Friday, December 7, 2012

Lesson 1b: Picking Technique and Open-String Exercises

One of the toughest things about starting to learn guitar is gaining control and accuracy of your right hand - both single-note picking and strumming chords (if you're learning on a right-handed guitar, that is). In my first lesson, if we have time after covering the parts of the guitar (lesson 1a), we dive right in to playing the guitar.

Not particularly musical or fun, but fundamental. Open-String exercises are helpful to new students in a few ways:

1. The student gets comfortable holding the guitar and practicing good posture.
2. The student begins to develop right-hand precision - getting a feel for the spacing between each string - which will help with playing scales and strumming.
3. The student is practicing ear-training from day one (that means the student is beginning the process of being able to know what each note of the guitar sounds like and what the relationship is from one string to the next.)
4. The student begins to practice playing even, or steady, rhythms - necessary to play any form of music on any instrument.

But before getting into actually playing these exercises, we have to talk about two things:

1. How to hold a guitar pick. Flip your right-hand index finger straight out and completely flat, palm-side up. With your other hand, place the pointy corner of the guitar pick on your index finger, make sure that about 1/4 inch of the pick sticks out over the end of your index finger (like an extension of your nail), then quickly "snap" your right-hand thumb on to the pick comfortably. That's it!

2. Rule*: Use Alternate Picking. Alternate picking means using an alternating "down then up then down etc." motion when playing each note or chord. If your first note is played by picking down (approaching the string from above and striking it down toward the ground), then the next picking stroke should be up (the opposite of the last). Always "down, up, down, up" when we're working with steady rhythms (IE: the rhythmic value of each note is the same).

*Every week or so I add a new key rule or principle for students to memorize. Most of the time, it's the absolute, bear essential piece of information a student has to walk away from a lesson with.

Here is the worksheet I often use with my students. Remember, it's all open strings, so pretty much all students can get started with this right from the first lesson. No chords to learn or worry about. Easy peasy.

Disclaimer: All resources on this blog are intended for personal use only. If you are a music instructor - public or private - and would like to use some of the resource materials I have created, please contact me to get permission before using them with your own students.