How To Play Popular Guitar Songs

read a tabFor budding musicians, one of the best points that comes early on in their musical journey is their desire and ability to play along with popular songs.

For guitarists, this urge often comes right out of the gate, before the musician has mastered many of the other basic concepts of the instrument.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, since the desire to play well known songs is not only a common occurrence, but an essential trait of an enthusiastic young musician. In fact, many guitarists pick up the instrument simply because they want to learn to play their favorite tunes.

The trick is to make sure they do it in a way that also furthers their playing. That means picking those songs because of the chords they use, and finding pieces that have the right combination of ease, difficulty, and interest for the beginner.

Studying The Tab

Whenever a student begins to tackle a new piece, the first step should always be to study the guitar tab or chord progression he is going to need to learn.

To do this, find a resource like and follow along with the written chord progression as you listen to the song. Most versions will have the lyrics written beneath the chords, making it easy to follow even for students who don’t read a lot of music.

Two popular choices for beginners are the Hotel California guitar tab, as well as Cat Stevens’ Father and Son. Both of these songs use common chord progressions that should be playable by most beginners.

If you don’t know how to read a tab yet, watch this video first:

Learn Chords Individually

Once you’ve studied the chart, it’s time to go through and learn the chords individually. Before you attempt to play the song, make a list of all the chords it contains.

Do you know all of the chords? Which chords are you unfamiliar with?

Ideally, you’ll want to pick a song that has some familiar chords, and some new ones. That’s the best way to challenge yourself without feeling overwhelmed by the number of new chords to learn.

Put It Together

Once you can play every chord individually, it’s time to put everything together.

When you’re playing through the song for the first time, make sure to play as slowly as you need to in order to make sure you play each and every chord correctly.

Try to maintain a sense of time, even on your first attempt, but don’t add in extra melodic lines or try to sing…you can save that for later.

After playing the song slowly a couple of times, begin to gradually speed up your playing. You can also break it down into different sections, and focus more time and energy on measures that are particularly difficult.

If you can do that, you’ll soon be able to master any reasonable song, even if you’re just starting out!

Click here for more practice tips.

Learning Blues Chords and Scales

blues scaleAre you interested in learning to play the blues?

This is a great style to learn, regardless of your current level with the guitar.

One of the things that makes the blues so powerful is that it’s structure is very, very simple, but allows for as much expansion and variation as your skill and creativity will allow!

At it’s heart, all blues, whether a 12-bar blues or an 8 -bar blues, breaks down into three basic chords: the dominant chords of I, IV, and V.

While dominant chords aren’t usually the first chords learned by beginning guitarists, if your ultimate goal is to become a blues player, I recommend you start with these chords as soon as possible. The keys of G and E are great places to start if you want to play blues guitar.

Click here for more scale practice tips.

Within these three “simple” dominant chords lies endless room for variation and creativity.

Remember that one of the most defining characteristics of the blues is that it plays between major and minor keys, often obscuring the two.

Some styles of blues, like the Chicago shuffle, focus more primarily on the minor version, while other styles, like New Orleans or West Coast blues, tend to be more major and open in nature.

There is not single right way to play these blues chords. While every chord has recommended and beginning fingerings, innovation and individuality is a core trait of every single famous blues artist, and that innovation extends to finding new voicings and fingerings for chords, which can help open up your playing and allow you to create a greater variety of styles on demand.

That means that although the base of the style is only three chords, the mastery of the relationship among these chords and scales is a lifelong journey.

If you’re going to learn the blues, take the time to master one or two keys first, and don’t feel pressure to move on and play in all twelve keys immediately. While you’ll eventually want to cover this over time, it isn’t the best route to start out with. Focus and master, and then move on from there!

Learn more blues scales at

Tips for Playing Your First F Chord on Guitar

f bar chordWhen I was first starting out playing guitar, the most difficult chord I had to tackle was F major.

It sounds like such an easy chord, and for many instruments F is one of the first and easiest keys to learn, but any guitarist knows that learning to play anything in the key of F is quite difficult.

That’s because F is often the first bar chord that guitarists learn, meaning it’s the first chord that requires you to use your finger to cover the entire first fret, while still manipulating your fingers to adjust several other strings further.

Here are a few tips for mastering that first F chord.

Think E…Sort Of

I think the best tip that helped me to really think about learning that chord is to put it into context of another chord I already knew.

For most of you, E major was probably one of, if not the first chord you learned on guitar. It’s fairly straightforward, and one that’s easy to master.

By the way, if you haven’t yet mastered the E major chord, you probably shouldn’t even be trying to play the F major chord.

That said, you might want to think about the F chord in terms of its relationship to the E chord. F, after all, is just one half step higher than E, which means that you can start off practicing the F chord simply by moving your fingers one fret down, and playing the E chord.

Play it, I dare you.

What do you notice? It doesn’t sound at all like a nice open F major chord, does it? No, of course not, because you didn’t bar off the other strings. But, the point is to start practicing the F chord without the finger bar first, just to get the feel of how your fingers fall onto the frets.

Then Add The Bar

Once you have your fingers aligned and comfortable in their respective positions, its time to add back in the bar chord. Usually, you do this with your index finger, which is not only one of the longst, but also one of the strongest fingers for most people.

A huge tip that took me forever to learn is that while you do need to place your finger firmly across the entire first fret, you don’t need to press harder than you need to.

This is where many beginners go wrong. They think they need more force than they actually do. While when you’re first learning to play a bar chord it probably does feel like you need a lot of finger strength, work on practicing with the minimum amount of strength you can, and still get a good sound.

Using less strength makes you less likely to injure your wrist or hand while trying to play the chord, and as you get better at fingering the chord, you may even find that they once elusive bar chord is actually easier than you think!

The question then becomes: why not start off thinking its easier than it is? You might just be able to play it well that much sooner!