Your First Song! (Guitar Lesson)

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David Isaacs

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 up the good work!

Taught by David Isaacs in Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs seriesLength: 15:32Difficulty: 1.0 of 5

One of the many beautiful things about guitar and popular music is how much you can do with so little. As you learn more and more you'll find that many, many songs share the same chords and every song you learn actually sets you up to learn ten more. In this lesson we'll look at two essential chords that you might use every time you pick up a guitar, the E minor and A7. Best of all, we only need to use two fingers and one simple motion! Add in the strumming hand and we've got everything we need to play a song. Let's take a look.

We refer to the fret hand fingers by number: the index finger is finger 1, middle is finger 2, and so on. Unlike piano fingering, we don't count the thumb. We're going to use fingers 2 and 3, middle and ring, to play the E minor and A7 chords. This is not the only way to play either one, you'll find that different players might use different fingerings – but I like the middle-ring combination because it gives us the most leverage with the least effort. Hold your paired index and middle fingers against your thumb, then do the same with middle and ring: you'll probably feel a difference. This is an example of the ergonomic principle at work: applying the mechanics of the hand to how we play the guitar. Since everyone's hands might be proportioned a little differently, though, there's no absolute....the goal is to find the combination that feels the most natural and relaxed.

To play the E minor chord, we use the two fingers side by side, holding down the fourth and fifth strings at the second fret. Remember, we count the strings from thinnest to thickest, high pitch to low pitch, so the heaviest string is the one you'd probably call the “top” string. It's actually the lowest note on the guitar, or what we would call a bass string. The bass strings are the three lowest in pitch – six, five, and four – while the remaining three are the treble strings, three, two, and one. To strum, we'll swing the arm to bring the pick (or bare finger) across the strings, from bass to treble. Make the movement of the strumming hand large enough that your hand swings past the treble strings: don't stop at the 1st string, but continue a little past it to make the treble strings ring out.

The E minor (or Em) chord is introduced in our first chord diagram at 1:40. The diagram is essentially a grid formed by six vertical lines (representing the strings) with three or more horizontal lines (representing the frets). Dots representing the fingers sit on the vertical lines (showing which string to play) and between the horizontal lines (showing which fret to touch). Note that while we use the expression “on” the fret, the fingers actually go against the fret – inside the box, but as close to the fret wire as the fingering allows. This is a nearly universal way to indicate how chords are played, and something you will become very familiar with.

The A7 chord diagram appears at 13:30, and you'll notice that the “shape” is different: the fingers have an open string between them this time, and we've moved to the second and fourth strings. To practice the transition, think of the two fingers in the same direction as a unit, either coming together to play the Em or slightly apart to play A7. Practice the change slowly and freely to start with, but we also need to practice in rhythm – so first strum each chord once and count to four as it rings out. When you can feel the beat, it's time to go to our track, “Which One's Pink”.

If you find it challenging to follow the beat at first, listen to the drums and simply tap along. You'll feel it as much as hear it, making it easier to keep time. The video will walk you through a series of simple rhythms you can try, and feel free to invent your own. Congratulations, you just joined the band!

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.

Jcarter20Jcarter20 replied

Hey! I added a C major and came up with the "spy-theme" from James Bond. Fun stuff!

Jcarter20Jcarter20 replied

Ah-ha! I figured out why these chords give us the "James Bond" theme - the melody (?) seems to be B-C-C#-C. And those notes are present in the chords Em-C-A7-C: The B is in the Em, the C is in the C major, the C# is in the A7. You could actually play these three chords on the D, G, and B strings in triads and get the same result. Cool! Okay - geek mode off :-)

AgongTaiAgongTai replied

Cool. Fun

lynnagajewsklynnagajewsk replied

Yo easy ,how do i change my learning lessons ,like to intermedient

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied

Hello lynnagajewsk! If you're sure that you are ready to jump to the next level of lessons you can always jump to Phase 2 where the lessons are divided between "Genre-based" where the lessons subdivide into specific genres, and "Skill-based" where the next level of guitar skills are covered. You can find Phase 2 here: Happy Jamming!

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied

P.S. - If Phase 2 turns out to be too difficult you can always scroll through this course until you find a skill that you haven't MASTERED, and finish the lessons in order from that point :)

johnghadimijohnghadimi replied

My challenge is muting the other strings while holding the chord positions!! Any advice on how to avoid that? Love your teaching style. I feel calm watching these. Thank you. :)

Jason.MounceJason.Mounce replied

Make sure that you are utilizing the tips of your fingers instead of the pads of your fingers. This is a common issue people deal with and by making sure you're playing with your finger tips, you reduce the area used to depress the strings and because the tip is more rigid, it requires less pressure. David covers this at about the 3:00 mark in the first scene.

Jeb2018Jeb2018 replied

So this is where I want to fling my guitar across the room... my fingers are too fat.

gerry15gerry15 replied

Posted on Facebook Gerry Cloete 27 mins · 11 07 2017 For all guitar lovers. I played guitar poorly on and off for 40 years and picked up my guitar again recently and decided to start again as a beginner with Jamplay. I have recorded several hit singles as a singer in South Africa under name of Gerry Grayson with some awesome guitar players such as TREVOR RABIN FROM YES and formerly RABBIT and have worked on TV and touring shows. I started the beginners course with Dave Isaacs online and was amazed at how many bad habits i picked over the years. Dave's teaching style is the best I have seen and it is great fun provided you work on his lessons. I am looking forward to move on the the advanced stuff like Rock, Blues, and all the other great styles they teach. See you on this and the other side Gerry JamPlay Member Login ACCOUNT.JAMPLAY.COM

gerry15gerry15 replied

Dave Love your teaching style Gerry[email protected] replied

I play a 12. I don't have a 6 string.

LisetteLisette replied

Thank u it's helping me a lot I went to other instructors but I love the way u do it

doconnelldoconnell replied

Dave- Sincerely like the way you slow down and explain more than just the chord. I have bounced around jamplay looking and working with other instructors, but I come back here..

marmarahamarmaraha replied

That was fun! Even for a seasoned beginner. This guy loves "pink" Great parallel to the lesson.

KytriyaKytriya replied

This is actually from a Pink Floyd song. Its one of my favourite songs.

clm123clm123 replied

excellent discussion of chord formation and the practice to obtain it without muting other strings.

trmptdan1964trmptdan1964 replied

I find that I can leave second finger on the D string and then move the 3rd finger to the B string to get the A7 chord. That way I only move one finger in the transition from Em to A7. Sounds the same.

KytriyaKytriya replied

You will find that some songs will require a different fingering pattern from your normal fingering due to the next chord being nearly impossible to play without the change of fingering. But yes, we do try and find the fingering that requires the least moment of the fingers in order to be quicker in our chord changes.

sdavis9551sdavis9551 replied

This guy is awesome

guitarpretenderguitarpretender replied

Thanks Dave,great lesson.

JPorterJPorter replied

Very good. I am enjoying your course.

karolkakarolka replied

Enjoyed the lesson. Thanks, Dave.

leen2005leen2005 replied

good one!

Lucamax2391Lucamax2391 replied

Great lesson, man

PrithveePrithvee replied

For these lessons do I need a plectrum?

marmarahamarmaraha replied

Depends on the mood you wish to create. A pick gives you a brighter more defined sound. But you can vary the sound without a pick much more by using the flesh of your finger or by using your fingernail on your pointer or even by brushing all your fingernails on the strums. The choice is yours.

clm123clm123 replied

Yes. Better with a plectrum for volume on steel string guitar.

richbtrichbt replied

Love the pink Floyd backtrack Great course so far. Very excited about future lessons.

Busterbrown2011Busterbrown2011 replied

Good combo with pink floyd backdrop

TheCrystalVibeTheCrystalVibe replied

Enter your comment here.

TheCrystalVibeTheCrystalVibe replied

Fantastic lessons, thanks you dave, you've help me find that inspiration that was in me all along!

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

Enjoyed the lesson Dave, Thanks!

danonwheelsdanonwheels replied

good clear instruction David youve given me hope that i could play like "BB KING" my dreams....from sunny Cornwall UK

ralph9937ralph9937 replied

Keeps stopping ???

placidstratplacidstrat replied

lost sync and audio halfway through.

NautilustearsNautilustears replied

Loved this lesson!

aminulinyaminuliny replied

Loved this lesson. Love the backing-track.

MTMalsMTMals replied

Quick FYI...logged off and back lesson played complete...great lesson and great backing track! Mike

MTMalsMTMals replied

Audio was completely lost at 7:17

MTMalsMTMals replied

I like this series. Unfortunately I've lost audio sync at about 6:37. Is this a Java problem on my computer. One other lesson of Orville Johnson did the same thing.

DoTheTunesDoTheTunes replied

David, Thank you so much for the lesson! I felt like I was really playing a song!

garymcelveengarymcelveen replied

Great lesson David, just what I needed to get more excited rather than feel all discouraged. I loved learning from you. Gary from S.C.

00-Steve00-Steve replied

I like the detailed instructions on how to play the Em and A7 chords. Much better than just saying, "put your fingers here and play."

garymcelveengarymcelveen replied

I agree 100%

Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

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 simple song examples after the second lesson!

The Series IntroductionLesson 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
Strings & ThingsLesson 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
Hands on the FretboardLesson 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
Your First Song!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
Power to the ChordsLesson 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
Music & MelodyLesson 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
Two Finger Chords & MoreLesson 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
A Simple MelodyLesson 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
Finger IndependenceLesson 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
Let's Major on C MajorLesson 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
The C Chord and G7 ChordLesson 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
G and C Working TogetherLesson 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
Playing Most SongsLesson 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
Rhythm & ChartsLesson 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
A Taste of the BluesLesson 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
Major Pentatonic MusicLesson 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
Four Fingers and a ChordLesson 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
Chord Shapes & ArpeggiosLesson 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
Work Those RhythmsLesson 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
Complete CLesson 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
The Return to ChordsLesson 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
Shifty PentatonicLesson 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
Let's Major on A MinorLesson 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
In 7th HeavenLesson 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
Walkin' The BluesLesson 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
Moveable ChordsLesson 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
Moveable PentatonicLesson 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
Syncopated StrummingLesson 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
And Now...Barre Chords!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
Advancing with BluesLesson 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
Make It up as You GoLesson 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
Like a DrummerLesson 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
New Chords, New StrumsLesson 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
A Start to Alternate PickingLesson 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
A Little BluegrassLesson 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
A Bit More on Barre ChordsLesson 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
Here You AreLesson 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
David Isaacs

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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