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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3 Beautiful Fingerpicking Patterns for Acoustic Guitar

3 Beautiful Fingerpicking Patterns for Acoustic Guitar

Looking to bring a deeper dimension to your acoustic guitar playing? Guitar teacher Jerry W. shares three simple fingerpicking patterns you can use to start making more rich and beautiful music today.

Many guitar players focus only on strumming patterns or guitar solo licks and miss out on the beauty of fingerpicking. Becoming a well-rounded guitar player means building up skills in both hands — not just your fretting hand — and basic fingerpicking skills are a must for many guitar styles. Learning how to fingerpick takes time and patience, but once you have a few fingerpicking patterns down, you’ll be amazed at what the possibilities are.

In the folk and pop tradition, the acoustic guitar fingerpicking style is different than what you’ll see with classical guitar. One of the biggest differences is that classical guitar players play with their fingernails, while steel string players stick to their fingertips or use banjo-style fingertip picks. Whereas classical players have a strict way to pluck each note, folk and pop guitarists tend to hold onto a chord and let a fingerpicking pattern rip. With a bit of practice, you’ll find that learning a new guitar picking pattern can breathe new life into your favorite chords.

If you’re just starting out with fingerpicking, begin with basic chords so that you can focus on your picking hand. Start as slowly as you need to, and don’t increase the speed until you can play it cleanly. If you find that the notes are not ringing out or that certain parts of a pattern feel sloppy, slow down the tempo and focus on the troubling bits. In time, your muscle memory will build, and these patterns will become automatic.

There are a variety of fingerpicking styles out there, with many players having their own unique approach to guitar picking patterns. Some fingerpickers plant their pinky fingers on the body of the guitar, while others float their hands above the string. If you’re new to fingerpicking, it’s best to keep your hand floating and avoid the pinky-planting habit. It’s also very important to make sure that your thumb is playing the bass note of the chord, which is either the chord name or the note after the slash in the chord symbol. Check out our lesson on how to read guitar chords if you need help.

For the purpose of our examples, we’ll use the chord progression A D A E, but feel free to change these chords to your liking. The strings you play with your pattern will change depending on which chord you’re playing, so that the bass note will fall in the right place. Two of our examples have four beats per measure, and one has three beats per measure.

Let’s get started!

Fingerpicking Pattern 1

This first fingerpicking pattern is both simple and elegant, and it fits right in with a wide variety of musical styles. The use of the bass note on beats one and three and the two-note chord on beats two and four give this a boom-and-chick-and-boom-and-chick-and sound. I have notated it below in both standard and tablature notation.

fingerpicking pattern 1

Fingerpicking Pattern 2

The second pattern is a little more complex but it creates a wonderful flowing sound that is  beautiful for songs that need a soft, light touch.

fingerpicking pattern 2

Fingerpicking Pattern 3

This third fingerpicking pattern is simply a variation on the first pattern but now written so it works with music that is three beats per measure.

fingerpicking pattern 3

I hope that these three guitar picking patterns have sparked in you an interest to pursue fingerpicking further. Just like with any other musical technique, if you practice these diligently you will find that they become second nature, and soon you will be using them to accompany your favorite songs. If you hit any roadblocks along the way, a good guitar teacher can help you overcome them.

Before I end, let me throw in three more patterns as a bonus for reading to the end. If you take any of these patterns and replace the last note of the pattern with the bass note, you will find yourself with a wonderful new pattern that has a little more bass energy. Keep experimenting and you will be able to come up with many new patterns of your own. Enjoy your new fingerpicking patterns for guitar!

JerryJerry 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 30 years. Learn more about Jerry W.!


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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:


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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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How To Improve Your Guitar Tone Without Buying New Gear

[alt] How To Improve Your Guitar Tone Without New Gear

Want better guitar tone without spending hundreds of dollars on new gear? Guitar teacher Ben M. shares how you can use the settings already on your electric guitar to drastically improve your sound…

When it comes to the electric guitar, players can be relentlessly dedicated to achieving the perfect guitar tone.

Guitar tone (also called guitar sound) is most simply defined as the sound your guitar produces. Guitar tone can be compared to a painting; it is a masterpiece that results from blending different colors together.

In this case your colors are bass, treble, mids, your amplifier, and any effects a guitarist may use.

Guitarists pride themselves on their tone because it is what sets them apart as an artist and gives them their own unique sound.

But don’t be fooled by this brief definition, guitar players can spend countless hours, days, and even weeks carefully sculpting their ideal tone.

However, the good news is that guitar tone is in fact 100% personal and every player, no matter how experienced, has the ability to dial in great guitar tone without spending a fortune on fancy gear (though it is important to have the essentials).

This article focuses on simple ways to improve your tone by simply using all the built-in features your electric guitar already has.

First Steps to Improve Your Guitar Tone

guitar tone controls

When beginning to work on improving your tone it is important to ask yourself a few basic questions:
– What aspects of my current tone do I like?
– What aspects do I dislike? (too dark, too bright, etc)
– Based on my playing style and genre, what aspects of my playing do I want to highlight in my tone (for example: sparkling chords, thick power chords, or clear solo bends)

After analyzing what you’ve discovered, set a goal. Maybe you are trying to imitate your favorite guitar idol’s tone or want to focus on creating your own sound.

Regardless of what your goal is, an important thing to keep in mind (especially for beginners) is to always start with what you have.

How to Use Your Guitar Tone Settings

electric guitar tone settings guitar knobs

While many players may rush to their local music store and walk out with a handful of effects pedals or even a new amp, most players tend to forget one of the most basic aspects of their guitar’s anatomy; the pickup selector switch and the tone and volume control knobs.

Below is a quick breakdown of an electric guitar’s tone settings:

Pickup Selector Switch
Selects which pickup is active on your guitar. Most guitars have three switch positions; some guitars like Fender Stratocasters have five.

Bridge Pickup (farthest down): bright, sparkling sound, lots of treble

Middle Position: warm and shimmery sound, high mids

Neck Pickup (farthest up): full and rounded sound, more bass

Volume Control

Controls the master volume of your guitar, or the amount of signal that will come out of your amplifier.

Tone Control

Controls the brightness or darkness of your guitar’s sound by adding or reducing the amount of bass/treble in the signal.
Bass = darker tone with lots of low end.
Treble = brighter tone with lots of high end and sparkle.

How to Adjust Your Guitar Knobs for Better Guitar Tone

guitar tone knobs les paul

Now that we have established the basics, let’s focus on learning how to use the guitar knobs.

Players of all levels continue to leave their controls dialed up to 10 all the time, restricting them from loads of undiscovered tone possibilities. To make a comparison, that’s like buying a sports car and only driving it only in first gear.

A simple concept that can really help develop a guitar player’s control over their tone is getting into the habit of setting your tones with the volume and tone controls below their maximum levels.

When you dial in your tone with the knobs at 10, you have limited adjustment options. Only being able to turn down the knobs will typically make your sound muddy.

By giving the controls room to expand, you have an array of possibilities if your tone needs adjusting. Below are common ways to use your guitar controls and bring up your guitar playing IQ.

Guitar Knob Techniques

guitar knob techniques

Basic Boost:

The volume knob can act as a boost which can take your guitar from clean sounds for rhythm playing to dirty overdrive tones for soloing. When playing a song keep your volume knob at 6 or 7 when playing chords or verse parts and when it’s time to deliver a rockin’ solo roll up the volume to 10 and you will not only hear a boost of gain (overdrive) but also a volume lift over any other instruments in the song.

Signal Clean Up:

Perhaps your tone is too distorted and you want to reduce the harshness and clean up the signal without changing your amp/effects settings. Simply roll off the volume knob on your guitar a bit and the signal will clean up rather effectively.

Buzz Killer:

How many players have cringed at the level of buzz coming out of your amp? Guitar buzz is commonly caused by poor grounding in your guitar’s electronics and usually requires repairing. But as a quick fix, turning down the volume knob until the hum is quelled can make your guitar sound more pleasing to the ear.

Set Polisher:

If you are in a band, always turn the volume knob down while on stage in between songs to avoid buzz. This makes your set seem much more polished and professional.

Volume Sweller:

A more advanced technique with the volume knob is called swelling. Play a chord or note with the volume knob off and gently roll it back (many players use their pinky on the side of the knob) to let the sound pass through again. Experiment rolling up the knob fast or slow and see what happens. This takes practice but can produce awesome sounds when used while playing.

Guitar Tone Control Techniques

Tone Warmer:

Keeping the tone knob around 9 or 10 is best for warm tones like Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix type sounds. This means the guitar signal has lots of treble making the high ends of the signal sparkle.

Tone Darkening:

Roll back the tone knob for darker sounding tones like Sunshine of Your Love by Cream or the wholesome solo tone from American Woman by The Guess Who. This setting brings out the bass or low end in the signal.

Onboard Wah-Wah:

A more advanced tip with tone control is using the tone knob as an onboard wah-wah effect.

In essence a wah-wah pedal is just a giant tone control adding treble when pressed down and adding bass when pulled back. You can emulate this effect by playing a chord or note and twisting the tone control rapidly, or slowly, from its maximum level to minimum level (much like volume swelling.)

This requires practice and technique but you can get great wah-wah sounds without buying the pedal itself.


After reading this article, hopefully you can understand why improving your guitar tone is vital to developing as a player and that there are endless sonic possibilities at your disposal already.

Experiment with some of the techniques from this article and find what kind of sounds are most pleasing to your ear. Mastering a guitar’s controls, like playing the guitar itself, takes time so be persistent.

Having a solid understanding of the most basic tone tools will not only boost your guitar playing IQ, but also push you in the direction of guitar tone paradise.

Do you have any guitar tone questions? Join the conversation in the comments below!

Post Author: Ben M.
Ben M. is a student at Saint Joseph’s University and has nearly 10 years of guitar playing experience. He specializes in beginner and intermediate guitar playing, blues guitar, and guitar repair. Learn more about Ben here!

Photo by Tiago Cunha

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13 Guitar Apps We Can’t Live Without

13 Guitar Apps We Can't Live Without

The secret to improving your guitar skills isn’t much of a secret at all – in fact, it’s right in your pocket! In this article, guitar teacher Zachary W. shows you 13 of his favorite apps for learning guitar and improving every step of the way…

As a guitar player, I find it important to keep my rudimentary skills sharp. That includes practicing with correct technique, as well as being able to improvise, control tempo, and read music. Below, I’ve listed 13 guitar apps that I use regularly and that I know will help you improve each aforementioned skill.

Each app serves a different purpose, but all of them are friendly to users of all skill levels. A fair warning: these are addictive apps for musicians of any kind. Let’s go ahead and take a look at the apps that will undoubtedly improve your guitar playing!

1. TakeLessons Live (Free)

There aren’t any other guitar apps out there quite like this one. TakeLessons Live offers online classes that are led by live guitar teachers. With the free membership option, you can join a variety of classes from anywhere in the world.

Topics covered include guitar exercises, theory, scales, song tutorials, and more. If you’re looking for a fun way to practice your skills while getting feedback from a real instructor, this is the app for you!

2. 7 Minute Guitar ($2.99)


7 Minute Guitar is wonderful for those who have a super busy schedule. This guitar practice app has compiled a series of exercises that each take seven minutes. There’s no longer an excuse to neglect that daily practice session.

After using this app for a while, you’ll begin to develop a good practice routine; you start out practicing for seven minutes a day, then you extend to 30 minutes a day, and eventually, you’ll reach a goal of practicing for more than an hour per day.

2. Time Guru ($1.99)


Time Guru was developed by rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick for the John Scofield band.

With this app, you get way more than just a simple metronome. This metronome app also mutes the sound at random. This allows you to monitor your own playing by showing whether or not you tend to speed up or drag behind the metronome.

This special feature essentially allows you to take off the training wheels given to you by the metronome, while still reaping the benefits of playing with a time-keeping device.

3. TabToolkit ($3.99)


This app may cost money, but if you tend to rely solely on tablature when you learn or teach a new piece of music, TabToolkit is completely worth the small fee of $3.99.

With this app, you can upload your own sheet music from other programs, such as Guitar Pro, or browse their large library of guitar tabs. In addition to hosting guitar tabs, this app also has a great multi-track playback, which gives you the ability to play along with some of your favorite bands and artists.

This app also works with over 128 instruments – it’s not solely for guitar players. For example, you can take a heavenly Charlie Parker saxophone solo and transpose it to any instrument you please.

4. GarageBand ($4.99)


If you’ve ever wanted to get a group of people together and jam out in your garage till the early hours of the morning, then you’ll be happy to know, there’s really an app for that!

When it comes down to it, GarageBand is the best app for music creation on a touch screen. With real world instruments, true to life sounds, and tons of easy-to-use tools, there isn’t really another app on its level.

5. AmpKit (Free); AmpKit+($19.99)


AmpKit allows you to take your amp with you no matter how far you travel. Just plug in your guitar with a digital interface and you’ll immediately have access to all the amp channels and sound effects of your wildest dreams.

AmpKit+ may cost $19.99, but with this upgrade, you gain access to many more sound effects, amp channels, and pedal options. It’s a must-have guitar app if you plan on playing professionally.

6. Anytune (FREE); Anytune Pro + ($14.99)


If you have a relative that plays the guitar, I’m sure you’ve heard the famous phrase, “You youngsters have it so much easier than we did back in the day.” Well, in this case, that’s completely true!

With Anytune, you have the ability to slow down songs. Use this app to dissect crazy, lightning fast licks or solos without losing the quality of the music. For example, if you’re having a hard time figuring out what notes Guthrie Govan is playing on the Aristocrats album, this app will help you out by slowing the song down at any section you choose.

The app also has the ability to gradually increase speed as your confidence builds – what plausible excuses to not practice do you have now?

7. Drumgenius (FREE)


The name of this app pretty much sums up all that you need to know about it. Drumgenius has over 300 different drum beats in a various time signatures, from boogaloo jazz in 21/8, to your typical big jazz band in 4/4. It’s fun to pick a beat and play along with it on guitar!

8. MuseScore (FREE)


Along with ear training, another key skill that every musician should master is the ability to read sheet music. This skill opens up many more doors as a musician than you thought possible.

Musescore lets you listen to scores of music with the ability to adjust the tempo as you please. If you have the urge to hear the classic T-bone Walker song “Stormy Monday” played at 200 bpm, or perhaps that lightning fast Steve Vai solo on “Zombie Wolf” at half speed, this app is for you.

9. Shazam (Free – upgrade cost $6.99)


Just hold your phone up to the speaker and let Shazam detect what song is playing. This app is extremely helpful for me. I don’t know how many times I’ve been on the road listening to the radio and hear a rhythm I like or a solo that blows me away; instead of forgetting the lyrics or having no clue how the song goes, this app collects the song data for me.

10. Soundcloud (Free)


Soundcloud allows you to post original audio recordings on the web where they can be accessed by anyone. This gateway opens up so many doors that you would’ve never known existed. In addition, this app gives you the perfect place to get constructive criticism from other musicians.

11. J4T Multitrack Recorder ($3.99)


The J4T Multitrack Recorder helps with those spontaneous moments when a melody strikes me and I’m miles away from my equipment – this app acts as a sketch pad for my musical ideas.

With the ability to record 4 tracks simultaneously, this app gives you the basics that are needed for the foundation of any great musical idea or thought. Sadly, this app is only for Android. To those who have an Android phone – go out and download it for the rest of us who have iPhones!

12. Evernote (FREE)


Evernote may seem very basic on paper, but in reality, the capabilities of this app are limitless. This app is perfect for both those who receive and those who teach lessons.

This app has saved my hide on more than one occasion. I use this app to write down a summary of my lessons; this helps me keep track of a multitude of students. I keep constant track of my students’ progress because I like to max out the full potential of what we can accomplish in our hour or half-hour lessons.

For all those out there who are teaching themselves, this app is perfect for logging your progress.

If you include some of these guitar apps in your practice routine, I guarantee you’ll make progress faster than you will without them. Be sure to check out the detailed descriptions of the apps on the store page to see which features work for your reaching goals. As always, be sure to practice every day and don’t be discouraged by new concepts!

Post Author: Zachary W.
Zachary A. is a guitar instructor in Katy, TX specializing in beginning and intermediate students. He is currently earning a degree in music theory. Learn more about Zachary here!

Photo by Dino Latoga

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How to Play Guitar like David Gilmour | Tabs and Audio “Time” Guitar Solo

How to Play Guitar like David Gilmour

When it comes to incredible guitar players, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd takes the cake. In this article, teacher Bernard M. shows you how to play the guitar just like the legend himself…


Many musicians strive to sound like their heroes. They want to get that special something that makes those legends stand out from the crowd.

One of the best ways you can do this is to learn their parts — beat for beat, note for note. While this can be difficult and time consuming, it’s one of the most rewarding learning strategies for musicians of all levels.

One of my favorite guitar players is David Gilmour from the band Pink Floyd. He brings a certain sense of taste and melody to everything he plays.

In order to unlock the secrets of Gilmour’s playing style, we’ll be looking at the guitar solo from the song “Time.” This famous solo is a great example of how Gilmour tells a story with his guitar.

Before we dive in….

This Pink Floyd guitar lesson contains a detailed breakdown of the solo, four bars at a time, with tabs for each section and an analysis of what Gilmour is doing and why it’s so effective. Below is a recording of the song so you can follow along.



Above each line of tabs is a time marker, telling when in the song each section occurs. I also included the chords behind the solo above each bar. This will become important in our analysis when looking at Gilmour’s note choice.

The minor pentatonic scales find heavy use in this solo, especially in the first and second positions (shown below).


Pentatonic Scale Charts


As the song is in the key of F#m, the first position will begin on the 2nd fret and the second position on the 5th fret, each repeating an octave above at the 14th and 17th frets respectively.

At the end, I’ll give you my five tips on how to play a guitar solo like David Gilmour, highlighting the key points talked about in our analysis of the solo.

Ok, ready? Let’s do this!

Let’s play…


Section 1 Tabs


The iconic sustained notes and bends in the first three bars show off Gilmour’s melodic sensibilities. Clearly, he’s in no rush and is leaving himself room to stretch out his chops later in the solo. This slow introduction uses the first position minor pentatonic scale, just tracing the chords at the low end of the fret board. In the fourth bar, Gilmour slides into the second position of the scale for a more aggressive Albert King style blues lick, hinting at what is to come later. For some extra kick, try giving the 5th fret e-string note a quarter-step bend!


Section 2 Tabs


On his second go around the chord progression, Gilmour uses repetition and variation, echoing the beginning of his solo before moving into new territory. This creates a call and response effect between the repeated melody and the varying blues licks.

In the second bar, he responds with the bluesy major sixth interval (9th fret G-string to 9th fret e-string) to emphasize the notes that make up the A chord.

You may have noticed that Gilmour frets or bends to some notes outside of our pentatonic scale. These notes from the minor scale are peppered in to add a sweeter flavor to the melodies.

Notice how half-step bends are used to move lyrically between these minor scale notes. Gilmour ends this section with a long sustained bend to an F#, creating a sense resolution, for now…


Section 3 Tabs


If the first two sections acted as an introduction, these next two are most certainly the climax. Gilmour slides into an F#m arpeggio in the first position pentatonic scale an octave above where the solo began.

To effectively execute this lick, use your second finger on the 16th fret, your first finger on 14th (fretting the G-string with the fingertip then pivoting to the B-string just above your knuckle) and your third finger to bend the B-string at the 17th fret, leaving your pinky free to hit the e-string.

The second bar features a step-and-a-half bend between two full-step bends. This classic blues technique requires strong fingers and good pitch recognition, but is well worth the practice it takes to master.

Finally, Gilmour carries us over the bar into the next section with a powerful lick descending towards the root note, hitting on beats three, four, and the one of the next bar. This is a very powerful phrasing move, using the melody to weave different bars together.


Section 4 Tabs


We land on an F#, once again emphasizing the root of our first chord. This is followed by a pre-bend release, adding some character before descending into a pull-off run. As the A chord comes around, we bend up on the 16th fret to hit a familiar C#.

Notice a pattern? Gilmour’s careful note choice and use of repetition and variation keeps things familiar but fresh.

The next lick carries us over the bar with the solo’s highest note, an exciting bend on the e-string at 19th fret. This phrase is reminiscent of the bend at the 17th fret at the end of the last section (again, repetition and variation at work).

To create a sense of closure as the solo nears a change in the chord progression and overall tone, Gilmour runs down an E major arpeggio, resolving over the bar to, you guessed it, an F# root.

The final slide down the neck signals the drastic change that is about to occur…


Section 5 Tabs


This section marks a dramatic shift from a minor to major mood, bringing the solo to its conclusion. Gilmour begins with a dreamy triplet run over a Dmaj7 arpeggio, using slides to create a floating, liquid feel that perfectly suits the new mood.

Notice the half-step interval from the 9th to 10th fret, marking the brief return of the sweet lyrical tone found in the second section.

Gilmour leaves a lot of space between his flowing slides, giving each carefully-chosen note time to express its particular character over its chordal backdrop.

My personal favorite is the G# note on the 9th fret of the B-string at the beginning of the third bar. Over the Dmaj7 chord, it expresses the heavenly lydian mode sound of the #4 chord tone. (Music theory aside, the take away is this: choose your notes based on what sounds best over the passing chords!)


Section 6 Tabs


In the final four bars, Gilmour brings the solo to a close with two distinct phrases. The first, which begins with the unison bend in the previous bar, calls back to the 4th fret bends at the very beginning of the solo (and the 16th fret bends an octave above during the climax) for some final repetition and variation.

Here, he uses a step-and-a-half bend between full-step bends, a pre-bend release, and a long sustained bend to get the most out of this expressive phrase.

Gilmour ends by playing around an E major arpeggio, bringing a final sense of closure and resolution with the sustained E note on the 2nd fret and the open low E-string an octave below.

What did we learn? My five tips for playing like David Gilmour! Ok, so we just covered A LOT of ground. Let’s take what we learned from analyzing the solo and summarize it into some key points.


1. Tell a story:
Your solo should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. In your introduction, make an opening statement that sets the tone, but still leaves you with somewhere to go. When you reach the climax, pull out all the stops and let loose those licks you were saving. Whether it’s one note or eight bars, make sure your conclusion leaves your listener with a feeling of closure.

2. Bend like a master:
Remember, your good ol’ fashioned full step bend isn’t the only way to go. Try your hand at half-step bends, pre-bend releases, and even step-and-a-half bends. These are great ways of getting the more expression out of your playing (just make sure the notes you’re bending to are in your scale).

3. Repetition is your friend:
Soloing is not just playing a string of notes from a scale (trust me; I’ve made that mistake plenty of times). Repetition and variation allows you to set up familiar themes, transform these themes, play into or defy the listener’s expectations, and make patterns such as call and response.

4. Choose notes wisely:
Use the chords! They’re your guidelines, telling you what notes you should play. While this can be daunting at times, take your time and trust your ears, as they’ll often lead you to the right notes. If you can find the root notes to chords, or better yet, the full arpeggios, you are on the right track to playing with the chord changes. (Want more on this? Look up chord scales!)

5. Be clever with rhythm:
Again, soloing is not just playing a string of notes. Choosing how you use rhythm can make or break a solo. Leave yourself plenty of space with long sustained notes and bends. This will provide contrast for fast and busy licks, making them more effective. For even greater effect, try playing over the bar, or using triplets. For more, check out my article on using space and phrasing during solos.


I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey through the style of David Gilmour and his solo from “Time.” I hope you use these ideas to help spice up your playing, and this strategy of analysis to help you unlock the secrets of your favorite players.


Are there any great guitar solos you’d like to learn? Share your requests in the comments below!


Bernard M Teacher Post Author: Bernard M.
Bernard M. is a guitar and songwriting instructor in Philadelphia, PA. He graduated from The College of New Jersey with a bachelors degree in English. He teaches lessons online and will travel to his students. Learn more about Bernard here!


Photo by Jose Bogado

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5 Essential Classical Guitar Exercises to Tone Your Left Hand


5 Classical Guitar Exercises for the Left HandEarlier, we took a look at how to develop your right hand for classical guitar. In this article, guitar teacher Raymond L. will add to the balance by teaching you exercises for the left hand…

The classical guitar repertoire covers more scales and arpeggios than any other technical skill. Therefore, I consider it important for you, as a classical guitar player or student, to focus on these following exercises.

They’re based on scales and arpeggios for the purpose of developing an agile and solid technique for the left-hand. It’s best to tackle these after you’ve established the basics for both hands.

Here are the five exercises for classical guitar that I consider most important for your left-hand technique.

1) Chromatic scales on all strings (descending & ascending)

Chromatic scales are very common on the guitar. Take a look at this example of one:

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 1

You should play the chromatic scale starting on the open sixth string, then finger 1 on the first fret, finger 2 on the second fret, and so on. Repeat this pattern horizontally, descending and ascending, on all of the strings.

Take care not to repeat the “B” on the third string (fourth fret) when you make the move from the third to the second string, or skip the “B” on the third string (finger 4, fourth fret) and play the “B” as an open second string.

2) Variation on the chromatic scales (descending & ascending)

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 2

This variation has the following repetitive pattern using fingers:

1, 2, 3, 4 – 1, 4, 3, 4 – 2, 4, 3, 4 (on all the strings)

3) Diminished arpeggios using fingers 1 and 4 (chromatic/descending & ascending)

In this exercise you just use finger 1 and 4 on each string, starting from string 6 moving down to the next string, and every time taking the following fret of the next string but make sure to jump a fret when moving from string 3 to 2.

Play this exercise also descending and ascending:

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 3

4) Variation on the diminished arpeggios using fingers 1, 2, and 4 (chromatic/descending & ascending)

In this exercise, you start on string 4 with finger 1 on the first fret, and then move finger 4 to the fourth fret on the fourth string, then move down to the next string (string 3) on the second fret with the second finger.

Repeat this same continuous pattern starting from string 2 (first fret & fourth fret) to string 1 (second fret). Then make a descending chromatic move with finger 2 to the third fret.

Fret string 1 and resume with the same pattern but in reverse, until you reach string 4 again (now finger 1 should be on the second fret of string 4).

You always repeat this same finger pattern 1, 4, 2 – 1, 4, 2 – 2, 4, 1 – 2, 4, 1 in a chromatic/descending & ascending order.

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 4

5) Exercise using string 2 and 5 (chromatic/descending & ascending)

This exercise does not imply any specific harmonic characteristics but nevertheless is interesting to the ear and valuable to finger-motor coordination.

Start the exercise using finger 3 on string 5, third fret, and finger 1 on string 2, first fret.

Play them simultaneously, then place finger 2 on string 5, second fret, and finger 4 on string 2, fourth fret – play them simultaneously.

Now play simultaneously finger 1 on string 5, first fret, and finger 3 on third fret, then play simultaneously finger 4 on string 5, fourth fret, and finger 2 on string 2, 2nd fret.

Finally, go to when you started the exercise using finger 3 on string 5, third fret, and finger 1 on string 2, first fret, playing them simultaneously again.

Repeat this pattern chromatically descending and ascending.

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 5

RELATED VIDEO: Classical Guitar Fundamentals

Although I kept the examples short, you could repeat the sequence of each exercise until you reach the 12th fret or any uncomfortable position on the fret-board.

Obviously, there are other valuable left-hand exercises, as the “horizontal” chromatic scale from fret 1 to 12 descending and ascending on each string, the diatonic scale, the pentatonic scale, just to mention a few. These exercises are not discussed in this article, but you can still rely on the five we have shared, which will definitely do the difference.

Enjoy practicing!

Remi LPost Author: Raymond L.
Raymond L. teaches guitar, classical guitar, musical theory, ukulele, and Spanish in Jacksonville, FL. Raymond has been teaching for over 30 years and he specializes in pop, blues, modern, Latin, classical and popular music. Learn more about Raymond.

Photo by Jason Bachman

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Why is My Guitar Feeding Back? A Guitar Feedback Guide

Why is My Guitar Feeding Back

Does your guitar make a shrieking noise when you sing and play? Do you want to harness its power for good? Here, guitar instructor Zachary A. explains the phenomena of guitar feedback and how it can be manipulated to enhance your music…

An Example of Feedback

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of guitar feedback is Jerry Garcia, the guitarist for the Grateful Dead. Creating a paralyzing shriek, he manipulates guitar feedback in a wizardly fashion, pushing the boundaries of the electric guitar and his amps.

Below is an example of Garcia playing around with feedback.

When you think of feedback, you’ll likely remember sitting in a class assembly – as the person at the podium conducts their speech, a loud shriek comes over the auditorium.

This screech, which is referred to as feedback, happens mainly due to a sound loop that occurs between an audio input device (a guitar or microphone, for example) and an audio output device (an amp or speaker).

What Causes Feedback?

All that’s needed for feedback to occur is the components of a basic public address system; a public address system consists of a microphone, amp, and speaker.

Feedback happens when sound is amplified out of the speakers, then travels back through the microphone, and is amplified again, and then sent back through the speakers for a second time. This loop happens so fast that it creates its own frequency, which results in the infamous shrieking noise. It’s one of the many guitar tones that you can produce.

When musicians talk on the subject of feedback, the comments are mostly negative due to this howling sound that’s produced in the middle of the song they’re trying to play. In addition to the dreaded sound loop, feedback occurs when the gain is too high in the output of an amplified instrument.

As well as ways to minimize and control feedback, there are many ways to increase the chances that feedback occurs. One main point that needs to be reiterated is that feedback occurs in a system that’s at a point of high gain and resonance. This can make it particularly challenging to control, but it can be accomplished.

How to Prevent Guitar Feedback

First, we’ll discuss ways that you can reduce the chances of feedback happening. Then, we’ll dive deeper into the ways of working magic with feedback.

One major change you can make to keep feedback down is by monitoring the amplified volume of your instrument in relation to the space that you’re playing in.

Another quick and painless way to reduce feedback is to change the position of your microphone and or speaker so that the speaker output isn’t feeding directly into the microphone. Keep the speakers further forward, closer to the audience, then the microphones further back.

Other ways to avoid the dreadful shriek are to use a directional microphone. Also, speak or sing close to the microphone; practically kissing the microphone. Also, turn off the microphone when it’s not in use, thus equalizing the signal and lowering the frequency.

Another way is to lower the speaker output. There are devices you can purchase that can be connected in between the monitor and the amp in order to reduce the amount of audio frequency that occurs.

How to Manipulate Guitar Feedback

Feedback can be used as a very interesting tool for a musician, as we heard in the Jerry Garcia video. There are a few ways to increase your chances of feedback happening so that you may utilize this technique.

For example, use a higher gauge string – they vibrate for a longer period of time and require less feedback from the output to hold a note. It’s just another way to transform your guitar sound.

Another simple cosmetic change you can make to increase the amount of sustain and feedback your instrument produces is by making the guitar as rigid as possible. If you have a bolt-on neck, make sure the screws are tight or this will reduce the sustain of the strings.

The old method to increase feedback was to connect a treble boost before the amplifier to overdrive it. Another cosmetic feedback enhancer that can be done is lowering the pickups to increase the distance between the pole pieces in the pickups and the strings.

Although some people choose to raise the pickups to produce maximum drive to the amplifier, this will decrease the amount of feedback that may occur. Unfortunately, pole pieces are magnetic and close proximity to strings will dampen the vibrations.


Now go out and create some scary horror movie sounds using feedback and get creative with it. You can use feedback to convey a vast range of sounds and emotions! Happy playing!

Zachary A

Post Author: Zachary A.
Zachary A. is a guitar instructor in Katy, TX specializing in beginning and intermediate students. Zachary has been playing for more than four years. He is currently earning a bachelor’s degree in music theory. Learn more about Zachary here!


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One Thing Guitarists Must Know About Chords (But Most Probably Don’t)

One Thing Guitarists Must Know About Chords (But Most Probably Don't)

Chords are the foundation of all of those guitar riffs you love so much. Here, guitar teacher Kirk R. walks you through the basics of guitar chords and the importance of knowing how they’re constructed…

Guitar is an amazing instrument, not only because of all that it can do, but also because of how great it can sound when not doing much at all. One of the ways that guitar is most often heard is by strumming the standard chords that beginner guitarists learn.

However, I often interact with guitarists who don’t realize how many other possibilities exist on the instrument. Today, we’re going to look at just one small idea that you can use to stretch basic chords and better understand why we play the chord shapes that we do.

What Does It Mean When We See a Chord Symbol?

Let’s start with a very basic question: what is a chord? A chord is three or more different notes played together. That means that technically a power chord is not a chord at all, because there are only two different notes…but they sound good, so let’s keep using them!

Notice that there was no mention of strings, frets, or guitar in that definition? That’s because when we play a G chord on the guitar, we’re playing the same three notes as when a G chord is played on a piano, by an orchestra, or in production software. 

Let’s take a look at this three note chord idea. If you play a G chord on your guitar like this:

1 G Chord

You’re playing (from low to high) G-B-D-G-B-G. Yes, despite all that stretching and playing all six strings, you end up with just three notes! So when the bass in a band plays a B, the lead singer sings a G, and the tuba player plays a D, what chord do you hear?

That’s right, a G chord!

What does that mean for us guitarists? If I’m noodling my way up the neck and then quickly have to play a G chord, jumping all the way down to the 3rd fret might not be an option. However, if I can find some combination of G, B, and D near where I’m already at, I don’t need to. How about something like this:

2 G Chord

There are tons of options that open up when you realize that every time you see a G printed over the lyrics, you don’t have to do the same chord. Of course, the usual G shape wouldn’t get used so much if we didn’t like the sound, so if it’s convenient to get to and you like the sound, use it by all means!

How to Build Guitar Chords

Now that you know a little bit about how a chord works, let’s talk about how we build chords from scratch. This can get a little complicated, but stick with me – I’ll keep it simple to begin with.

The usual major and minor chords (if it’s just a letter without an “m,” it’s major) are built of just three notes like we’ve seen. Notice that in the G chord they’re also just two letters apart:


Luckily, this pattern works for all chords within a key. Let’s take a look at the key of C, so we don’t have to worry about sharps or flats. So what notes would we use to build a C chord? Let’s take a look:


So we now have our three notes, C, E and G for the C chord that we can play anywhere on the guitar. If we want to play an Am chord along with it, we can use the same pattern:

C D E F G A C 

…uh oh, we ran out of letters. Let’s just rearrange a little bit:

F G A C E 

So now we end up with A, C, and E to play anywhere we like.

Here are a few examples of different sounds you can get from the Am chord:

A Chords

What Difference Does It Make?

Hopefully you can now add a little extra flair to some songs in which the guitar part might have seemed a little boring at first glance. Perhaps you’ve run into this chord progression before:

C G Am G C

Here are a few ways that I might have improvised the chord voicings (depending on style and context) if I were to see a progression like this. Some are faster than others, but they’re all fairly simple if you know the basics of how to build chords on the guitar.

Below are a few options for C and G chords that you could use in this progression. Remember the point isn’t so much to memorize all the shapes, but to understand how these chords work so that you can find the notes of the chord anywhere that you need them.

C Chords


Now it’s your turn to take a few minutes, go back to a song that you thought sounded too boring, and add some pizzazz! Chords are so easy and versatile that you can transform any song.

If you have questions after reading this, or you’re not sure where to go next, click on the “Ask A Question” button on my profile!


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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Tabs and Videos; How to play Acoustic Guitar like John Mayer

Video Lessons: How to play Acoustic Guitar like John Mayer

Tabs and Videos; How to play Acoustic Guitar like John Mayer

Learn how to play acoustic guitar like John Mayer in these video lessons from guitar teacher Jonathan B.

John Mayer has been called one of the new “Guitar Gods.” Claiming Stevie Ray Vaughn as one of his biggest childhood heroes, the blues and jazz influence on his pop style has given him more than just a niche in the radio market.

It’s also made him able to influence millions of guitarists with his playing style and techniques. He continues to release a steady stream of new music and fans continue to take interest in his songwriting as well as his guitar techniques.

John Mayer is equally well known for his electric and acoustic guitar styles; in this article we will focus more on the acoustic. There are several tricky picking hand techniques he uses which throw many would-be cover artists off the trail.

A few of his most popular songs in guitar circles are “Stop This Train”, “Who Says”, “Neon”, “The Heart of Life”, “Clarity”, and “Your Body is a Wonderland”. Although these songs have a few notable techniques in them, we’re going to focus on just one in this article.

The Pluck and Chuck/Pick and Flick Technique

Notorious for confusing guitarists for the last several decades, this technique involves a basic reversal of hand mechanics. You must learn to ‘flick’ the pointer or middle finger and ‘slap’ with the thumb at the same time.

The thumb does not play a note; it simply pushes the string into the fretboard and plants itself there. This creates a percussive effect that imitates the snare drum backbeat. Mayer’s sound is heavily influenced by music with a strong groove, so this technique lets you integrate softer fingerpicking with soulful rhythmic styles without any hitches.

This video has a detailed introduction to chuck/flick techniques, with the most detailed explanations starting at 4:33.

When you start to get the basic stroke to sound good, progress to the following exercises.

They are very simple but they contain the most essential set of motions needed for pluck and chuck songs. When you feel you need a variation or you want to explore a bit, try improvising with these patterns over some chords or making up a solo using the thumb to create a rhythmic drone and playing melodies with the finger plucks and chucks.

Chucks are a tricky technique that take some time to adjust to. It’s usually wise to start learning a song that doesn’t require too many flicks on top of the thumb slaps.

“Clarity” is a perfect example of this, and the main riff to the song is an excellent starting point as you tune your hand position to accommodate the new role of the thumb in your playing.

How to Play “Clarity” by John Mayer

The trickiest basic technique to learn is the ‘single chuck.’ John Mayer’s guitar style uses a lot of individually picked notes that coincide with thumb slaps, so this technique is very important. Aside from basic issues of hand position and accuracy, you have to also learn to mix different fingers into patterns of both plucking and chucking.

Mayer has a strong tendency to do all the flicking with just his index finger, although there are at least a few of his patterns that probably also need to be flicked with the middle finger since the string crossings would be very awkward otherwise.

A good pattern to start with is the opening riff to “Stop This Train.”

How to Play “Stop This Train” by John Mayer

As you start to get this down, it’s good to reach for something a little more adventurous. The opening riff to “The Heart of Life” requires you to pick out a specific melody, which requires you to cross a lot of strings and you chuck out individual notes. Here’s the tab for that passage.

How to Play “The Heart of Life” by John Mayer

Mastering this song is an excellent way to develop pluck and chuck technique. Once you’ve completed this song, you’re likely to find that you can improvise melodies over various bass notes, provided that you’ve already learned a little about improvisation.

One of the best ways to capitalize on your newfound skill is to try to write or improvise on your own changes in the style of “The Heart of Life” and “Stop This Train.”

The first time most guitarists attempt a John Mayer acoustic song they stumble on this technique. Most western string players learn to ‘pluck’ or ‘pick’ strings, where Chinese Pipa and Indian Sitar players prefer to ‘chuck’ or ‘flick’ the strings.

It’s a fundamentally different stroke than what most guitarists are used to, so learning it often makes players feel like a complete beginner.

Never fear, your guitar teacher will be happy to help you, and more and more guitarists are tackling this technique as time goes by, and the number of songs that use it has increased dramatically in recent years.


Jonathan BPost Author: Jonathan B.
Jonathan B. is a guitar instructor, Temple University Music Theory graduate, and YouTube creator living in State College, PA. Learn more about Jonathan here!

Photo by Do512

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Mastering Lead Guitar: Guitar Scales 101


There is nothing more important in the lead player’s tool box than guitar scales. Scales are road maps that unlock the secrets of the fret board, telling the player what notes to play and what notes to avoid.

In this article, we’ll start our explanation of scales with the most basic principles, then build toward a more complex understanding of what scales are and how to use them.

Pentatonic Guitar Scales

The first scale most guitar players learn is the minor pentatonic scale. It is one of the most commonly used scales in rock music, with a timeless bluesy sound that is favored in every genre from country to metal.

Below is a chart of the minor pentatonic scale. If you are not familiar with it, take a moment to play up and down the scale and get it under your fingers.

Remember, memorizing scales is all about visualizing and building muscle memory.

Minor Pentatonic Scale Chart

This scale can be played over any minor chord progression, just find out what key the song is in (usually the first chord of a progression, but not always), find that note on the low E string, and use that as the root (or first note) of this scale pattern.

But what do you do if the song you want to play is in a major key? You play the major pentatonic scale shown below.

Major Pentatonic Scale Chart

These two patterns provide a great introduction for guitar players new to the world of scales.

But what if you want to start moving up and down the fret board? There are five different positions of the pentatonic scale that link together and repeat to cover the entire fret board.

5 Position Pentatonic Scale Charts

You should be familiar with the first two positions, as they are the minor and major pentatonic scales.

It is helpful to think of these scales as shapes that lock together like puzzle pieces. Practice moving from one shape to another, sliding up and down to change position.

The fourth and fifth positions should look a little familiar.

They are the little siblings of the first and second positions: minor and major pentatonic scales respectively with their root notes on the A string as opposed to the E string. Knowing where your root notes are will give you greater flexibility when playing leads using these scales.

Here are a few licks that will get you used to moving around using pentatonic scales.

Major and Minor Guitar Scales

Once you have become comfortable using the pentatonic scales, it is time to upgrade to the diatonic, or seven note, scales.

I say upgrade because it’s good to think of these scales as more complex versions of their pentatonic counterparts in which two notes are added to a five note skeleton. Take a look at the major scale and compare it to the major pentatonic scale.

Major vs Pentatonic Scale Chart

Try adding and subtracting the two new notes to get comfortable with the relationship between diatonic and pentatonic. Think of it as building on a scale you already know. This same relation can be found between the minor diatonic and pentatonic scales.

Minor vs Pentatonic Scale Chart

Just like the pentatonic scales, there are different positions of the diatonic scale that can be used to map out the fret board.

5 Position Diatonic Scale Charts

The major and minor scales are just two of the seven different diatonic scales known as the “modes” of the major scale.

If you were to start and end the major scale on the second note of the pattern instead of the first, you would get the second mode of the major scale, known as the Dorian scale. In fact the minor scale is just a major scale that starts and ends on the 6th note.

Since there are seven different notes to start on, there are seven different modes, each with its own distinct sound and proper chordal habitat. But before we can explore them, we need to learn a little bit about music theory and how scales work.


The Science of Scales

When we talk about scales, we use numbers, or scale tones, to identify the different notes they contain. The names of the scale tones are based on the notes of the major scale and are as follows:

1st (Root) 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th

The five additional notes that lie outside the major scale can be identified by adding a flat or sharp to the number name. All twelve notes that can be used to make up a scale are named below:

1st b2nd 2nd b3rd 3rd 4th b5th/#4th 5th b6th 6th b7th 7th

The diatonic scale modes each contain a variation of the 1st – 7th pattern, selecting one version of each number without skipping or repeating. To demonstrate, take a look at the scale degrees that make up a minor scale:

1st 2nd b3rd 4th 5th b6th b7th

Notice how it contains a set of notes to take us from 1st – 7th without repeating or skipping a step. The b3rd is used instead of the 3rd. The b6th is used instead of the 6th. The b7th is used instead of the 7th. These are the differences that give it its distinct sound as a minor scale as opposed to a major scale.

Before moving on, we must discuss a few essential scale tones.

The 1st, which is found in every scale, tells us what the root note is.

The 5th is a counterpart to the root. There is only one mode that does not have a 5th, but contains a b5th instead, giving it the sound of the diminished chord.

The 3rd decides whether the scale is major or minor. Scales with a 3rd (or major 3rd) are major, while scales with a b3rd (or minor 3rd) are minor.

The 7th creates a pull back to the root note and can be used to create tension. For the most part, scales with a major 3rd have a major 7th and scales with a minor 3rd have a minor 7th (b7th).

The one mode that combines a major 3rd and minor 7th creates a great deal of tension that wants to lead back to the major scale.

It is essential to be able to visualize the scale degrees and where they are located in relation to the root note. Check out this video and follow along on your guitar to get a sense of the spatial relationship between the different scale tones.

Modes of the Major Scale

Now that we have an understanding of scale degrees, we can begin exploring the seven modes of the major scale and when to use them. This is dictated by the chord progression.

Just like the use of the major or minor scales are dictated by the key, the nature of the chord progression will dictate which of the modes must be used.

Before we dive in, a quick note on chord progressions so we can properly understand the context in which these modes are used.

Roman numerals are used to identify chords the same way scale degrees are used.

Capital numerals (I, V) represent major chords, while lowercase numerals (i, v) represent minor chords. I is the home chord, IV is a neighboring chord, V creates tension that wants to resolve back to I. vi is the minor home chord, ii is it’s neighbor, and iii provides tension leading back to vi. vii7b5 is a rare diminished chord that also creates tension.

Ionian Mode

The first mode of the major scale is the major scale itself. One of the most common modes, it has a happy sound that is standard in many songs.

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th

Ionian Scale Charts

This scale is used over the I chord in progressions like I V IV (C G F).

Dorian Mode

The second mode alters the minor scale by changing the b6th to a 6th, slightly lightening the minor sound of the scale. This is a very common mode in rock, blues and jazz music.

1st 2nd b3rd 4th 5th 6th b7th

Dorian Scale Charts

This scale is used over the ii chord in progressions like ii V (Dm G).

Phrygian Mode

The third mode is also minor in character, adding the iconic sound of a b2nd to the minor scale. It has a haunting feel that is reminiscent of Latin music.

1st b2nd b3rd 4th 5th b6th b7th

Phrygian Scale Charts

This scale is used over the iii chord in progressions like iii IV (Em F).

Lydian Mode

The forth modes is a major mode that, in my opinion, is the most beautiful of all scales.

It raises the 4th of the major scale, bringing a hint of the rare dissonant diminished sound (the #4th and b5th are the same note with a different name) to the familiar consonant major sound.

1st 2nd 3rd #4th 5th 6th 7th

Lydian Scale Charts

This scale is used over the IV chord in progressions like IV I (F C).

Mixolydian Mode

The fifth mode is major mode that lowers the seventh, mixing the minor and major sounds. As mentioned earlier, it combines a major 3rd and minor 7th to create the tension that defines the Dominant 7th sound and leads back to the I chord. Like the Dorian mode, this is another rock staple.

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th b7th

Mixolydian Scale Charts

This scale is used over the V chord in progressions like V IV (G F).

Aeolian Mode

The sixth mode is the minor scale. It is another of the most common modes, possessing a dark and somber sound.

1st 2nd b3rd 4th 5th b6th b7th

Aeolian Scale Charts

This scale is used over the vi chord in progressions like vi ii (Am Dm).

Locrian Mode

The seventh and final mode is a very rare mode.

It has a diminished sound caused by the b5th and is very harsh dissonant in nature. While it may not find common use in popular music, it can be found used in jazz music when soloists need to play over a diminished chord.

1st b2nd b3rd 4th b5th b6th b7th

Locrian Scale Charts

This scale is used over the vii7b5 Chord in progressions like vii7b5 III7 vi (Bm7b5 E7 Am).

If some of this is a bit confusing or overwhelming, don’t worry. It takes a long time and a lot of practice and study to fully internalize a working understanding of scales and modes.

However, I hope this has served as a suitable introduction to the wide world of scales that only gets stranger from here with harmonic and melodic minor harmony, and chord-scales that are constantly shifting with each chord in the progression.

All this aside, scales remain one of the most crucial elements of the discipline of lead guitar. So perfect your pentatonics, wield your diatonics, and explore your modes and you’ll be a giant leap closer to mastering lead guitar.

Looking for more on lead guitar? Check out this tutorial on using guitar arpeggios!

How to Hold & Use a Guitar Pick

For a beginning guitarist, the proper pick-hold is one of the most important things to master right off the bat. Grip too hard or in the wrong position, and you could wind up tense, in pain, and with a bad sound. Hold your pick too loosely however, and it could fly out of your hand!

Luckily for you, learning how to hold a guitar pick the right way is easy. Plus, once you master your guitar picking posture, it will be easier to learn more techniques down the road. To get started, you’ll want to make sure you have the right guitar pick on hand.

Choosing the Right Guitar Pick

How should you pick a pick? Well, guitar picks come in varying thicknesses or weights. There are also many brands to choose from. If you’re an absolute beginner,  you might want to try a few different picks before you settle on what feels best for you.

Beginners typically prefer lighter weight picks for strumming. If you’re working on picking scales and basic riffs, a medium weight pick should suit you just fine. Heavy weight picks are great if you are playing lots of leads on an electric guitar.

Pro tip: when you’re buying guitar picks, buy in bulk! For whatever reason, guitar picks will get lost the instant you set them down. You might also want to choose guitar picks in bright colors so they are easy to spot in case you drop one. Always buy at least 10 guitar picks when you visit the music shop. You don’t want to run back to the store in a couple days because all your picks disappeared!

How to Hold a Guitar Pick with Either Hand

hold a guitar pick

If you are right-handed, you will want to fret with your left hand and hold your pick in your right. Before you pick up your pick, take a moment to shake out and relax your right hand. Next, form a loose fist with your thumb on the outside of your index finger.

Turn your hand so that your thumb is facing you. Slide your pick between  your thumb and  the middle of your index finger. Keep a relaxed grip on your pick with the pointed end sticking out away from your hand. Your pick should be held under the center of your thumb.

You typically want to leave about a half inch of your pick sticking out from beneath your thumb. If you’ll be strumming  your guitar, you might want to leave a slightly larger section of your pick exposed. If you need to pick for accuracy, allow a smaller tip of your pick to stick out. This lets you get closer to your strings.

Related: The Different Parts of Acoustic and Electric Guitars

How to Strum Your Guitar

Hold your picking hand over the sound hole on your acoustic guitar or over the body if you are playing electric. Don’t rest your hand on the guitar; instead allow your hand to hover.

Now, use the pick to strum your guitar from the thickest string down. Don’t move your whole arm to strum your guitar. Instead, let the movement come from your wrist.  Practice rotating your wrist like you are unscrewing a light bulb while keeping your wrist straight and your grip on your pick fairly loose and easy. When you strum, you should feel a rotation in your wrist, rather than bending.

You can strum a chord from the top string down or the bottom string up. Try alternating down and up strums to hear the difference between each type of strum. You can try other rhythms or combinations like down-down-up-down to convey different feelings or evoke a genre. For example, punk music will typically use only quick down strums while an old country standard could be slow alternating up and down strokes.


Alternate Picking Technique

Once you’ve mastered strumming all the strings of your guitar, focusing in on alternate picking technique will help you play notes on single strings quickly and fluidly. Use alternate picking technique when you practice scales, riffs, or solos as this technique will help you build speed and play single notes cleanly.

To get started, hold your guitar pick in the proper position between your thumb and the side of your index finger. Don’t worry about doing anything with your left hand at first and just focus on picking. Start with a down stroke on the sixth string, the uppermost thick string, on your guitar. Next, stroke up on the same string.

At first, practice just alternating up and down strokes on your sixth string. As you feel comfortable, start moving this alternate picking pattern up and down the strings. Pick up and down on the sixth string, then do the same on the fifth string, the fourth string, and so on. Once you reach the first string, work your way back to the sixth string one at a time.

If you know some riffs already, try playing them with alternate picking. If you’re just getting started, try some of these easy guitar riffs and be sure to alternate down and up strokes as you play.

Improving Your Guitar Picking Speed

If you’re interested in playing fast guitar pieces, you’ll need to work on your right hand picking speed as well as your left hand fretting speed. A great place to start improving your speed is looking at the angle of your guitar pick to your strings. You should be holding your guitar pick at about a 45 degree angle to the headstock of your guitar and at a neutral position relative to the strings. If you are holding your pick pointed too far up, for example, the up strokes will be easier and the down strokes will be more difficult, which will slow you down.

Using a heavier pick can also help you to play faster. Light picks may bend slightly as you play a note, which slows you down as you go to pick the next note. A firm pick stays stable and allows you to build speed.

Lastly, make sure you are articulating each note. What does this mean? As you attempt to play without tension in your hands, you might be striking notes too lightly. As you increase your speed, these light strokes may become barely audible. It’s okay to play a little harder (but not too hard!). Just make sure you can hear each note clearly.

Now you’ve got your pick in hand and you’re ready to rock! All you need are some songs, plenty of practice, and a great teacher. Taking private guitar lessons from an expert instructor is a great way to learn proper technique and reach your full potential.

Parts of a Guitar: Acoustic & Electric Guitar Anatomy

Do you know your head from your output jack? Whether you’re playing acoustic or electric, knowing the parts of a guitar will help you communicate about your instrument and learn to be a better player. Get ready to dive into this guitar guide and you’ll learn never to mix up your neck and fingerboard again!

Let’s start at the top, or the head, of your guitar. You’ll find your tuning keys attached to the head of your guitar. These can be turned to loosen or tighten each string and adjust the pitch. Many guitar makers also include their brand on the guitar’s headstock.

The head of your guitar meets the neck at a small piece called the nut. In upscale guitars, the nut may be made of ivory, but most guitar makers will substitute hard plastic. The nut has six grooves for the strings to rest in, which hold them in place.

Electric and Acoustic Guitar Parts AnatomyImage by

The neck of your guitar is the long, narrow piece of wood that runs from the head of your guitar down to the body. The flat piece of wood on top of the neck, where the strings rest, is called the fingerboard. The two terms are often confused because some guitarists use “neck” and “fingerboard” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Now that you know, don’t make that mistake!

The wire insets that mark the fingerboard are called frets. Frets indicate the position where a string must be pressed down to produce a specific pitch.

You may also see dots or other shapes laid into the fingerboard under the strings. These are position markers and they help you keep track of which fret you are playing. It is common to see position markers at the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, twelfth, and fifteenth frets of your guitar.


 The main piece of your guitar is called its body. On an acoustic guitar, the body is hollow to amplify the sound of picking or strumming the strings. Electric guitars have solid bodies, so they tend to be heavier.

The pick guard rests on the body of the guitar, near the soundhole on an acoustic or the pickups on an electric. The pick guard protects your guitar from getting scratched by your pick and from fingermarks.

Related: How to Properly Hold a Guitar Pick

The bridge is the piece where your guitar’s strings are attached to the body. On many acoustic guitars, the strings are held in place on the bridge with small bridge pins. On many electric guitars, the strings are threaded through the back of the guitar’s body and an internal mechanism holds the string in place on the bridge.

The Difference Between Acoustic & Electric Guitar Parts

You may have noticed that there are a certain parts of a guitar that an electric guitar has that an acoustic guitar does not have, and vice versa. The main way that acoustic and electric guitars are different is in the way that sound is amplified.

Acoustic guitars have hollow bodies and an opening under the strings called the soundhole. When you play an acoustic guitar, the sound from the strings reverberates inside the soundhole. This reverberation amplifies the sound of the acoustic guitar, and you will notice as you play different acoustic guitars that volume and tone quality can vary greatly depending on the size of the guitar’s body, the type of wood used, and the size and positioning of the soundhole.

The acoustic guitar also has a raised wooden piece under the bridge known as the saddle. The height of the saddle affects the action, or playability, of your guitar. If the saddle is too tall, the strings will rest further from the fingerboard, making your guitar much harder to play. If the saddle is too low, the strings may rest too close to the fingerboard to produce a good tone. If you suspect that the saddle is too tall or too short on your guitar, visit a local guitar shop and let them know you are concerned about the action on your guitar.

Electric guitars are amplified by electric pickups. The pickups are metal pieces you will find on the body of the guitar in about the same place as a soundhole on an acoustic guitar would be. Pickups turn the vibrations of your strings into electric currents, which are then played through the speakers of your amplifier. The output jack is where you plug in your cable from your guitar to your amp.

Different guitar models and brands often rely on the type and number of pickups to distinguish the tone and sound of their guitars. You will notice a small switch on your electric guitar near the pickups. This is the pickup selector switch, and it lets you choose which pickup on your guitar you would like to use to pick up the sound vibrations. Experiment with this switch to see which of your pickups produces the best tone for your style of playing. You should be able to get a variety of sounds out of the pickups on your guitar.

Types of Guitar Pickups

If you are playing on a Fender Stratocaster or Squire, your guitar likely has single coil pickups. These pickups are comprised of a single coil of wire and two small, horseshoe-shaped magnets. Single coil pickups tend to have a bright, twangy sound, but they also can produce a lot of feedback and noise. The single coil electric guitar pickup was used in the first Fender guitars and is still used today in modern Stratocasters.

The Stratocaster has three pickups and a five position pickup selector switch. The first, third, and fifth positions on the pickup selector switch allow you to use the first, second, or third pickups exclusively. The second and fourth positions on the selector switch allow you to blend the sounds of the first and second pickups or the second and third pickups together.

Another type of guitar pickup, P90 pickups were introduced to the public on Gibson’s Les Paul Gold Top guitar in 1952. Basically, the P90 is a single coil pickup with a wider coil. The wider coil is able to pick up a wider range of sound vibrations from the strings, resulting in a fuller, less bright sound.

However, Gibson’s greatest contribution to the electric guitar is the humbucker pickup. Humbucker pickups use two wire coils in opposition, to pick up a clearer tone and “buck” the “hum” of traditional single coil pickups. Humbucker pickups will cause less feedback and noise and produce a rich, warm tone.

Different Parts of the Acoustic Guitar

For more information on acoustic guitars, TakeLessons Teacher Jason M. recently visited our offices to record a video for you. Watch as he goes over the different parts of an acoustic guitar, and check out other videos in the series for more great guitar tips and tricks!

Now that you’re more familiar with the parts of a guitar, you can learn more about playing scales, chords, chord progressions, and more! One of the most fun things about playing guitar is experimenting with your sound to find out what you like. So above all, have fun and rock on!

For guitarists who want to see big improvements in their playing, TakeLessons offers private, one-on-one guitar lessons with the best local teachers. Our teachers tailor your lessons to your unique needs, so you’re set up for success. Search for the perfect teacher today!