Strings & Things (Guitar Lesson)

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David Isaacs

Strings & Things

Tune up, learn your way around your guitar, and explore a simple, musical picking exercise to help you learn the string names. You'll be playing right out of the gate!

Taught by David Isaacs in Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs seriesLength: 22:20Difficulty: 0.5 of 5

This lesson introduces you to the instrument: aspiring player, meet your guitar! A few big-picture ideas are fleshed out by specifics that will show you the layout of the guitar, how to name and tune the open strings, how to hold and use a pick, and finish up with a very useful and powerful exercise in plucking open strings. You'll also be introduced to tablature, a very common form of notation that we'll use for the remainder of the course and beyond.

Let's begin at the beginning. A typical guitar has six strings, tuned to six different notes. Knowing the names of those six strings is the first step towards understanding the whole instrument. We'll also look at what you might call guitar geography: how the notes progress from low to high sounds along one string, or from one string to another. Remember, it's not just about your fingers but about sounds! Knowing the way the physical and sonic relationships connect is important right from the beginning, because it sets up an understanding that you'll use to learn practically everything.

Another fundamental skill we need right from day one is the ability to tune! An out-of-tune guitar won't sound good even in the hands of the best players. This lesson includes a discussion of the different types of electronic tuners, and the best way to use them. Not only does this give you essential knowledge you'll use every time you pick up a guitar, it begins to train your ears: recognizing when you're in tune or out of tune, and beginning to hear when a string is too high or too low. Playing music is not just about what you can see or what you know, but what your ears can hear, and a trained ear is possibly any musician's most powerful tool.

Once you know your open strings and how to get them in tune, the next step is to learn to strike them properly. We'll look at how to hold a pick, different types of picks, and simple mechanics of using a pick: how to hold your hand, and how to move the hand to produce different types of sounds. This will set you up for our first exercise, a study on open strings to develop your pick control.

Lastly, we'll introduce tablature or “tab” notation. This is the most common way to put guitar music on paper, because it shows you what to play without requiring you to read music. We'll be using tabs throughout this course for our exercises, and you'll probably keep using tablature to learn new music from now it's a very important thing to understand, but easy to grasp and use.

The exercise in this lesson is very simple but very powerful. As with all the exercises we'll be using, it's important to know how to practice it! Take your time and make sure you're in control of your hands. Practice as slowly as you need to in order to play accurately. Remember, you're trying to hit a target, and accuracy is important: practicing mistakes only leads to more mistakes. So take your time, stay focused, and don't just repeat things mindlessly. Use “conscious practicing”, which means you evaluate your performance as you work. If you're making mistakes, there's always a reason, and that reason is often NOT that you're “just a beginner” or that you can't play. We're working with simple motions that can be executed accurately by anyone with just a little thought and concentration. You can extend that approach to everything you practice from now on – and when you do, you can be confident that you will achieve results.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.[email protected] replied on November 24th, 2018

It was good.

AlanathorAlanathor replied on November 18th, 2018

Really cool thanks

winkyfred1wwinkyfred1w replied on September 22nd, 2018

wow very impressed, so happy at the moment

yamaha1yamaha1 replied on August 6th, 2018

Great lesson[email protected] replied on May 24th, 2018

This is great, this site is just amazing. I love how it doesn't cost 200$ a month for 4 30 minute sessions.

LiveandinpersonLiveandinperson replied on March 9th, 2018

Emeralds And Diamonds Glitter Beautifully Everywhere

microsnoutmicrosnout replied on October 31st, 2018

Eddy Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddy

brlrrrrrtbrlrrrrrt replied on January 10th, 2018

after many strokes and several surgeries, I've found at this time, I just don't have it going on. I've been a member in the past, and told many about jamplay, you guys do a terrific job. for now I need to lay low for a bit and drop my membership.' I need someone to show me how to do that. Thank you, bill[email protected] replied on May 24th, 2018

Good luck on getting good! :)

kzteachkzteach replied on August 11th, 2017

Mr. Isaacs, thank you for your video. Your instructions are very clear and easy to follow.

MaarsMaars replied on July 7th, 2017

I am re-looking at this lesson.

RaysrayRaysray replied on June 27th, 2017

In tuning segment the lesson wouldn't go past 61%. I'm OK with that . Just saying.

DenaigeDenaige replied on June 18th, 2017

Nice easy pace and a calming voice to boot. Perfect!

the amazing noobthe amazing noob replied on January 15th, 2017

my teacher is AMAZING! and the video is good and amazing I hope he teaches me how to play like my dad...

the amazing noobthe amazing noob replied on January 15th, 2017

I hope this is good

PatBluesPatBlues replied on December 29th, 2016

Thank you very much. :)

master obi wanmaster obi wan replied on November 15th, 2016

this teacher is so cool! He taught me how to play like my parents! He is incredibly calm, and seems like he (Mr.David) is having a lot of fun teaching this class.

master obi wanmaster obi wan replied on November 15th, 2016

I like this teacher, even though he's my first.

Caiti2024Caiti2024 replied on August 21st, 2016

You seem very serious, you are an exceptional teacher! I understood this lesson very easily.. I have had my guitar for three years and never learned to play, I just recently have got an interest to begin to play.

deanodude1deanodude1 replied on August 14th, 2016

i like his style

master obi wanmaster obi wan replied on November 15th, 2016

me too!! :D

EmmamoEmmamo replied on June 30th, 2016


home2468home2468 replied on May 14th, 2016

thanks that taught me alot

EmmamoEmmamo replied on June 30th, 2016

you sound like you are being sarcastic

glyons01glyons01 replied on April 29th, 2016

I'm totally uncoordinated but find Dave's lessons easy to follow. He is clear and concise and easy to follow. I just have to unspaz myself, relax and practice using my fingers more plucking and placing them on strings on a guitar than using them to just hit keys on a keyboard. This is the second time I purchased Jamplay for myself for Christmas and finally starting to use it, I just don't know what I was waiting for. Thanks Guys and Gals. I feel I'm going to be able to do something with the guitars I bought than just show them to people. :-) George Lyons

JuxaPlayerJuxaPlayer replied on April 10th, 2016

The supplemental materials has a variety of items. Should I only be concerned about exercise 1 at this point?

prangopalprangopal replied on March 29th, 2016

Hi. Regarding picks, I like a .6 as it is easier to control. Seems like more experienced guitarists use heavier gauge picks. Does it matter which pick to learn on?

benloveguitarbenloveguitar replied on March 28th, 2016

This video around 2 minutes onwards it hangs.. kindly help! Thank you! (:

captaindotcaptaindot replied on October 20th, 2016

Try clearing your cache before starting your lessons. A good tool for this is CCleaner available at The free version is good enough. Hope that helps.

Brownie01Brownie01 replied on February 9th, 2016

Great lessons and such a great teacher!!!!! I find Jamplay being the best for learning the guitar since it is dedicated to this one and only instrument. I would also say that I connect with Explorer or Chrome and have never experienced any problems with the videos as mentioned by a few members here. Note: I live in Quebec and even if I am bilingual, my mother tongue is french but thanks to your good pronunciation David, I can follow your course without any problem.[email protected] replied on January 24th, 2016

David, I'm stoked, your course is very engaging and informative. I was lost with a new guitar my wife purchased for me this past Christmas. I live in a very small town and now with this site and your guidance, I am seeing progress!

tacounttacount replied on January 3rd, 2016

What brand of tuner do you use?

hyattbakerhyattbaker replied on December 27th, 2015

Why on earth would someone create tablature and number the strings in the exact opposite order of how they appear on the guitar. It seems things would have been so much better had the order been reversed.

IronblaydeIronblayde replied on March 27th, 2016

It might make more sense when you consider that the order in which the strings appear in tablature corresponds to the order in which they appear from your perspective as you're holding the guitar and looking at the fretboard.

lillyjamslillyjams replied on December 26th, 2015

I think you are good at this.

MAMMAM replied on December 7th, 2015


pitbull1779pitbull1779 replied on March 23rd, 2017

No, he is not CHETING or cheating! Yes, THEIR is a cable...or there is a cable, if you prefer correct grammar, because it is an acoustic-electric guitar that is plugged into an amplifier. I'm not entirely certain how you would conclude that the cable equates with cheating. Or cheting. smh

ToniaTonia replied on November 15th, 2015

Hi, this section of strings is not adding to my progress - I have replayed it several times. It tracks it as 100% on manual, but 92% on auto progress, and records it as 2% in my overall progress.[email protected] replied on October 3rd, 2015

Enter your comment here.[email protected] replied on October 3rd, 2015

The lesson loses all sound half way through!!!!

guitar_76guitar_76 replied on October 1st, 2015

The downloading of your videos is so slow!

sososorrysososorry replied on March 2nd, 2016

i had to try twice to get it to work ON DIFFERENT COMPUTERS but it was worth it

guitarjohn7guitarjohn7 replied on September 23rd, 2015

tried again. The open string exercise looses sync half way in!!!

guitarjohn7guitarjohn7 replied on September 23rd, 2015

This video is out of sync , sound not matching video. Not a great start

dougrichardsondougrichardson replied on August 9th, 2015

Sorry for the multiple comments. I accidentally clicked a few to many times.

dougrichardsondougrichardson replied on August 9th, 2015

Sorry for the multiple coments. I accidentally clicked a few to many times.

dougrichardsondougrichardson replied on August 9th, 2015

Enter your comment here.

dougrichardsondougrichardson replied on August 9th, 2015

I cannot play the first video. I went to the third video because I know how to tune my guitar. It seems the voice and video are not tracking with each other on the 3-Open String video. I hope this is not a sign of things yet to come for the other videos. I hope this can be fixed.

dougrichardsondougrichardson replied on August 9th, 2015

I cannot play the first video. I went to the third video because I know how to tune my guitar. It seems the voice and video are not tracking with each other on the 3-Open String video. I hope this is not a sign of things yet to come for the other videos. I hope this can be fixed.

dougrichardsondougrichardson replied on August 9th, 2015

I cannot play the first video. I went to the third video because I know how to tune my guitar. It seems the voice and video are not tracking with each other on the 3-Open String video. I hope this is not a sign of things yet to come for the other videos. I hope this can be fixed.

kevinacekevinace replied on July 25th, 2015


NautilustearsNautilustears replied on June 17th, 2015

Good lesson. Hard to see the notes on the strings. I just stopped, paused and started several times.

cawdorcawdor replied on June 12th, 2015

Sounds good to me.

martinthallmartinthall replied on May 31st, 2015

The last paragraph in the About section regarding Practice is extremely beneficial advice. I've been playing on and off for 30 years and am a product of not heeding it. It is now pasted on my wall. Thanks David.

ad2818ad2818 replied on May 21st, 2015

no sound???

Luka2Luka2 replied on May 2nd, 2015

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gommie51gommie51 replied on April 15th, 2015

problem sorted by using a different browser

trezurhuntertrezurhunter replied on April 14th, 2015

Chris I am getting the same thing. There is no more sound after about 5 minutes. I'm only having trouble with the Strings and Things part.

gommie51gommie51 replied on April 13th, 2015

The sound on this lesson stops inexpicably after about 5 minutes.

Chris.LiepeChris.Liepe replied on April 13th, 2015

what quality setting are you using? I am not able to replicate the issue on any setting.

Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Whether you've never played before, or your coming back to guitar after brief startup attempt, you'll find everything you need to get going in this series. David uses real musical examples to teach even the most basic concepts and techniques.

Lesson 1

The Series Introduction

Don't get stuck learning chords, scales and theory with nowhere to apply the things you work on. Take the "David Isaacs" approach and learn the guitar by using real music. You'll be playing along with...

Length: 2:32 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Lesson 2

Strings & Things

Tune up, learn your way around your guitar, and explore a simple, musical picking exercise to help you learn the string names. You'll be playing right out of the gate!

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Hands on the Fretboard

Learn hand position, posture and see how to set up your playing for success when it comes to your fret hand. Dave goes in depth with his discussion and demonstration of hand mechanics. Don't miss this...

Length: 16:10 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

Your First Song!

Learn the E7 minor and Am chords and then immediately put them to use with a simple song. Play along to the provided backing track and feel like you're part of the band...It's only your 4th lesson! Keep...

Length: 15:32 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Power to the Chords

Power chords are some of the most simple and ubiquitous tools for playing and making great songs. Learn the most basic shapes and put them to use right here! Dave also discusses the beginnings of strumming...

Length: 12:21 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Music & Melody

Learn a simple melody and take in a little info about what a 'key' is. You can learn the melody and have a friend strum the rhythm. Or, do it the other way around!

Length: 18:07 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Two Finger Chords & More

These simple, musical tools can take you a long way. Use your index and middle fingers to play a simple Am chord and a simple E chord. You'll also learn how to read chord charts and play through another...

Length: 16:46 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

A Simple Melody

You will be introduced to a simple A minor scale and then learn a song that helps you get your new scale under your finger tips!

Length: 12:08 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Finger Independence

Do you ever feel like you are wearing mittens while you are trying to practice your guitar playing? If you have ever experienced this sensation, this lesson is for you!

Length: 11:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Let's Major on C Major

You'll be introduced to the C Major scale and then you'll be able to put it to use over a soothing acoustic guitar rhythm bed. Have fun!

Length: 10:37 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

The C Chord and G7 Chord

Here you'll get to spend some time applying some fundamental chord shapes. Dave shows how to switch between these two chords seamlessly and, as usual, has a creative example ready to go so you can put...

Length: 18:39 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

G and C Working Together

I know what you're thinking..."I just learned these!" Well, you did learn a C chord and a G chord, but this lesson goes over ways to play these chords together in a chord progression that REALLY sounds...

Length: 11:06 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Playing Most Songs

You've probably heard it before, but most songs out there can really be played with just 3 or 4 chords. In this lesson, Dave gives you the tools to play most of the songs you know and love!

Length: 14:04 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Rhythm & Charts

We're moving into some new territory with this series now. You'll now be focusing more and more on material that you can play in a band setting. Up until now, you've been applying the basics to real music,...

Length: 24:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

A Taste of the Blues

Learn about the blues form and strum along with a cool, laid back, bluesy track. You'll be able to take the material in this lesson a long way down the road! Don't forget to have fun with it now though...

Length: 12:03 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Major Pentatonic Music

Learn the C major pentatonic scale and put it to good use over a catchy tune! You'll be surprised how simple this is and how very musical you can be with just 5 notes arranged in a musically interesting...

Length: 8:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Four Fingers and a Chord

The mighty and intimidating F chord is one that most beginners see as a major hurdle in learning the basic chords on the guitar. Dave offers some ways to make the F chord more approachable. Once you examine...

Length: 15:35 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Chord Shapes & Arpeggios

Work on precision with your picking hand and more finger independence with your fretting hand using a soothing practice track called "Chimes". You'll get a good taste of combining melody and rhythm playing...

Length: 15:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Work Those Rhythms

Dave works you through eight different strumming variations, discusses how to feel the groove while keeping the rhythm, and shows you how to take a handful of examples and create any strum pattern you...

Length: 14:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

Complete C

Look at the C major scale once again. This time however, you'll get to complete the first position C major pattern. You'll play every note within reach of your first 4 frets. You'll also learn a catchy...

Length: 16:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

The Return to Chords

Work in the Am, Dm, and Em chords and play them in a melancholy, yet soothing example. You'll also get to work on your basic strumming.

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

Shifty Pentatonic

Learn the E minor pentatonic scale with a small position shift that will get you out of the open position and moving around the neck a little bit. This is where it really starts to feel like you are owning...

Length: 13:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Let's Major on A Minor

Earlier in the series, we explored the C major scale. In this lesson, the A minor will get some love. Learn the basic open position and use it in a new melody.

Length: 15:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

In 7th Heaven

Back to some chords now. In case you couldn't tell from the title, we'll be focusing on 7th chords for this lesson. You learned A7 a while back, and now you'll learn E7 and B7.

Length: 13:32 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Walkin' The Blues

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back! You've covered a lot of ground so far! You've been playing real music now for some time, and in this lesson, we're going to learn a walking blues line. What is...

Length: 10:50 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Moveable Chords

Chords that don't have any open strings in them AND chords whose open strings fit comfortably within the chord all called "moveable chords". Learn how to play a couple chords up the neck.

Length: 15:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Moveable Pentatonic

In this lesson, you'll take another big step forward when it comes to working outside of the open position. You'll feel like doing some jamming too!

Length: 8:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Syncopated Strumming

There are eight more strum patterns for you to dig into in this lesson. This time, they are a bit trickier. Follow along with the rhythm charts and take each example in chunks if needed. Combine them with...

Length: 19:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

And Now...Barre Chords!

You knew it was coming! This is the lesson where we stop dancing around full fingered moveable chords and dive head first into the most common barre chord shapes. They're not as bad as you may be fearing....

Length: 19:21 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Advancing with Blues

As the musical examples continue to distance themselves from that stereotypical beginner sound, Dave works through this track with a simple, moving melody inside a blues progression.

Length: 14:47 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Make It up as You Go

Some of you may have been waiting for this one! Now we'll focus on some improvisation...Some lead playing. It's not about knowing all the scales or trying to be fancy. It is about using what you know...

Length: 12:45 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Like a Drummer

Learn how to create motion and percussive interest with your strumming. If you look at and listen to how drummers accent general grooves, there is a lot of insight there in to how to make your rhythm playing...

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

New Chords, New Strums

Learn B minor chord and continue developing your feel and grooviness when it comes to strumming. Be sure that you are combing over older lessons as well so that you can incorporate many ideas into what...

Length: 21:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 34

A Start to Alternate Picking

Develop precision in your picking. Learn when it's best to use alternate picking. Get comfortable with a few exercises and then apply the technique in a musical context!

Length: 20:26 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 35

A Little Bluegrass

We're going to continue with rhythm playing and 16th note strumming, but this time we're going to touch on some laid back bluegrass playing. This is another simple style of playing to add to your arsenal.

Length: 10:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

A Bit More on Barre Chords

Learn a few more barre chord forms and get more advanced with your strumming. As you've come to know and love with these lessons, you'll have a chance to learn a new song!

Length: 13:51 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Here You Are

You've made it a long way if you've made it to the end of this series! In this final lesson of Mr. Isaacs beginner course, you'll spend some dedicated time moving both major and minor barre chord formations...

Length: 21:58 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only

About David Isaacs View Full Biography Nashville-based Dave Isaacs has made a name for himself as one of Music City's top guitar instructors, working with both professional and aspiring songwriters and artists at his Music Row teaching studio. He is also an instructor in the music department at Tennessee State University and is the coordinator and artistic director of the annual TSU Guitar Summit.

A seasoned performer as well, Dave has released eight independent CDs and gigs steadily as a solo artist, bandleader, and sideman. He continues to write, record, and perform as well as arranging and producing projects for other artists.

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Greg J.

"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


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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