Skip to main content

The Guitar Medic

By Appointment
Repair and Restoration
Case Repairs
Amp Conversion
Vintage Guitars
Contact Me
Musical Instruments
Music / Instruction
Learn To Play
My Musical Influences
Instrument Care
Member Login
How To Pages
My Ideas
This page contains helps for the NEW or INTERMEDIATE (amateur) musician. Like other pages on this web site, this is a work in progress--a living document, ever changing and ever improving. Topics included here include how to play guitar, mandolin, etc. and assorted tips. Also included are links to learning sites, videos, etc. I have found several sources of help in my lifetime pursuit of this skill (playing), and have written some myself--based on my own difficulties and experiences with this activity. I wanted to freely share some of these helps on this page.
Content from any area on this site is free to download except if otherwise specified, and as long as acknowledging this site as the source. HOWEVER, no information can be redistributed or sold, or placed on a site that charges a fee for accessing it.


If you are new to the guitar, you know that it can be discouraging, learning to play...especially if you're older. When you got the guitar, you tried to play, and you found out, 1) how hard coordination is for those fingers working up there on the strings, 2) how much your fingertips hurt after just a few minutes, 3) how much strength it takes in your left hand to make chords for very long, and 4) how you have to do all this while your right hand is doing something completely different (it takes real coordination). It is easy to become frustrated, and many people who get frustrated simply quit and put the guitar in a closet. A year later we see your "dream" for sale on the internet or somewhere else.
Here is my own personal advice to you--the beginner:
and especially,

Guitar playing never came naturally to anyone. There are those who might say it wasn't hard, or others who have made it look quite easy, but they all went through the whole beginning phase just like you and me. Perhaps an advantage was that they were able to overcome discouragement with a hunger to learn, or enthusiasm that was stronger than their discouragement. Or maybe they had a lot of time to spend working at it--practicing and practicing. I always advise new players to take at least a few lessons. I recommend it not because I think that people who want to learn always need lessons. I say it because I know how much a few basics and some simple tips from a good teacher can help the beginner. It can also help you if you used to play, but have not played for a long time. I am not a guitar teacher, but I've "been there" with the same struggles, and I haven't forgotten what it was like. An instructor can give you exercises to practice, and show you routines that will make you better if you simply go home (after a lesson) and practice, during the week, what they taught you. You don't have to practice for hours. Just a few minutes a day are good. If you're inclined to practice more, then go for it. But mainly don't practice so much that you burn yourself out--which might discourage you further, since too much emphasis on something fun sometimes becomes yet another burden in your life. Learning should instead be a calming thing, with small victories that are the experience of "getting it" sometimes. After you've practiced, and it's time for another lesson, show your instructor how you have improved, and ask your questions and share with him/her what was difficult for you. Ask for some practice techniques that will help you overcome what was hard for you the previous week.
When kids who decide to learn the guitar really want to learn, it may seem to you, the adult, that they progress so quickly! This sometimes may lead you to think that you are "too old" to learn. That simply is not true.
What you, the adult, may have forgotten to consider is how much simpler kids' young lives are...they don't have jobs, they don't have to make a lot of decisions about things. All they have to do is go to school, do homework, do chores (some) and the rest is "playtime". But adults have different lives. They have jobs, and they have relationships to maintain. They have stress. They don't always approach learning something new with the same kind of kid innocence. They are more analytical about learning than are kids. They have expectations about how they should progress, then they may begin to push themselves, and may then become discouraged and lose their enthusiasm, and begin to see it as yet another source of stress, and therefore will "throw it off" thinking that they really don't need to be adding guitar playing as another stress factor in their lives.
Kids AND Adults
So as you might conclude...learning to play the guitar needs to be a thing you do without an unrealistic expectation to progress at any specific speed--or as fast as an acquaintance who also took up guitar and seems to be progressing "faster than you are". It should be something you look forward to doing (practicing a few minutes each day). Be patient and don't demand a lot of yourself. Get past the sore fingers, and pay attention to the things that were fomerly difficult for you and begin noticing your improvement. Realize that learning guitar is going to take some time and requires patience. You can learn quicker by practicing religiously--just as your guitar teacher tells you. But it will still take time. But I promise you that you will "get it" if you just persevere. That is some of my best advice: PERSEVERE. Some other advice patient, and make it a fun activity--not a laborious one.
Feel free to contact me any time with questions about your playing. I am always ecstatic when someone says, "I would like to learn guitar". Always, the fruit of that first desire is when you hear yourself actually play something, and realize it is actually you who is making the music. It doesn't get much better than that for a true music lover.
I am always happy to help with encouragement and advice for beginners of all ages. Use the contact-me page and let me know if you are a beginner and what obstacles you feel you face. I would love to hear from you! I promise you that I will respond, and my response will ALWAYS be encouraging.

Randy's Guitar Clinic:

(Beginning and Veteran Alike)

The direct link is (Randy's Guitar Clinic). It is an excellent site where veteran users provide help and answers to both beginners, and to each other. You must apply for membership to the group (just click the link--the instructions are there), but no one is turned away. Randy and wife Petala run a great board with a lot of exchange between amateurs and professionals (and a few "know-it-alls").

One helpful file, as an example, was recently posted by Petala. It contains some basic instruction for barre chords. I have, by permission from Petala, included it here in downloadable documents. It is a simple text file. Click to download or view the file.


Here are some helps for the beginner.


First is a sheet showing common "Open Chords". Open chords are called that because you only press certain strings, while leaving others open (unpressed) to make a chord. I have made a couple of sheets showing  "OPEN CHORDS", click  HERE to see one sheet, and HERE to see the other. You can choose to view or download the file.


What is a bar (or barre) chord? A bar chord is played like an E chord, or an A chord, but as you move up the scale, you use your index finger of your chord hand to simulate the nut--where the strings are held at the head end of the guitar. As you move your hand up the scale you can make any chord--including flats and sharps--by using this method. This is a photo of a person making a F Barre Chord. The F Barre Chord is simply an E chord, but it has moved up one fret, and the index finger now presses at the first fret to simulate the nut. To see this picture, click HERE. You can choose to download or view the picture. Also here is a complete instruction sheet on barre chords--showing the most basic ones. To view or download it, click HERE. This is an exersize in hand strength, so don't expect to learn how to make this type of chord in one day. If you are older, you may decide this is too much for you. But if you come to that conclusion, consider that practice strengthens your hand, and you will GET THERE. It just takes patience and time.


Sometimes you need someone to show you something or sometimes you read something that helps you progress. That is the intent of this document. This is document containing tips for improving your playing. To view or download, click .HERE

Guitar Lesson Software:

Excellent guitar lessons software at a modest price: JAMORAMA

An online Instrument Tuner--very helpful!!! Features guitar, banjo, violin, mandolin, and many more. It is provided as a service (no charge) and, again, no spam ads! Click the picture to go there.




HOW TO PLAY SONGS (on guitar):

These are all from YouTube (these are links only and are not vdeo that is embedded into this web site). They are likely too far advanced for a beginner, but suited for an intermediate beginner--one who has mastered chords and basic finger style movement.


More Than a Feelin' (Intro), Boston

This is the intro, to the song only.

Hotel California - Beginning, Eagles

This is a young lady who first shows how it is played, then performs it (not in English, but it doesn't matter).

Nothing Else Matters - Beginning, Metallica

This is the very beginning of the song. The instructor has a web site where he freely shares technique and has several songs shown for free. One of the better players and teachers I've seen on YouTube.

Dust In The Wind, Kansas

This is easy to follow, because the player shows it very slowly. I learned to play the song by watching this particular video. Tabs are imbedded in the video.

Sweet Home Alabama - Intro, Lynyrd Skynyrd

This one is again for an intermediate player. It is a little hard to follow, but not too bad. You need to know your terminology and be able to follow along.