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A lot of guitar teachers tend to teach their beginner students how to play three-finger open chords in their first lesson.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes this can work. If the student is astute and hardworking, they might be able to use this experience as a launching pad to learn other skills and techniques.
But there are many cases where this doesn’t work. If the student is particularly young, if they aren’t a born prodigy, if they have no prior experience with the guitar, then you’re only going to frustrate them.
That’s why I created a method for teaching my students how to quickly progress from playing a single string to playing three strings on the guitar. This typically takes no more than two to three lessons.
So, if you’re a beginner, and you’ve been frustrated by other teaching methods or beginner lessons in the past, these tips will hopefully get you off to a better start. Let’s take a look at how to go from one string to three.
Playing On One String On Guitar
You’re new to guitar. You need to build up finger dexterity and coordination between both hands. More than likely, you aren’t ready to tackle the finger gymnastics you’ll later have to perform.
So the first thing you should do is learn to play a simple scale on the first string (the thinnest).
Here is the E major scale on the first string:
The great thing about this pattern is that you can apply it to any string. If you play the same frets on the second string, you get the B major scale. If you do the same on the third string, you get the G major scale. I definitely recommend doing this on each string, as it will allow you to get more out of a single exercise.
The next thing to do is to learn a simple single-string riff. I recommend The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army“, and would encourage you to look up the song on your own. The main riff sounds like it is being played by a bass, but I’m pretty sure Jack White is just using an effect to drop the pitch on his guitar.
Once you feel comfortable playing one string, you’re ready to move onto two.
Playing Two Strings For Guitarists
At this point, I tell my students that there are basically three different techniques you can perform on two strings.
The first technique is simply playing single notes like we already were. The only difference is that you’re now transitioning between two adjacent strings.
Here’s a simple “bass line” for you to try:
If you’d like to look up another similar riff, you can also check out the bass line from “Mission Impossible.”
Once you’ve gotten a good feel for that, it’s time to try what are known as “double stops” or “dyads.” This is where you play any two notes simultaneously. A lot of students find this a little tricky because you need to “strum” just two strings without hitting the others.
A great example to look up is “Smoke on the Water”, and to some extent, the intro from “Frankenstein.” But I’ve prepared my own example here for your convenience:
In the above example, the goal is to play the third and fourth strings (the middle strings) together. Don’t worry too much about getting the rhythm right. Focus first on figuring out how to play those two strings together without hitting the others.
The last technique is known as “string-skipping.” This is where you pick one string, and jump over more than one string to pick another.
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