Building Guitar Skills: 1 Fun Way to Play

Building Guitar Skills

Making Music Easy

Learning guitar as a beginner can be overwhelming, even physically uncomfortable. Fretting may feel like pinching needles and small or big hands may struggle to hold the guitar comfortably. But, much like in life, we can find ways to have fun learning guitar and overcome challenges. 

Make building guitar skills a breeze! Break free from boredom and frustration, and get ready to enjoy playing the guitar with ease!

Building Guitar Skills Through Songs

Play songs! Let’s begin with the end in mind. Most people pick up the guitar to play their favorite tunes. If that’s your goal, you’re in good company. Let the songs you love inspire your guitar journey!

This isn’t about skipping the proper order of guitar lessons or bypassing structured learning. Just add playing songs to your routine; after all, it’s why we play the guitar.

Understanding the Structure of a Song

Getting the hang of a song’s structure improves your ability to follow and enjoy it. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Intro – The start that grabs your attention. It’s a brief segment that may feature instrumental melodies or a teaser of the main theme.
  • Verse – Where the story or message unfolds. Lyrics often change in each verse, providing new information or advancing the storyline.
  • Pre-Chorus – Not all songs have a pre-chorus, but when present, it builds anticipation before the chorus. Musically, it acts as a transitional segment connecting the verse to the chorus.
  • Chorus – The catchy part that repeats and often has the song’s main message. The chorus is usually more musically and lyrically intense than the verses.
  • Bridge – A different section that adds variety – it offers a contrast or shift.
  • Outro – The ending of the song. The outro signals the conclusion of the song. It might feature a musical fade-out or a decisive ending, leaving a lasting impression.

2 Basic Guitar Skills to Play a Song

From the sections mentioned earlier, you need two things to play a song: chords and strumming it to make a sound. That’s it!

Yet, digging into the laid-out chords, you’ll spot patterns. Most songs use five or sometimes just 2 to 3 chords. It’s pretty amazing!

Guitar Skills

Now, we’ve got:

👉 Chord Progression

This is the sequence of chords in a song. Many songs use similar patterns, making it easier to play a variety of tunes. Start with common progressions and get creative as you go.

To simplify, take a close look at each part of a song; you’ll see a few chords organized in patterns. This sequence is called a chord progression.

The theory behind a chord progression:

  • chord progressions are made up of chords that relate to each other
  • chord progressions follow a specific order

To grasp how chords connect, it’s essential to understand the following:

7 Musical AlphabetCDEFGAB(C)
12 NotesCC#/DBDD#/EBEFF#/GBGG#/AbAA#/BbB(C)
Scale Formula (Interval)KeyWWHWWWH
Scale DegreeIiiiiiIVVvivii°(I)
Chord QualityCDmEmFGAm(C)

  • 7 Musical Alphabet – A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Each letter represents a different note. All notes and chords come from these seven musical letters. No matter the instrument, these notes are always in the same order (alphabetical order).

  • Solfege Syllables – Do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do. Making it easy to understand: If you can sing, these notes sound like starting with C (do), D (re), E (mi), F (fa), G (sol), A (la), B (si), and back to C (do).

  • 12 Notes in the Musical Alphabet – A, Bb, B, C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, and G#. These consist of the same seven letters with sharps and flats in between. If played on the guitar, you’ll find each note just on the next fret, without any space in between.

  • 12 Major Keys or Root Note – Those 12 notes are also 12 major keys. You can start in any key, but the order is always the same.

  • Scale – Scales are sequences of notes that form the basis of music. Major and minor scales are common types, each with specific patterns of steps. In the key of C Major, for example, the scale is C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and back to C to complete an octave.

  • Note Interval – A note interval is the distance in pitch between two musical notes – measured in half step (H) or whole step (W). Considering the 12 notes (A, Bb, B, C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, and G#), they are all half steps from each other. In a major scale, the scale formula or interval from the root note or key is W–W–H–W–W–W–H.

  • Scale Degrees – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii°

  • Chord Qualities of Major Key Family Chords – I (major), ii (minor), iii (minor), IV (major), V (major), vi (minor), vii° (diminished). Remember, on a major scale, 1, 4, and 5 are major chords, while 2, 3, and 6 are minors, and 7 is a diminished chord. Now, following the scale interval mentioned earlier to form the scale pattern, scale degree, and chord qualities, you can create the family chords for any key or root note.

I–IV–V Progression

The most common chord progression formula is I–IV–V or 1–4–5. In the key of C Major, the I–IV–V chord progression is C–F–G.

Other chord progressions in the key of C Major Family Chords (C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, B°)

  • I–V–vi–IV: C–G–Am–F
  • V–vi–IV–I: G–Am–F–C
  • vi–IV–I–V: Am–F–C–G
  • IV–I–V–vi: F–C–G–Am
  • I–IV–V–IV: C–F–G–F
  • I–vi–IV–V: C–Am–F–G

👉 Strumming

Strumming is how you bring a song to life. It’s the rhythm you create by brushing the strings. Practice different patterns to add your style. From slow tunes to energetic beats, strumming sets the mood.

To start strumming, we need 4 things:

  • Strumming Hand – Start by holding the pick between your thumb and index finger, then slightly curling the other fingers. 
  • Strumming Technique – Avoid gripping the pick too tightly. Relax your hand and use your wrist, allowing it to glide smoothly across the strings with equal weight.
  • Strumming Patterns – Experiment with different strumming patterns, such as downstrokes, upstrokes, or combinations like down-up-down. Practice gradually to build coordination and control.
  • Guitar Dynamics – Dynamics means how loud or soft a sound is. Using dynamics in acoustic guitar playing can change your music’s feel, adding emotion and clarity to your musical ideas. Even with a basic strumming pattern, dynamics can transform your sound.

As you advance in playing guitar, explore more complex patterns like syncopated strumming or fingerstyle techniques. Strumming adds personality to your playing, turning simple chords into vibrant music.

Other Guitar Skills to Learn

Those two guitar skills mentioned earlier are just the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath are other guitar skills to learn to play songs successfully.

👉 Playing on Time

Good timing means hitting the right notes at the right moments and keeping in sync with the rhythm. It’s a crucial skill for musicians, ensuring a cohesive and well-timed performance. Without it, everything sounds off. It’s a fundamental guitar skill to master early on.

Achieving this skill involves regular metronome practice to sharpen and refine your timing.

How to Use a Metronome

  • Step 1: Choose the Tempo
  • Step 2: Find the Pulse
  • Step 3: Practice Slowly
  • Step 4: Practice with a Metronome Often

👉 Tuning the Guitar

Tuning the guitar is the foundational step for any player, ensuring each string produces the correct pitch. An instrument out of tune can spoil everything, as it won’t produce the right sound.

Now that we’ve covered the theory behind chord progression, the next step is familiarizing yourself with the notes on your open six strings. Assuming you’ve already gone over this, let’s review it in case you forgot.

Building Skills Through Songs

Open String Names

  • 6th string – E, thickest or lowest sounding string
  • 5th string – A
  • 4th string – D
  • 3rd string – G
  • 2nd string – B
  • 1st string – e, the thinnest or highest sounding string

To easily remember the letters of the six open strings, use the phrase: ‘Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie.’

Using a guitar tuner, the strings are adjusted to match the standard notes: E, A, D, G, B, and E.

A well-tuned guitar sounds good and helps you play in tune with other instruments. Regular tuning keeps your guitar sounding clear and in good shape. 

Whether you’re new or experienced, knowing how to tune is key to making good music.

👉 Smooth Chord Changes

Chord changes are when you move from one chord to another in a song. It’s shifting from one chord to the next, also called a chord transition.

Your one trick to make things happen is Air Chord Changes.

Air chord changes help you smoothly transition between chords by forming the chord shapes in the air before placing your fingers on the strings. The goal is to have all fingers press down simultaneously.

👉 Barre Chords

It’s inevitable! I understand that beginners often try to avoid barre chords, but there’s no escaping them. Everyone faced challenges at first, and now they’ve overcome it. Let’s work on getting your index and pinkie fingers in action.

Barre chords are guitar chord shapes where the index finger typically acts as a “bar” to press down multiple strings across the fretboard, enabling the guitarist to move chord positions up and down the neck.

To understand barre chords better, start with the A-type and E-type shapes based on the open A-major and E-major chords.

👉 Fretting Technique

Fretting the guitar means pressing down on a fret and string to produce a sound. Done right, you get clear notes; done wrong, they sound muted or buzzy. This is one of the basic guitar skills and certainly a must-learn.

Press the string with enough pressure for a clean sound. Avoid pressing too hard; find a balance that lets the note ring clearly without straining your fingers.

3 easy tips for fretting the strings:

  • Fret closer to the fret wires.
  • Find your fingertips’ sweet spot.
  • Curve your fingers.

👉 Guitar Scales

Guitarists use scales to create melodies, build chords, and improvise solos—essential guitar skills in any song.

Here’s a list of essential scales for aspiring musicians to explore:

  • Major Scale – This scale is often used in creating bright and happy melodies.
  • Natural Minor Scale – Known for its more subdued and melancholic sound, it is widely used in various musical genres.
  • Pentatonic Scale – A versatile scale with only five notes, major and minor. It’s used in rock, blues, and many other styles.

Time to Strum and Sing Along!

With the list of guitar skills mentioned, you’re well-equipped to play many hit songs.

The key is not just to learn these guitar skills but to make them meaningful by playing songs. This is how you connect with the people around you. Explore Fender’s selection of 40 easy-to-learn guitar songs.

Here are other easy guitar songs you can explore:

I hope you enjoy the process! Playing songs is definitely a fun way to build guitar skills!

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