Are you just starting out learning the guitar, and confused as to what you should practice, and when?
In this lesson I give you an overview of the things you will be learning in the coming weeks, months and years.
In today’s lesson I will give you 7 beginner guitar exercises to actually get you started.
In these exercises I do my best to give you a little taster of the different elements of guitar playing you will be working on.
Guitar exercise for beginners 1: A short melody
I believe that every student’s first guitar lesson should involve learning a short, popular melody like the one in the example below.
The first reason for this is that it’s an easy way to put basic things such as holding the pick correctly, or putting your fingers on the right frets, into practice.
The second reason is that you’ll start learning how to read guitar tabs.
And the third is that rather than playing a boring chromatic exercise, or chords (which are harder), you can hear actual music coming out from your guitar, which is a huge motivator to practice.
In this exercise we’ll be playing part of the tune to “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven.
Guitar exercise for beginners 2: Single note rhythmic pattern
The first step to learning a tune like the above is to find the notes on the guitar, decide which finger is going to play which note and pick the notes.
The second step is to play it on time.
You may do so in the melody given in the previous exercise because you’re playing a very simple tune that you already know.
But what if you haven’t heard the music you’re going to play before? Or if the rhythm is too complex to figure out by ear?
Rhythmic notation comes to the rescue.
If you don’t understand note values yet, go through this lesson before proceeding with these exercises.
It is important for beginner guitar players and advancing players alike to have the basic components of rhythm under their belt, and are able to understand, and play notes for the duration intended by the composer.
When you reach the level of writing your own songs, knowledge of these different note/chord durations will show you different options you can use to create your own rhythms.
For now, play this simple rhythm on a single note, using the given picking suggestions.
Guitar exercise for beginners 3: Your first chords
As you gain skills in guitar playing, you will also be building a knowledge base of chords.
Start from these 4 chords which are not hard to play, but extremely common in most forms of music.
Guitar exercise for beginners 4: Changing chords
Learning how to play a chord is the first step.
The next step is changing from one guitar chord to another.
Start playing different combinations of the chords given above.
Examples: Em – Am, Am – C, C – G, Am – C – Em, C – G – Am – Em, etc.
Guitar exercise for beginners 5: Strumming chords
In this exercise we’ll be combining together what we’ve learned in the three preceding exercises:
You will be strumming a chord in a rhythm and then changing to other chords, keeping the same rhythm.
Tip: The dots before the last barline in the example mean that you should repeat the whole piece of music.
In the example it’s repeated only one time, but you can keep repeating it as a loop to start developing a steady sense of rhythm.
You should also experiment with changing the chord progression over the same rhythm or even making changes to the rhythm.
Guitar exercise for beginners 6: Broken chords
A broken chord, (sometimes called an arpeggio, which is not entirely accurate) simply means that instead of strumming the chord, you hit the notes one by one with the pick.
In the next exercise, we’ll be using the same four chords but this time, play their notes separately.
Guitar exercise for beginners 7: The minor pentatonic scale
At this stage in your guitar learning curve, you don’t yet understand the full value of scales.
Soon you’ll be hearing about “guitar scales” a lot.
I do not suggest learning a lot of guitar scales at this stage since you don’t have enough skills to put them into use in improvisation or composition.
That said, learning the minor pentatonic scale, and eventually other scales does benefit you in both short and long run.
First of all because learning them makes a good guitar exercise in itself.
Secondly, since most of the music you’ll be learning is actually written in scales (whether the composer was doing so consciously or not), your fingers will start gaining muscle memory for patterns you will be encountering in a lot of guitar riffs, licks and solos.
Once you start finding those patterns in music passages, they will feel familiar and will thus, easier to learn.
A minor pentatonic:
Conclusion: Where to go from here
The beginner guitar exercises in this lesson are meant to be a taster of the different skills you will be gaining in the near future.
The next step is to keep building on the above.
Learn new tunes, guitar intros, riffs, licks, solos, as well as entire songs.
New chords, new rhythmic patterns, more scales, so on and so forth.
As you go along, it’s very important to look out for connections between all these skills.
For now, you may not be able to see the link between all the exercises given above.
Or just have a vague idea.
But if you keep an eye for them, you will soon start seeing the dots getting connected.
Music theory is one of the things that will help you see these connections.
Some guitar players think music theory is either unnecessary, or even worse, detrimental to one’s creativity.
This couldn’t be further than the truth.
If understood, music theory answers many of your questions and makes sense of what you’re doing.
If applied, it actually opens the door for the creative mind.
Rather than a set of rules which can’t be broken (in fact many new musical movements or genres are the result of people bending or breaking those rules), music theory shows the creative guitar player how to make sense of the fretboard.
The last thing you need to start this journey on the right track is to start developing an ideal guitar practicing mindset that gets you to overcome the problems you will face along the way by turning them into breakthroughs and results.
A healthy practicing mindset, the right information, and a lot of time understanding and applying that information, is what turns beginner guitar students into great guitar players.
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