University Lesson 1

WELCOME STUDENTS to University. This course will introduce you to the world of guitar. We will begin at the very best place, of course, the beginning. Although for some of you, this may appear somewhat redundant or maybe simple review but, we are making sure that everyone has the same foundation from which to draw upon; from beginner to expert. Included with this tutorial is an instructional video highlighting many of the details which will be covered in this first lesson. Please read through everything on this page, prior to launching the video.


University Syllabus 

This what will be going over at GU.

  • How to Hold Your Guitar
  • How to Hold Your Classical Guitar
  • Timbral Areas
  • Guitar Exercises

This course will cover a great deal of information starting with holding the guitar, learning the notes of the guitar, and exercises for finger strength and speed. We will then move onto the application of basic scales and modes, along with chords, time and rhythmic concepts, and generating ideas. We will then conclude this course with how to apply all of the topics to specific styles of play (blues, jazz, rock, r & b, classical, afro-cuban, etc). Some knowledge of basic theory and note recognition is recommended.

So lets get started.once again, welcome! I am Professor Steve and you are now entering University.  For starters, let's make sure that everyone has the basic tools required to participate in this tutorial.


Course Materials:

1.  Guitar (** A guitar that is properly set-up is strongly recommended!)
2.  Guitar Tuner (electronic)
3.  Metronome (preferably electronic, not the wind-up kind!)
4.  Manuscript paper (10 or 12 staves per page)
5.  Chord Diagram Paper

(** It is a lot harder to play, and in some cases, can cause injury if a guitar is not set-up properly.  There are many proper ways to set-up a guitar depending upon ones technique and playing style.  A guitar set-up should be performed by a qualified, well respected luthier or guitar repairman and may include adjustments to the guitars string height (action), neck relief, nut height, bridge saddle, frets, bridge/saddle/nut intonation, electronics and any necessary structural repairs.)

Parts of the Guitar

  I.  How To Hold The Guitar
(Right-handed perspective presented)
Seated position:  The lower waist of the guitar should be placed flat on your leg for the best stability (Most people prefer the right leg.  Classical guitarists will place the guitar on their left leg while using a footstool or similar device).  Try to avoid tilting the instrument back on its edge with the soundboard angled towards you.  This position makes the guitar less stable.  If you are playing a large acoustic guitar or arch-top guitar and are having trouble viewing your hand position, try to lean over the instrument a bit more rather than tilting the guitar.  (Note: Some people find that an acoustic Dreadnaught style guitar is too large and cumbersome to play due to its wide body depth {4 7/8} -- especially underneath their right arm.  Before automatically purchasing a Dreadnaught style acoustic guitar, consider auditioning a variety of acoustic guitars to determine which body size, style, wood, composite or synthetic materials, string spacing, string length, cut-away or non-cutaway, etc provides the most comfort and best suits your intended musical expression. In the end, it may turn out that a Dreadnaught style guitar is the perfect guitar for you!)
In order to more easily access the upper frets, it is suggested that the guitars headstock is positioned higher than the body of the guitar most preferably at or near eye level when seated or standing (ca. 2 inches below eye level is fine).  When seated, you may cross your right leg over your left or prop up your right foot a bit to raise the guitar.  Or, you may use a comfortable guitar strap so that the guitars headstock is at the proper height when seated or standing.  Practicing with a properly adjusted strap while seated provides an additional benefit when standing, since the guitars relative position remains the same.  The indelible image of the Rock guitar icon standing with the guitar positioned at belt level has a particular visual appeal.  However, the left forearm may be drastically extended downward defeating the desirable left hand placement while decreasing efficiency and accuracy to all areas of the fret board. It is preferable to raise the guitar so that the headstock is at or near eye level so that the left forearm is either perpendicular to or slightly angled upward relative to the floor.  (Note: Guitar straps are manufactured in a variety of widths, and materials [leather, nylon, cloth, neoprene, polypropylene etc].  Some have extra padding for added comfort.  Look for a strap that adequately supports the weight of your guitar, does not rub against your neck (therefore, the strap may be too wide) and does not excessively flex or make the instrument bounce thus destabilizing the playing position.  The use of strap locking devices is strongly recommended!)
II. The Left-hand Position
First, make sure that the nails on your left-hand are cut short, below the surface of the fingertip.  If your fingernails are too long, it will adversely affect your hand position and will be difficult to play on the fingertips

Place the meatiest part of your thumb convexly positioned on the top third of the back of the guitar neck, adjacent to the second fret (second finger).  (If someone were sitting directly across from you, they would see the tip of your thumb peeking over the back to the guitar neck).  Place your first fingertip (of your index finger) just behind the first fret of the 6th string (low E string).  Add your second fingertip just behind the second fret of the same string (6th string) without disturbing the placement of your first finger!  Add your third finger and fourth finger in a similar manner just behind the third and fourth frets respectively.  Repeat this exercise on all six strings.  Important:  Make sure you do not press too hard just enough to depress the string.  Make sure you do not collapse the distal interphalangeal joint (the 3rd finger joint from where the finger meets the hand).  Doing so will greatly impede your technique, degrade your tone and may cause injury over time.  Keep your left wrist straight, perpendicular to the fingerboard.  Resist twisting your wrist so that your ring and pinky fingers are further away from the fingerboard than your index and middle fingers.  Left-hand fingers that are currently not in use should be preparing for the next note they are about to play by hovering slightly above the frets.  Make sure your left arm does not move outwardly away from your body causing your elbow to stick out -- this may cause tension in your shoulder.  Keep your left arm relaxed (from shoulder to wrist) and fairly close to your body.  Try to avoid resting your left arm on your left leg when accessing the fingerboard.  This may impede your technique as your arm contacts your leg and concurrently lowers the headstock way below eye level.  Do not press the palm of your left hand into the center of the back of the neck this will pull your fingers out of position making it difficult to play with the tips of your fingers.  In playing position, the left hand palm is placed slightly beneath the treble side of the neck and may only temporarily graze the side of the neck for certain procedures.  For efficiency, accuracy and speed, try to retain the proper placement of your thumb and fingers regardless if you are playing chords, lines or full sonic assaults!!  Displacement of your thumb, fingers that leap off the fret board, and a pinky that leaves the playing field may inhibit the accuracy of the music you wish to express.
III. The Right-hand Position
With the guitar firmly planted on the right leg, place the right arm across the top lower bout, just below the top waist of the guitar, with the right elbow gently locking in the guitar for stability.  Keep the right wrist is fairly straight. Extend the right hand so that it is over the normal or ordinary playing position (over the sound hole on an acoustic guitar).  Except in palm muting (a slight damping the strings whereby your right palm affects a change in timbre or stops the string(s) from unwanted ringing), it is preferable to have a slight arch in your wrist (ca. 1 1/2 inches from the top of the sounding board to the bottom of your wrist) for the most efficient deployment of chord strumming, lines, finger picking and overall warm tone. 
Pick placement:  Place the pick between the first finger and thumb so that the point of the pick follows the natural extension of your first finger and apply just enough pressure to hold it in place.  Try to avoid applying excessive pressure (incessantly squeezing the pick) as this can cause tension in the right hand and arm.  (Major topic:  I will discuss the proper right hand position when finger picking in an upcoming lesson.)  Important:  Make sure that your right wrist, arm, and shoulder are relaxed.  Be aware of any body tension caused by improper left/right-hand positioning and technique. Breathe naturally.  Try not to hold your breath when playing as this can compromise your phrasing and your groove!

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