Before we jump right into the very cool stuff, you should really become familiar with your guitar and feel comfortable with it. If you are patient in reading the first few lessons, I think you will find the subsequent lessons easier to understand.
Imagine Eric Clapton, Chet Atkins, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eddie van Halen, Liona Boyd, Jesse Cook,, Pat Metheny, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Hendrix or YOUR favorite guitar hero playing air guitar. Just picture them on stage without their "axe", wailing away on their air instrument just like the rest of us have done countless times in our living rooms and bedrooms. Do they look awkward standing there pretending to play, or do they still look cool to you? In my mind's eye I see them still as cool as ever, because I know they are comfortable with their instrument, and, I can see they are still thinking and imagining their improvised notes a microsecond before they play them. Their talent and skill were developed during many long hours of practice and careful listening.
It doesn't matter how you got your guitar, what brand it is, what you paid for it, if it's electric or acoustic, six string, or twelve string. What does matters is how you care for and regard it. When you look around it might seem like everybody in the world owns a guitar. I mean, it must be the most popular instrument in history because since the birth of Rock'n'Roll, it is solely responsible for bringing music of every genre into almost every household in the western world (at least). The fact is, not everybody owns a guitar (or any other instrument for that matter) and many who do, never learn to play it. I hope you will consider it a privilege to have such a magical tool in your possession, because when it comes to the power of music, I believe feeling privileged is a healthy and constructive attitude.
A guitar is a tool that can not only give you countless hours of pleasure, but you can also give others the gift of music if you treat your instrument with respect and spend the required time and effort learning how to play it. I call it a 'Magical Tool' because not only will you become a Musician, you will also soon become a Magician capable of transporting your spirit and other's - up, down, forward, back, and sideways through time and space, without ever touching an illicit herb or drug. Don't take that magic for granted because many people who cannot play any musical instrument at all would give their right arm to play like you soon will. To accomplish that, you first need to feel comfortable with your guitar. Let's go back to what I started with... legendary guitarists. You've probably watched countless guitar players perform live, or on TV. You must have noticed that they all look comfortable holding and playing their guitars. The truth is their wrists and fingers are just killing them! No, wait... I'm just kidding.
Experienced guitarists look comfortable because - consciously or unconsciously - they have become comfortable holding their instrument by adjusting where it sits against their body and how their hands are placed upon it. Over time they discovered what pick (plectrum) to use, what gauge of strings, and what guitar brand(s) and model(s) gives them the feel and sound they want. I'd like to offer a few suggestions on how you can determine some of these things for yourself without having to learn how to play like a legend first.
Before continuing, I want to say something that I will probably repeat again later because I believe it will be helpful: When you practice chords and/or strumming and picking, don't stop your strumming hand if you are having trouble forming chords or playing melodies and lead fills. Keep your strumming hand going steadily and your fretboard fingers will eventually catch up. In fact, it is probably better to practice chord formations first, without strumming. Let them sink into your mind, and then start strumming. I think you will find that "muscle memory" will take care of the chord formations once you know how each one is formed. Stopping each time you make a mistake on the fretboard only causes more frustration. Always relax and take your time. Use a slower tempo when you start practicing something new. Speed things up slowly until it becomes second nature, which it will!
I suggest you read this section because even if you already own one, chances are, you will most likely buy a second guitar or upgrade to a "better" one at some point in the future.
If you do already own a guitar (highly probable if you're reading this) and it's one with a big round hole in the body, or, one with ' f ' holes on either side of the strings on the body - look into those holes! If it says "Stradivarius" then what you actually have is... a Violin! Sorry, they aren't covered here. I'm joking of course, and what you actually have is an "Acoustic" guitar. Musically, there is no difference between an acoustic and electric guitar and for the most part, everything you will read in all of these lessons applies to both types of guitar.
It doesn't matter if it's an "El Cheapo", an expensive late-model high-tech brand name, or a classic vintage Rickenhoffer or Teleblaster passed down by your great-grandfunkel. The important thing is that your hands feel comfortable playing it. That alone will determine if you can totally explore and express all of your present musical capabilities. The bottom line is this: Nobody cares what brand your 'Axe' is, if you can play it well!
Regardless of the type of guitar: acoustic, semi-acoustic, or electric, they are all the same in basic structure. Figure 1-1 shows the various parts of a guitar.
All guitars have a body, a neck with a fretboard, a bridge, tuning keys, a nut, and usually an hourglass shaped body. Okay, who brought the Flying 'V' and Teardrop shaped guitars to class today?... Raise your hand! I hope you brought enough for everyone! Since some of you do have your hands raised, it's a good time to look at them carefully. If you have slender fingers and well-proportioned hands then you should have less trouble playing most guitar brands and models. If you have broad hands and meaty fingers don't be discouraged. You just need to find a guitar with a neck that is best for you. Some guitars have wide necks (as viewed by looking at the fretboard head on) while others have narrow necks. Some have thin necks (as viewed by looking at the side profile of the guitar) and some are thicker. If your hands are large or your fingers are long then you would probably feel more comfortable with a guitar neck that is wide and/or thick. Of course, if your hands are small and your fingers are meaty then a narrow and thin neck would probably serve you better. Remember, these things aren't written in stone. They're just "rules of thumb" (and fingers and palm), so to speak.
You should try playing every different type and size of guitar you can get your hands on before spending a lot of money buying one. Also, keep in mind that for every popular brand and model of guitar produced, there is usually an "imitation" that is very similar to the genuine model in terms of physical size, shape, and design (if not in terms of quality of materials and craftsmanship). These relatively inexpensive imitations are more than adequate for learning how to play and for practicing.
Whichever guitar you choose or have chosen, you should play it as often as possible. If you are watching TV, turn the TV volume down a bit and practice while you sit there gawking. If you're in the bathroom, take your guitar and practice while you're sitting there... waiting.... =) Hey, practice while you're reading this.... stick a mouse pad to the body of your guitar somewhere and as you strum, scroll down when necessary (I'm only partly joking)...=) You'll be surprised at how much your skills will improve if you practice while doing other things.