Beginners Archives - Riff Ninja

Category Archives for "Beginners"

Learning Guitar Notes Made Easy

If you want to learn the notes on your guitar, it helps to know a few shortcuts. (If you're completely unfamiliar with the notes on the fretboard, you may want to start here first) There's a group of notes called the perfect harmonies - we're going to use these to help us figure out the guitar notes quicker than we could with straight memorization. 

The perfect harmony notes are the I, the IV, and the V. We'll look at the key of A, where A is the I. If you start on the A on the 6th string, 5th fret, then you just go straight across to the 5th fret of the adjacent string, the 5th string, and you have D, which is the IV. From there, two frets further up the fretboard you'll find the V, which is E. 

A = I = root note
D = IV = the fourth
E = V = the fifth
A = VIII = the octave

We can apply this same pattern anywhere you find an A. Take the 12th fret, 5th string for instance. That's your A, one string down you find the IV, and two frets up, you find the V. 

Now, you can use a pattern to find the octave of the A too. For that, we go down two strings, and up two frets. The exception to this is when the 2nd string is involved. If your pattern lands on or crosses that B string, then you need to add one more fret. So the new pattern becomes two strings down, three frets up. 

With this octave pattern you can very quickly figure out notes in the middle of the fretboard that you may be less familiar with. Most people learn the notes on the 6th and 5th strings first, because of bar chords. Well, the 1st string is identical to the 6th string, and that just leaves the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. If we use the octave pattern, starting from the strings we know, we can cover those remaining strings, no problem. 

Knowing the perfect harmony box of I, IV, V, VIII can help you in many ways, from finding chords located nearby, to giving you ideas in your solos, and also for bass players too! 

Learning all the guitar notes is great, but you don't have to use straight memorization. Using a pattern like this can really help cut down on the brainpower needed to remember where all the notes on the guitar are, and it takes some of the pressure off too. 

Now, go learn some notes! 

How To Stand Up And Play Guitar

If you want to stand up and play guitar, it's a bit different than when you're sitting down. In this guitar lesson, we'll cover some important things that aren't talked about a whole lot, but that can really help your playing, as well as your comfort and endurance while you're playing. 

The main thing to keep in mind is that your guitar should be close to your body, in a position that allows easy comfortable access to what you need to do. Some guys like to play their guitars really really low, and while they may think this looks cool, the reality is, it can lead to wrist and tendon problems because your body has to compensate a lot. So, worry about comfort first, then look second. 

If any part of your body is feeling strained while you're standing up and playing, that's a good indicator you may need to re-assess your standing position.

Standing up and playing guitar can feel quite different than sitting down and playing guitar, so it is a good idea to practice both. The last thing you want is to practice only while sitting down, then one day be called on to do a performance while standing, and discover that everything feels different!

One thing that is different is your visibility of the fretboard tends to be a bit better when you're sitting down, probably because it's easier to hunch over the guitar a bit. All the more reason to practice playing guitar while standing up too!

If you're a beginner, or you've played guitar for a while but found yourself stuck, I recommend checking out my course, Electric Guitar For Beginners. It's loads of fun, and we'll get you rockin' right off the bat, making music while learning step by step. 

The Most Widely Used Bar Chords

As part of our “Riff Ninja Answers” series, one of the questions that came up had to do with which bar chords were the most widely used. That turned into a perfect springboard for a little bar chord lesson, which is what we’ve got right here.

We’ll start with the 6th string, looking at the E major and E minor shapes. When you’re using bar chords, it is very important to know where your root note is – both on the fretboard, and in the chord shape you’re using. With just these two shapes you can literally play every single major and minor chord in every key!

Then we’ll move to the 5th string, and look at major and minor shapes coming from that string too. These ones are based off the open A major and A minor shapes that you’re probably familiar with. Again, using just these two shapes, barred, you can play every major and minor chord.

Once you combine the options available to you on the 6th and 5th strings, all of a sudden the whole fretboard starts opening up!

If you have a hard time with these bar chords, you might like another lesson I did, where we cover common stumbling blocks to playing bar chords.

If you’ve been struggling to make your guitar playing sound like the music that you want to be playing – checkout Electric Blues for Beginners. We dig in and start rockin’ out right away, on some really easy tunes, but very quickly and methodically we start adding building blocks that will take your playing step by step, higher and higher. You’ll get the basics of chords, rhythm, theory and even some riffs and soloing! You can learn more about it here.

Improve Your Rhythm – How to Practice With a Metronome

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Wondering how you can improve your rhythm on the guitar? Wanna learn how to practice with a metronome and make your timing a lot better? Well, here’s a lesson on that. This is applied to playing scales.

The metronome being used is a digital one. Avoid using the pendulum ones because if you put them down on a surface that isn’t completely flat, your beat will vary. Digital metronomes will work at any angle, in any place. The digital metronome goes from 0 – 200 beats per minute. The scale being used in this lesson today is the E pentatonic minor scale – pentatonic means five notes.

Why would you want to use a metronome to practice your scales? Timing and accuracy. There is nobody that is so great with their timing that they wouldn’t benefit from a little time logged with a metronome.

The E pentatonic minor scale should only be played with the fingering shown in this lesson.

The metronome really helps your pick hand, the right hand. No matter how fast the left hand can dazzle people on the fretboard, it’s the right hand that connects to the strings and makes the difference.

Play your notes as long as you can – let them ring out for the full duration of the beat. Choose a tempo that you are comfortable with. You can increase the tempo the faster you get. The tempo should be challenging, but not fast enough to make you stumble a lot.

Why practice scales? Well, if you want to play some riffs, solos, or walking bass lines, you need to know your scales. The scale is the foundation of your solos. If you don’t want to do that, then it will at least increase your ability with your right hand. Your picking for scales should be down up down up – alternate picking will improve your right hand.

If you like this lesson, there’s a great new beginners course out called the Definitive Beginner’s Guide to the Acoustic Guitar.

Have fun with this scale, and practice hard!

Learn To Play Guitar FREE COURSE (2/4)

In today’s video we will teach you how to play guitar, second part.

We’ll start with Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down.

The first song uses 3 out of the 4 chords that we learned in the first video. It’s about getting the chord changes on time. It starts in the B-minor. You can play simple B-minor or the 4 finger B-minor. So it goes, B-minor, then you change to G, then B-minor, then you go to G-major, and finally the A-major. Once you get used to that, you can add the suspended ninth.

We suggest using a metronome or a drum machine so you get started easier.

You can also count by beats. The B-minor is full count which is 4 beats, then the G-major for half a bar, then to the A-suspended 9th. If you’re familiar with the song, you should be fine.

The next song, With or Without You by U2.
Start with the D-major, then the A-major, then a B-minor, then G-major. The chord order is 4 beats and then you change the chord.

The last song for today is by U2 again, and the song name is Sunday Bloody Sunday. It uses 3 chords. B-minor, D-major, and G-major. You need to practice until you get them with very clear sound.

Learn To Play Guitar FREE COURSE (1/4)

Welcome the first of our series of four lessons to help you learn how to play guitar!

We’ll play 3 really important chords in D-major. You have to know there are 3 primary chords that sound good together. Now we’ll start with the key of D. The 3 chords for the key of D are D, G, and A. You’re going to start with the 1st finger on the 3rd string, 2nd fret. The frets are the metal pieces that are across. Place your second finger on the 1st string 2nd fret, third finger 2nd string 3rd fret. We’re only using 4 strings for this chord, not all six.

Start dragging your pick across just like you’re breaking it and hit every string evenly so you get clear sound. Move your thumb or fingers if you have difficulties. You have to get each string in the chord clear, so work on adjusting your fingers until you can get that clear sound.

The next chord you need is the G-chord. The most common is this one here: First finger on the 5th string 2nd fret, second finger 6th string 3rd fret.

Note: Don’t hold the strings too stiffly, you just need to brush across.

We have one more chord, which is the A-chord.

First finger 4th string 2nd fret, second finger 3rd string 2nd fret, third finger 2nd string 2nd fret. We use five strings, open fifth and open first. This chord can be hard if you have bit wider fingers, so you have to avoid muting that bottom string. That’s important on where your wrist is. Don’t press super hard to get the chord clear. Its more about where are the fingers position flat wise.

How to Change Chord Shapes Quickly

This is a lesson on how to change chord shapes quickly. There’s lot of things you can do to improve your speed – sometimes you just have to change your approach.

This lesson is going to use G, C, and D as an example. It’s not that hard to improve on your chords. One thing you can do is practice your scales – this lesson won’t be getting into that, but that’s a helpful suggestion.

It’s more about making the chord changes efficient. What you can practice is keep the strumming out of it for a bit and just practice going back and forth between chords.

When you start adding the strumming, start with a down strum. In other words, start strumming from the top of the chord down. So when you practice changing chords with your left hand, place your fingers down on the top strings first. This will give  you more time to move the rest of your fingers into position.

Start slowly – always starting from the top of the chord (the lowest sounding strings).

Then you can start to speed it up. Make sure you get it nice and smooth. Then start adding different strums to that to keep it interesting. But always practice your chords first before you strum them.

Watch on Youtube

What is the Nashville Numbering System?

What is the Nashville Numbering System?

This is not a new thing – all great musicians use this number system.

The numbering system is a great way to not only play the guitar, but any instrument. It’s the fastest way, for sure.

The numbering system relates to the notes in the scale. This is in reference to chords, single notes, or both. Usually it’s written in Roman Numerals, but it doesn’t matter.

For example, let’s take the key of “G” major. Now if you don’t know much about music, this might go over your head.

One full scale contains seven notes, and each scale has to contain one letter name of each of the scale notes. So each complete scale MUST contain the seven basic letters to be a complete scale.

For instance, the note names of a “G” major scale are: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, and the final G is the octave. G major is I (1) – the tonic. A is II (2). B is III (3). C is IV (4). D is V (5). E is VI (6). F# is VII (7). G is VIII (8), or your octave.

Now for each note in the scale there is a chord. There are three majors and three minors, and they’re all in the scale. For example: I is major, II is minor, III is minor, IV is major, V is major, VI is minor, VII is diminished, and VIII is the octave.

So your I – IV – V of “G” major is G – C – D.

The changes relate to the scale degrees, which are the numbers associated with the notes in a scale.

This applies to any key! So if you can remember each note in your diatonic scale (scale of 7 notes with the 8th being your repeat octave), each note of your scale represents the root note of a chord.

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How To Practice Guitar Scales

Today we’re going to talk about how to practice your guitar scales! One thing you can do to make your scales get better is you can practice with a metronome.

This lesson is going to focus on your left hand. It’s good to know your scales because a riff is part of a scale, if you don’t know that already. This is why it is so beneficial to know your scales – because riffs will be that much easier.

Practising your scales will improve your technique and cause you to focus and develop the muscles in your more. Plus it increases your coordination and timing, string stretching, and hand span.

Some words of advice:

Don’t practice your scale with just the flats of your fingers. Although you use them to do string stretches and double notes, also use the tips. Using the tips will increase your speed and clarity. For pull-offs, you need to turn your hand a little more. Keep your hand square, and practice moving up and down the scale. Move as little as possible, and don’t twist your hand or wrap your thumb around.

Use one finger per fret. The scale shown here is not a pure chromatic scale, but a cheater one. The pinkie is the finger that will probably have the hardest time arching. It’ll take some practice to get it working properly.

Don’t worry about practicing fast – go the speed you need to to get all the notes on tempo.

Practice going between up and down strokes. It’s a good habit to get into.

If you’re going for speed riffs, moving your hand as little as possible is a huge benefit for that.

Watch on Youtube

How To Sound Like A Rockstar in 7 Minutes

This is a lesson on how you can become dangerous on the guitar using just one string. It will also develop your double picking. The lesson will be based on “A Pentatonic Minor” (five-note Am scale), and will be adding a bit of the diatonic scale.

The lesson will be focusing on the first string. Use the “E” string as a drone (E is the fifth note in the Am scale, so it’s a good harmony to work with).

Practice your double picking – that is, the down up picking. The first thing you need to learn is the scale notes.

Start with open your open “E” on the sixth string, then the “G” on the third fret, and then back to the open “E”. You’ll find the “A” on the fifth fret, then go back to the open “E”. “C” is on the eighth fret.

The one diatonic note is “B” – and it is found on the seventh fret.

If you like, the “D” is at the tenth fret, and then your octave is on the twelfth fret.

You can get a lot of mileage out of this if you play around for a bit. It’s like a crayon box – create a picture musically.

So how this riff works is double pick the open “E”, then single pick for whichever fretted notes you want after that.

One way you can strum this is to do down up picking the whole way through. The only way you’ll be able to get consistent speed is to get good at the down up stroke.

You can do all this with just one finger if you wish, or use multiple fingers.

If you’re interested in going much deeper with drone note riffs, be sure to checkout my Guitar Player’s Bag of Trick Riffs course!

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