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Right Hand Technique (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Brennan

Right Hand Technique

It's time to start getting some sound out of your guitar. Mark begins with picking hand technique.

Taught by Mark Brennan in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 31:34Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (02:26) Lesson Intro Mark kicks off this lesson with a brief performance of "Have a Cigar" from Pink Floyd's classic album Wish You Were Here. This song exemplifies many of the essential right hand techniques that are used in rock guitar playing.

Right Hand Technique

With this lesson, Mark explains the essential mechanics of proper right hand technique. He begins with basic information such as choosing a comfortable pick and holding it properly. Mark advances from this material to some basic exercises designed to improve picking accuracy. These technical exercises serve as an effective stepping stone towards playing practical, musical material such as chord progressions and melodies.

When first studying technique, each of the hands should be isolated. 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. In a later lesson, Mark will combine the hands and explain how they must work together when playing chord progressions, melodies, and solos.

As a beginning guitarist, it is extremely important not to develop any bad habits early on. Pay very careful attention to the technical advice and exercises that Mark presents in this lesson. Developing proper technique will allow you to play your favorite music with a high level of comfortability and confidence.
Chapter 2: (05:44) Picking Technique Note: Some of the following information is taken from lesson 2 of Brad Henecke's Phase 2 Speed and Technique Series.

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. Mark's 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 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

Mark often compares the act of shaking someone's hand to holding the guitar pick. 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. Watch Mark in the lesson video for a clear demonstration of what to do and what not to do.

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 as the method described by Mark in the lesson video.

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.

IV. 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. Mark prefers to curl his fingers inward when strumming chords. When playing rapid single note lines, he often rests these fingers on the pickguard. However, many guitarists argue that it is not appropriate to anchor any of the fingers on the body of the guitar.
Chapter 3: (09:13) Single String Exercises Note: At this point, you must have the names of the open strings memorized. You must also have a firm understanding of how to read tablature. Review these materials from the previous lessons at this time if necessary.

Goals of the Exercises

The right hand exercises presented in this lesson are designed to improve your skills in a few specific areas. These exercises will help you use the pick on the proper string and gain an overall level of confidence with the right hand. By playing these exercises along with a metronome, you will begun to develop basic rhythm and counting skills. Speed is of little or no importance to these exercises! Do not rush through them! Focus your attention on playing in time and picking the appropriate string. Always remember that speed must be used as a means to a musical end.

Playing Along with a Metronome

Playing with a metronome is a frustrating experience for almost every beginning musician. You must cast this frustration aside as soon as possible. Get in the habit of playing all exercises and repertoire along with a metronome. Regular practice with the metronome will vastly improve your rhythmic feel. Developing solid rhythm is of paramount importance.

Why Is Rhythm so Important?

-Rhythm is the single most important aspect of music. If you can't play something perfectly in time, then you can't play it. As a result, you should spend the majority of your practice time perfecting rhythm. This task can be accomplished in a variety of different ways. The important rule to remember is to practice with a metronome as much as possible. Playing along with recordings is also great practice.

-Rhythmic skills are essential to playing with a group of other musicians. As a guitarist, you can't simply say: "I'll just play along with the drummer. After all, the drummer is responsible for the rhythm." This is a horrible mindset to have. YOU must be responsible for rhythmic perfection at all times. That way, if the drummer is playing incorrectly, you can address the issue as needed.

All of the exercises presented in this lesson consist of steady quarter note rhythms. Pick each note along with the click of the metronome. Set the metronome to a moderately slow speed such as 80 beats per minute. You may need to start at a slower tempo if you are having problems maintaining accuracy at this speed. Or, you can play along with Mark in the lesson video. Mark's metronome produces a different sound on the first beat of the measure. This feature enables him to keep track of the all important downbeat of each measure. Make sure that you always start the exercise on the downbeat of the measure. You might also want to tap your foot along with the metronome to help internalize the rhythmic pulse.

Picking Direction

All of the single note exercises in this scene with the exception of the last exercise utilize a consistent downstroke pattern. When performing a downstroke, pick downwards towards the floor by pivoting at the wrist. A downstroke is indicated in notation and tablature by a box with one side missing. A triangle shape is used to indicate an upstroke.

Exercise 1

Begin at the low E string (fattest string). Pick this string four times in a steady quarter note rhythm using downstrokes. Then, move on to the next string and repeat the process. Once the high E string is reached, repeat the exercise from the beginning.

Watch and Learn

Before you practice the exercise, watch carefully as Mark demonstrates it at 04:00 in the lesson video. It is perfectly acceptable to look at your right hand as you practice through the exercise. Developing your hand / eye coordination is a key component to right hand accuracy. As you become more comfortable, try to look away. Your muscle memory will become more developed if you are not relying on the sense of sight to help you.

Exercise 2

This exercise requires that you skip over a string with the pick. Material involving string skips calls for a higher level of accuracy with the right hand. Once again, watch Mark carefully before attempting to play the exercise on your own. Follow all of the rhythmic rules and suggestions listed under the previous exercise. Do not be afraid to look down at first. As you become more confident, try to look up at the notation while performing the exercise.

Exercise 3

This exercise skips over two strings, forcing you to be even more precise with your picking motion. Keep the pick as close to the strings as possible at all times. Do not lift the pick high above the strings. Also, do not dig the pick deep into the strings. This will limit your accuracy. Pick each string with the very tip of the pick only. This will prevent you from having to jump and make a large movement when moving from the appropriate string to the next. Economy of movement is a key component of proper technique.

Exercise 4

Instead of skipping to a higher string between each measure, this exercise skips strings between each quarter note. It also includes some upstrokes. Watch Mark carefully in the lesson video for a clear demonstration of proper upstroke technique. Simply pivot the wrist in an upwards direction. Do not change the positioning of the wrist! Also, do not turn the wrist outwards.

Due to the rapid right hand shifts that occur in this exercise, you may want to spend a significant amount of time perfecting the previous exercises before you attempt it. Also, you may want to set the metronome to a much slower tempo such as 60 beats per minute to ensure that you are playing accurately and in time. Then, gradually work the tempo up to 80. When you feel ready, practice the exercise along with Mark at 07:30 in the lesson video.
Chapter 4: (10:15) Multiple String Exercises Roughly half of the material that you will learn on guitar involves picking more than one string at the same time. For this reason, it is important to develop confidence in the area of picking multiple strings. In any given song, you may be required to play simple two note chords or chords that involve all six strings. Two note chords are usually referred to as power chords. Power chords are used very frequently in the rock genre to create an aggressive texture. Two notes played simultaneously can also be referred to as a "double stop." Make sure that you can play the single string exercises with confidence before advancing to the multiple string exercises. The exercises presented in this scene are significantly more difficult.

Multiple String Exercise 1

You must keep your right hand relaxed in order to play this exercise accurately. If your wrist is stiff and rigid, you will have a tendency to strum too many strings. Use the same technique and mechanics for picking single strings when picking two strings at once. Simply widen the range of motion of the wrist to accommodate the extra string.

Multiple String Exercise 2

This exercise is very similar to the second exercise presented in the previous scene. A string skip occurs between each measure. However, this time around, two strings will be plucked at once. Begin by picking the 6th and 5th strings. Then, jump up to the 4th and 3rd strings.

Multiple String Exercise 3

This exercise parallels Exercise 3 from the previous scene. Wide string skips are combined with double stops to create a challenging new exercise.

Multiple String Exercise 4

Now, instead of picking a two note double stop or power chord, this exercise features three string triads. A triad is a chord that contains three specific notes. This exercise ascends the strings in a sequential order. Notice how Mark widens his wrist movement in order to strum three strings simultaneously. His strumming motion is slightly more deliberate as well. This is necessary to ensure that all strings sound simultaneously. Make sure that all of the picking movement comes from the wrist. Do not use the forearm when picking three string chords.

Multiple String Exercise 5

This exercise combines three string chords with string skips.

Multiple String Exercise 6

In this exercise, four strings are strummed simultaneously. Do not get sloppy with this exercise! Make sure that you are not strumming any extra strings. Mastery of this exercise will become extremely important when you begin to play basic chord progressions.

Notice how the forearm comes into play when four strings are strummed simultaneously. Watch Mark closely as he performs this exercise. Then, imitate his right hand technique.

Multiple String Exercise 7

This exercise combines four string chords with string skips.

Multiple String Exercise 8

This final exercise involves strumming five strings simultaneously. This exercise typically gives beginners the most problems. Do not get frustrated if you cannot perform the exercise right off the bat. It will probably take you a few weeks before you feel comfortable with this exercise.

Preparation for Chord Progressions

These exercises will prepare you for playing chord progressions. In any given chord progression, you may have chords that utilize any number of strings. In this type of a context, right hand accuracy becomes extremely important.

Rest Stroke VS Free Stroke

Rest stroke and free stroke are terms that are usually used to describe classical fingerstyle techniques. However, they can be used in reference to playing with a pick. When the pick strikes a single note and continues to travel over the top of a higher, adjacent string, a free stroke is produced. To perform a rest stroke, the angle of the wrist must be tilted downwards at a slight angle. The pick travels through a string and comes to rest on the next adjacent string. The rest stroke creates a stronger, more accented attack. This technique will become very important when you progress and play solo guitar arrangements that combine a melody and a chord progression. Practice both techniques within the context of the exercises presented earlier. Watch Mark in the lesson video for a clear demonstration of both techniques.
Chapter 5: (03:52) Lesson Wrap-up The exercises presented in this lesson do not sound very musical. However, these exercises are an excellent stepping stone towards playing chord progressions. If you practice these exercise each day, you will notice immediate improvement in the area of strumming accuracy. These exercises will also help you perform single note lines such as melodies and solos.

Review / Final Tips

-Get comfortable with the single note exercises before tackling the multiple string exercises.

-Always practice these exercises with a metronome. Rhythm is the most important aspect of any musical performance. Without solid rhythm, you are just making noise.

-If you find yourself getting frustrated or discouraged, take a break to regroup. Come back to the guitar at a later time when you are calm.

-Make good use of your practice time. Set goals for yourself regularly.

Preview of Next Lesson

Mark will explain proper left hand technique in the following lesson. This involves proper hand positioning, staying relaxed, playing on the tips of the fingers, and keeping the fingers as close to the fretboard as possible at all times. He will also explain how to produce a clean tone that does not buzz.

Once again, some basic exercises will be provided to help you with these techniques. For example, you will learn how to play all of the natural notes in first position. These notes form what is called the C major scale or the A natural minor scale. Later in the lesson, scales patterns will be applied to a few simple melodies.

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.

lupenkolupenko replied on March 19th, 2017

Mark, I have been playing for three years and decided to start all over from the beginning. Your lessons have been a wake up call to all my bad habits. Holding the pick improperly is definitely a difficult habit to break not even to mention using a metronome while practicing. Love these lessons.

robin52robin52 replied on July 3rd, 2016

these lessons are they bass guitar

thegreatrawthegreatraw replied on September 24th, 2015

iv'e been learning alot from these sessions and on a daily basis early morning 20 minutes i work on the right hand technique first sitting and watching the strings i pluck with the metronome on, then sitting and not looking for ten reps then practice doing the same standing and repeat until twenty minutes is up building that muscle memory and comfort with understanding the sound of each string

WWD4D?WWD4D? replied on August 28th, 2015

I've been playing for years and have decided to go through beginners lessons in an attempt to correct my self-taught bad habits. Turns out I've been holding the pick incorrectly all this time. Thanks Mark!

RobPollardRobPollard replied on June 16th, 2015

Really enjoying this lesson. The big discovery for me was that I have been holding my pick wrong all this time! The bizarre thing is that the method shown here (between thumb and SIDE of index finger) actually seems to feel more controllable! :D

thegreatrawthegreatraw replied on September 24th, 2015

yeah i agree rob the more comfort you get the more simple the guitar becomes

druggist99druggist99 replied on February 27th, 2015

Enter your comment here.

druggist99druggist99 replied on February 27th, 2015

Great exercises!! Want to go on but need to master this first. Mark's a great teacher and really stresses the fundamentals.

spiragospirago replied on February 8th, 2015

What do you consider a reasonable amount of practice time or is this really a matter of personal drive?

Gavin39Gavin39 replied on February 4th, 2015

Hey mark i having a hard time with free stroking. Think i got the rest string down pretty well since thats what ive been using. It seems when i try and free stroke i either miss a cord or hti an extra cord. IN the future when playing songs and stuff when i get better does it matter which one? Just want to make sure it wont hurt or make it difficult to play rock/metal songs. Let me know and love your class!

redstar68redstar68 replied on November 17th, 2014

Hey Mark! You are my chosen guitar teacher as I attempt the transition from Bass to Lead guitar. Didn't think Right Hand Technique would be very informative, how wrong could I be! Really felt an improvement in the pick control. Thanks all the way from the UK.

jake.barneyjake.barney replied on April 27th, 2014

Really enjoying Mark's material and methods. Question - is anyone else viewing these lessons on an iPad and unable to get the metronome function to work? I guess I may just have to spring for a real metronome, but let me know if anybody else has had success getting this function to work on a tablet. Thanks!

emaloolyemalooly replied on November 15th, 2014

You can get a free app for your ipad. I use guitartuna

theroostercruzertheroostercruzer replied on March 30th, 2014

I can, without a doubt, tell you that this is the best money I have ever spent on any type of lesson. I have never had a teacher have me practise the right handed technique and I believe if I would have had access to this in the past few months I would be much farther along than I am right now.

crenmorecrenmore replied on March 14th, 2014

Great Lesson and teaching aids. I'm a stone cold rookie when it comes to the guitar and this lesson provided a lot of information that I can put to immediate use. Thanks Mark.

tcastertcaster replied on March 13th, 2014

Hi Mark, I am really enjoying your lessons. I have learned more from you in a week then I did with a private instructor for a month. Still practicing the right hand technique and looking forward to the next lesson. Thanks again..

namuhnamuh replied on February 19th, 2014

Very much enjoying your lessons. Thank you for taking the time to make them well thought out and thorough. One small suggestion for the segment on 'holding the pick'. It would help if there was a detailed closeup of your fingers holding the pick from each of the critical perspectives, top view, side view and playing position. A closeup without movement so as to show the relative positions of hand, pick and strings.

the_ANTIDRUGthe_ANTIDRUG replied on January 10th, 2014

Good lesson, I'll do this tonight. I like the voicing of chords angle; pratical applications here-not a "pointless" exercise for dexderity or endurance.

javajackjavajack replied on January 9th, 2014

Hey Mark. Just started a few days and really enjoying your lessons. I'm 60 but have played since I was 10, recently taking about a 10 year break. I'm keen to get back and decided to start with good lessons. You seem like the guy. One concern. I don't read music and I doubt I'll learn it at 60. Am I going to progress properly in your sessions or am I going to struggle. I play well by ear and well that's the only way I play. Thoughts?

rocha1573rocha1573 replied on June 23rd, 2013

Hi Mark, first of all I am very happy I signed for JamPlay, I did learn to play guitar a long time ago but I never got to a level I was happy with, reaching lesson 4 and I can see why, all the bad habits you mentioned I had, wrong posture, pick holding, wrist action, etc. So I am very happy to be learning the correct ways. Question, I started the exercises and I need a lot of more confidence with my right hand, I can do chords and basic fret work, but I can see already my technique is lacking. Why is your suggestion for a good point to move to the next lesson? Thanks!

devilrideswithdevilrideswith replied on February 1st, 2013

This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for when I signed up to Jamplay, something that I can take away for a few days and practice at before moving onto the next step. Nice!

axefan88axefan88 replied on April 9th, 2013

Noticed 2 things. 1 - the metronome slows to 60bps when I scroll down to look at the lesson.. even though i have it set at 80. The other thing is I'm not finding the multiple string exercises here to be easy.

neavesieneavesie replied on December 21st, 2012

Using a metronome is working out really great for me. I found myself eating in time as well.

zachalanchezachalanche replied on December 14th, 2012

The advice on relaxation helped me a ton. It feels like I've unlocked a door I've been trying to get open for a long time.

bulletspongebulletsponge replied on September 9th, 2012

Mark, the way you shown how to hold the pick is uncomfortable for me, is it alright if I hold the pick between the flat of my thumbs and and the flats of my index and middle fingers?

tomhowardtomhoward replied on July 19th, 2012

Hi Mark. For years I've played 'at' the guitar rather than actually playing it. So I decided to start at the beginning. I'm enjoying your lessons. One question on using a pick vs. using your fingers. I think of Mark Knopfler's technique and really like how he plays. In your opening lesson you didn't use a pick. So I'm wondering if it's better to forget the pick and go only with the fingers, or stick with the pick to begin. I'm also wondering if in your later lessons you demonstrate some techniques using only the fingers. Thanks. Tom

lone starlone star replied on July 10th, 2012

Thank you so much for the lessons, I'm having a great time!

muhdfuad01muhdfuad01 replied on July 9th, 2012

what is a good target speed for these exercises? is 120 bpm a good target?

kumararkumarar replied on July 3rd, 2012

You are the best guitar teacher ever

storminateacup3storminateacup3 replied on June 14th, 2012

It was hard for me to start playing because I had no idea what and how to practice. After watching your lessons I cant put my guitar down! Thanks for the great exercises and lessons. You have a great teaching style!

jimdavislivejimdavislive replied on June 1st, 2012

Hi Mark: I've been, I thought, playing since 1959. Began on the fantail of a US Naval vessel bound for Japan. Boy did I learn wrong! That is why I started with phase 1. So much I have been doing wrong and things I didn't know. Glad I started with you.

bennie357bennie357 replied on May 30th, 2012

Hi Mark, I recently joined up. I consider myself an intermediate player w/gaps, so I'm checking out the beginners stuff & finding useful things. I've been exclusively a flat picker up to now, but I want to try the others, esp. hybrid picking. I pick w/both index & middle fingers on the pick & I'm comfortable w/that. Obviously that's not possible w/hybrid picking. My main problem beside just habit is that my index finger has a damaged joint, the closest to the tip. I can't curl it normally, so when I hold the pick like you suggest, my finger points down the same direction as the picks tip. It's possible, but I find it a little akward. I suspect that it will just take time & practice & it should be OK, but if you have any suggestions to help, I'm open to them. Thanks Bennie

jdweselyjdwesely replied on February 18th, 2012

Hi Mark, Great lesson series. I was hoping to learn something about anchoring my pick hand in this particular lesson. I feel like I should establish a consistent anchoring point with the heel of my hand to the bridge. This way I would have a consistent reference for locating different strings. However, I notice that no matter how hard I try, my pick hand has a tendency to float around during my practice sessions. Am I taking the wrong approach here?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on March 1st, 2012

Hey John....I would only put the heal of your right hand on the bridge if you are palm muting..Otherwise keep it hanging free over the strings with a loose wrist. You can use your right hand and fingers to dampen string, too. but in general keep your right hand over the strings....Mark

whiskymike62whiskymike62 replied on February 15th, 2012

Mark, great exercises. I've been playing off and on for years and am filling in large gaps in my technique. I wonder if you could suggest a good warm up routine before playing.

samhainesamhaine replied on February 13th, 2012

Hi Mark. Brand new guitar player here. I'm really looking forward to learning how to play well. I've reviewed a few of the other electric guitar instructors but I like how you started with the very barebones so I'm going to stick to your lessons for a while till I master a few of these good right and left hand techniques you've gone over so well. I'm sure I'll eventually get to hating the metronome but for now I am starting to see dramatic improvement using it with your picking techniques. Looking forward to jamming out soon, but with a solid base of technical skills first so I can at least sound good :). I'm 33, and this is the first guitar I've ever played, but I'm excited. Looking forward to learning from you and the other instructors here!

ehabehab replied on February 11th, 2012

I can't understand the guitar table which is attached with the lesson. Now I have to continue my lessons or stop till I can understand it

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on March 1st, 2012

Check out Lesson 3 on reading tablature.....that should help, Mark

CraigDahlingerCraigDahlinger replied on January 12th, 2012

I am a beginner, and I am having a hard time understanding or I should say deciphering the notes and what they are and mean. In the previous lesson you covered guitar tablature, and now in this lesson in the supplemental material it is all music notes. Is there a link either within JamPlay or another site which breaks down the note symbols and what they mean etc. This is probably what I am struggling most with at the moment.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on March 1st, 2012

Check out my lesson 14 on rhythmic notation. This should help. Learn to read rhythmic notation to read all the different note values, then use the tab for the notes. I'm sure there are other lesson on standard music notation on this site if you look around....Mark

jnc51jnc51 replied on January 12th, 2012

The lesson is tabbed underneath the notes; they're all open strings.

jnc51jnc51 replied on January 10th, 2012

Great lesson Mark. I've been playing for over a year and still am challenged rhythm wise. I'm also a string watcher. These excercises are great. I'm left handed so my fretting hand has been satisfactory for me, but I always had some trouble locating strings and rhythm. I know this will help. Just repitition. I didn't know you were still with Jamplay; haven't seen you much lately. You would definitely fill the gap for Classic rock that has been lost here lately. Are you planning to do some live sessions?

chefeamchefeam replied on August 8th, 2011

Hi Mark. I started with your lessons a couple of weeks ago, and really enjoy your teaching style. I have a question on this lesson in particular. How long should I remain here before I move on? I am somewhat comfortable with the exercises, and can usually manage to get most of the way through them without looking at my right hand too much. Should I stay just on this lesson until I can do the exercises in my sleep, or maybe move on to the next ones and just keep practicing these for a few minutes every day? Erik

chefeamchefeam replied on August 8th, 2011

Also, would it be a good idea to try and go through some of the Music Theory lessons at the same time I am doing the Phase 1 lessons? I do want to learn to read standard notation as well as TAB, and learn the theory behind it all. Just wondering if it is wise to tackle that at the same time I am just learning to make some sounds on the guitar.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 9th, 2012

Hi eric...sorry it's taken so long to get back to you.....definitely learn music theory applied to the guitar. You can study this along with any other work your doing. theory gives you a better understanding of music in general, and applied to the guitar, you'll learn the fretboard more thoroughly in relation to chords and scales and improvizing, Mark

milapeskomilapesko replied on December 4th, 2011

Please please please do a tutorial on "Have a Cigar"!

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 9th, 2012

I'd love to do some Floyd, but because of licensing restrictions, I am unable to...sorry.

johnny whyjohnny why replied on October 16th, 2012

Can you say what key you are playing that in? My guess is "E". I may try this on my own I love that sound. Which pic up are you using?

solomynsolomyn replied on January 4th, 2012

I absolutely love this site! And Mark, you are really an inspiration. However, you said "banging your head against the wall" was a Pink Floyd quote. Actually, it's "banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall" I think you were referring to!

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 9th, 2012

Yes you are correct....that was a loose intepretation of that line from "Outside The Wall" sorry about that....and very observant of you to catch that!

lonniefrerickslonniefrericks replied on December 6th, 2011

Love to hear you with a fender "BlackStrat" and tell the web-site to let you do some Floyd lessons....I'd pay for that and I'm sure I'm not alone!!!

tim65tim65 replied on October 11th, 2011

can you do the multiple string exercises with upstrokes as well??

ch005703ch005703 replied on September 5th, 2011

Hi Mark, the right hand lessons from you are very helpful. Mostly you get only lessons for the left hand. But I think you can become only a great guitarplayer if you train both hands. Thank you very much.

loggan24loggan24 replied on August 4th, 2011

Hi, Mark I really like your classes but I'm torn between acoustic guitar and electric. I have friends that play in bands and they tell me to learn on an acoustic and if I want to transition to an electric than it would be easy. I have been playing my electric for about 1 month and just tonight i tried my acoustic and found it more difficult to play. My ultimate goal is to be able to grab my guitar take to the beach and play, do you suggest I switch to acoustic than try eletric?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on August 4th, 2011

Hey Joe....I would say, play what is most comfortable and what feels the best right now. You want to stay motivated, so play the guitar that excites you to play. You can always move to the other any time, and you work on exercises and tunes on both at the same time. If you do electric, you'll gradually build up the hand strength to play acoustic. If you start with acoustic, you'll build hand strength quicker, but you'll need to get used to the lighter touch of an electric...good luck! Mark

imafleiimaflei replied on July 21st, 2011

Hey Mark, I have no problem reading tab, but I'm a bit confused by the staff notation in the supplemental content. Why are there extra lines below the staff, and why do the notes flip as they get to higher notes? Also, the notes don't seem to correspond to the lines the way they usually do, for say, a piano. If you could provide a link to an explanation that would be just as helpful. Thanks!

iamhavokkiamhavokk replied on May 15th, 2011

what i found helps with the metronome is if i make a clicking sound with my tounge to start off and that gets me going then i start on the guitar

jarls1jarls1 replied on May 13th, 2011

This is such an excellent lesson and so very well presented. Thank you very much!

jm1968ajm1968a replied on April 29th, 2011

Hi Mark, I keep hitting the string on the up stroke. Is this normal for beginners, also, can we upstroke 2 and 4, and downstroke 1 and 3.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 29th, 2011

If you're trying to strum only on the down stroke.....then the up strum is miss or "ghost strum" shouldn't hit any strings on the upstroke. But otherwise strumming will always involve up strums. think of it as down on the beat, and up on the "and" of the beat. In other words, 1&2&3&4& will be down,up,down up,down up, down up. Hope this helps...Mark

jm1968ajm1968a replied on May 5th, 2011

I think I got it. I was plucking the strings to hard and not letting the amp do its job. Another issue that I had was being afraid to make noise. I'm over that to. I'm going to leave this at 84% and revisit it later for I don't always get the right string when not looking, but I figure that this will come in time. This is a great lesson, but I do have one suggestion, maybe post in the supplemental content section, that is to show how the pick is to hit the strings. I would say that I'm now plucking them with a depth of 4mm up the pick. Thanks Mark

econdrerasecondreras replied on April 23rd, 2011

Great lesson. I played bass as a teenager and never used a pick. As I dabbled with the guitar over the years, I had a hard time using a pick, so I just wouldn't. But since I am not Mark Knopfler, I have to learn now to become proficient with one. These exercises, as unexciting and they may seem, are invaluable. My right hand is by far the weakest part of my playing and this will definitely help. Thanks!

wrvondwrvond replied on April 18th, 2011

I feel pretty relaxed, yet I get a cramp in my (picking) index finger. Is this normal for beginners, or am I still gripping too hard? Will my grip get stronger with practice and stop cramping?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 22nd, 2011

Make sure your holding the pick correctly. Definitely hold the pick where it's comfortable. I hold the pick on the side of my index with the pad of my thumb. If the cramping doesn't stop in the near future, I'd try experimenting with different ways to hold it.

blinkyblinky replied on March 7th, 2011

Hi Mark. The guitar I am using has three pickups and a low action. I am a beginner and one of my issues is when picking I end up playing my pick right over the middle pickup and sometimes hitting it. How do I target the inch and a half of clear space between the pickups? OH, and love your teaching style, going to attempt to follow your lesson set all the way.

StaithStaith replied on April 8th, 2011

The best technique I've found here is to do what Mark said, look at where your picking until you feel confident enough to look away. After practice your hand will eventually start going straight to that point on the body of your guitar.

wordhog61wordhog61 replied on February 6th, 2011

I just turned 50 on the 4th, always wanted to play the guitar. I finally bought one, a Yamaha Pacifica. I signed up for this site, and browsed thru all the beginner lessons. You are the best teacher for me. I love the right hand lessons. Going to practice those for a bit and move to the left hand lessons. Thanks much.

jentesnoeckjentesnoeck replied on March 7th, 2011

I have the same gutar!

fourdownfourdown replied on October 24th, 2010

Please...where do you teach "Have a Cigar" from the opening lesson? If I could only play that...

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 18th, 2011

I'd love to do the's my specialty, and why I got on the staff in the first place.....we can only keep hoping!

mtbluesmtblues replied on January 18th, 2011

No need to reply. Just want to say thank you! You saved me from myself. I was getting WAY ahead of myself and feeling the frustration. Slept on it. Came back today. Started COMPLETELY over with YOU this time, and the basics. I know I am on the right track now. I CAN do this. Even at my age! (blues harpist/guitar wanna be)

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 18th, 2011

Fantastic! Good luck! Mark

drapeupdrapeup replied on January 17th, 2011

Awesome teacher yiou are man. You know how to take a person from the basic throughout.

room1408room1408 replied on January 7th, 2011

Mark ~ I am a beginner guitar player, and I would just like to say thank-you! Your lessons have made everything so much simpler. It's a lot easier to understand than the ones that I had tried watching on YouTube! ~ Summer

daniel86daniel86 replied on September 6th, 2010

Hey Mark i would like to ask you about picking up multiple strings from both ways. For single string you showed us an exercises how to pick one string from both ways (from the top and from the bottom). should i try with multiple strings the same way like with single string?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on September 7th, 2010

Yes, definitely....I would try all the different exercises in the supplemental content as written and in reverse, too.

a3threata3threat replied on September 5th, 2010

Mark, this was a NEEDED lesson! Thank you sooo much!!! Accidentally picking the wrong string has been a big problem of mine in the past and one of the reasons I grew so frustrated that I stopped playing for a while. After a solid 15 minutes of practicing these, I was able to do them with my eyes closed - if only you could have seen my grin! I will now be using this lesson as part of my daily warm-up exercise. Great stuff!!! :-D

vinnie13wvinnie13w replied on September 4th, 2010

Mark, I spent a couple of months on another quitar lesson sight. I liked the instructor well enough, but he seemed to try to skip over some of these basic things that you are stressing in these first couple of lessons. I am really enjoying your teaching style.

jehargravejehargrave replied on August 3rd, 2010

Thanks Mark...I have already completed a couple of the beginner courses but your course has given news ways to approach my problem areas such as accuracy and knowing the fret board. Look forward to more!!!

bajaprov150bajaprov150 replied on June 26th, 2010

Mark, your lesson on the right hand picking was very helpful to me. I was not holding the pick properly and I was losing my grip on the pick. I will work on using more wrist action , when strumming several strings. I also liked how you explained your switching pattern back and forth with the strings. Thanks for another helpful lesson.

ishtingishting replied on June 13th, 2010

Another thing is though, I'm not sure how hard I should be strumming?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 22nd, 2010

Keep your right hand relaxed. On an electric you can only strum so hard til your sound is harsh and distrorted, and the strings begin to rattle on the frets. It's all about getting the proper sound for the situation. Let your ears be your guide...Mark B.

iwilllearnhowtoplayguitariwilllearnhowtoplayguitar replied on June 18th, 2010

that depends on how you WANT to play in lesson 2 mark tells us that it sounds different when you play different, so just try how you want playing and if it sounds nice keeep on playing like this. if it sounds bad try strumming harder or softer. hope ive helped you and sorry for my bad english ^^ greetz sammy

iwilllearnhowtoplayguitariwilllearnhowtoplayguitar replied on June 18th, 2010

oh and sorry if i said something wrong

ishtingishting replied on June 13th, 2010

I have never really been able to stick at anything (apart from playstation), but since starting your lessons I haven't touched my playstation, I have had my guitar 2 days and I am getting the hang of right hand technique already. Thanks a lot!

coolkidcoolkid replied on June 9th, 2010

Hey Mark, i just realized that when I strum my right hand wrist faces downwards at an angle to reach the strings. Is this a bad habit? How close should my wrist be to the bridge?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 9th, 2010

Hey Hanz...I would try to keep your wrist more "flat" in relation to the top of the guitar. This way your wrist can pivot freely when picking and strumming..if your wrist is facing downward it seems that your pick will move away from the stings. You want to be able to get wrist action in you strumming and not just all forearm. As far as the wrist in relation to the bridge, it depends where along the string you're strumming. You can strum more towards the fretboard to get a softer sound, and towards the bridge for a brighter, treble sound. When you palm mute strings, the palm of your hand will rest on the bridge saddles.

miikamiika replied on April 30th, 2010

Hi Mark, When I skip strings and go back from say 4th to the 5th, I usually end up silencing the 4th note when playing the 5th. Is this something I should try to fix?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 30th, 2010

This is a good thing.....unless you need for both strings to ring when you make the switch. For this exercise it's ok to let the strings ring freely, but you need to acquire the right hand technique to dampen open strings you don't want to ring.

miikamiika replied on May 2nd, 2010

So it's okay for this exercise, but I need to develop the technique to be able to let them ring or dampen them?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on May 3rd, 2010

Yes, you need to eventually develope both techniques....when doing these exercises you can let the strings rings at first, because the main idea is to develope pick control in picking the string (or strings) you intend to pick. When you're comfortable in picking the correct string, then start to practice right palm muting. After you pick a string, mute that string with the heel of the palm of you right hand, just as you are about to attack the next string. This takes a bit of practice and coordination to get it to the point where it sounds smooth and connected, and not choppy. You don't want the notes to overlap or ring over each other, but instead connect the notes with little or no silent space between them....hope this helps you, good luck. It should come wiht practice...Mark B.

miikamiika replied on May 4th, 2010

Okay, thank you.

seanpat131seanpat131 replied on April 3rd, 2010

So I am doing the exercises and I keep hearing the strings buzz on the single notes, Is it the way I am picking or should I think about adjusting the action of the Guitar?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 6th, 2010

Hey Sean....try picking with less force and see if that eleminates the buzzing. If not, you probably have an action problem. I would suggest you get a set up with a good guitar technician, if you're not experienced with adjusting your own action...good luck, Mark B.

lackosleeplackosleep replied on March 8th, 2010

Mark, I am a re-new player and having a hard time keeping my right palm from resting on bridge for control during picking. No problem free flying when strumming, but always seem to want to rest palm on top bolt of bridge. Does this old habit need to be un-learned?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on March 8th, 2010

Hey Kevin....this is normally where you would put your right hand palm when palm muting....which is a technique discussed in a later lesson. I would try to pick with your palm off of the bridge. The reason being if you pick down close to the bridge, you'll only get that bright treble tone. If you can pick on any portion of the string you have more variety of tone to work with. Sometimes you'll want to pick more between the pickups, sometimes close to the fretboard, and from real twangy bright tone near the bridge.

Ross5150Ross5150 replied on March 1st, 2010

Mark, RE: Holding the pick: when playing leads should I be maintaining a relaxed grip on the pick as when playing Rhythm?

Ross5150Ross5150 replied on March 1st, 2010

Also, would the same apply to picking arpeggios?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on March 1st, 2010

You may want to tighten your grip on the pick slightly when playing single note lines and arpeggios....but still maintain a relaxed hand and forearm. You need to stay loose to play faster eighth and sixteenth note lines. There are probably different schools of thought on this, but I've always felt that relaxing the right hand and forearm is what you need for smooth and fast technique. Only grip the pick as tight as you need to.

hunter2010hunter2010 replied on February 24th, 2010

Not to worry problem solved my computer never played the end of your video but ive seen it now ive sorted out the picking problem. Many thanks

hunter2010hunter2010 replied on February 24th, 2010

Hi Mark loving the lessons so far, just a quick question my picking for the single strings seems to be spot on and im pretty confident with that. However when striking the double strings im having great difficulty striking both strings together with the pick. Any thoughts on what the problem might be? Many Thanks James

adidapreanadidaprean replied on February 9th, 2010

:sigh: Newbie question, The metronome on the page has Beats and Beats per minutes. Mark sets his at 80 BPM the beats its default at four do I change that? Thank!

adidapreanadidaprean replied on February 9th, 2010

Never mind said the blind man as he pees into the wind, I feel it all coming back to me now! Yay the tapping of the feet really helps smooth things out, thanks!

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 9th, 2010

80 BPM is sort of a target tempo. I would suggest you might slow your tempo down on your metronome. I wouldn't do these much faster. Speed it note the issue's more an issue of accuracy. Mark B.

rookierookie replied on January 7th, 2010

hey mark i love the practices it is really helping with my accuracy when picking however i am trying to mark my progress and when i hit update it does not update my progress. i have tryed this on 2 computers do you have any ideas why it is not updating.

wturnbullwturnbull replied on December 27th, 2009

My Question has to do with headphones for my practice amp.I bought a adapter for a pear of walkman type hedphones. this thay sound like shit.but seem to be all i can aford at this time.

wid21jamwid21jam replied on October 15th, 2009

Hey Mark. Great lessons: I learned more in your first four beginner lessons then I learned from a book in a month. Great visuals really show proper technique. Thanks man, I'm glad to subscribe to your sessions.

ctozzictozzi replied on October 9th, 2009

wow after about 15 or 20 minutes i could memorize where strings were and play them..really helpful!

zoozoozoozoo replied on September 17th, 2009

mark great lesson thank you !

diljotdiljot replied on August 30th, 2009

Hey! Mr. Brennen i'm a new member of jamplay. before i joined, i watched your video. I've learnt guitar before so i found these lessons too easy. I just wanna ask that the pick i use is 0.45mm. is it ok for now

pake22pake22 replied on August 25th, 2009

I was a bit disheartened before your lessons, now that Im seeing steady consistent progress I cant put my guitar down! My good lady isnt happy with you Mark!! But I sure am :o)

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on August 25th, 2009

That's great news Chris! I'm sure in time your wife will dig it!

mlc2074mlc2074 replied on August 21st, 2009

This lesson is fantastic. It's been very helpful and I noticed a difference after just trying the exercises for about 15 minutes.

timeverstimevers replied on August 14th, 2009

Great exercise. I'm really trying to feel the strings, so now I close my eyes and just try to feel the place of the strings. It really works well, thanks Mark ;-)

chefheffchefheff replied on July 25th, 2009

Thanks, Mark. I played acoustic as a kid, but love sound of electric guitar. I got a epiphone guitar and vox amp from my kids for my 45th bday (december) and have been way too intimidated to even try it. I've done 4 lessons with you and am already feeling really confident! just wanted to say thanks.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on July 26th, 2009

Hey Nancy....your welcome, and congrats on your new guitar rig! Glad to hear you're off to a good start....Patience and perseverence are key....good luck...Mark B.

devin428devin428 replied on July 8th, 2009

These pick lessons are great. I have been trying to teach myself for about 2 months now, and I never realized how much rhythm I did not have till I bought a Ibanez tuner/metronome. This helps a lot Thanks again

kyle_ibanezkyle_ibanez replied on July 3rd, 2009

Hey Mark, quick question. I just got a guitar 2 days ago and was messing aorund with it a little yesterday..and today is my first day actualy playing along with your lessons. I am left handed and I have tried holding the guitar both ways. When my left hand is on the fret board I have accuracy but I have problems stretching my fingers...and when my right hand is on the fret board I have trouble with accuracy but it is easier to stretch. Which should I use. Which would be easier to fix. Thanx. Great lessons by the way.

txflash60txflash60 replied on June 13th, 2009

I am just starting out trying to learn how to play the guitar and I am left handed, with me being left handed and trying to learn playing right handed will it be more difficult to learn. I bought a right hand Gibson Les Paul Epiphone Guitar to learn to play on. Thanks Don

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 13th, 2009

Hey Don...give it a go, definitely...Your stronger hand is on the fretboard. That should be an advantage. If it doesn't feel too unnatural, you should be fine. Mark B.

txflash60txflash60 replied on June 18th, 2009

It is begining to fill natural, but I am lacking speed I guess that comes in time as in practice! Thanks for your help, your lessons are Great! Don

potato4potato4 replied on June 22nd, 2009

i write with my left hand but i my left hand on the fretboard, i feel like i have more control over my left hand

singesinge replied on June 13th, 2009

i have a dunlop u.s.a ultex .73, is that ok for a beginner pick?

singesinge replied on June 13th, 2009


MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 13th, 2009

A medium, I think is a good place to start. That should work just fine.

tammy7689tammy7689 replied on May 19th, 2009

great lesson...ive been trying to learn this technique for a getting better thanks to your exercise

dookiehead5dookiehead5 replied on May 9th, 2009


dookiehead5dookiehead5 replied on May 9th, 2009


lucretialucretia replied on April 28th, 2009

What is a chord voicing? All the terms you mention in the wrap up, will you be going over these in a later lesson?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 28th, 2009

Hi Luke....what I mean by a chord voicing is a particular fingering, a particular arrangement of the notes of a chord in a particular position. There will be many ways to play one chord. Some voicings are very common to a lot of different styles, some are used for a certain style. These become learned from experience and fretboard knwoledge. Hope this makes sense. All the stuff I talked in the wrap up will be covered in future lessons...Mark B.

gearyrichardgearyrichard replied on January 22nd, 2009

Mark, a couple questions ... hope you can give me some tips without seeing ... 1) when I'm trying to hold down the bottom strings (E, B), no matter what fret, I'm having difficulty without part of my hand touching the other strings ... any tips? 2) when playing Aura Lee I notice some "humming" in my amp. If I mute the strings my touch, the humming disappears ... any idea if it's something I'm doing with my left or right hand? I've tried different settings on the amp to no avail. Thanks.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 24th, 2009

Hi Geary...check out my lesson 5 on left hand technique....that shoud help you the touching adjacent string problem...let me know. As far as the humming....try putting a ground lift on the plug of your amp. Also try a different pickup selector position, especially if it's a Strat.

bwhighambwhigham replied on April 16th, 2009

Mark, my amp humms too. What is a ground lift that you previously mentioned? Also, when I move the chord around, I hear crackling noises...maybe my chord is bad...what do you think?

alex_falex_f replied on March 25th, 2009

A question about anchoring...Do you think this is a good, bad or indifferent habit to establish for a beginner. I would think it would make things more accurate but what about times when your hand can't be anchored. I'm wondering if I got in the anchoring habit my accuracy might be shot in cases where it's not possible.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on March 26th, 2009

Hey Alex.....I'm assuming what you're talking about is resting the heal of your palm on the top of the guitar to keep your picking hand stable. What I do sometimes, with single note work, is rest my right hand pinky on the top. This keeps my hand raised out over the strings and keeps it stable. When I strum, there is no anchoring, because my right hand needs to swing free while I keep my wrist loose....try these exercises with your pinky anchoring your right hand. As you get to the four and five string exercises try swinging free with no anchor.

rcardwellrcardwell replied on March 14th, 2009

Mark: Been a bass player all my life except for the first few years, where it as always comes to a starting point and the six string was crucial. I am enjoying learning the basics all over again thanks. Can't let you guys take the LEAD all the time. Besides, someone had to be the back bone right? By the way, your favorite groups just happen to be mine. Pink Floyd, Beatles, Moody Blues, and the classics babe!!! Bythe way, have you ever heard of the band Covenant. If you have then you know me. Again, thanks for letting me get my fingers callused again. Bob

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on March 15th, 2009

Hey Robert....great to have you aboard.....Does Covenant have a website of a MySpace page?

rcardwellrcardwell replied on March 16th, 2009

Mark: Actually we never really got into the computer thing that early in the bands history, now I wish we had of. Do you have a myspace page yourself or an e-mail address for personal use? I would kind of like to keep in contact with someone for which I can relate to on music that's my age. By the way, I joined Wish your were here's forum, and their part of my space page also. My space address is Thanks Bob

tacmantacman replied on February 24th, 2009

Mark, I have a slight problem with moving my right (strumming hand),in certain different up and down timings. Is there an exercise that I can work on to get better at that? Let me know. Thanks Jimi

tacmantacman replied on February 26th, 2009

Thanks Mark looking forward to the up and comming . JIMI

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 24th, 2009

Hey Jimi...these exercises are pretty basic, as they were intended to be. Every example is done with down strokes. In future lessons, I'l get into more advanced picking (single note), and strumming (chords) technique. This lesson was really about right hand pick control, but as we go along, the right hand technique will certainly be more invloved....Mark B.

cmp1969cmp1969 replied on February 23rd, 2009

I have been going over various pcking techniques. Have you ever heard of postioning the pick at a 45 angle than the 90 angle for a smoother attack; especially when it comes to alternate picking? Chris

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 24th, 2009

Hey Chris...this is a technique that I haven't heard much discussion about. It seems to me that you wouldn't get a consistent attack with the up and down strokes. But, if it works for a certain player, and you're getting a smooth, even technique with Mark B.

jst0ddardjst0ddard replied on January 27th, 2009

Mark, enjoying your lessons, thanks. For the pick control exercises, should it be the goal to be able to do all of these without looking at my picking hand? I can do the first few without looking. The rest I have to peek. I guess I'm asking how much looking is acceptable. Even great guitar players that I watch seem to look at what they're doing somewhat.

jboothjbooth replied on January 28th, 2009

I don't think looking is a bad thing in itself. The one thing you should think about though is if you become a performer you want to be able to look and interact with the audience as well, so if you are focused on your guitar the entire time that may be an issue. I don't see anything wrong with it PERSONALLY, but like other things playing without looking is a skill that may come in handy and should be easy enough to practice :) Once you learn something try playing it with your eyes closed a few times, not only will that help you get better at playing without looking but I think it will help cement the song in your mind.

bdhannabdhanna replied on January 26th, 2009

Hey Mark, another good one. I'll work this into my practice routine regularly too. Keep them coming!

clifford wrightclifford wright replied on January 12th, 2009

Hi Mark, For years I have held the pick with both first and second fingers. I find trying your method the pick slips it's position too easily. Should I persevere with your method or revert to my own?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 13th, 2009

Hey Clifford....It seems to me that if you're holding the pick with your index and middle fingers, you have to bend your wrist to get the proper angle of the pick on the string. If this feels comfortable to you, I'd say that would probably work ok. When you hold the pick between the thumb and the side of the index, your wrist becomes straight, and is in a more natural and comfortable position. I think this is the best way, especially for strumming. Give it a try and see if this works better for you. This stuff is not written in stone, of's just of matter of being comfotable and fluid with your technique. If your way of holding the pick works for you, and it sounds and feels good...go for it...Mark B.

edenajbedenajb replied on January 10th, 2009

Hello Mark, I am an absolute beginner and i am wanting to learn to strum up and down on the full strings to do chords and get used to strumming. As i do this if i hold the pick relaxed as you say the and when i strum after a few times, the pick starts to move round in my thumb and index finger causing me to lose control and if i hold it any tighter i feel it is hitting the strings too hard and nearly snapping them. I know this may seem like a silly question but would you have any suggestions or advice on this?. Eden

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 10th, 2009

Check out lesson has chord strumming execises.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 10th, 2009

Hi Eden....a couple of suggestions....make sure you're holding the pick properly. You want a firm grip on it, but not to the point of feeling tension in your hand wrist and forearm. Try using a pick with a rough surface on in, like the "Cool" picks that I use, for a better grip. Also, try using a thinner pick when strumming. It has a little more flexibility and "give", and gives strumming a smoother feel. I would use a standard size pick, too for strumming acoustic.

brno32brno32 replied on January 8th, 2009

Does it help to say "1, 2, 3, 4" out loud while practicing with the metronome?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 8th, 2009

Hey Andrew...good question. Yes, counting aloud is a great idea, along with tapping your foot. Try putting emphasis on 1 when counting, so you can always feel where 1 is. Be sure to count and tap steadily, when not with a metronome.

gearyrichardgearyrichard replied on January 6th, 2009

Mark, I enjoy your teaching style. This is my first attempt at a musical instrument at age 55 and you are making it enjoyable.

vhaynevhayne replied on January 6th, 2009

Your experience as an instructor really shows! Thank you SO much for joining JamPlay. I'm really enjoying learning now. :)

listlist replied on January 4th, 2009

mark you should do have a cigar in phase 3

lenjlenj replied on December 7th, 2008

Going have to push buttons better showing +1 ( What the heck a mistake A 10 being the best atleast )

lenjlenj replied on December 7th, 2008

Back with the guitar after 30 years away. Some has come back but needed to start over . Thought I was to good for your beginners lesson. NOT SO HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH WITHIN HOURS. Thanks for being with JamPlay

ghyath78ghyath78 replied on December 6th, 2008

Great great lesson and excellent exercises, Thank you very much Mark, your a great teacher to learn from.

pascal91pascal91 replied on December 3rd, 2008

Hey, I have some problems with holding the pick. The way you hold it feels kinda uncomfortable. Also I dont know where to put my hand. I often mute strings accidentally. The way you told us not to hold the pick seems to be much easier and I can play better that way. Should I hold the pick like you told us anyway? Where should I put my hand? Hoping for help =)

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on December 4th, 2008

Hi Heinz...great to hear from you. My way of holding the pick seems to be the most natural. It allows you to keep your wrist straight and relaxed and you achieve a straight on angle with your pick. As for as the accidental muting, try sliding the tip of the pick out from your thumb and index more, and raising the hand over the strings more. You can try anchoring your hand with your pinky finger to control this. And keep your thumb straight. You want to eventually use the side of your thumb to mute strings and to get pinched harmonics. So keep trying my suggestions and see if this works for you. If you still feel more comfortable using your hand position, and you stay relaxed, then I would say that's works for you. I guess this is not written in stone stuff. Every guitarist will hone his own technique over time....I hope this helps you. Keep me posted on your progress.....Mark B.

pascal91pascal91 replied on December 4th, 2008

Well, I think ill just do it your way. Seems to be safer. Better change my method now than in a year. I think Im just having some trouble because I've been playing the other way for 3 weeks now. So...some extra practice will change this (hopefully). Thanks for your answer.

xavierdxavierd replied on November 11th, 2008

nicely done mark this lesson has really helped me learn more. This was definetly worth all the money

almirpalmirp replied on October 31st, 2008

Hi Mark, really great lesson! I've mastered one string and two string exercises and still have some small problems with rest of the exercises. Just wanted to ask: do you recommend us to master all exercises in this lesson and then move onto next lesson, or move on next lesson and incorporate this exercises in our practice schedule? And same question for other lessons in your series. My picking control is better then ever before, and Im just eager to start playing some music :) Thanks

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on October 31st, 2008

Hi Almir...great to hear from you. I think that my lessons are being set up to be "progressive", but I don't think you need to master any one before moving on to the next. I think they go hand in hand....while gaining control of your right hand you can be mastering the C major scale. I will be moving forward with my lesson series as quick as my schedule allows, so stay tuned. I hope to incoporate music with execises, too. Look at the songs in Phase 3....a lot of great stuff from all teachers. There should be something there that will suit your ability level....good luck, and stay in touch....Mark B.

almirpalmirp replied on November 1st, 2008

Thanks for your reply Mark. Peace, Almir

pigeonhedpigeonhed replied on October 2nd, 2008

My low E string keeps buzzing. I think that I have good fret/finger pressure and placement, but it doesn't help. Suggestions?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on October 31st, 2008

:Hey Jared...if you're fretting the string properly and you're still getting a rattle or buzz, it could be the action (heighth of the strings over the frets) is too low and the string is rattling on another fret up the neck. Make sure your action is properly adjusted. You may need to take it to a guitar tech to get this done. It's real important that your guitar is setup properly.

drbirnbachdrbirnbach replied on October 18th, 2008

WHat metronome are you using? It sounds as if the it is counting more beats than the downbeat. It sounds like a higher pitch on the beat and the lower tones. Is it me and my ears? or is it the metronome.

VinnyBVinnyB replied on October 18th, 2008

It is Mark's metronome. He explains it at 2:55 during the 3rd scene. Our new metronome feature on the video page for the lesson can do this as well. Hope that helps you out.

joffajoffa replied on August 25th, 2008

Great timing with this lesson Mark. I've been getting a bit frustrated lately with not being able to pick the right strings sometimes, so hopefully these exercises will help.

SylviaSylvia replied on August 15th, 2008

this is a great exercise to do when I'm sick of chords!! thanks Mark.

dalcorndalcorn replied on August 14th, 2008

can you call out specifically which lesson was it that talks about "feeling the groove of the metronome"

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on August 14th, 2008

It's in Dennis Hodges' lesson 6 in phase 2.

anexa85anexa85 replied on August 13th, 2008

This lesson is really making me work. Thanks for the exercises!

mkorsmomkorsmo replied on August 13th, 2008

I love that tone.

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Mark's Phase 1 series will take you through the basics of playing electric guitar.

Lesson 1

Series Intro - Guitar Parts and Tuning

Mark introduces his Phase 1 series and covers some fundamental electric guitar basics.

Length: 30:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2


Mark provides a detailed overview of amplification. This lesson has some great info for any electric player.

Length: 33:55 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Using Tablature and Learning the Fretboard

Before we start rocking, Mark goes over some tools and training necessary to every beginning guitarist.

Length: 12:52 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Right Hand Technique

It's time to get some sound out of your guitar. Mark begins with picking hand technique.

Length: 31:34 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Left Hand Technique

Mark explains proper left hand technique from the ground up.

Length: 10:36 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Natural Notes in the 1st Position

Mark teaches you all of the natural notes played in first position. He uses two classic melodies to supplement this information.

Length: 25:42 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

The C Major Scale - 1st Position

It's time to learn your first scale - the C major scale in first position. Mark also explains how the major scale is constructed.

Length: 21:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Chords in C major - Part 1

Mark covers 7 basic chords in the key of C major.

Length: 35:14 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Chords in C major - Part 2

Mark expands on chords in C major by showing full forms of the chords you learned in Part 1. He also teaches you the chord progression to a familiar tune.

Length: 25:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Power Chord Primer

It's time to start making some noise by using power chords and palm muting. Mark gives you the framework to start rocking with the 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 36:43 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Open Position Minor Pentatonic

Take your knowledge of the notes in the first position and start jamming on a simple pentatonic riff.

Length: 14:34 Difficulty: 1.0 FREE
Lesson 12

Blues Scale Basics with Hammer-ons, Pull-offs, and Vibrato

Let's build on lesson 11 with an extended discussion of the pentatonic scale. For lesson 12, we'll simply add one note to the minor pentatonic scale to give us the famous minor blues scale. We'll also...

Length: 36:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Movable Power Chords

Mark explains how to finger power chords and how they can be moved anywhere on the fretboard. He also shows an exercise that will help you remember the name of each power chord.

Length: 16:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Rhythmic Notation Part 1

Mark Brennan explains rhythmic notation, tempos, time signatures, note values, and more in this lesson.

Length: 32:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

The Key of G Major

Mark explores the key of G major in this lesson. He covers the first position pattern of the scale and explains how it can be harmonized in thirds.

Length: 33:22 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Chords of G Major

Mark teaches the basic chords of G major as well as some other exercises to get you acquainted with this key.

Length: 34:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

The Key of D Major

Mark explains the basics of D major.

Length: 25:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Chords in D Major

Mark takes you through the chords of D major and explains some new ones that you haven't encountered yet.

Length: 35:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

More Movable Power Chords & the Circle of Fifths

Mark continues his discussion of power chords. This time around, he explains the circle of 5ths and demonstrates some power chord progressions that illustrate this concept.

Length: 33:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

The Movable Minor Pentatonic Scale

Mark teaches the 1st box of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 32:31 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

The Minor Blues Scale Transposed to A

Mark explains how you can transpose the pentatonic pattern covered in lesson 20 to the key of A minor. He also shows the "lower extension box" and "home plate box."

Length: 26:09 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Blues Boogie Shuffle

Mark teaches the difference between straight eighth notes and the shuffle feel.

Length: 42:33 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Amplification Part Two

In response to member requests, Mark added another amplification lesson to his growing phase 1 series. In this lesson, he compares 3 classes of amps from entry level models all the way to a Mesa Mark V.

Length: 40:45 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Introduction To Improvisation

In this lesson, Mark teaches some blues licks that can be used when improvising over a 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 24:01 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

The Key of A Minor

Mark covers the key of A minor.

Length: 29:36 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Two Movable Major Chord Forms

Mark teaches two movable major chord forms and gives many examples of how to practice playing them.

Length: 26:10 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

I-IV-V Progression Revisited

Mark Brennan shows you how to apply the chord forms learned in lesson 26 to a I-IV-V progression.

Length: 21:52 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 28

Movable Dominant 7th Chord Forms

Mark Brennan continues his teachings on movable chord forms. In this lesson he shows the dominant 7th chords and how to use them in a 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 19:49 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

Movable Minor and Minor 7th Chord Forms

Mark Brennan teaches these minor chord forms and how they are movable up and down the fretboard. He also shows how to use these chords in common progressions.

Length: 21:29 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only

About Mark Brennan View Full Biography Mark Brennan, born August 12th, 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio, began playing guitar at the age of 10. His first influences were from the Ventures and the British Invasion, especially the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Shortly afterwards he was playing in rock bands with his brother on drums, developing his ear by learning songs straight from records. Playing in a band became a passion.

In high school, he grew to love acoustic and classical guitar. He spent time playing acoustic music, influenced by The Eagles, CSN, Dan Folgelberg, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, etc. In the 70's, he headed a very popular Cleveland band, The Brennan-Cosma Band, which played a variety of acoustic and rock music, along with originals. He also took up classicalguitar, and began developing his fingerstyle technique.

Mark is a graduate of Cleveland State University (1980), with a Bachelor of Music in Classical guitar performance. He also studied Music Composition, and took many Music Education classes. After graduation, he began his private teaching career, teaching electric, acoustic, and classical guitar, along with music theory. He taught in various studios and guitar shops throughout his career, and currently has a private practice at his home in Fairview Park, Ohio.

In the 80's Mark took an affection to Progressive rock. With his band Polyphony, he was influenced by the music of Yes, Genesis, Kansas, ELP, Styx, along with a set of prog rock originals.

Currently, Mark is in the regionally successful Pink Floyd tribute band Wish You Were Here. The band performs faithful renderings of the Floyd classics spanning their entire catalog, along with a strong visual stage show. Here, Mark displays his command of the David Gilmour style.

Mark is excited to be part of's fine roster of teachers. He's looking forward to extending his 35 years of performing and teaching experience to the JamPlay members. His philosophy is about developing a passion for guitar and being the best musician you can be; being true to yourself and developing a personal style, and truly expressing your heart through your music.

Acoustic Guitar Lessons

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

Miche Fambro Miche Fambro

Miche introduces several new chord concepts that add color and excitement to any progression.

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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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Trace Bundy Trace Bundy

Trace Bundy talks about the different ways you can use multiple capos to enhance your playing.

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Peter Einhorn Peter Einhorn

JamPlay is proud to introduce jazz guitarist Peter Einhorn. In this lesson series, Peter will discuss and demonstrate a way...

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Calum Graham Calum Graham

Award winning, Canadian fingerstyle guitarist Calum Graham introduces his Jamplay Artist Series, which aims to transform...

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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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Mitch Reed Mitch Reed

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

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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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Freebo Freebo

In this lesson, Freebo covers the basics of right hand technique. This lesson is essential for all up and coming bassists.

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Electric Guitar Lesson Samples

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

DJ Phillips DJ Phillips

Learn a handful of new blues techniques while learning to play Stevie Ray Vaughn's "The House Is Rockin'".

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David Ellefson David Ellefson

David Ellefson, co-founding member of Megadeth, explains his overall approach to teaching and learning bass in this introductory...

Free LessonSeries Details
David Davidson David Davidson

JamPlay interviews Revocation's Dave Davidson.

Free LessonSeries Details
Eric Madis Eric Madis

In this lesson Eric talks about playing basic lead in the Memphis Blues style.

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
Stuart Ziff Stuart Ziff

Stuart delves into all the different aspects of how R&B guitar has had an impact within reggae music.

Free LessonSeries Details
Dennis Hodges Dennis Hodges

Learn a variety of essential techniques commonly used in the metal genre, including palm muting, string slides, and chord...

Free LessonSeries Details
Larry Cook Larry Cook

In this lesson, Larry discusses and demonstrates how to tune your bass. He explains why tuning is critical and discusses...

Free LessonSeries Details
Lisa Pursell Lisa Pursell

Lisa breaks into the very basics of the electric guitar. She starts by explaining the parts of the guitar. Then, she dives...

Free LessonSeries Details

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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.

Price Per Lesson < $0.01 $4 - $5 $30 - $50 Free
Money Back Guarantee Sometimes n/a
Number of Instructors 82 1 – 3 1 Zillions
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Track Progress
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Scale/Chord Libraries
Custom JamTracks
Interactive Games
Learn in Sweatpants Socially Unacceptable
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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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