Fellow Guitarists


Welcome to group guitar instruction! Over the course of this semester I hope to

share with you the world of the guitar. We will explore many, many aspects of this world

from playing the instrument to the players of the instrument, from the long history of the

guitar to the various styles of guitar, from technique to improvisation and musicality. My

intention in this class is to challenge and inspire each of you to further explore the guitar

and music in general. Sometimes this class will be fun, at other times, frustrating. This is

part of our journey while improving on our instrument. I ask of each of you to remain

diligent in developing and maintaining strong practice techniques, to ask questions when

clarification is needed, to see the larger perspective of your progress and most

importantly to have fun and enjoy the rewarding experience of playing our wonderful

instrument. Congratulations on taking the first step of many on the path of learning the

guitar and best of luck to each of you. I look forward to working with you.


Travis Silvers
As we progress through this class you will find that often times HOW we do
something on the guitar matters more than WHAT we do. In other words, the PROCESS
is more important than the PRODUCT. This is how I approach all of your instruction on
the guitar. I want each of you to learn how to most EFFICIENTLY play the guitar. By
watching most popular music guitarists, on MTV and so forth, we can see mostly what
NOT to do. I am not saying that these guitarists are not proficient and sometimes
wonderful instrumentalists and musicians. What I am saying is that approaching the
guitar without a strong awareness of technique, efficiency and ergonomics can lead to
delayed achievement and a general hindering of potential.

Those of you familiar with other guitar methods will notice one significant difference,
and I believe, improvement between other guitar instructional books and this. Most
methods merely skim over the most fundamental, and most important, facet of learning
the guitar. In this method we will spend a considerable length of time getting
comfortable and learning to properly hold the guitar. You will notice this conversation is
quite lengthy and involved, but your understanding and practice of this material will
greatly improve your experience of learning to play the guitar. That being said, let us
begin with the most basics of basics, learning how to sit!



We all know how to sit, right? Do we even think about it? Is there a better way to sit?
When we sit with the guitar we want to create the most stable, advantageous position for
the guitar and our bodies. By following these step-by-step instructions we can do just

1. Find a chair that allows our thighs to be parallel with the floor while sitting. If the
chair is too low our knees will be higher that our pelvis. If the chair is too high than our
pelvis will be higher than our knees. We want our knees and pelvis on the same level.

2. Once we have found a chair that is the correct height we need to position ourselves on
the edge of the chair so that our hamstrings (the backs of our legs) are completely free
and not making contact with the chair seat. Sitting in this position keeps us from
slouching, which will cause lower back pain over time, or leaning to far off-center, which
creates and unstable, awkward place for the guitar. When we are sitting on the edge of
the chair we want to balance our weight on or Sits bones (or in layman terms, the butt

3. Once we are on the edge of a chair with proper height for our individual body we have
on criteria we want to keep in mind: PARALLEL OR PERPENDICULAR. We want
every parts of our body to be either PARALLEL or PERPENDICUAL to every other part
of our body. Let’s start at the ground up to get our bodies in this position.


We want to place our feet so that they are at a ninety-degree angle to our lower legs. This
should also make them parallel to our thighs. We also want to position them so that the
fronts of our shoes / toes are even.


Our knees should also be in a ninety-degree angle so that the lower leg is perpendicular to
both the feet and thighs.


- Sitting on edge of seat with our hamstrings/back of legs free.
- knees aligned with pelvis – thighs parallel to the floor
- Weight balanced on our Sits bones.
- Feet flat on floor perpendicular to lower leg and parallel with thighs


1. Keeping our parallel/perpendicular concept in place we want to position our torso so
that it is neither too far forward nor too far back. One main idea we ALWAYS want to
keep in mind while playing the guitar is to keep our muscles unengaged or “quiet”. We
want our energy to be in out fingers only and that works most efficiently if our bodies are
not holding too much muscle tension. This is an idea we will work on throughout the
course of the semester in many different examples. As for our torsos, a visualization I
like to use is to imagine our spines perfectly stacked in a line as to not have to use any
strength to keep our bodies upright. Experiment with consciously moving your torso too
far off-center and feel how that affects our backs and abdomen.

2. Once our torsos are perpendicular to our thighs/laps we want to let our shoulders lie
perpendicular to our spine. Make sure they are also straight across our chest as to not
have any twisting in out spine. Again, let the shoulder “fall” into place without any
excess muscle engagement or energy in them. For now let the arms fall naturally and
place the hands lightly on the thighs.

3. Now we let our heads follow the same principle. We want to be able to easily move
our head on top of our spine / neck with ease and not have to support the head too much
because it is too far forward or backward.

- align spine so that torso is upright and stable with a minimal of muscle engagement.
- make sure shoulders are square horizontally and rotationally.
- let the head rest atop our aligned spin and shoulders.

Finally, once we have reached the end of all these steps we need to feel stable, sturdy and
rooted and EFFORTLESS (free of tension and muscle engagement). A way I like to
really feel this is by getting in proper sitting position, taking deep breaths into the
abdomen and then releasing all of or inhale out of the mouth. If the body stays in the
same position once you have exhaled then you are proper alignment. If one part of the
body (the lower back, a shoulder, or the head) seems to sag when you exhale then
examine how you are holding that body part and try, try again.

REMEMBER – This takes PRACTICE … it is different than how most of us naturally
sit … so PRACTICE it!


Now that we have practiced our sitting position and learned to be effortlessly (or close
to!) stable and comfortable, let’s introduce the guitar into our sitting position.

1. First we will need to raise the level of our left-foot and leg (right foot and leg for all
you lefties out there) to the point where the knee is raised slightly over the pelvis. We
will adjust this height once we actually bring the guitar into position.

This is one of the most important aspects of proper guitar position and one I am
requesting you take seriously. The difference between strong and weak technique can
often be traced to the angle of the neck and the method in which the player holds the
guitar. Situating the guitar properly also makes the task of learning the guitar easier,
especially if you are a beginner.

There are numerous ways to elevate your foot and leg into proper position. The
most simple and convenient is the use of a footstool. The advantages of the footstool are
that they are inexpensive, portable, and adjustable. There are other devices that attach
directly to the guitar, such as A-frames and Eiffels, but these tend to cost quite a bit more.
One can also use any sort of device or contraption lying around. Multiple books, coffee
cans, our guitar cases (if you own a hardshell case), and even backpacks can all substitute
in a bind. I do recommend that each student obtain a footstool from your local music
store. The most important reason for this is it creates a constant in your practice. While
the other devices I’ve just mentioned can work to elevate your foot and leg, they are
hardly convenient or portable and each time you move them or use them the guitar will
be in a slightly different position. Our goal in sitting and holding the guitar is to create a
position that we can return to again and again that is stable, sturdy and comfortable.

2. Once we have our left foot/leg raised we then need to make some slight adjustments to
our position. We will need to bring the right leg out to an angle so that the angle between
our left leg (which is now raised and approximately perpendicular to our body) and right
leg is about 45 degrees. Again we will adjust this once the guitar is actually brought into
position. This should happen naturally by allowing our right leg to open outward from
the hip joint.

3. Now that our left leg is raised and still pointed straight ahead and our right leg is
angled at approximately a forty-five degree angle our lower body is properly aligned. We
might want to again take some deep abdominal breaths here and see what happens when
we exhale. If our body stays in position and if we are stable and comfortable then we are
ready to introduce the guitar into this position.


When we bring the guitar into our stable and comfortable position we should try to see it
as an extension of our bodies so that it also is stable and comfortable. This takes
consistent, diligent practice. Don’t feel silly practicing “only” sitting with the guitar.
This can be extremely productive in getting used to how the instrument feels and how to
best incorporate it into our sitting position. This “simple” practice can also facilitate
greater progress later on our path of learning to play the guitar.


There are multiple concepts we need to keep in mind when learning how to hold the
guitar for the first time (or if you have some playing experience – how to more efficiently
hold the instrument). Here is a brief list followed by further explanation of each point.

1. We create a stable position for the guitar by creating four main points of contact with
the guitar. These four points are the elevated left thigh, the grounded right thigh, the left-
center breastbone/sternum area and finally (and most importantly!) the right forearm.

2. We attempt to maintain these points of contact with the least amount of the guitar

3. The angle of the guitar neck approaches 45 degrees and the headstock should be
slightly pointed behind us.

4. The guitar should be slightly angled so we can see all six strings by dropping our
vision downwards.

5. We should never have to feel we need to secure the guitar by “holding” it with our
right hand fingers on the soundboard (top of guitar) or even with the left hand. With our
right hand hanging freely from the wrist and our left hand straight down at our side, the
guitar should feel stable and sturdy.

We want to think of a rectangle being created by these four points where our bodies meet
the guitar. Looking at the player, the upper right-hand corner would be the upper bout
making contact with the sternum area of our torso. We want the edge of the upper bout to
be located around our sternum, with the contact being made between the sternum and
heart. The lower right-hand corner of the rectangle would be the waist of the guitar being
in contact with our elevated left thigh. The lower left-hand corner of this rectangle of
contact will be the bottom of the guitar touching the inner right thigh. Finally, and most
importantly, the fourth and upper left –hand corner of the rectangle is the forearm of the
right arm resting on the lower bout of the guitar. This point of contact is most important
because it stabilizes the guitar in this position. We want to let the arm fall naturally, with
the force of gravity, but not to press downward or hold any extra tension or energy in the
right arm, as this will cause unnecessary strain in our right hand technique.


One of the main enemies of all acoustic guitarists is the relative lack of projection and
volume inherent in the instrument. While we will never fully overcome these limitations,
we can lessen their impacts by learning a proper learning position. The most important
concept to remember when holding the guitar to maximize volume and project is the less
our body comes into contact with the instrument, the more freely the instrument may
resonate. We need create a balance between holding the guitar firmly and not coming
into too much contact with it. The easiest way to do this is to hold the guitar in a manner
where only the binding of the guitar comes contact with our bodies. The bindings of the
guitar are easily located on the guitar. It is the strips of wood or plastic, generally a
different color than the soundboard or sides of the guitar, that are placed where the seams
are between the back and sides and top and sides. If we hold the guitar with the four
main points of contact occurring only on the bindings, the guitar will be stable and
resonate fully and freely.


The angle of the neck is another important aspect of proper sitting position. We want the
angle to be approaching 45 degrees. This angle might seem large at first but as we
become comfortable with this position, and we begin to make progress on the instrument,
we will see that this angle allows us to keep a comfortable position with our left arm and
hand and not have to expend too much energy holding our left arm upright. It also allows
us to easily see the entire fretboard with minimal movement in our heads and necks.


Once we have our four points of contact on the bindings of the instrument and the neck is
approaching a 45-degree angle, we want to angle the body of the guitar outward. The
reason for this is twofold: One, to put the body of the guitar, and most importantly the
strings, at an angle so we can easily see all six strings individually. The second reason is
by angling the lower bout of the guitar slightly outward the soundhole is also placed at a
near 45-degree angle. This allows for the greatest projection of sound from the


We want to always keep our right-hand fingers off of the soundboard (top of the guitar).
Remember to keep all weight of the guitar out of either hand. We don’t want to “hold”
the guitar with our hands, especially our left hand. The fingers in both hands need to be
able to move freely and unobstructed. By holding the guitar with our bodies, and weight
of the right arm, in a stable and relaxed position, we put the guitar in the most
advantageous position for us to progress towards playing the guitar.

Now that we are comfortable sitting with the guitar let’s begin to look at our left and right
hand positions. We will only be taking a brief look at the hands here - just enough to
begin properly. We will examine each hand’s position and movements much more
thoroughly in future sections.


The right hand falls fairly naturally into place when we practice the sitting position above
and pay careful attention to the Four Points of Contact concept. If we remember from
our discussion the most important point of these four is the one created by our forearm
resting on the lower bout of the guitar. As was mentioned earlier, this “natural weight” of
the forearm stabilizes the guitar in our sitting position. It also places our right hand in the
most natural position for us to articulate the strings. We want the right hand and forearm
to be hanging freely, free of tension over the soundboard of the guitar. The wrist should
be about 3 inches above the top of the guitar. We also want to make sure we have a
straight line running from our elbow to the middle knuckle of our right hand. The back
of the hand should be mostly parallel with the top of the guitar.

We should place the thumb onto the 6th string (the one closest to us) and put our index
finger on the 3rd string, the middle finger on the 2nd string and the ring finger on the 1st
string. We shall think of this as our “home position” for the right hand. The fingers
should fall on the bridge side of the sound hole, above the rosette (or circle of decoration
around the sound hole). Make sure the thumb is slightly extended so that it is on the
“outside” of the index finger. REMEMBER – the hand should be relaxed and hanging
freely from the wrist and the fingers should be also relaxed and curved slightly.

- The right hand hangs freely above soundboard.
- The right wrist is about 3 inches over the top of the guitar.
- A straight line can be drawn from our middle knuckle to our elbow.
- The back of the hand is flat and roughly parallel to the top of the guitar
- Our right-hand fingers are slightly curved, relaxed and fall naturally into home position.


The left hand position is incredibly important to the development of strong technique on
the guitar. I would go as far to say that positioning the left hand correctly is the most
important aspect of gaining speed, dexterity and accuracy in our playing. From the very
beginning of our learning the guitar, we want to be extremely aware of how we are
positioning and using the left hand.

The place that we begin from is to make absolutely certain that the left hand is not
holding the guitar in position. If we practice our sitting position we should feel as secure
and stable with the guitar whether the left hand is on the neck or not. These are the
concepts we want to keep in mind when developing our left hand position:

1. The left hand thumb is straight, parallel with the frets and remains near the center of
the neck. The thumb does not “climb” onto the side of the fretboard or hang over the
neck in any way. Someone standing directly in front of you should rarely, if ever, see
your left hand thumb. The thumb stabilizes the left hand in position but should not have
too much energy in it. Your left hand should not feel as if it is a clamp between the
fingers and the thumb. We want to balance the left hand fingers with the thumb by
positioning it approximately in the middle of our left hand.

2. The left wrist should stay as straight as possible. This can sometimes feel difficult in
the lower positions (the area between the first and fourth fret). Just remember to keep the
wrist as straight as possible wherever you happen to be playing on the guitar.

3. The palm of the left hand should remain near and parallel to the edge of the fretboard.
Our tendency is usually to keep the index finger part of the palm cemented to the side of
the neck and the pinky finger portion of the palm far away from the fretboard. This puts
our hand at a large disadvantage. It places our strongest finger (the index) in the
strongest position (nearest the fretboard) and our weakest finger (the pinky) in the
weakest position (furthest from the fretboard). We will always have a disparity in the
strength between our fingers. How many actions do we do with only our ring and pinky
fingers? Part of our development in our left hand will be to strengthen those fingers that
are weaker so that all our left hand fingers may be as equal as possible.

4. The actual position for our fingers should be one that is strong and relaxed. The
position we strive for is to keep the fingers always on their tips and the entire finger
curved. The last knuckle of the left hand fingers should remain mostly perpendicular to
the fretboard and the string. Another key idea is to keep the left hand fingers spread in
such a way as to allow the “outside” fingers (the index and the pinky) to be contacting the
string on the outside tip of those fingers. The middle and ring fingers make contact with
the string mostly on the center of their tips. When we properly position our left hand we
can see each of the left hand fingertips “pointing” towards the thumb of the left hand.
We should also be looking directly at the fingernails of the left fingers.
We really need to practice this position to develop it. Often times when we are beginning
to play we may be very aware of out sitting, right hand or left hand position until the
moment we actually begin to play chords or notes on the guitar. We want ALL of the
above information to be automatic and habitual. If we take the time to be precise in our
sitting and hand positions, the learning curve of the guitar becomes more shallow and
much shorter.

We will begin getting comfortable with our new sitting position, using our left and right
hand positions and developing coordination between the two hands by learning and
strumming chords. The most important idea to remember when playing the following
exercises and learning these chord forms is to be sitting properly and be aware of HOW
we are using our left and right hands.

REMEMBER – we want to keep our wrists as straight as possible, our fingers curved so
that they are perpendicular to the strings and fretboard, our palm mostly parallel to the
edge of the fretboard and our thumbs located on or near the center of the guitar neck.

Let’s introduce CHORD DIAGRAMS. These are a simple method of conveying how to
play each chord.

Horizontal lines = Frets Chord Name is located
Vertical lines = Strings under the diagram or below.
Black Dots = NOTES of the chord The name of this chord is
Numbers = LEFT HAND fingers “A suspended second”
Circles = play the open string
X = do NOT play the open string

To play this chord we place the second finger (middle finger) of the left hand on the
SECOND fret of the FOURTH string. Then we place our third finger (ring finger) on the
SECOND fret of the THIRD string. Make sure the fingers are placed on their tips and
curved enough as to not stop another string from freely ringing. We will discuss different
ways of strumming the strings with the right hand. For now just use your thumb in a
downward motion across the strings.

Chord progressions are a pattern of chords that fit together within a key (system of
organizing musical notes). We will begin by looking at a chord progression with little left
hand movement and build from there. Here is out first chord progression:
To strum this progression, imply use the thumb and strum downward through the strings
four times on each chord. Try to keep the “beat” of these strums equal and not pause
between changing chords.

Once we can change between these three chords fairly smoothly with little hesitation
between the chord changes we will alter the fingerings of these chords. Let us first make
the chord change a little easier by using the index and middle fingers of the left hand.
The chord “shapes” will remain the same and the chord will sound exactly the same but
we will be using a different set of finger to fret the chord. Once we are comfortable with
the index and middle fingering let’s try the ring and pinky fingers. This fingering should
feel harder than the previous two because of the relative weakness of the pinky and ring
fingers when compared to the index and middle. By continuing to use these fingers we
will begin to bring them into relative equality with our other fingers.

Now let’s change the chords slightly and use three fingers to fret each chord. Our second
progression will look like this:

We are simply adding the index finger to each chord. Practice this progression in the
same manner as before. Try and move the fingers fretting each chord at the same time.
As quickly as possible move away from lifting each and placing each finger one at a
time. Remember there is strength in numbers! Try and memorize each chord and its
“shape”, and let the fingers move simultaneously.
Here is an extended list of many chords. This is by no means all of the chords because
the possibilities for fingering even the most basic of harmonies are endless. For now get
comfortable learning as many of these chords as possible. Ignore the chords with the
BLACK LINES through multiple strings of the diagrams. We will cover these at a later
date when we have more strength and dexterity in our left hands. The approach I’d like
each of you to take with these chords is:

1. With proper sitting and hand positions, place all left hand fingers on their tips and AS
CLOSE TO THE FRET AS POSSIBLE. This is extremely important and makes the
learning and playing of the guitar much more pleasant.

2. After the chord is fretted, play each string of the chord individually with the thumb.
Make sure each note sounds clear and rings freely. If it does not, examine your left hand
and see where improvement can be made. Usually moving the finger more onto its tip or
closer to the fret will do the trick.

3. Practice moving smoothly and evenly between chords. Begin with two that sound
nicely together. We will discuss which chords work together and why but for now just
use your ears as your guide. Work up to three or four chord progressions.

Here are your chords … enjoy!
Now that we are comfortable sitting with the guitar, comfortable holding our hands
efficiently and can fret a few chords, let’s start to develop finger independence. We will
start with this chord progression:

First let’s get our left hands familiar with the progression. Once we have the G Major
chord fretted to move to the Cadd9 chord all we have to do is lift our index and middle
fingers and move them over (away from us) one string. Try and lift the two fingers off
the 6th and 5th strings together, move them together and fret them on the 5th and 4th
strings together.

To move from the Cadd9 to the D (or vice versa) we need to examine the two chords.
When looking at new chords in a progression we can follow these guidelines:

1) Do the two chords share any notes?
2) Are there any fingers that move strings but stay on the same fret?
3) Are there any fingers that move frets but stay on the same string?
4) Do the fingerings involve the same number of fingers?

By answering these we can develop an efficient manner of moving between chords. Let’s
apply these to the progression above.

#1 - Yes, the third finger of the left hand is on the third fret of the 2nd string in both
chords. That will act as our pivot. We want to keep that finger planted and stable while
moving from Cadd9 to D (and vice versa).

#2 - Yes, the first finger moves from the second fret of the 4th string to the second fret of
the 3rd string. Move that finger now.

#3 – No, not in this case. If there is we generally want to use the same left hand finger.

#4 – No, the D major chord only uses three LH fingers, while the Cadd9 uses four.
Remove the 4th finger (pinky) from the chord.
Now we only need to move our middle finger between the index and the ring fingers
from the third fret of the 5th string to the second fret of the 1st string.

PRACTICE this PROCESS from Cadd9 to D and from D to Cadd9.

Once we are comfortable with the change between the two chords let’s create an exercise
out of this progression. We will begin by simply strumming each chord FOUR times in a
steady rhythm. Once we can make the changes with our left hand over the steady rhythm
we want to lift our first finger (index) on the third beat (strum) of each measure and
re-fret it on the fourth. We do this on each chord of the progression.

1 2 3 4
strum strum strum strum
lift re-fret

When we can accomplish this let’s try a different finger for each chord:
G major lift the ring, 1st Cadd9 lift the pinky, D major lift middle, 2nd Cadd9 lift

Keep the rest of the chord fretted and make sure the remaining notes ring and that the
moving fingers do not kill dampen the vibration of the rest of the chord.

So far we have been strumming on the beat four times per chord. In standard music
notation, this strumming pattern would look like this, using our thumb for each

1 2 3 4
   

We also want to practice the “snap” stroke using our index finger. Place the thumb onto
the 6th string and “flick” the index finger across the strings. Once we are comfortable
with this technique we need to practice it without the thumb planted on the 6th string.

Now let’s add another stroke to this basic strum. We call this the thumb – brush stroke.
First use the thumb for the downstrum and the index for the upstrum. Once that’s
comfortable practice the “snap” stroke with the index using the index for both the up and
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
       
By combining the two above rhythms we get a useful strumming pattern.

1 2 & 3 4 &
     

Again, let’s practice first using our thumbs for downstrums and the index finger for the
upstrum. Once we can do that, let’s use the snap of the index finger for both the up and
down strums.

Now let’s further subdivide the above rhythm for a strumming pattern used in many
songs and one tat can be of great use to us.

1 2 (e) & a 3 4 (e) & a
       

And once again let’s use the thumb and index brush stroke then the “snap” stroke with the
index finger. We can also practice each of these patterns with a pick and follow the same
up and down motions with our wrist.

Let’s look at two more strumming patterns and then apply them to some well-known

1 2 & (3) & 4 &
     

Approach this strum in the same fashion as those previous. Notice the large and bold
“and” of beat two. We want to accent this strum by playing it slightly louder than the
other down and upstrums.

These strums (slight variations of each other) are different than all the strums we’ve
looked at. They occur OFF OF THE BEAT. We call this SYNCOPATION. We have
already encountered SYNCOPATION in the previous example where we ACCENT a
strum OFF OF THE BEAT (the “and” of beat two). These strums are often found in

1 & 2 & 3 & 4(e) & a
X  X  X  X 

Notice the “X’s” ON THE BEAT. We want to “slap” the strings with our right hands on
these X’s. We can do this with our open palms or the length of our thumbs. Try both
ways. Follow each slap with a percussive index finger upstroke. The second variation of
this pattern is the same as the fourth beat of the strum.

1(e)& a 2(e)& a 3(e)& a 4(e)& a
X  X  X  X 

We want to practice each of these strumming patterns so we can keep our rhythm steady
as we change chords in the right hand. First practice ONE chord per measure (FOUR
beats per chord) then move to TWO chords per measure (TWO beats per chord).

I want to touch on one concept that can sometime ease the multi-tasking strain of
changing chords each measure. I call this technique “sloughing”. It amounts to cheating
on our rhythm but I actually prefer the sound quality it gives our progressions. How we
accomplish this is by lifting the chord early in the left hand while the right hand continues
to strum through the pattern. We usually do this on the “and” of the FOURTH beat of
whatever pattern we are strumming. We use this extra time to move towards the next
chord with our left hand. The right hand will strike open strings while our left hand
moves to fret the next chord in the progression. Try this slowly at first and then slowly
work it up to speed. See the example below:

1 2 (e) & a 3 4 (e) & a
       

We will examine excerpts of a few songs here. Armed with the chords in the previous
section and the strumming patterns in this section, we could play an enormous amount of
popular music. Look for examples of songs that contain the chords you know and
practice applying these strumming patterns to them.

G D C G Em
Mama take this badge off of me Old Pirates, yes, they rob I.
G D C C G/B Am
I can't use it any-more Sold I to the merchant ships
G D C G Em C G/B Am
It's getting dark, too dark for me to see minutes after they took I from the bottomless pit.
G D C G Em7
I feel I'm knockin on heaven's door But my hand was made strong
C G/B Am
By the hand of the Almighty.
G D C We forward in this generation triumphantly.
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G C D G
G D C Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom?
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door C D Em C D G
G D C 'Cause all I ever had, redemption songs,
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door C D G
redemption songs.

We will now cover the basics of the right hand classical guitar technique. Once we are
comfortable with certain open string exercises we will combine these exercises with other
musical material. We will learn a horizontal scale (a scale on one string) and combine
our RH patterns to create melody and accompaniment. We will then apply the RH pattern
to our growing chord vocabulary to create popular song accompaniments. Let’s look at
the fundamental ideas of the proper usage of the right hand.


To understand how to best use the fingers of our right hand it helps to understand the
mechanics of the finger joints. The human joint systems are usually comprised of three
parts (think ankle, knee, hip or wrist, elbow, shoulder). The fingers are also comprised of
three parts; the large knuckle, the middle knuckle and the tip knuckle. Our joints work
most efficiently when all three parts of the system are moving with the same type of
motion. The two possible types of motion in the finger joint are FLEXION and
EXTENSION. Flexion is when the joint contracts (bringing the finger into the palm).
Extension is when the joint extends (bringing the fingers straight out from the palm).
We introduce tension into the right hand when we use both types of motion to execute the
strokes with the right hand fingers. This usually occurs when the upper section of the
finger extends (extension) and the middle and tip sections contract (flexion). When
performing any stroke or pattern with the right hand we ALWAYS want the fingers to
move INTO the palm (flexion).

Keeping the above in mind let’s start with some basic right hand patterns. For each of
these patterns we will start with our right hand in HOME POSITION. This pattern is
explained in-depth in the earlier section on the right hand position. To review – place the
right hand thumb on the sixth string and the index, middle and ring fingers on the third,
second and first strings. We want a straight line from the elbow to the middle knuckle,
the wrist approximately three inches over the soundboard and the back of the hand should
be parallel to the soundboard.

P, I, M, A
We use these letters to designate the fingers of the right hand.
P = thumb, I = index, M = middle and A = ring


An arpeggio is the playing of each note of a chord individually. These first few arpeggio
exercises will involve only open strings.

EX. 1
With our right hand in home position –

First, we want to use a REST STROKE with our thumb (P). We execute this by letting
our thumb “fall through” the sixth string and come to REST on fifth string.
Next, we use FREE STROKES with our index, middle and ring fingers (i,m,a) on the
first, second and third strings. REMEMBER – we want to use flexion when we perform
the free strokes and bring each finger into the palm of the right hand.

Our right hand position should now be: our thumb is on the sixth string and each finger
(i,m,a) is lightly curved into our palm. When we play this pattern in succession we need
to get from this position back into home position. Practice this slowly in order to get
comfortable going from the thumb on the fifth string and all fingers off the strings to the
thumb on the sixth string and i, m, a on the 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings. REMEMBER – keep
the rhythm of this (and all following) exercises constant. You can count 1, 2, 3, 4 for
each note you play with the right hand. MAKE SURE the space between 4 and the
following 1 is even to the others.

EX. 2
This exercise will start exactly the same as ex.1 but will include two more free strokes
with m and i. When we play this pattern remember to count 6 – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 with
accents on 1 and 4. REMEMBER – after each repetition of the pattern we need to return
our right hand into home position in preparation for the next arpeggio.

EX. 3

In this exercise we DO NOT place our right hand into home position, to begin or in
between each arpeggation, or use any rest strokes.

EX. 4

In this exercise we will play TWO strings at once. Try and play the 1 (p & a) with rest
strokes and 2 and 3 (i & a) with free strokes. This pattern should sound like a waltz
(1, 2, 3), with the accent on the 1.

pi i
EX. 5,6

These exercises should be performed fretting an e minor chord.

Finally we want to combine exercises 5 and 6 to create one constant “loop” of arpeggio.
Make sure that the FIRST P of exercise 5 is the LAST P of exercise 6 and the LAST A of
exercise 5 is the FIRST A of exercise 6. Do NOT repeat these notes.

And now … Our FIRST scale!


This is an e minor scale on the first string. It is shown in standard notation with note
names, frets and proper left hand fingerings. Make sure you follow these fingerings and
REMEMBER – keep all notes fretted until we shift position.
For now articulate each note with a right hand ring finger (a) REST STROKE. Once you
are comfortable with the stretches and shift you can incorporate this “melodic” material
into any of the RH exercises. I recommend beginning with EX. 1 and simply play up and
down the scale. Once you have mastered that then you may “improvise” or create your
own melodic ideas.


Using the above RH exercises we will now apply them to any chords / chord
progressions. The only alteration we need to make is to make sure the P (thumb) stroke
occurs on the lowest note of the chord. For example going back to the G – C add9 – D –
C add9 progression and using EX. 1, we would then have this:

G Cadd9 D Cadd9
6321 5321 4321 5321
pima pima pima pima

Since the lowest note in the G chord is on the sixth string we use the thumb (P) on the
sixth string. But we alter the pattern for the Cadd9 and the D where the lowest notes are
on the 5th and 4th strings respectively. Try these patterns on chord progressions you are
fond of or have been working on. Good luck!

Now that we have covered some right hand exercises let’s look at standard notation and
reading music. We will focus on the notes of the first position (the area from the nut of the
guitar to the third fret). Here are the white notes (no sharps or flats – or accidentals) of the
first position on the guitar. The musical alphabet contains the letters A –G.
To get comfortable playing and reading these notes let’s also look at the notes on a
fretboard diagram.

REMEMBER – when playing the notes of the first position use the same LH finger as
fret. (i.e. if playing the “E” on the 4 th string, use the middle finger on the left hand). Also
remember to leave each note fretted until we switch strings.
One way to familiarize ourselves with these notes is to first play the notes on each sting,
over and over in repetition. Once we are comfortable playing the notes on each string,
begin to vocalize (say) the note names while playing them in repetition. Once we can
play and name these notes across all six strings then it’s time to look at the notation while
we play and say the notes. In this manner we are hearing the note (pitch and name),
feeling how each note frets in different combination of fingers and seeing the notes on the


Let’s take a look at an excerpt of guitar music define each symbol that we will encounter
when reading music.

Here is a staff. The staff is five lines used to place musical notes (pitches) upon. The
staff isn’t defined until we place a clef on it. In guitar music this will be the treble clef.
This is the clef used for all guitar music and is basically a big, fancy “G”. It shows us the
line it is curled around (the second line of the staff from the bottom) is the place where G
will be located. All other pitches are then determined from this – the space above G will
be A (the beginning of the musical alphabet) and the space below will be F.

The 6/4 is called the time signature. This tells us how the music is organized and how to
count it. The upper number equals how many beats (pulses) are in each measure. The
lower number tells us what type of note is the beat. In this excerpt we will have six
quarter notes per measure. Since there are only eighth notes in the first section of the
piece we will count each measure 1 &, 2 &, 3 &, 4 &, 5 &, 6 & and then repeat.

The small letters are RH fingerings. Just like in our right hand exercises P = thumb, I =
index, M = middle and A = ring. The fingers used in the above measure are the thumb for
the lower notes and the middle for the repeated “E”. There is also an instruction to use
only free strokes. Be sure to follow that instruction.

The small numerals are the LH fingerings. The little two by the third note of the excerpt
means play that note (E) with the 2nd finger of the left hand. Remember, just like we
count – 1 = lh index, 2 = lh middle, 3 = lh ring, 4 = lh pinky. Let’s look at the pieces we
can choose for the final and see if we understand all of the symbols on each piece.


By now we’ve noticed the amount of work and practice it takes to become comfortable
with the guitar. We are (hopefully!) starting to develop a consistent habit of practicing. If
we haven’t, then we might be noticing we feel a little lost in class or that it’s moving a bit
too quickly for our comfort. If either of these is the case, rest assured – the answer is
simple. PRACTICE! A few minutes EACH and EVERY day goes a long way.

Once we begin to practice daily we really start see HOW MUCH work there is to do to
become the guitarist we’d like to be. We need to develop a certain amount of
DISCIPLINE in our practicing. THIS really is the difference between most guitarists and
those few who seem to play beautifully and effortlessly. To become one of the latter
players we not only need to pay attention to HOW MUCH we practice but also to (and
more importantly) HOW we practice. Remember these key words while practicing …


These following exercises are designed to develop left hand coordination, dexterity and
speed. As with all technical exercises, both hands are involved. DO NOT FORGET the
importance of the RIGHT HAND in the following exercises. It is as important as the

Let’s start with the e minor vertical scale we looked at last chapter. We will now
approach this scale in a purely melodic way (no arpeggiations with the right hand). The
major difference will be in the way we articulate the notes of the scale with the right
hand. The concept we must remember is ALTERNATION – the STRICT alternating of
right hand fingers when we play scales or melodic material. NEVER use the same RH
finger twice in succession when practicing these exercises. If we practice this slowly,
correctly and consistently then we won’t be tempted to do it when we are performing.

We’ll begin with i and m REST STROKES (index and middle fingers of the right hand)
to play the scale.

REMEMBER use ALTERNATION … i, m, i, m, etc. This may seem difficult at first –
like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. You might try saying aloud which RH
finger you are using – this will start to sound like some sort of affirmation to the
universe! Also if you are having trouble coordinating the two hands SLOW DOWN …
this is not a race! These exercises will help build speed and control but only if you
master them slowly and correctly first.

Once again we will start with i and m. These are the main right hand fingers most
guitarists use when playing scales. Once we are comfortable alternating with i and m,
continue on by practicing using other combinations of fingers.
RH i m i m i m i m

And when we are comfortable with the above RH fingering …

m i m i m i m i

And then …

m a m a m a m a
a m a m a m a m
i a i a i a i a
a i a i a i a i.

We want to practice playing up and down this scale using each of the above fingerings
(remember to use rest strokes). Also remember to use the correct LH fingerings and
leave all fingers down until we shift positions.


This method of conveying music is extremely popular with modern day guitarists. It
doesn’t require us to be able to read music but tells us how to play something by telling
us where to put our fingers. This method is convenient to know and use when in a hurry
but is inferior to standard notation for a few reasons. One is that we never gain any
comprehension of WHAT we are playing, only HOW to play it. I know many great
guitarists who can play very well who often times don’t know what they are playing.
This makes it hard to musically “communicate” with other players or musicians.
Tablature also lacks rhythmic notation. It tells us the pitches we should be playing but
not WHEN to play them. This makes things difficult unless we know the song or piece of
music well. However, tablature is used extensively on the Internet and we should be
comfortable reading it. Here is a brief explanation of tablature or TAB

The six horizontal lines represent the strings of the guitar. The sixth string is on the
bottom and the first string is on the top. When a number is placed on the string that tells
us what fret to play on that string. The tablature for the e minor scale would look like


To show an e minor chord in tablature would look like this:


We will use tablature for our left hand technical exercises. Be sure to notice that rhythm
indicated before each exercise and the proper RH and LH fingerings shown under each
exercise. If you practice these exercises for 10 – 15 minutes each day diligently and
correctly, you will notice a drastic improvement in the abilities of your left and right
hands in a relatively short period of time. I recommend using them to warm-up both
hands when you first pick up the guitar.

EX. 1 – eighth notes (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &)

In these exercises we will be using the same left hand finger as fret. Make sure to use
rest strokes with i and m. Be sure both fingers are fretted until you change strings.


REMEMBER - same left hand finger as fret and ALTERNATION - first i and m, then m
and a and then i and a.

EX. 2 - eighth notes (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &)
In this exercise be sure to leave the lower finger on each string fretted (and the note
ringing) until it is needed again. Again, we will be using the same left hand finger as fret
and using rest strokes with i and m.


EX. 3 - eighth notes (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &)

This exercise is a variation of EX. 2. Instead of moving across the strings twice we will
move across the strings four times. We still will use the same left hand finger as fret.

EX. 4 - triplets ( 1 & a 2 & a 3 & a )

In this exercise we will use only 1 and 4 (index and pinky) of the left hand and use
THREE FINGER PATTERN with the RH (a, m, i when descending - i, m, a when

4 1 0 4 1 0 4 1 0 4 1 0 etc.
a m i a m i a m i a m i etc.

Once you complete this portion ascend using the same pattern of strings and frets only
this time using i, m, a.


MAKE SURE you are warmed up before you practice this exercise and then only for a
few minutes at a time. This exercise can potentially be dangerous if overused or not
warmed up properly. If you still experience pain (or even strain) when attempting this
exercise after warming up, keep the same pattern but keep the fingers only one fret
difference (not two).

The Rack (like the medieval torture device!)

4x 4x 4x 4x
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 continue downward!
p i m a cont.


In this chapter we will look at some more RH patterns and basic RH flamenco technique.
Remember to always keep the right hand tension free.


In the early nineteenth century there was an Italian guitarist/composer by the name of
Mauro Giuliani. He was a popular composer and performer in the musical capital of
Vienna, Austria. He also was responsible for early attempts to begin to teach others how
to play the guitar correctly in his opinion). Many (but not all) of the concepts we have
discussed in class, such as how to sit, how to hold the guitar and how to position the left
and right hands, come directly from Giuliani’s work or from hose who were influenced
by it.

One set of exercises he developed that is still extremely useful today is his 120 Right
Hand Studies. In these studies he took two simple chords - a C MAJOR chord and a G
MAJOR chord in first inversion (meaning the note B is in the bass) and wrote 120
different ways to play the chords with the right hand! Giuliani was once quoted as saying
that if a guitarist could play all of his 120 RH studies then they would be able to perform
all of his music. This is considerable; he wrote hundred of works including large scale
solo guitar pieces, guitar ensemble works, guitar concertos and arrangements of popular
opera melodies of the time. I think his statement demonstrates the importance of the right
hand and how much time and effort we need to master the right hand techniques.

Let’s take a look at the two chords:

We should be comfortable with the C Major shape now. To move to the G Major / B
chord all we need to do is:

Lift the 3rd finger (on the 5th string, 3rd fret)
Move both the 1st and 2nd fingers over one string apart from each other
Place our 4th finger on the D (third fret of the second string).

and to move back to the C Major from the G Major / B we reverse the steps.

This is basically the entire movement of our left hand for all 120 of these exercises (of
which we will look at about 20 or so). Here they are, have fun!


These are basic flamenco strumming patterns that will build on the simple up and down
strums we have done with our index and thumb.

First we will develop our index strike a little more. Follow this pattern making sure to
observe the accents (harder snap) when the number is bold.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Down with the index and middle fingers tucked lightly together
Down with the thumb
Up with the thumb
REMEMBER the triplet rhythm is 1 & a 2 & a (or straw - ber - ry)

RASGUEDO DE TIERJAS (scissor strum)
Snap down with A (ring finger)
Snap straight down (perpendicular to strings / straight at the floor) with I (index)
- You want your whole hand to be pointed down
Strike up with the thumb
AGAIN this is a triplet rhythm 1 & a, etc

Snap straight down with I - your index finger will slowly come back into your palm as
you execute the next three strokes.

Snap down with your pinky (Z or C) - this will feel awkward and need much practice.
Snap down with A (ring)
Snap down with M (middle) - by the time M is extended I should be back into the palm
ready to start the strum over again. As I snap again the rest of the fingers come into the
The rhythm of this pattern is sixteenth-notes: 1 e a &, 2 e & a (or wa - ter - mel - on)

Here are a few chord progressions you can use for practicing these rasguedos:

i iv i V
I bVII iv / Bb V


Are you ready to ROCK! Let's take at power chords. Power chords are simple chord
shapes that contain no open strings so they are movable. That means we can play any
chord with this shape as long as we know the name of the root note. The chords
themselves are neither MAJOR nor minor, as they contain no third (the note that defines
a chord as either MAJOR or minor). These chords are "abbreviations" of the full
BARRE chords we will look at the next few weeks. Here are the TWO power chord
shapes. REMEMBER - if we don't know the names of the notes on the 6th and 5th
strings then we don't know what chords we are playing.


Here is the 6th string power chord shape.

The ROOT (lowest note of the chord and also the note that gives the chord its name) is
under the 1st finger. Some players fret both the notes on the 5th and 4th strings with their
third fingers. This is called "two-finger rock". Try both ways but use the above fingering
because it translates more easily to full barre chords. Let's look at the notes on the 6th

open E | F |F#/Gb| G |G#/Ab| A |A#/Bb| B | C |C#/Db| D |D#/Eb| E |

fret 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Notice how some frets have two notes in them. This is called an enharmonic spelling - a
note that can be referred to in more than one way. REMEMBER a sharp (#) raises the
pitch of a note one-half step (one fret on the guitar). If we start on the 1st fret (F) and
then apply a sharp (#) to the note we end up with F# - located on the SECOND FRET.
Likewise a flat (b) lowers the pitch of a note one-half step (one fret on the guitar). If we
start on the 3rd fret (G) and apply a flat (b) to the note we end up with Gb - ALSO
located on the second fret. These two notes will be played with the same finger, on the
same fret and sound the same! Thus F# and Gb are enharmonic.

To begin to practice power chords create a 'bass line" made up of four notes on the sixth
string. Play these four notes in eighth notes one note per measure (play each note eight
times). Once you like your bass line and are comfortable moving between the notes form
the power chord shape above always playing your bass line notes with the first finger.
You can also practice "sliding" between the chords when you change notes. You've now
written you're first Rock song (in the style of Green Day). Congratulations!


The fifth string power chords are played with the exact same finger position as the sixth
string power chords. These chords are also neither MAJOR nor minor (for the same
reason discussed above). Here is the diagram for the fifth string power chord shape.

The ROOT is now located on the fifth string (but still under the first finger). Let’s write
another song. This time choose five notes. The rhythm for this song will still be eighth
notes but in one measure you will change notes / chords (one measure will have two
chords that each get two beats). Congratulations, you’ve now written two Rock songs!

Open A |A#/Bb| B | C |C#/Db| D |D#/Eb| E | F |F#/Gb| G |G#/Ab| A
Fret 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

So here’s tablature from a well-known rock songs. The more you explore 60’s –
contemporary Rock you will see that the majority of bands use these types of chord

Rolling Stones … Jumpin Jack Flash
During the verses, the riff is the simple The chorus is

|------------------------------------| But it's al----right now,
|------------------------------------| B
|------------------------------------| in fact it's a gas....
|-----9--9----7-9---7-9-----7-9---| D A
|-----7--7--------------------------| But it's al----right
Jumpin' Jack Flash, it's a gas gas gas!


Barre chords are simply extended power chords (which we looked at last week).
Remember referring to the power chords as 5 chords (as in “A5”) because the power
chords have no chord quality (Major or minor, diminished or Augmented). Barre chords
do have a chord quality to them - the ones we will look at this week are MAJOR,
MAJOR 7th, minor and minor 7th. REMEMBER to use these chords effectively and
efficiently we have to memorize the “shapes” of the chords AND all of the notes on the
5th and 6th strings - so we know what chords we are playing.

Notes of the 6Th String

open E | F |F#/Gb| G |G#/Ab| A |A#/Bb| B | C |C#/Db| D |D#/Eb| E |

fret 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Open A |A#/Bb| B | C |C#/Db| D |D#/Eb| E | F |F#/Gb| G |G#/Ab| A
Fret 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12


Let’s explore a 12 Bar Blues pattern using Barre Chords. Remember the form:

I - I - I - I - IV - IV - I - I - V - IV - I - I

Here’s a simple diagram to help you play this in any key:
Here’s a good strumming pattern to practice while getting comfortable with the Barre
Chords (which may take some time!)

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
       
x x x x x x

12 Bar Blues and Pentatonic Scales
The 12 bar blues is the most influential musical form in American Popular Music. The
12 bar blues is the form of the early blues (both Delta and Urban), early Jazz and early
Rock ‘n Roll. Recording artists you might be familiar with that have written and
recorded music using this form include: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf,
BB King, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. This form was also
highly influential on the second wave of the British Invasion guitarists. These guitarist
include: Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, John Mayall and Keith Richards. Maybe
you’ve heard of some of these guitarists?

The 12 bar blues is a 12 measure repeating pattern of chords. The chords are I - IV - V.
This refers to the scale degrees in a Major scale that the chords are built on. For example,
if we are in C Major the scale is:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

So the chords we would use in the key of C Major in the 12 bar blues would be:


Here is the 12 bar blues pattern:

I - I - I - I - IV - IV - I - I - V - IV - I - I
(IV) (V7)
The chords in ( ) are alternate chords. First learn the upper line then begin to work in the
two substitutes.

We will first learn the 12 bar blues in E Major. Later when we look at Barre Chords we
can easily play the pattern in any key. The E major Scale is:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
E F# G# A B C# D# E

The chords we will be using will be:

I - IV - V

We will first look at a RIFF based 12 bar blues Pattern. After we cover Barre Chords (in
the next chapter) we will look at a chord based pattern. Here is a riff based 12 bar blues:


1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

remember: I - I - I - I - IV - IV - I - I - V - IV - I - I


When we play the 12 bar blues pattern above it doesn't quite sound authentic. That's
because it's missing one important rhythmic aspect: the shuffle rhthym.

The shuffle rhythm will be notated as above (as eighth notes - 1 & 2 & etc.) However,
the music will tell you "shuffle". The shuffle rhythm is:

Instead of counting 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &, we count 1 (&) a 2 (&) a 3 (&) a 4 (&) a (with the
& in parentheses silent). This gives a slight "limp" to the rhythm and gives us a more
authentic "blues" feel.


Once we are comfortable with the "accompaniment" part of the 12 bar blues we will now
begin the art of improvisation. Improvisation refers to us “creating” melodic lines in the
moment while playing with others. One of the easiest form to improve over is the 12 Bar
Blues. We will use the Pentatonic scale to “solo” over the 12 bar blues. There are only
five notes in this scale and five different positions. Once we memorize these we can play
in any key anywhere on the guitar. Pretty cool!

We will start by looking at the e minor pentatonic scale, which begins in the first position
with open strings.
E minor Pentatonic - 1st Position E minor Pentatonic - 2nd Position
LH 0 1 2 3 LH 1 2 3 4

E minor Pentatonic - 3rd Position E minor Pentatonic - 4th Position

LH 1 1 3 4 LH 1 2 3 4

E minor Pentatonic - 5th Position

LH 1 2 4

It will take much practice to get comfortable and memorize all five of these positions. So
Once we are comfortable with the basic pentatonic scale we can add a lot of flavor and
color to our improvisation by adding one, single note to these five scale positions. When
we add the b5 (also called the “blue note”) we get what’s commonly referred to as the
Blues Scale.

We will continue working with these ten scale positions over the next few lessons. Be
sure to practice, practice, practice them and be comfortable with their shapes.