Guitar Beginner

Guitar Beginner: Week #3

Fretting Exercise

This week we are challenging you to play this exercise in time— play 4 strokes per note, but have the notes come right after one another with no pause, including when you repeat back to the first finger.  Keep this to thee times for each string and remember to get through all six strings each day!

E Scale

This is going well.  We are focusing on memorizing note names so remember to say each one out loud as you practice.  This week play the scale ascending and descending.

Chord Pairs: E Major/A Minor and F Major/C Major... and bonus: G Major!

This is a chord intensive week.  Make sure to practice each voicing slowly one string at a time a few times each day.  These chord pairs have similar fingerings: take an extra minute each day to move from one chord to it’s pair and back.  Next week we focus on chord switching so do your practice and be prepared!

E Major Chord

A Minor Chord

F Major Chord

C Major Chord 

G Major Chord

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

We've started working on the second phrase (which is very similar to the first phrase) and put both phrases in rhythm. Remember that a quarter note (with a filled in note head) is one beat, a half note (with an empty note head) is two beats and a dotted half note (a half note with a dot next to it) is three beats. Attached is a pdf showing the rhythmic notation and fingerings/strings of these first two phrases as well as a recording of the first two phrases together.

Pete Lanctot Comment
Guitar Beginner: Week #2


We spent a good part of this week’s lesson getting comfortable with your new tuners.  As you transition into tuning your own guitar, make sure you set up some good habits for yourself: set aside an extra 5-10 minutes to check your tuning before you practice each day this week (you’ll be much quicker in another week or two if you stick to your guns with that).  If you want to review anything from the tuning demo I’ve included a video at the bottom of this recap.


Fretting Exercise Review

This is coming along great. Start playing the exercise across all six strings. Gaining control and accuracy is much, much more important than developing speed. One will naturally lead to the other, so be patient! Play with four pick strokes for each note and focus on pushing the pick through the string for the best sound.

E Major Scale

This semester we'll be playing the Hank Williams song, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry in the key of E Major. Learning the E Major Scale will help get the sound of this key into your ears and into your fingers. Play one note at a time walking up from the open 1st string, playing each note 4 times before moving to the next one.  Here are the note names followed by the interval formula.

  • E Scale Notes- E F# G# A B C# D# E

  • Major Scale: W W H W W W H

E Major Chord 


This is the first chord that we will learn-- we're using it to prepare for the main (or root) chord in I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. Make sure that your fingers are rounded and making contact with the strings on their corners so that you can really use leverage instead of strength to fret the notes and get a clear sound. Your hand should feel as though your fingertips are gently pinching the string back into your thumb. A diagram is attached.

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry- First Phrase

A phrase in music is like a sentence in literature- one complete musical idea. The first phrase of I'm So Lonesome is made up of three repeated figures followed by a resolution note. The trickiest part of this is getting the alternating third finger and open string- make sure that your finger comes all the way off of the string quickly when you go to the open E and comes back on quickly before you play the 4th fret again. Don't worry too much about the rhythm yet- we'll get into that more next week. Fret numbers/strings and note names are below and a recording is attached.

  • E4 E0 E4 E0 E4 E0 B0

  • G# E G# E G# E B

Ginger DoldenComment
Guitar Beginner: Week #1

Parts of The Guitar

We won’t be testing this knowledge and you don't need to know every intricate detail of how things work together, but we will be referring to the parts of the guitar by name in class, so it will be helpful to know what these parts are in order to move forward quickly. I've attached a diagram of the parts of the acoustic guitar to this email.

Parts Of Guitar

Pick Hold

Having a solid pick hold will go a long way in allowing you to have a clear and solid tone. Curl the fingers of your right hand hand around as if you were getting ready for a thumb wresting match. Place the pick on the top of your index finger between the first knuckle and the finger tip. The point of the pick should be facing away from your palm.  Find the point of balance where the pick rests comfortably without gripping with your thumb.  Finally, place the thumb down on top of the other side of the pick, lightly pinching it between both fingers. Keep all of your fingers together for better control of the pick.

Pick Hold

Open Strings

Their are 6 strings on the guitar. What is slightly counter intuitive about the instrument is that  each string is that the highest pitched strings are lowest physically (i.e. closest to your knee) and the lower pitched strings are higher physically (i.e. closer to your face). I've put the strings in the physical order the appear on the guitar below and attached a diagram for your reference.

E (lowest pitch)
E (highest pitch)

Strings of the Guitar

Picking Basics

The picking motion comes mostly from an up and down motion of the wrist (for the time being we are focusing on the down half of that motion).   Place your upper arm on the top of the guitar; remember that feeling the edge of the guitar on the inside of your elbow is a good place to start. Curl your arm around so that the point of the pick comes close to the strings (the back of your hand should face away from the guitar). 

Left Hand Basics

Setting up the left hand correctly is really important in allowing you to keep your hand relaxed and get clear pitches on the guitar. Start by placing your thumb on the back of the neck of the guitar by the 5th fret about 2/3s of the way from the top of the neck (a photo of the left hand position from the back is attached). Curl the rest of your fingers around the bottom of the neck so that they sit in front of the strings- try to keep them curved as that will give you the most flexibility and dexterity. When fretting a note, press your finger down on the corner of the finger tip as close to the fret as possible without actually pressing your finger down on the fret (a photo of the left hand position from the front is also attached).

Fretting Exercise

With your left hand position set up as described above, place your 1st (index) finger on the 5th fret on the high E string. Pressing the E string lightly but firmly down to the fingerboard with your left index finger, pluck the E string 4 times with your pick using downstrokes.   Once you get a clear sound on with the 1st finger, place the 2nd finger (middle finger) on the 6th fret and repeat the process (keeping the first finger down). Repeat this process with the 3rd and 4th fingers on the 7th and 8th frets respectively.  A recording of this exercise is attached.  Again take this one slowly and put a lot of space in between each note so that the muscles of your hand can really get used to the process of fretting.  Repeat this exercise 4 times each day.

E Minor Chord

Last part of this week’s assignment: be sure to buy a Snark tuner for next week’s tuning demo!

Ginger DoldenComment