About the Guitar (Guitar Lesson)

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David MacKenzie

About the Guitar

David explains the parts of the guitar and how they function. He also gives you some tips on buying an electric guitar. Finally, David gives you a few exercises and techniques to get you started.

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 31:00Difficulty: 0.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:33) Introduction Music Welcome to the Phase 1 Basic Electric Guitar Series with Dave "DMAC" MacKenzie! Dave kicks off this lesson series with a demonstration of his ripping guitar style.
Chapter 2: (00:24) Introduction to Lesson Dave MacKenzie Bio

Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.

Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.

Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.

Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!

As with his playing, Dave will find new ways to show you how to get the most out of your time learning guitar!

Dave MacKenzie Links

Ragged Doll MySpace Page

Series Overview

Dave begins this series with the assumption that you are brand new to the guitar. He begins with basic concepts such as proper right and left hand techniques. As the series progresses, Dave introduces techniques specific to rock guitar playing. A brief overview of lesson materials is listed below.

-Basic open chords (major and minor), barre chords, power chords, and basic chord progressions.

-Discussion of rhythm, rhythm exercises.

-Explanation of single notes, chords, arpeggios, and how they function in music.

-Basic right and left hand techniques.

-Speed and coordination exercises.

-Chord change exercises.

-Scales such as the major scale, natural minor scale, and pentatonic scales.

-Awareness of note locations and scales on the fretboard.

-Basic lead guitar concepts such as bending, hammer-ons, pull-offs, string bends, trills, vibrato, and tapping.

-Lead guitar licks.

-Creative rock rhythm techniques.

This series is taught on electric guitar. However, almost all of the concepts and techniques that Dave demonstrates can be transferred to acoustic guitar.
Chapter 3: (08:50) The Guitar and Its Parts Anatomy of the Guitar

A. Headstock

The headstock is located at the end of a long, slender piece of wood called the neck. Tuning pegs are fastened to the headstock. The strings are wrapped around the tuning pegs to hold them tightly in place.

B. Tuning Machines

The tuning machines ensure that the tuning remains stable for as long as possible. Most electric guitars feature six tuning machines on one side of the headstock. Turning the tuning machines alters the pitch or tuning of each string. Turning the tuning peg in a counterclockwise motion raises or sharpens the pitch of the string. Turning the peg clockwise lowers or flattens the pitch.

Most acoustic guitars feature three tuning machines on each side of the headstock. In this case, the three tuning machines on the bottom portion of the headstock work in the opposite direction.

C. Nut

On their way to the tuning pegs, the strings pass through an object made of bone or plastic called the nut. The nut is mounted where the neck meets the headstock. However, on classical guitars, the nut is not fastened to the guitar. Rather, it is held in place by the tension supplied by the strings. The nut keeps a precise, even spacing between all six strings. It also keeps the strings at a fixed height above the fretboard.

D. The Neck

The long slender part of the guitar is called the neck. The fretboard is glued on top of the neck. Fretboards are either made out of rosewood, maple, or ebony. Maple produces a brighter tone. Rosewood and ebony sound slightly darker.

1. Frets

Slits are carved into the fretboard for installation of metal strips of wire. These strips of wire are called frets. The majority of acoustic guitars feature 20 frets. Electric guitars typically have 21 or 22 frets. Many guitars designed for hard rock and metal feature 24 frets. Ibanez has recently started to manufacture a guitar that features 27 frets.

2. Fret Size

Frets are typically offered in four different sizes. They are listed from smallest to largest below:

Medium Jumbo
Extra Jumbo

Fret size is determined by the width and height of the fret. Height is measured from the fretboard to the peak of the fret or its "crown." Width is measured from the top edge to the bottom edge of the fret. In other words, width is measured from the edge closest to the nut to the edge closest to the bridge.

3. Fretboard Markers

Most guitars feature position markers on the fretboard to help keep you oriented. Most Strat style guitars feature pearloid dot inlays. The double dots indicate the 12th fret. As you continue to explore up the neck, these positions markers will become very handy. Position markers are also listed on top of the fretboard. These dots are typically very small. Classical guitars are typically the only type of guitars that do not feature fretboard markers. Guitars manufactured by the Parker Company also do not feature fretboard markers.

4. Fretboard Wood

a. Maple

Maple produces a bright tone with a crisp, defined midrange. Maple fretboards must be finished. Consequently, many players do not like the feel of maple. A satin finish can be used to reduce the sticky feel of a maple fretboard.

b. Rosewood

Rosewood produces a warmer, darker tone with less treble frequencies than maple. Rosewood does not require a finish. Consequently, it has a natural oily texture.

c. Ebony

Ebony is an extremely hard and dense wood. Consequently, it produces a tight tone that is slightly brighter than the average maple fretboard. Similar to rosewood, ebony necks do not require a finish. Due to the density of the wood, ebony does not absorb natural oils as readily as rosewood. This results in a slicker or faster feeling board.

E. The Body

Acoustic guitars have shoulders, hips, and a waist. The large chamber connected to the neck is called the body. The top part of the body is called the soundboard. The bridge is connected to the saddle, which in turn is connected to the soundboard. The strings connect to the bridge at this end of the guitar. Striking the strings produces vibrations, which exit through the soundhole.

F. The Bridge

The bridge performs the same jobs as the nut at the opposite end of the guitar. The strings are anchored to the body at the bridge. It also maintains even spacing between each of strings. The height of the strings above the guitar is also maintained by the bridge.

Bridge pins securely hold the strings in place. These pins must be removed when you change your strings.

Classical and electric guitars do not have bridge pins. On a classical guitar, the strings are looped and tied around the bridge. Electric guitar strings have small steel balls on the ends that hold each string tightly against the bridge.

G. The Saddle

The bridge and bridge pins are mounted on a piece of wood called the saddle. In turn, the saddle is mounted on the body.

H. The Pickguard

The pickguard protects the body from damage. The pick will gradually damage the body over time as a result of constant contact. The pickguard prevents this costly problem from occurring.

F. Strap Pegs (Pins)

Most guitars feature two strap pegs. One is typically located on the side of the body directly in line with the bridge. The other is placed close to the upper side of the neck.

Strap locks will ensure that your strap remains attached to the strap pegs. They can be purchased at almost any store where guitars are sold. Straps have a tendency to work their way loose over time. If you are standing up while playing, you could accidentally drop your guitar to the floor and damage it. At the very least, this mishap will negatively affect your performance.

You can have pins added by a luthier if your guitar does not have them. However, this requires drilling holes in the body. You must have a reliable professional do this work. Do NOT drill holes for strap pegs in a nylon string (classical) guitar. This will cause a severe loss in tonal quality. Classical or nylon string guitars (this includes flamenco models as well) must be played with a footstool, suction cups or with a clamp stand when playing standing up.

Additional Anatomy for the Electric Guitar

A. Pickups

The pickups sense the vibration of the strings. This vibration is transformed into an electric signal that passes through the guitar cable and comes out of the amplifier. Most Strats feature three single coil pickups. The other type of guitar pickup is called a "humbucker." Les Pauls feature two humbucking pickups. Humbuckers are essentially two single coil pickups that are wired together.

1. Single Coils

Single coils feature a much brighter, biting tone compared to humbuckers. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the style of music you play.

2. Humbuckers

A humbucker is comprised of two coils wired together. The two coils are wound in the opposite direction to cancel or "buck" noise or hum. Since both of the coils are wired in series, the resulting tone is significantly louder than a single coil. Humbuckers also produce a fatter tone with slightly less treble compared to a single coil.

3. Active vs. Passive Pickups

Pickups are either active or passive. Pickups are inherently passive transducers. Active pickups incorporate additional electronic circuitry to modify the basic signal.

a. Passive Pickups


-Passive pickups do not require an outside power source.

-Tonal signature is unique to each manufacturer.

-More accurate at capturing the unique nuances of an individual player.


-Lower output


b. Active Pickups


-Higher output

-Increased headroom and dynamic range

-Less noise is produced.


-More expensive

-Less defined tonal signature

-Flatter frequency response curve

-Extra power source required

B. Pickup Selector Switch

A toggle switch is used to select a specific pickup(s). The positions of the toggle switch are setup just like the pickups. There are five possible pickup selections available on most Strats. Three of the positions are for each of the single coil pickups. The in between positions blend the sound of the bridge and middle pickup or the neck and the middle pickup. The bridge pickup features a bright, treble sound. The neck pickup produces a warmer, bassier sound. The middle pickup produces a middle ground sound between these two extremes. Experiment with your guitar and explore the different tones that each pickup produces. Compare the sound of a single note played with each of the pickup options.

C. Volume and Tone Control(s)

Most Strats feature a single volume knob that controls the volume of all three pickups. Les Pauls feature two volume controls - one control for each pickup.

Most guitars feature two tone controls - one for the bridge and one for the neck pickup. When the tone control is turned down, the high end or treble is decreased.

D. Output Jack

The electric guitar connects to the amplifier through a patch cable. The patch cable connects to the output jack of the guitar. Typically, the jack is located somewhere around the side of the body or the front of the body near the volume and tone controls.

E. Bridge Systems for Electric Guitars

1. Floating Tremolo

Most Strat style guitars have floating tremolos. The tremolo is the "whammy bar" that is used to lower or raise the pitch of a note. Pressing the bar downwards lowers the pitch of a note. Pulling the bar upwards raises the pitch. You cannot alter the pitch as much with this system as with a double locking system. Springs that are covered by a plate on the back of the body help maintain equilibrium and keep the strings in tune.

2. Fixed Bridge

These systems do not feature a whammy bar. They are installed on most Gibson style guitars.

3. Double Locking Tremolo

Refer to the "Lesson Information" section of lesson 1 from Kris Norris' Phase 2 lesson series to learn about double locking tremolos.

4. Tailpiece

A tailpiece is installed on electric guitars that do not feature a tremolo of any kind. The strings are held in place by the tailpiece. From here, the strings run over top of the bridge at an angle to supply extra tension and maintain stability of the strings.

Choosing a Guitar

Acoustic Vs Electric

Around the early 60's it became a popular notion that every beginning guitar student should first learn on an acoustic. Parents with little or no musical experience spread this idea. Although the logic behind this argument is understandable, the argument bears little truth. This false argument gained popularity for several reasons. Starting a child on an acoustic guitar cuts out the expense of equipment such as an amplifier and a patch cable. However, since the electric guitar is far more popular than its acoustic counterpart, the price of a typical entry level electric is more affordable than the typical entry-level acoustic. In addition, many companies such as Fender sell a combination package that includes the guitar, amplifier, patch cable, and electronic tuner at a very affordable price. Many parents prefer to buy their child an acoustic because it is a quieter instrument. Parents in the 60's associated the sound of the electric guitar with the eardrum busting tones of Pete Townsend and Jimi Hendrix. These parents failed to realize that an electric guitar's volume level is controllable. Also, most practice amps are outfitted with a 1/4" headphone jack for silent practice. Finally, many parents believe that it is much easier to learn the basics on an acoustic guitar. This could not be farther from the truth. Due to lower tension and action of the strings, it is far easier to learn solid fundamental technique on an electric guitar.

There is only one good reason to choose an acoustic guitar for your child's first instrument. A child should start on an acoustic guitar ONLY if the music that he/she desires to play is primarily performed on an acoustic. If you are planning to buy your child his/her first guitar, work together with your child to conduct thorough research. As a result, you will both sleep soundly knowing the best possible selection was made.

Buying a guitar is a lot like buying a car. Regardless of whether it's the first or fifth car you've bought, you still have to do your homework. Before you hit the streets to find a new guitar, there are some necessary preliminary steps that must be taken.

1. First, you must determine a price range.

Roughly all guitars (with the exception of classical guitars) fall into three price range categories. However, price is not always an accurate indicator of quality.

A. $0-450: Beginner Quality
B. $450-950 Intermediate Quality
C. $950+ Professional Quality

2. Narrow the field.

You must form a general idea of the ideal instrument. Do you want an acoustic or an electric? Do you want a guitar with humbuckers or single coil pickups?

A. Observe Your Heroes

This is the single best piece of advice for anyone looking for a new axe. Whose guitar sound do you admire most? What guitar does he/she play? Do many of your favorite guitarist play the same guitar or a similar type of guitar? When choosing your first guitar, you most likely won't want to shell out the cash to get the same guitar your heroes play. However, it's a great idea to take some notes regarding the features that these guitars have. This way, you can look for a less expensive model that resembles the ideal sound you are looking for.

B. Set Some Preliminary Goals

Do you want to perform publicly or just play for your own personal enjoyment? This has a large bearing on which guitar you should eventually choose.

C. Don't Stress Out!

Choosing a guitar should be an enjoyable process. Regardless of your price range, there is a great guitar out there for you. Keep in mind that the price tag is not always an accurate indicator of quality.

D. Start Simple

It's best not to start your training on an instrument that features a lot of bells and whistles. Stay away from guitars that feature double locking tremolos. As a beginner, this tremolo system is undoubtedly more trouble than it is worth. You can also upgrade to a more complicated instrument later if you so desire.

3. Where to Shop

Over the past few decades the retail industry has undergone some drastic changes. The retail music industry is no exception. Gigantic chain retail stores have replaced multiple small businesses across the globe. Although giant stores such as Guitar Center or Sam Ash sell equipment at lower prices, the customer receives less quality per dollar spent. Instruments at these stores are not cared for at all. Once an order is received into inventory guitars are simply taken out of their cases and thrown on the walls. From this point they are handled daily by numerous customers who typically have no interest in buying the instrument they are test-driving. As a result, guitars diminish in quality the longer they hang on Guitar Center’s walls. Also, the sales representatives in these stores are rarely knowledgeable. Lastly, customer service and satisfaction is not a high priority, because the sheer volume of customers is simply unmanageable.

We recommend that you shop for your first instrument at a store that is not part of a large retail chain. Ask a respected professional in your area where he or she shops. For example, the Drinking Gourd Music Store in Dayton, Ohio is a long standing favorite among professionals living in the Midwest. When a guitar arrives at a store of this quality, professionals carefully inspect the guitar for any possible defects. A full professional set-up is then performed. Key issues such as the quality of fret installation are also addressed before the guitar is hung on the wall. From the moment a customer walks in the store, he or she receives excellent customer service throughout the entire sales process. This excellent service continues after the guitar has been purchased. The salespeople at these stores are often professional players themselves. Their superior knowledge of the instrument enables them to help each customer find the perfect guitar.
Chapter 4: (01:32) String Height The string height or "action" is measured from the top of the frets to the strings in 1/32 of an inch. It is NOT measured from the fretboard. Consequently, the height of the fret will have a large impact on the feel of the action. For the most part, action is a matter of personal preference. Higher action and lower action both have their advantages and disadvantages. Many beginners struggle when playing with high action. For this reason, it should be set relatively low when first starting out. You can always raise it up over time as you become more experienced. Have any sort of action or set-up work done by a professional repair person or luthier. A set-up usually costs anywhere from $25 to $70 depending on the repair person.

Most instruments are set-up at the factory with higher action then necessary. Typically, a set-up must be performed when the guitar arrives at the store. Chain stores usually do not do this work. That's why you are most likely to find a great guitar off the wall at a smaller, higher quality independent shop.

1. Low Action

A. Pro's

-Low action facilitates playing rapid, single note lines.

-Less pressure is required to fret a note properly.

B. Con's

-Action that is too low will cause a buzzing sound when the string vibrates against the frets.

-It is difficult to perform bends properly on a guitar with very low action.

-Slide guitar is not a possibility.

2. High Action

A. Pro's

-With higher action, it is easier to dig into the strings for techniques such as bending and vibrato.

-High action is most conducive to playing slide guitar.

-A louder tone is produced since the strings have more room to vibrate.

B. Con's

-More pressure is required to fret the strings. This problem is magnified when playing barre chords.

3. Dave's Preference

Since Dave plays a lot of shred style hard rock, he prefers relatively low action. This is pretty common among hard rock and metal players.

4. String Gauge

As a beginner, start off with a lighter string set such as 9 or 10 gauge. Playing with smaller strings is very helpful as you begin to develop your finger muscles and calluses. Most electric guitars with the exception of hollowbodies are set up in the factory with 9 gauge strings. If you wish to switch to a 10 gauge set, you must have a set-up performed by a reliable professional.
Chapter 5: (05:12) String Names and More Open String Names

The tuning process begins with learning the name of the note produced by each "open" string. A string is played open when the left hand is not used on the fretboard.

The thickest string (closest to the ceiling) is referred to as the sixth string. This string produces the pitch "E."

5th string - A
4th string - D
3rd string - G
2nd string - B
1st string - E

Memorize these string names as soon as possible. This information is extremely rudimentary and important. A lot of what you will learn later expands upon this basic information. Notice how the lowest and the highest string are both tuned to the note E. The "high" E string is tuned two octaves higher than the lowest string.

To remember the string names, use Eve Goldberg's pneumonic device: "eat a darn good breakfast everyday. Or, you can use Mary Flower's pneumonic device: "every acid dealer gets busted eventually."
Chapter 6: (04:03) Note Relations Unlike instruments such as the piano or wind or brass instruments, the exact same note can be played on the guitar in several different locations. The A note produced by the open fifth string is also located at the 5th fret of the sixth string. Although these notes produce the exact same pitch in the same octave, the tone or timbre of each note is slightly different. For example, open string notes sound a little brighter and sustain longer. Compare the sound of the open A string (5th string) and an A note played at the 5th fret of the sixth string. How would you describe the difference in tone between these two notes?

This feature of the guitar adds to its never ending versatility since you can play notes and even whole chords in more than one location of the fretboard. You will learn how to use this feature to your advantage as you continue to progress through the lessons on JamPlay.

When two notes that are identical in pitch, but played at different fretboard locations, they are said to be played in "unison." Unisons are used frequently in all styles of music. One famous application is the introduction section to Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Pride and Joy." Dave provides a brief demonstration of this introduction at 02:40.

This relationship between open strings and notes at the fifth fret occurs between each pair of adjacent strings. The only exception is the third and second strings. The open second string produces a B note. This note is located at the 4th fret of the third string.


Learning the note relationships above are essential to the tuning process. You must tune the guitar prior to every practice session. It does not matter how recently you played it. The guitar is not like a piano. The strings go out of tune much more quickly. They will slip out of tune in a matter of hours as the guitar sits in its case. Get in a habit of tuning your guitar prior to performing your daily warm-up exercises. If your guitar is not in tune, everything you play will sound bad regardless of how well you play it.

There are many ways to tune the guitar. One popular method is the "Fifth Fret Method."

The Fifth Fret Method

Tune the sixth string to a piano or some outside source like a pitch pipe. A tuning fork will enable you to get the A string in tune.

Once the low sixth string is in tune, use the following process.

Step 1: Fret the note A at the 5th fret of the 6th string. Match the pitch of the open 5th string to this note.

Step 2: Fret the note D at the 5th fret of the 5th string. Match the pitch of the open 4th string to this note.

Step 3: Fret the note G at the 5th fret of the 4th string. Match the pitch of the open 3rd string to this note.

Step 4: Fret the note B at the 4th fret of the 3rd string. Match the pitch of the open 2nd string to this note. This string features the only exception to the fifth fret method.

Step 5: Fret the note E at the 5th fret of the 2nd string. Match the pitch of the open first string to this note.

Note: The tuning listed above is referred to as "standard tuning." Other alternate tunings are sometimes used. These tunings are discussed in other lessons on JamPlay.com.

Tuning by ear is a skill that must be developed over time. Until you master this process, use some sort of electronic tuning device to help you.

Purchasing a Tuner

Eventually, you will need to learn how to tune the guitar by ear. For now though, use an electronic tuner to help with this process. A reliable electronic tuner can be purchased at your local guitar store for around fifteen dollars. The Korg GA-30 Guitar/Bass Tuner is a great choice for beginning guitarists. This tuner also features a built-in microphone. The microphone allows you to tune an acoustic guitar without plugging a patch cable into the tuner.

Professional tuners such as the Boss TU-2 are designed for live performance situations. Chances are that you will not need a tuner of this quality to start with. These tuners require the use of two cables. They also have two outputs. One output silences the guitar signal when tuning. The other keeps the guitar amplified while tuning.

Using an Electronic Tuner

When using the tuner, the string number or open string note name will light up as it is plucked. A meter will indicate whether the note is sharp or flat. If the meter is to the left of center, then the string is flat. If it is right of center, then the string is sharp. If the appropriate string number or pitch does not show up, the note is too far sharp or flat for the tuner to register properly.

If you have any sort of a floating tremolo, you have to go through the tuning process twice if not three times. When the tuning of one string is changed, the tuning of the other strings adjusts slightly to even out the tension placed on the neck. This is one disadvantage of a floating or double locking tremolo system.


All tuners are slightly flighty. You have probably experienced this with your own tuner. Do not worry! Your tuner is not defective! Electronic tuners are highly sensitive devices. A number of issues can cause them to produce an inconclusive result. Extraneous noise in the room can confuse your tuner. As a result, you must minimize the amount of noise in the close proximity of the tuner. Sympathetic vibrations coming from other strings will also produce an inconclusive result. Mute all of the strings with the exception of the string you are tuning to eliminate this problem. In addition, always tune up to the desired pitch instead of down. This tends to produce a more accurate result.

Tone Knob

Roll the tone knob all of the way down on your electric guitar when tuning.


The location of where you pick also effects the tuning process. Try picking the string directly in the middle of the fretboard (the 12th fret). Do not pick the string too hard. This will cause the string to go sharp at first. Give the note time to settle in with the tuner. Let the note sustain for a second or two before taking the reading from the tuner. This becomes less of a problem when tuning strings of higher tension. It's easy to over attack a guitar strung with 8 or 9 gauge strings.

Improper String Installation

Improperly installed strings also cause tuning issues. Make sure your strings are fresh and in working condition. Fresh strings are always easier to keep in tune.

String Slippage

Creaking noises while tuning can be caused by a wrap of the string slipping out of place. Also, this problem can be caused by the string being pinched too tightly as it slides through the nut. This tension might equalize in the middle of a performance and knock your guitar out of tune. You can lubricate the nut with graphite from a pencil if you are experiencing this problem. Or, you can buy special lubrication from the guitar shop.

Capo Problems

Playing with a capo can cause tuning problems. The capo must be placed in the proper location and checked with a tuner. If it is clamped too tightly or too close to the fret, it will force the string to sound sharp. To eliminate this problem, give the strings a small tug after clamping on a capo. As a result, the strings will go slightly flat and balance out the problem.

Guitar Defects

A guitar with a warped neck and / or defective tuners will never stay in tune. Take your guitar to a professional repairman to address this issue.

Tune Up

Always tune up to a pitch instead of down to it. The tuning remains stable longer when the strings are tuned in this manner.

Standard Tuning / Alternate Tunings

The tuning described in this scene is referred to as "standard tuning" or A=440 (the note A is defined as the frequency 440 Hz). Many guitarists employ alternate tunings or tune the strings down to achieve a lower sound. Keep this in mind as you learn and explore the guitar. In addition, many guitarists prefer to play guitars with extended ranges such as a baritone guitar or a 7 or 8 string guitar. For now, do not concern yourself with alternate tunings. Learn the basic fundamentals of playing in standard tuning first. Then, experiment with the alternate tunings once you have learned some fundamental basics.
Chapter 7: (03:09) Using the Left Hand When first learning the guitar, it is best to isolate one hand at a time. This will enable you to devote all of your attention to one hand. As a result, your technique will be more solid, and you will be able to start playing some actual music more quickly.

Left Hand Guidelines

1. Keep the left hand in a natural, relaxed position at all times. Do not squeeze the neck!

2. Keep the thumb perpendicular to the neck. Do not curl the thumb or bring it up over the top of the neck. Also, Do not turn the thumb so that it runs parallel to the back of the neck. This greatly limits the range of motion of each finger.

Note: There are some exceptions to this rule that will be discussed later in the series.

3. Keep all left hand joints slightly bent. Do not flatten any of the knuckles.

4. Keep the left hand fingernails as short as possible.

5. Fret the strings with the very tips of the fingers. Arching the wrist outwards will help accomplish this goal. Utilizing this technique will prevent you from bumping any of the adjacent strings. Making contact with adjacent strings will prevent them from ringing clearly.

6. Keep the wrist slightly bent.

7. Keep the palm parallel to the bottom of the neck. Do not tilt the wrist from side to side. This will limit the range of motion for each of the fingers.

8. Keep the fingers as close to the fretboard at all times. This will ensure that each finger is prepared to play when called upon.

In order to improve your technique, you must work on it each day. Improving technique is like playing a sport or weight lifting. It must be done consistently in order to make any noticeable improvement.

Proper Fretting Technique

When fretting any note, always follow the guidelines listed below.

1. Fret the note with the very tip of the finger.

2. Position the finger as close to the fret wire as possible without being directly over top of it. Otherwise, you will most likely produce a note that rattles or buzzes.

3. Press the string down just hard enough to produce a clear tone.

First Position Fretting Exercise

Tablature and standard notation to this exercise can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Follow the proper left technique guidelines listed above as you work through this exercise. Essentially, an open string note as well as notes played by each of the fingers is played on each string. This exercise will get you acquainted with the basic mechanics of fretting a note with each of the fingers. It will also enhance the flexibility, strength, and dexterity of each finger. For most of you, it is probably an uncomfortable stretch to reach the notes played at the 3rd and 4th frets of each string. Do not worry! This is perfectly natural! With diligent practice, these difficult stretches will become comfortable in no time.

Also, pay attention to the note names of each fret / string location. Eventually, you will need to have this information memorized. You are better off learning it sooner rather than later.

Definition of Position

All of the notes presented in this scene are played within "first position." Position refers to the area of the fretboard in which the left hand plays. Specifically, position indicates the fret at which the first finger plays. First position includes all of the notes played as open strings and all of the notes located within the first four frets.

Within first position, certain fingering rules must be followed. The left hand finger used corresponds with the fret number. For example, the first finger is used to play all of the notes at the first fret. The second finger frets all notes at the second fret and so on.
Chapter 8: (05:45) Right Hand and Alternate Picking As mentioned previously, each of the hands should be isolated when first learning basic technique. This will allow you to focus all of your attention on the mechanics of a single hand. For this reason, all of the right hand exercises presented in this lesson involve open strings. The left hand is not used to fret any notes.

I. Choosing a Pick

When it comes to choosing a pick, there really is no right and wrong. Picks come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and textures.

A. Pick Size / Shape

Almost all picks are made in relatively the same shape. There is a broad end and a pointed end. However, there is a wide variety of choices within this stipulation. The majority of picks are taller than they are wide and measure roughly one inch in height. A common example of this pick type is the Dunlop Tortex. However, there are other options available. For example, Fender makes a pick that is just as wide as it is round. Fender also makes picks in the shape of isosceles and equilateral triangles. Most guitarists can't stand these picks. However, System of a Down / Scars Over Broadway guitarist Daron Malakian has been known to use these picks almost exclusively. Finally, most jazz players prefer a very small pick. This allows the picking hand to be as close to the strings as possible. This is not desirable for players who frequently palm mute.

B. Pick Texture

Ideally, you want to choose a pick that is easy to hold onto. For example, many players find the Dunlop Tortex and Dunlop Nylon picks very easy to hang onto. The Dunlop Nylon picks have a convex logo printed on them that makes them easier to grip. However, players with very dry skin often find these picks difficult to hold onto. These players usually prefer picks with smoother surfaces such as picks made by Fender.

C. Thickness

Almost all JamPlay instructors recommend that you play with a medium or heavy pick. Thin picks produce an annoying clicking sound when they strike the string. They also tend produce a very weak tone. However, make sure that you do not choose a pick that is too thick. Picks that are too thick are clumsy and awkward to use. Using such a pick also puts you at a higher risk of string breakage.

D. JamPlay Recommendation

When starting out, it is best to use a pick that represents the middle of the road. Use a standard shaped pick of medium to heavier thickness. The Gretsch and Fender Medium are two great picks that meet this description. As you advance as a player and become more stylized, you will probably find that a certain type of pick works better for you. For example, a thicker and slightly smaller pick might work better for rapid single note lines that occur frequently in metal and jazz music. If you find yourself playing a lot of strummed acoustic music, you might want to use a thinner, more flexible pick.

II. Holding the Pick

In order to properly swing a golf club, you must first learn how to hold it. Similarly, in order to use your picking hand properly, you first have to learn how to hold the pick.

A. Method 1

Holding a pick is often compared to the act of shaking someone's hand. When holding the pick, keep the wrist straight. Do not curl the wrist inwards or outwards. Curl the index finger inwards until the side of the finger rests directly under the fleshy pad of the thumb. The pick should be gripped between the side of the first finger and the pad of the thumb. Do not grip the pick between the pads of both fingers. This will contort your wrist into an awkward position.

Do not grip the pick too tightly! Relaxation and comfortability are the most important components of proper playing technique. Hold the pick with just enough pressure so that it does not fall out of your hand. Gripping the pick tightly will result in unwanted tension in the finger, palm, and forearm muscles. This tightness will cause unnecessary fatigue. Fatigue will lead to slower playing speeds and decreased accuracy.

Note: There are two other acceptable ways to hold the guitar pick. However, they are not as widely accepted by qualified guitar instructors.

B. Method 2

Some players, such as Metallica's James Hetfield and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, Sweet 75, and Flipper prefer to hold the pick between the pads of the thumb and both the index and middle fingers. These players feel that this method provides them with the firmest, most stable grip on the pick. It also allows them to play with punishing heaviness.

C. Method 3

Eddie Van Halen has been known to grip the pick between the pad of his thumb and the pad of his middle finger. This method frees up his first finger for rapid tapping licks. This method is not recommended unless you play tapped licks very frequently.

Regardless of which method you eventually choose, slightly less than a fourth of an inch of the pick should extend outward from the fingers holding it. This is the only portion of the pick that should make contact with the strings. Almost all guitarists strike the strings with the pointed side of the pick. However, some jazz players such as Scott Henderson advocate holding the pick upside down. Scott holds his pick this way in order to achieve a slightly softer, darker tone.

III. Pick Angle

The angle at which the pick strikes the strings has a huge impact on tone production. Holding the pick totally parallel to the string yields the brightest tone. JamPlay instructor Dennis Hodges prefers to hold his pick this way. However, the tone produced by this method may not be ideal for you. Other instructors such as Matt Brown prefer to slightly angle the pick into the strings. This produces a slightly darker tone similar to the effect of rolling down the tone control by 1 or two settings.

The pick angle also has a profound effect on rapid picking. Some players prefer to angle the pick slightly when tremolo picking so that the pick slices through the string. Other players find this technique undesirable and choose to keep the pick parallel to the string while tremolo picking.

Note: If you do not have a "hitchhiker" thumb, you will most likely not be able to hold the pick perfectly parallel to the string. If this is the case, do not try to force the thumb into a position that is uncomfortable. The thumb should remain as relaxed as possible at all times.

IV. Picking Motion

Almost all guitarists generate the picking motion completely from the wrist muscles. The forearm only gets involved when three or more strings are strummed simultaneously. However, some players prefer to generate the picking motion between the thumb and index finger. The thumb pushes the index finger towards the middle finger to produce a downstroke. Allowing these fingers to return to their normal, relaxed position produces an upstroke. Dave Navarro is a strong advocate of this technique.

V. Fingers Not Holding the Pick

Keep these fingers as relaxed as possible. Many players prefer to curl them inwards towards the palm. Or, you can let them extend out naturally.

VI. Picking Motions

There are two types of picking motions: downstrokes and upstrokes. Both type of strokes must be developed equally. Due to the force of gravity, your downstroke will naturally be stronger. Consequently, you must spend a significant amount of practice time compensating for the weakness of the upstroke.

VII. Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is a technique that enables a guitarist to play much faster. It is defined by a repetitious picking in which the pick changes direction with each stroke. If you currently use downstrokes exclusively, your right hand is extremely limited in the range of what it can perform.

Note: Alternate picking is also commonly referred to as “double picking.”

A. Alternate Picking Rules

1. Rest the palm of your right hand on the bridge when playing a double picked passage. The palm should also rest on the bridge when playing any scalar line.

3. The palm SHOULD NOT rest on the bridge when playing any passage that involves strummed chords or string skipping. The right forearm rests on the upper body of the guitar to provide stability. This technique allows the right hand to move more fluidly. If your wrist is anchored to the bridge, the range of motion of the right hand is not large enough to accommodate the aforementioned techniques.

4. Downstrokes and upstrokes must be identical in tone and volume.

5. Your pick strokes need only be large enough to create a solid tone. Keep the pick as close to the string as possible at all times. This will enable you to double pick much faster.

6. Only the very tip of the pick should make contact with the strings. Do not dig your pick into the strings. This will hinder your ability to move fluidly from one string to the next.

7. The right hand fingers not holding the pick should remain slightly curled into the palm. They should only fan outwards when playing rapid palm muted passages in the rock and metal genres.

8. Make sure that the right hand remains steady. Do not allow it to bounce up and down.

9. Keep the right hand as relaxed as possible at all times. Grip the pick with just enough force so that it does not fall out of your hand. Squeezing the pick too tightly will destroy your endurance.

B. Two Methods of Alternate Picking

There are two ways in which alternate picking can be performed. Both are equally valid options. Experiment with both options for a significant amount of time. After this initial experimentation period, decide which technique is more comfortable for you.

Method 1 - Use the wrist as a pivot to alternate pick.

Method 2 - This method almost excludes the wrist entirely. The thumb squeezes inwards toward the palm during a downstroke. For an upstroke, the thumb and first finger relax and return to their normal position. Thus, almost all of the picking movement originates from the thumb and first finger. This technique is generally more comfortable for guitarists that have a hitchhiker thumb.

Practice Time

As you first practice alternate or double picking, play with a single open string. Dave demonstrates this exercise with the open sixth string (E). This will eliminate the left hand from the equation. Practice alternate picking at a slow tempo.

Play the basic open E string exercise using all downstrokes and all upstrokes as well. It is not practical to play with all upstrokes in a piece of music. However, this exercise will help you achieve a balance in tone and volume between your downstrokes and upstrokes.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

rockinrohlerrockinrohler replied on August 19th, 2016

Can I skip a Video if I already Know how to do It??

NeilASNeilAS replied on March 23rd, 2014

I know it's been mentioned a lot already, but David MacKenzie really does need to redo this lesson with the correct tuning. Several electronic tuners do not lie. As this is lesson one, it's not a great first impression for my journey with JamPlay

nate_thegreatnate_thegreat replied on May 19th, 2014

There are a billion other lessons on the site. This is a very old lesson series, done when Jamplay was pretty much still just starting out. You can take any of the other beginner lessons, even the ones that say "acoustic guitar", because the technique is the same regardless of electric or acoustic.

jaunteffectjaunteffect replied on October 12th, 2013

Beautiful guitar by the way

svendettasvendetta replied on June 26th, 2013

Mh. My first lesson on this site and his guitar is NOT tuned. He's half a tone wrong, I checked it with my tuner and my piano right next to me. Makes it kind of hard to play along with him when everything sounds wrong on my guitar...

red4drred4dr replied on May 18th, 2014

his guitar is not "tuned" because there are multiple tunes for the kind of music you want to play, he is just using his . (hard rock guitarists usually tune their guitar 2 or 3 tunes lower than normal )

pghjjbpghjjb replied on November 26th, 2012

Is there a recommended amount of time someone should practice a given lesson before moving on to the next lesson?

AaronMillerAaronMiller replied on May 19th, 2014

There is no recommended amount of time because everyone is different and at a different level. Practice the lesson until you feel comfortable with the material. Move on to the next lesson and if you get hung up go back or take a detour into JamChat to get help and then come back.

pghjjbpghjjb replied on November 26th, 2012

Is there a recommended amount of time someone should practice a given lesson before moving on to the next lesson?

lmackenzielmackenzie replied on April 19th, 2012

Nice intro, I use straplocks myself but is there a correct way off having the strap as in the adjusting buckle should it be on the bottom end of the body or the top of the body end because either way that buckle bit digs into my shoulder lol

dragon82adragon82a replied on March 4th, 2012

The instructor is suspicious too.

dragon82adragon82a replied on March 4th, 2012

This is very suspicious. My Guitar is trying to kill me. It's plotting.

frank1frank1 replied on December 29th, 2011

I've talked about doing this for a long time. Well, I'm taking the plunge! I took 6 months of lessons about 12 years ago. I've always had a passion for guitar, I grew up playing drums and was blown away by other friends playing. Wish me luck!

kerrynwkerrynw replied on October 29th, 2011

nice intro--thanks for your kind & encouraging style.

lawlessxlawlessx replied on October 7th, 2011

I just got my first guitar afew days ago and it's been a pain to tune. I've tried using a Tuner which says it's in tune,but when i hear this and other people play it sounds completely different. I just sounds very low while the sounds are supposed to be Higher. I think im worried that if i keep turning the strings that it will pop(happen lot when i played guitar in middle school) i followed this for example :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AenbO_WhWEc my guitar is tuned to that right now.so why does it sound different when you play?

mamamystiquemamamystique replied on November 25th, 2011

yea - in standard tuning, mine sounds different from his also :-/

mamamystiquemamamystique replied on November 25th, 2011

A-ha! I figured out why mine sounds different. My pickup was on RHYTHM. His is on TREBLE. When I switched it to Treble, it sounds like him :)

mattyicemattyice replied on January 13th, 2013

He is out of tune! Don't worry! This guy should of checked his freaking tuning before he made this!

BJSSBJSS replied on September 1st, 2013

I picked up on this too. He's a half step down. Confirmed on my boss in line tuner as well as a clip on Snark. He shop old really redo the lesson so as not to confuse newbies.

nicketanicketa replied on September 25th, 2011

Short fingers, damnit! I need a slimmer guitar neck!

nicketanicketa replied on September 24th, 2011

Alright. 3rd string, finger on 4th fret sounds like open B string? Is that right? Because it sounds off to me and according to my electronic tuner the guitar is in tune. I've noticed that the '4th string' or the 'G string', David also sometimes calls it the '3rd string'. But he calls the 'D string' the '3rd string' as well. I'm confused. The strings are E-A-D-G-B-E, right? But what is the numbering of the strings? 1-2-3-4-5-6 or 1-2-3-3-2-1? Because if it's the second numbering, then D and G will both be the third string?! What is that about? How do you differentiate between the two?

nicketanicketa replied on September 25th, 2011

Hey, watched the video again without my nieces playing around me and the tv on and my sister taking about her day and I got the string relation to the fifth fret thing. Can anyone say 'duh'.

nicketanicketa replied on September 24th, 2011

My guitar has a middle pick up between the neck and the bridge pick up's. How is this facilitated by the pick up button?

snappygatorsnappygator replied on July 29th, 2011

Just joined yesterday. I've played around with guitar licks for many years just by ear. I've never been able to read music. I'm finally taking the plunge and relying on someone esle to teach me the full benefits of learning how to the guitar. Lesson one has already helped me to understand my guitar better. Looking forward to all the lessons! Thanks David!

tleblanctleblanc replied on August 21st, 2011

Same here! I've been a member for a few weeks now and just seeing all the different instructors and how in depth some of these videos are - it's definitely somethin' and I'm glad I joined up. :)

cov99cov99 replied on July 21st, 2011

I'm hearing all the strings a bit lower in tuning than mine, and my tuner is great so I don't what is going on...

cov99cov99 replied on July 21st, 2011

Sounds like you're a half-tone flat relative to mine...

cov99cov99 replied on July 22nd, 2011

I read the comments below, wish these could be deleted...

nate15nate15 replied on July 11th, 2011

hey uhm idk whats up because i just got my new guitar and i dont know anything about them but my guitar sounds nothing like yours. mine sounds alot softer and i want it to sound like yours does how can i make that happen is it my amp settings or what?

ferhispanoferhispano replied on June 21st, 2011

Basic. concrete, good enough

redingtonredington replied on September 28th, 2010

Very good lesson thanks!

doveigndoveign replied on August 10th, 2009

It is just me or is your guitar tuned down a half step? :S

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 10th, 2009

yes it is tuned down a half step. we hope to re-do this lesson in the future and put it in standard tuning. the bands i play in usw either half or whole step down tuning, so i did'nt noticed til we filmed. i apoligise for any inconvienance this causes, but just remember, everything still applies, so when you play on your own, its all good.

mrlucmorinmrlucmorin replied on October 22nd, 2009

David, You should really be careful about this kind of stuff. I decided not to go on with your lessons because of that. Please use 440Hz.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on October 24th, 2009

sorry, and i totally respect your decision. hope you find a teacher you like.

0427owen0427owen replied on June 20th, 2010

gday, i've just got a guitar and this is the first lesson ive done, are the rest of your lessons down a half step too? as i was confused cause i tuned my guitar and it was different to yours. im sure ill learn what down a half step means in a different lesson

pmarzitellipmarzitelli replied on August 13th, 2009

I noticed it as and it really messed me up at first!

thicketthicket replied on January 18th, 2010

awww man 31 min on basic lessons I have a very long way to go.... well no use in cryin

luzdivinaluzdivina replied on December 31st, 2009

hi =) ok i have a question.. I'm tuning my guitar with a tuner pluged to it, after the end of tunning. I noticed (with the tuner) that the note A on the sixth string was a little out of tune, and it happens with other notes too, is normal? or my guitar is not working fine? thanks Dave =)

swacswac replied on December 16th, 2009

or just stop and play others

swacswac replied on December 16th, 2009

hey dave i am getting an electric guitar soon and at the moment i have to play with an classical and i would like to know whether i should try and learn my fav music ?[metal,rock.]

lbernardlbernard replied on November 26th, 2009

Just joined last night and I am impressed with the lesson. Hopefully this will help me finally learn to play!

loris9712loris9712 replied on August 19th, 2009

david i have a question my first guitar was a fender but the bridge popped out what guitar should i get im looking for a simple one.

82derek82derek replied on August 3rd, 2009

Im new to JamPlay. What brought me here is that Ive been trying to teach myself for a while. Not knowing any kind of guitar basics I would always seem to hit a brickwall. This lesson brought me a new outlook on guitar playing. Looking forward to #2 and so on. Thanks

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 4th, 2009

awesome!!! just keep with it and be patient, and work in a diciplined way, and you'll go far!!! rock on!!!

frankoo411frankoo411 replied on July 24th, 2009

dave do you know y there is a nine volt batter in the back of my scherter hellraiser. not sure what it for.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 4th, 2009

very possibly you have active pickups like emg's in there, so the battery gives them power to operate.

joephaserjoephaser replied on June 12th, 2009

I wish I used this first time I started, a very good lesson!!!

pinoyboy2829pinoyboy2829 replied on May 23rd, 2009

this is my first time in the site and i have been playing before, but this video refreshed my mind of the basics and i even learned new things!.

slash1slash1 replied on May 4th, 2009

i enjoyed this lesson now i think i have the basics. have put some time into my electric guitar i hope in years to come i;m able to play as well as you.

dragon82adragon82a replied on May 21st, 2009

Hi liked the lesson! Nice steady pace and didnt jump in your face. Looking forward to the oter lessons. Oh I did lay out more than 1k for my guitars. My view was it would really motivate me to play.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on May 8th, 2009

thanks for the nice compliments, and i wish you the very best of success in getting to the level of playing you wish to get to.

dclaydclay replied on April 15th, 2009

Just signed on today. I'm looking forward to all the great things I;m going to learn here. My initial reaction is positive, but I can see from previous posts that the tuning issue was addressed a long time ago but still not fixed. This would be terribly confusing to anyone just starting out. I had to double check to make sure I wasn't screwing up. This is a very big deal to newcomers and should have been fixed long ago. Also, I agree with other posts that you should avoid distortion, etc. at first and just use a nice clean tone. No use letting issues like these get in the way of the great info. you are putting out.

lucretialucretia replied on April 7th, 2009

I just joined and watched this lesson. I was just wondering whether that's the clean channel on the guitar amp? It doesn't sound like it to me, which makes this a bit harder to follow.

omgwruomgwru replied on April 2nd, 2009

dave this was pretty awesome for a first lesson definitely covered a few things i'd never heard of before, particularly string height. this has been such a major issue for me as my e string rattled for ever, even to the point of my first in person guitar teacher going 'i have no idea whats causing that' and making me switch to an acoustic. i took a screwdriver to my guitar today and upped the strings a touch on the low string side and 80% of that rattling noise is gone, and everything sounds soooooo much better. kudos on that. i would like to see some basic amp stuff though, because i have what i'm told is a pretty solid amp for a beginner and no two sounds sound the same. i know what each button does what, but i can't seem to get the same sound as everyone i see that plays. it could be me, the guitar or the amp, but i'd like to see how much gain / middle / bass you like.

jdelixjdelix replied on March 30th, 2009

Dave, Kick ass lesson #1. Believe it or not. The little stuff you taught here went a long way. i just signed up last night, but been playing for the last several weeks. Man you cleared up stuff that most people I asked didn't have a clue. Thanks Man.

jbrownjrjbrownjr replied on February 6th, 2009

dave I just became a memeber and your lesson has me pumped about learning, thanks so much ....looking fwd to lesson 2....loving it

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on February 7th, 2009

your most welcome, go get em!!!! rock on!!!

caseharr33caseharr33 replied on February 1st, 2009

David, this was an excellent review on the guitar, and lesson. I can tell right now you are going to help me keep up with my 11 year old step daughter who has discovered the guitar.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on February 2nd, 2009

your most welcome!

salsero1salsero1 replied on January 11th, 2009

This was my first lesson. This is a great site, and I'm looking forward to learning from Dave. Great lesson.

criscusackcriscusack replied on December 22nd, 2008

Stickler thing: Scene 3's title and intro page should be "...guitar and its parts..." not it's.

hankster021hankster021 replied on November 14th, 2008

Hey Dave, Just signed up today. My question is on the parts of the guitar. you covered the bridge and tailpiece, but what about the adjustments on them. I messed with my bridge to eliminate a rattle on my E string. Should I take the guitar in and have it set correctly or does it matter, the rattle is gone but what else did i do

jboothjbooth replied on November 14th, 2008

This is something we would definitely like to cover in the future, unfortunately at this point dave hasn't covered it yet. If you look at the manual for your guitar it should contain some information on adjusting the guitar, but if you aren't comfortable doing it I would highly recommend taking it to a shop and having them look at it and set up your guitar. Having a real professional do this can really be the difference between an "ok" playing guitar and an "amazing" playing guitar.

hankster021hankster021 replied on November 17th, 2008

Thanks for the advice. For the benefit of my fellow beginners this is what I learned. Do not change string guage. this will likely require truss rod adjustments best performed by a professional. The bridge adjustment is for the action of the guitar based on playing preference. The saddle adjustment is for intonation, or in beginners lingo the open note and 12th fret note are the same. I hope this is helpful Im sure there's a couple of folks out there like me that just came home with a guitar-- no manual, but you should be able to download one from the manufacturer.

floorshakerfloorshaker replied on November 8th, 2008

Hi DMac. Enjoying your introduction to electric guitar. I am interested in the strap-lock system you mentioned. Can I fit this myself and where can you recommend one? Does this mean that I would have to take the strap buttons off my guitar and replace them? I am asking because I play an acoustic with a built in pick-up which plugs in at the bottom strap button. Also, how do you get that really mellow sound that is in the introduction to Scene 3. Gorgeous! Thanks Dave. Chris

bowlinebowline replied on June 17th, 2008

O.K., tuned my guitar to 440 tuning but the notes you're playing sound different than whne I pick out what should be the same notes. my tuner is a Koprg GA-30, my guitar is a Fender fat-strat. two single coils and one humbucker. I see after having read through a few of the earlier posts made last year that the tuning anomoly was pointed out. It doesn't seem as if it has been corrected though. Is this the case? I must have re-tuned my guitar 4 times thinking that I had messed it up.

jboothjbooth replied on June 17th, 2008

We're just going to redo the entire lesson in the coming weeks. I've made the choice to postpone fixing this up until now to get new lessons up, since this is actually pretty minor. It will be taken care of fairly soon though. Remember, his guitar is just tuned down half a step so everything is played the same, it will just sound a little different.

nastang77nastang77 replied on May 13th, 2008

Hi Dave. I just got back into playing again after 30 something years.It's ghoing to be a long fun road. My biggest problem is I know alot song beginnings without the middle and ends. Just need to stick with it. Thanks for the time . Jay

dwestradwestra replied on May 10th, 2008

Hey David, Keep up the good work. You're lessons are great! I've got a question: I've been practicing the finger excercise from this lesson for about 6 weeks now. I try to practice everyday for about 45 minutes. However i'm having trouble with the excercise. The problem for me is'nt finding the right frets but finding the right strings. For instance I might be holding down the 2nd fret on the 5th string but plucking the 6th string. Do you have any tips on how to improve the plucking of the strings? Could it be that my left hand is placed incorrecty?

mingofallsmingofalls replied on May 6th, 2008

Great Lesson David, however, it would be helpful if you could explain using the strap as well in this lesson. I bought a new soft strap, and I know this sounds stupid, but along one end of the strap are slits that you run the tonge part though to adjust it. When I do that, it bunches up at one end, so I'm sure I'm not threading the tonge through the slits correctly so that I can adjust my strap. Help in that area would be greatly appreciated.

dave1990dave1990 replied on May 1st, 2008

man i can't figure out how to tune my guitar i got a chromatic tuner but i can't figure out how to use it

spiderluccispiderlucci replied on February 21st, 2008

Hi Dave, you mention about Standard Tuning... which is E,A,D,G,B, and high E if that's what you where trying to do... you where a half step down which is Eb,Ab,Db,Gb,Bband high Eb look into it.. it's no big deal but some people that are new to it won't understand Standard Tuning unless you brought up you where tuning in Eb... which you didn't! Steve

jboothjbooth replied on February 21st, 2008

We need to refilm this segment unfortunately. It should be fixed soon. Thank you for writing in and understanding.

zkodzkod replied on February 14th, 2008

I have 2 questions... When fretting, are you supposed to pressure you finger onto the fretboard hard? so that you keep the string down? (so it touches the fretboard)? Because I feel like I hear a low noise if I don't pressure the fret hard with my finger. (also happens I get a mute if I don't have the positioning of the finger in the correct order) 2. question is: Are you using any effects on your amplifier? Because it doesn't sound anywhere near mine (of course mine is a washburn x-series model :P).

jboothjbooth replied on February 14th, 2008

Hey. You really only have to push hard enough that the string is toughing the fret firmly. Pushing it down super hard so it hits the wood and bothers your fingers isn't going to make it sound any better and it will likely discourage you from playing.

redhawkredhawk replied on December 30th, 2007

ok, one more time for the slow one ( me). on the tuning lesson i swore you said 442 tuning seting, i have a korg. i read above, in a reply 440 tuning. which one is it?? and i want to add i like your approach and look forward to cranking up my squires and cutting loose

jboothjbooth replied on February 14th, 2008

A440 is the standard tuning.

vshorttvshortt replied on December 13th, 2007

I noticed that there was supposed to be a "fix" for the tuning issue with this lesson (and the subsiquent lesson as well) - why hasn't it been done? Talk about throwing a newbie for a loop!! I was JUST getting started in trusting my korg tuner!! So is the right tuning up now or is it different? I really need some help here, this tuning issue has me frustrated on my first day with an electric.

jboothjbooth replied on December 13th, 2007

Ill try to get that done ASAP, I completely spaced it out unfortunately :x

jboothjbooth replied on December 13th, 2007

Sorry, I believe it is still off. Just tune with your tuner to standard A440, any exercise he gives will be identical.

tlupi1tlupi1 replied on August 16th, 2007

I have a Epiphone Les Paul standard. Tony

harrypetersonharrypeterson replied on December 5th, 2007

hey i have the exact same guitar...! i think! wierd haha i have just started playing, this site is SO helpful.

kelgankelgan replied on November 13th, 2007

Hey, i just joined today. i researched these type of sites and i have been wanting to join for a while now. i have been playing for about 2 years and although i can play i felt like i wasnt really going anywhere. i wanted to start from the beggining and make sure i dont miss anything. ive even learned a few things from this lesson. i just want to say thanks and you seem like a good guy and i hope i will learn alot while i am on here.

nixicannixican replied on November 14th, 2007

My first night here and Im lovin it so far! As far as distortion pedals go, do you have any recommendations? Im playing an Eric Clapton Strat with Fender Lace Pickups through an older Fender Super Reverb Amp (if it matters). I havent picked up a guitar in 10 years! Im really looking forward to getting back into it.

sjguitar6sjguitar6 replied on October 26th, 2007

Hey Dave! Just wanted to say great lesson and look forward to continuing with the rest of the lessons that you offer. One question for you though. You demonstrated the different tones one gets when changing the pick up selector switch. I have a Les Paul and have no idea when to use which pick up. Can you give some examples of when a certain pickup should be used?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on October 3rd, 2007

wasp, thanks for the question. i actually have a couple of ways, sometimes i stand with the strap on, especially if i will be playing a tune live. helps me get the feel for how its really going to be played! standing and all that. 2. i like a nice comfortable chair with a back on it. helps me remember my posture. it good to have one leg or the other up higher than the other, with like a box or something you can put your foot on. more comfort, and puts the guitar in a practical position to play. then there is my extreme practise position. i lay flat on the floor, and dont look at the guitar when i am trying to really get confident with a specific song, or lead part. thats pretty much it! hope that helps!!!

waspwasp replied on October 3rd, 2007

whats best (correct way) to learn as far as sitting? stool, chair? (i mean i know you probably cant sit on the couch? lol, also always use a strap? position it like the instructor does angled upward? tks

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on September 7th, 2007

thats cool, and thank you for pointing that out james8. unfortunately i tend to rush from my other job to the taping sessions, and i forgot a time or two to make sure i was in proper 440 tuning. there is no excuse for it, and i will take care of that problem. sorry for any problems it has caused in your learning!!!! my humble apologies!!!

james8james8 replied on September 7th, 2007

Hi Dave, I obviously struggle more in handling the message functions on JamPlay than learn playing guitar. The problem has been posted already, so forget my last message.

james8james8 replied on September 7th, 2007

Hi Dave. I like your teaching and your style playing guitar very much. However, I struggled on your first basic lesson when you show the string and their tuning. Compared to my guitar, the tuning function of my beringer amp as well as compared with my piano, the tuning is wrong?! I thought it could be somthing messed up over the internet or on computer settings but I found out, that the tuning on your Back in Black 2 session is correct. So, may I ask you to check the tuning in this lesson? Regards Heinz

jboothjbooth replied on September 2nd, 2007

Just so you guys know I have a tuning section from another lesson where he is in standard tuning, so I will be sticking that in here as a fix next week. Thank you so much for pointing out the problem. If you notice anymore *PLEASE* let us know =)

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 31st, 2007

yeah, sorry about that little problem lukerz, in the band i play in we tune down to D instead of E, and sometimes i dont quite get it tuned up enough! duh!!!! whadda ya want? i'm just a dumb guitar player!!! lol!!!! i'll try to keep that in check!!! thanks for that comment though.

nessanessa replied on August 30th, 2007

<3 <3 <3 Thank you for your kind words, they're greatly appreciated!

lukerzlukerz replied on August 30th, 2007

That's OK. It seemed in the later lessons when Dave used another guitar the tuning was OK. Anyway besides that little mistake the lessons from Dave and the rest of the lessons on this site are superb! Best guitar learning site out there without a doubt, so thank you for giving me this opportunity.

jboothjbooth replied on August 30th, 2007

Lukerz, oh no! It seems you are right, we will need to reshoot this scene. Thank you so much for your careful eye.

lukerzlukerz replied on August 29th, 2007

I tuned my guitar to the notes played in the tuning section of this lesson, and my guitar ended up half a step down. Just to make sure I tested it against many online tuners and they all confirmed I was half a step down. I this a mistake in the lesson?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 24th, 2007

jeff? your killin me!!! lol!!!!

jboothjbooth replied on August 24th, 2007

Yeah, more ozzy! I want no more tearS :>

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 22nd, 2007

okay we may have to do some ozzy i see by your lil picture! lol! :)

tlupi1tlupi1 replied on August 22nd, 2007

Thanks David....You Rock [IMG]http://ozzyrules.webpark.pl/images/ozzy.jpg[/IMG]

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 19th, 2007

how much depth do you want or need? what kind of questions would you like answered?

tsaevatsaeva replied on August 18th, 2007

Brads first lesson covers amps and such. Not very in-depth I guess, but check it out.

spider murphyspider murphy replied on August 17th, 2007

How about adding to the lesson something about a basic amp and it's settings?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 17th, 2007

okay, Epiphone les paul standard! nice! just flick the pick up switch to the very middle. it should be down all the way for the bridge pickup, and up toward your head for the neck pickup, so when the switch is straight, or horizontal to the ground(middle), thats both pick ups! hope that makes sense!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 16th, 2007

hey tony, thanks for the question, a question back at ya? what kind of guitar do you have?

tlupi1tlupi1 replied on August 14th, 2007

the pick up switch on the guitar one position (up) is for the neck pick up and the down part (switch down) is for bridge pick up. My question is how do you select the pick up switch so it picks up both bridge and neck pick up at the same time when playing? regarding the note relations was a bit confusing, however I picked up some parts of it, but the other part was lost in translation, do you have any suggestions to help me better understand the note relations. [IMG]http://archives.whitesnake.ru:8030/WWW/~ozzy/dir_cdart/ozzy/Ozzy_Osbourne-1997-Ozzman_Cometh-front.jpg[/IMG] Thanks Tony:rockout:

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In his Phase 1 series, David MacKenzie will walk you through the basics of rock guitar.

Lesson 1

About the Guitar

David discusses the parts of the guitar. He also gives you some basic techniques to get you started.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Power Chords

In this lesson, David introduces basic power chords. Great fun for beginners!

Length: 10:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Basic Chord Progressions

David introduces some basic chords and chord progressions.

Length: 14:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Notes, Chords and Arpeggios

David provides a brief explanation of what notes, chords, power chords, and arpeggios are.

Length: 8:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Speed and Coordination

This lesson is all about increasing your speed and coordination. David demonstrates basic picking exercises.

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Chord Exercises

David MacKenzie presents a mysterious sounding chord exercise. This exerices is designed to improve right hand technique.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Practice and Discipline

In this short lesson David talks about practice, discipline, and how you should apply yourself when learning and mastering the guitar.

Length: 6:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Double Stops

Double stops can bring new life to your rhythm and lead playing. David provides a short tutorial on what double stops are and how they can be used.

Length: 7:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

The Major Chords

David covers the basic major chord shapes. Every guitarist must learn these basic chords.

Length: 18:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

The Minor Chords

David MacKenzie walks you through the basic minor chords. Expand your knowledge of chords with this fun-filled lesson.

Length: 8:15 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Major Scales

Major scales are an essential component of all styles of music. They can also be used as a great way to orient yourself with the fretboard.

Length: 32:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Major Scale Jam

David MacKenzie explains how to practice the major scales along with a fun backing track.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

The Minor Scales

David MacKenzie proceeds to an in-depth discussion of the minor scales.

Length: 15:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Minor Scale Jam

David MacKenzie shows you how to play the natural minor scale over a rockin' JamTrack.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

One String Exercise

David demonstrates an excellent one-string exercise in this lesson. This exercise will improve your dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 16:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are techniques that enable you to play with a smooth, legato feel.

Length: 8:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Basic Bends

David MacKenzie gives a crash course on bending in this lesson. Bends can add a lot of soul to your playing.

Length: 16:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Cool Rock Licks

David MacKenzie teaches two rock licks inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen and Kirk Hammett of Metallica.

Length: 12:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Hammer-On Exercise

David returns to the world of hammer-ons with a fun new exercise. This lesson includes a JamTrack.

Length: 13:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

Return to Pull-Offs

David returns to the world of pull-offs with a new exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 12:50 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Practicing Bends

David MacKenzie returns to bending technique in this lesson. This lesson features a backing track that is designed for bending practice.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Basic Vibrato

Integrating vibrato into your guitar playing is a great way to add emotion and soul. David MacKenzie explains the basics of vibrato in this lesson.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the pentatonic scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson.

Length: 4:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Full Major Scale

David MacKenzie explains a two octave pattern of the major scale.

Length: 11:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Full Minor Scale

David MacKenzie introduces a two octave natural minor scale pattern.

Length: 12:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

Full Major Pentatonic Scale

David teaches a two octave pattern of the major pentatonic scale.

Length: 6:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Full Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie teaches a two octave version of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

Cool Lick

David MacKenzie teaches several licks based on common arpeggio patterns. This lesson also includes a backing track to jam with.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Rhythm Basics

David MacKenzie introduces some important rhythm basics in this lesson. This lesson also includes a backing track exercise.

Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Power Chord Variations

David MacKenzie explains various power chord voicings. By simply moving a finger or two, new power chords can be formed.

Length: 18:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Cool Lick Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces some new amazing licks.

Length: 29:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Tapping Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces the tapping technique and teaches a fun exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 22:44 Difficulty: 2.5 FREE
Lesson 34

Tapping Exercise #2

David MacKenzie teaches another amazing tapping exercise.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Tapping #3: Adding Open Strings

The third tapping lesson elaborates on the previous lesson by adding open strings.

Length: 12:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Tapping #4: Diminished Lick

The fourth lesson in Dave's tapping series deals with a monster diminished lick.

Length: 11:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 37

Tapping #5

In lesson five of his tapping mini-series, DMac provides backing tracks that you can tap over.

Length: 8:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

Tremolo Technique

In lesson 38, DMac demonstrates some tremolo techniques to add to your repertoire.

Length: 13:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

Tapping #6

DMac returns to his tapping instruction with more advanced techniques.

Length: 19:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Chord Structures

In lesson 40, DMac teaches you how to play various D chords all the way up the neck.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 41


In lesson 41, David discusses the octave and its uses while playing.

Length: 17:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only

About David MacKenzie View Full Biography Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.

Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.

Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.

Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!

As with his playing, Dave will find new ways to show you how to get the most out of your time learning guitar!

Acoustic Guitar Lessons

Our acoustic guitar lessons are taught by qualified instructors with various backgrounds with the instrument.

Pamela Goldsmith Pamela Goldsmith

Pamela brings a cap to her first 13 JamPlay lessons with another original etude inspired by the great Leo Brouwer. This is...

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Justin Roth Justin Roth

In this lesson Justin introduces his series on playing with a capo and dishes out some basic tips, including how to properly...

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Nick Amodeo Nick Amodeo

Nick explains how to play some of the most commonly used chords in the bluegrass genre.

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Rich Nibbe Rich Nibbe

Rich Nibbe takes a look at how you can apply the pentatonic scale in the style of John Mayer into your playing.

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Mitch Reed Mitch Reed

Mitch teaches his interpretation of the classic "Cannonball Rag." This song provides beginning and intermediate guitarists...

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Mark Lincoln Mark Lincoln

Lesson 40 takes a deeper look at slash chords. Mark discusses why they're called slash chords, and how they are formed.

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Alan Skowron Alan Skowron

Alan shares his background in teaching and sets the direction for his beginning bass series with simple ideas and musical...

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Kaki King Kaki King

In lesson 6, Kaki discusses how the left and right hands can work together or independently of each other to create different...

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Steve Eulberg Steve Eulberg

Steve Eulberg does a quick review of this lesson series and talks about moving on.

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Mark Kailana Nelson Mark Kailana Nelson

Mark Nelson introduces "'Ulupalakua," a song he will be using to teach different skills and techniques. In this lesson, he...

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Electric Guitar Lesson Samples

Our electric guitar lessons are taught by instructors with an incredible amount of teaching experience.

Michael Ripoll Michael Ripoll

Michael "Nomad" Ripoll dives deep into the rhythm & blues, funk, and soul genres that were made popular by artists like Earth...

Free LessonSeries Details
Bumblefoot Bumblefoot

Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal pulls out all the stops in his blistering artist series. Dive into the intense,...

Free LessonSeries Details
Paul Musso Paul Musso

JamPlay is proud to welcome senior professor and Coordinator of Guitar Studies at the University of Colorado at Denver,...

Free LessonSeries Details
Bryan Beller Bryan Beller

Bryan Beller of the Aristocrats, Dethklok, and Steve Vai takes you inside his six step method to learning any song by ear....

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John DeServio John DeServio

JD teaches the pentatonic and blues scales and explains where and when you can apply them.

Free LessonSeries Details
Joel Kosche Joel Kosche

Joel Kosche talks about creating and composing a guitar solo. He uses his original song "Sunrise" as an example.

Free LessonSeries Details
Andy James Andy James

Get an in-depth look into the mind of virtuoso guitarist Andy James. Learn about Andy's early beginnings all the way up to...

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David Wallimann David Wallimann

This is a crucial lesson that explains tablature, how to read it, and why it's important.

Free LessonSeries Details
Steve McKinley Steve McKinley

Steve McKinley talks about evaluating your bass and keeping it in top shape. He covers neck relief, adjusting the truss rod,...

Free LessonSeries Details
Allen Van Wert Allen Van Wert

Allen shows you the 24 rudiments crucial to developing finger dexterity. This is a short lesson but the exercises here can...

Free LessonSeries Details

Join over 478424 guitarists who have learned how to play in weeks... not years!

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A JamPlay membership gives you access to every lesson, from every teacher on our staff. Additionally, there is no restriction on how many times you watch a lesson. Watch as many times as you need.

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Chord Library

Each chord in our library contains a full chart, related tablature, and a photograph of how the chord is played. A comprehensive learning resource for any guitarist.

Scale Library

Our software allows you to document your progress for any lesson, including notes and percent of the lesson completed. This gives you the ability to document what you need to work on, and where you left off.

Custom Chord Sheets

At JamPlay, not only can you reference our Chord Library, but you can also select any variety of chords you need to work on, and generate your own printable chord sheet.

Backing Tracks

Jam-along backing tracks give the guitarist a platform for improvising and soloing. Our backing tracks provide a wide variety of tracks from different genres of music, and serves as a great learning tool.

Interactive Games

We have teachers covering beginner lessons, rock, classic rock, jazz, bluegrass, fingerstyle, slack key and more. Learn how to play the guitar from experienced players, in a casual environment.

Beginners Welcome.. and Up

Unlike a lot of guitar websites and DVDs, we start our Beginner Lessons at the VERY start of the learning process, as if you just picked up a guitar for the first time.Our teaching is structured for all players.

Take a minute to compare JamPlay to other traditional and new methods of learning guitar. Our estimates for "In-Person" lessons below are based on a weekly face-to-face lesson for $40 per hour.

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Structured Lessons
Learn Any Style Sorta
Track Progress
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Accurate Tabs Maybe Maybe
Scale/Chord Libraries
Custom JamTracks
Interactive Games
Learn in Sweatpants Socially Unacceptable
Gasoline Needed $0.00 $0.00 ~$4 / gallon! $0.00

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"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


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