Beginners Online Training Part 1


  1. How to read a chord box and form chords
  2. How to play a simple rhythm pattern
  3. Playing in time with one chord
  4. THE BIG SECRET –how to play a chord progression in time
  5. Beginner study pieces

1. How to Read a Chord Box

The guitar is as challenging an instrument as any to play well, but unlike many you can make pleasing sounds on it almost right away with chords. Some music will have chord boxes, some only symbols. Knowing how to read a box is essential to get started. This is a chord box:

Chord box

chord box












With your hands on the guitar, it should look like this:

First, get accustomed to the fact that you are looking at the guitar from the front, as if it were hanging on a wall.

The strings are numbered 1-6, #1 is the vertical line furthest to the right.

The numbers in the black circles are finger numbers, index is 1, pinky is 4, no thumb. Press firmly on your fingertips, and keep the inside of your palm away from the 1st string. (Pic)

The 3 small zeros near the top of the box indicate to play the strings ‘open’, that is play them even though you are not fretting them with your left hand fingers. The string names are, from 1-6, E B G D A E. Thus, strings 1,2 and 6 (E, B and E—yes there are 2 strings with the same name) are played open.

All considerations of chord construction, names of the notes and other music terms you can forget for now. Just take a pick and play this chord, and as many others from the basic chord sheet below as you like.



Note: These are just some of the basic chords. Many more can easily be found in chord books or on internet sites.


2. How to Play a Simple Rhythm Pattern

I am presenting a simple rhythm here, very common on guitar. For much more information about this, visit THE RHYTHM SECTION © on this site.

Before playing any rhythm pattern on guitar, I suggest playing simple up and down strokes, with a pick, to get the feel of sweeping evenly across the strings.

Begin not with a chord, but muting the strings of the guitar with your fretting hand. For this purpose, place your fretting hand high up the neck (around the 12th fret) like this:

Keep the hand open and ‘flat’, barely touching the strings to get a ‘raking’ sound:

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Try to get the same sound and attack with both the up and down stroke. HOLD THE PICK LIGHTLY! Beginners tend to grip the pick far too tightly. The best tone comes from a lightly held pick, whether playing loud or soft.



Simple rhythm
‘D’ indicates a DOWN stroke, ‘U’ is UP stroke.
Thus, the pattern is played down, up, down, up, UP, down, up. Again, use the muted strings before any chords, like this:

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Play this pattern until it sounds smooth and even. Note that I was playing to a metronome. A METRONOME IS THE BEST WAY TO KEEP TIME, especially in the beginning. If you don’t own one, there are many free online metronome sites, very easy to use.

Keep arm movement to a minimum, and hold the pick as lightly as possible. Much more detailed information on tone, how to hold the pick, etc. can be found in the intermediate/advanced section.