stratocaster, in particular, may be your preference if you like lots of treble in your tone and want to make lead lines pop.

Some famous Stratocaster players are Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Frusciante, and Jeff Beck.

Telecaster tone, on the other hand, has a bit of a flat thud to it. The notes generally don’t have a full sustain and the lipstick pickup promotes more mid to low frequencies.

Players like Joe Strummer, Keith Richards, and Prince favor telecasters.

Who Wins?

For me, it’s difficult to take a personal side in the Fender vs. Gibson debate. Both companies have produced legendary instruments that have shaped music around the world. Both have helped define electric guitar tone.

However, I will have to side with Fender in this arena. I love the feel of Fender instruments, particularly Jazzmaster and Telecasters. Both have broad, flat necks that fit my fingers and a tone that sounds divine. The Telecaster has an honest thud to its sound and the Jazzmaster gives you a full range of tonal experimental possibilities.

What Other Opinions Are Out There?

Search through any guitar forum or blog, and you’ll find tons of information about Fender, Gibson, and other guitar brands. If you’d like to research some more before casting your vote, here are some articles and posts to check out:

Your Turn

Which guitar brand is best? Cast your vote here:

 

Which guitar brand is better?

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Don’t have an opinion yet? If you’re trying to decide which guitar to buy, don’t just trust the poll results. Try out different guitar brands, models, and styles, and you’ll find what you like best.

And once you have that perfect guitar, it’s time to improve your skills! Search for guitar teachers in your area and get help with playing chords, songs, and much more. Good luck!

Photo by Larry Ziffle

Willy MPost Author: Michael L.
Michael teaches ukulele, guitar, drums, and music theory in Austin, TX. In addition to private lessons, Michael teaches music to special education students and foster children with Kids in a New GrooveLearn more about Michael here!

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alternate guitar tunings

Step Up Your Game: 4 Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners

alternate guitar tunings

Whether you just started guitar lessons or you’ve been playing for a while, you may be itching to learn some new songs and take on some new challenges. You might be wondering: where can I go from here? That’s where alternate guitar tunings come in! With this guide from Michael L., you’ll learn how alternate guitar tunings can take your playing to the next level…

One of the amazing things about the guitar is its versatility. Not only can you play rhythm and/or melody in different genres, but you can also change the tuning (or the key) to create different atmospheres.

Here’s the deal:

Not all songs are written to be played in standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning, so if you want to expand your range as a guitarist, you need to learn play some alternate guitar tunings.

Alternate guitar tunings, or open tunings, allow you to play new songs and explore new music styles. Essentially, alternate guitar tunings will expand your range and skill set.

If the only alternate tuning you know is Drop D tuning, then this tutorial will introduce you to some new concepts. We will focus on three open tunings: Open G, DADGAD, and Open D.


Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners

Drop D Tuning

You may already be familiar with drop D tuning: Take your low E string and tune it down a whole step to D. In this tuning, you can play power chords by barring the low three strings.

Drop D tuning is usually associated with metal music, but you can also play other songs like the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong” and “I Might Be Wrong” by Radiohead.

Open G Tuning

Open G tuning requires three strings to change notes. Tune the E strings down a whole step to D, and the A string down a whole step to G.

Now when you strum the guitar, you’ll play a G chord. This tuning makes the guitar resemble a banjo, except with a banjo, the low G string is a high G string and the low D is not there. You can play some banjo songs in this tuning, substituting the high G with the low G offers a new sound on some traditional banjo songs.

I primarily use this tuning for blues, folk, bluegrass, and rock, but I’m sure you can find other genres to play in this tuning. A couple of songs that use this tuning are “Poor Black Mattie” by R.L Burnside and “Death Letter” by Son House (or covered by White Stripes).

The beauty of open G tuning is that you can strum the bottom five strings together and play a melody with any of the strings as long as the note is in the key G. You can also get any major chord you like if you barre the fretboard on the corresponding right fret (the chord is based off the notes on the G strings).

If you want a minor chord, barre the fret but play a half-step lower, on the B string. Alternating between the low G and D strings gives you fun bass lines, too.

If you would like to learn more chord shapes simply look online for “banjo chord chart” and apply those shapes to the guitar in this tuning.

DAGAD Tuning

DADGAD is very similar to open G. For this tuning, just tune the fifth string back up to A and the B string to A. This tuning opens the door for some really neat sounding modal music.

You can play folk music, like Paul Simon’s version of “Scarborough Fair” and “Armistice Day”, some rock music like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir“, or even nu-metal like Slipknot’s “Circle“.

Open D Tuning

Open D tuning requires four strings to change notes. Tune the E strings down to D, the G string to F#, and the B string to A.

Now, when you strum the guitar, you’ll get a D chord. Again, I mostly use this tuning for rural music (blues, country, bluegrass, ragtime, etc.) This tuning is also my favorite to play the slide guitar.

Go ahead and strum steadily on the low D string while playing melody notes on the high D and A strings, and tell me that’s not one of the most sultry sounds you’ve heard! A couple of my favorite songs in open D are “Blind Willie McTell” by Statesboro Blues and Bob Dylan’s “Corina, Corina“.

As with open G, you can find any major chord by barring the corresponding fret (the chord is based off the note on the D strings). If you want a minor chord, play a half-step down on the F# string.

Here are a couple of open D chords, besides barre chords, to get you started.

G7 A7
—3— —2—
—2— —0—
—1— —1—
—0— —2—
—2— —0—
—0— —2—

I hope this gives you some new ideas on how to approach the guitar. Have fun with these alternate guitar tunings. They changed the way I think of guitar and I hope they do the same for you, especially if you’re a fan of delta blues and folk music!

If you need help with any of these alternate guitar tunings, ask your guitar teacher to go over them during your next lesson!

Want to ramp up your guitar skills at home? Try one of our free online group classes

Willy MPost Author: Michael L.
Michael teaches ukulele, guitar, drums, and music theory in Austin, TX. He studied music theory and vocal performance at the Florence University of the Arts in Italy. In addition to private lessons, Michael teaches music to special education students in Austin public schools and foster children with Kids in a New GrooveLearn more about Michael here!

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online guitar class

I Tried an Online Guitar Class and Here’s What Happened…

online guitar class

Have you ever wondered if you can really learn guitar online? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to try an online class but weren’t sure if it was right for you. Check out this video testimonial and find out how you can try a free online group class!

If you didn’t already know, you can take live, online guitar classes right here at TakeLessons! In the new TakeLessons Classroom, you can connect with a teacher and take a lesson on your computer or mobile device. The best part? You don’t even need to leave your house to boost your guitar skills!

If you’ve never taken an online class, you may have some questions about how it works. In this video testimonial, learn all about the new TakeLessons Classroom and find out if online classes are right for you!

Desi M. enjoyed her class on easy guitar chords for beginners. As a mom, she loved that the TakeLessons Classroom was easy to set up and convenient to use at home.

Desi: The best thing about the online course was that it was first offered for free to try it out. Setup was easy, I just needed to find a quiet spot, and in a full house with kids, that’s hard to do! Which also leads to the convenience part of taking an online course: You can’t really bring your children with you on lessons, depending on the instructor and/or classroom setting, so being able to take a free lesson while watching your kids in the next room is amazing. 

If you’re unsure about online classes, I recommend trying a class for yourself. You never know where it may lead you, and even if you decide you prefer in-person lessons, you’re still going to learn from the experience.

Check out the video for Desi’s full recap of her online class experience.


Have you taken an online class? We’d love to hear about your experience. Let us know in the comments below!

Are you interested in trying a live, online class? In addition to guitar, we also offer classes in singing, piano, language, photography, crafts, and more. For a limited time, you can try a class for free. Check out the class schedule, here

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