Guitar For Dummies book cover

Guitar For Dummies

By: Mark Phillips and Jon Chappell Published: 06-20-2016

The bestselling guide now updated with video demonstrations and audio tracks online

The guitar is one of the most versatile instruments in the world, which is why it's so appealing to musicians. Guitar For Dummies, 4th Edition gives you everything a beginning or intermediate acoustic or electric guitarist needs: from buying a guitar to tuning it, playing it, and caring for it. Fully revised and updated, with online video and audio clips that help you learn and play along, you'll explore everything from simple chords and melodies to more challenging exercises that are designed to satisfy players of all levels. Additionally, new players can dive into the basics of guitar and accessory selection. Whether you prefer the cool sounds of the acoustic or the edgier tones of the electric, your guitar will get a lot of use as you play your way through the lessons presented in this integral book. But your journey doesn't stop at the last page! With an updated multimedia component, you have access to more than 80 online videos and 35 audio tracks that help build your talent.

  • Play along with online videos and audio tracks to develop and reinforce your new skills
  • Tune your guitar, change strings, and make simple repairs to keep your instrument in working order
  • Choose the right guitar and equipment for your needs
  • Explore numerous musical styles, including rock, blues, jazz, and country

Guitar For Dummies, 4th Edition guides you in the development of your strumming talent—and who knows where that can take you!

Articles From Guitar For Dummies

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39 results
39 results
Guitar For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-16-2022

On this Cheat Sheet, you find handy reference material that you can print and place conveniently in your practice area. Included are an explanation of guitar notation as it translates to actually playing the guitar, 24 common guitar chords, a fingerboard diagram showing all the notes on the guitar up to the 12th fret, and a list of essential tools and accessories that facilitate trouble-free and versatile music-making on guitar.

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Essential Guitar Tools and Accessories

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Following is a list of 12 essential tools and accessories that will help you keep your fingers and your guitar in tip-top shape and in good working order and provide you with the hardware to create a variety of music. All the following items are fairly inexpensive; they can fit easily in a resealable plastic bag and be stored inside your guitar case. Electronic tuner/metronome Extra strings String winder Cleaning/polishing cloth Pencil and paper Digital recorder Mini toolkit: Screwdrivers, wire cutters, pliers, allen wrenches Nail file/emery board Capo Picks Slide Strap

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24 Common Guitar Chords for Different Music Styles

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The following figure shows 24 common, easy-to-play guitar chords that you can use in many different songs in a variety of styles — including folk, country, rock, and blues. Left-hand fingerings appear immediately below the strings (1 = index, 2 = middle, 3 = ring, and 4 = little). An O above a string means to play the open string as part of the chord; an X above a string indicates it isn’t part of the chord and shouldn’t be played. A curved line means to play the dots (fretted notes) below the line with a barre.

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Notes on the Neck of a Guitar

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The following neck diagram shows the notes for all the frets on the guitar up to and including the 12th fret. Use this diagram to find individual notes on the guitar or to transpose any movable chord or scale to a different starting note. Sometimes you see two notes at the same fret; these notes, called enharmonic equivalents, have the same pitch. Credit: Illustration by Wiley, Composition Services Graphics

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10 Iconic Guitars

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

No musical instrument offers a greater variety of appearance, function, and sound than a guitar. Whether it’s the quietly elegant Ramirez, the smoothly debonair D’Angelico, or the raucously funky Telecaster, each guitar presented here has left an indelible mark on the guitar-playing canon and will forever be known as a classic. D’Angelico Archtop: Considered by many to be the greatest jazz guitar ever made, the D’Angelicos, which were manufactured from 1932 until 1964, were custom archtops (the tops or arched slightly instead of flat like a steel-string folk guitar) hollow-bodies built by the grand master of the genre, John D’Angelico (1905–64). In addition to their warm, lush tone, these guitars were meticulously constructed and graced with some of the most elegant decorations of all time. Fender Stratocaster: The world’s most famous electric guitar, the Stratocaster, which has been manufactured since 1954, was designed as a space-age instrument in the early 1950s, featuring sleek lines, trebly tone, and small body dimensions (at least compared to the huge jazz archtops of the day). In the hands of masters such as Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton, this solid-body ax became ubiquitous, and today, you can’t go into any guitar store without seeing at least a few Strats on the wall. Fender Telecaster: Fender’s other great contribution to classic electric guitar lore is the Telecaster, which has been manufactured since 1951 and was also the first commercially made solid-body. The Tele made its mark in the country world, adding a bright, twangy sound to countless recordings. A simple guitar made out of a plank of ash or alder, basic electronics, and a maple neck, it set the standard for electric guitar design and remains a classic today. Gibson ES 335: Introduced in 1958, this ax is a thin semihollow-body design, which sought to combine the acoustic qualities of a big archtop with the compactness of a solid-body electric. The result was a superb guitar with a smooth woody tone, good for both clean jazz and heavy rock 'n’ roll. This guitar’s most famous advocate was the jazz-rocker Larry Carlton, also known as “Mr. 335.” Gibson J-200: For a booming acoustic tone and stylish looks, look no further than Gibson’s venerable J-200. This jumbo steel-string, which was introduced in 1937, was targeted toward country guitarists and quickly became a Nashville classic. Of special note is its highly ornamental rosewood and mother-of-pearl inlaid bridge, which is shaped something like a mustache. Gibson Les Paul: Named after '50s pop sensation Les Paul, the Gibson Les Paul guitar ironically went on to become one of the definitive rock 'n’ roll instruments. Championed by Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, this single-cutaway electric, which was first manufactured in 1952, exudes the fat bassy tone that helped define the sound of hard rock and heavy metal. Some original models from the late 1950s — notably the 1959 Standard — can now fetch more than $75,000. Gretsch 6120: Best known as country virtuoso Chet Atkins’s main electric guitar, the big, funky tones of this hollow-body, which was introduced in 1954, were common on many '50s and '60s rock and country records. With its unusual FilterTron pickups and warbly Bigsby vibrato bar, the 6120 also gave early rocker Duane Eddy his signature twangy guitar sound. Martin D-28: Martin first mass-produced dreadnought (named after a class of battleship) acoustic guitars in 1931 and its D-28 is the quintessential example of that great design. With a fat waist and bass-heavy tone, this big guitar became integral to the sounds of country, bluegrass, and, indeed, just about all steel-string acoustic music. Ramirez Classical: Serious classical and flamenco guitarists often consider playing only one kind of guitar — a Ramirez. First built in the mid-19th century, José Ramirez’s classical guitars help define the style with soft gut (later, nylon) strings, superb workmanship, and a luscious tone. Among Ramirez’s earliest champions was none other than the master, Andrés Segovia, himself. Rickenbacker 360-12: The ringing guitar tone on early Beatles and Byrds records came from one great guitar: the Rickenbacker 360-12. A semihollow-body electric with 12 strings, this classic, first introduced in 1963, has a completely distinctive tone in the guitar universe. The timeless Rick sound resurfaced in the '80s on smash records by Tom Petty and R.E.M., among many others.

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4 Essential Guitar Effects

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

After you master the techniques of playing chords and notes smoothly and cleanly on the guitar, you can turn your attention to the external processing of your sound through effects — those magical little boxes that can transform your tone from nice and neat to gnarly and nasty or any point in between. Following are four essential effects that should find a place in any electric guitarist’s arsenal. Distortion: Known by various names (overdrive, fuzz, dirt, and grit), distortion is the deliberate overloading of your system’s ability to produce a clean, unaltered signal. The resulting signal is distorted from its original form but in a musically pleasing way. Most distortion devices offer several additional controls that determine the amount of distortion in the signal, its tonal color (the balance of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies), and the overall gain, or output volume, of the altered signal. Each distortion device has its own particular character or flavor. Get the box whose name you can associate with the type of music you’re playing, and rely on the device’s onboard controls for subtle variations or enhancements of the effect’s core sound. Many guitarists acquire more than one distortion device so that the can play a variety of rock styles convincingly. Key tracks include “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix. Modulation: Modulation is a category of effects that includes chorus, phase shifting, and flanging as the most popular members. All three of these effects have their role, and each has enjoyed its place in the limelight in the history of recorded popular music. All make your guitar sound swirly and whooshy to varying degrees, with chorus being the most subtle, realistic (it was named for the slight detuning effect that occurs when a chorus of singers or instrumentalists try to play in unison), and versatile. In subtle applications, chorus can make your guitar sound shimmer slightly; heavier doses of chorus give the music an undulating effect. Key Tracks include “Walking on the Moon” by the Police and “Come As You Are” by Nirvana. Wah wah: This effect is an onomatopoeia. When you apply a wah wah, your guitar seems to cry out wah wah, like a distressed child. In classic rock songs, the wah pedal (consisting of a hinged treadle that rocks forward and backward on a fixed base) was operated at slow to medium speeds. In the disco era, guitarists cranked their wah wahs at a much faster rate, creating more of a wahl-wacka-wacka sound. Key tracks are “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. Echo (Delay): Not to be confused with reverb (an effect that creates a sense of space from a tiled room to a cathedral and that is commonly found on amplifiers), echo (or delay; the terms are used interchangeably) is an effect that creates a discrete repetition of the guitar sound and repeats it back once, twice, or multiple times, depending on the user’s settings. Echo sounds great on both rhythm and lead guitar sounds because it works well with, or in place of, reverb, to lend a sense of space. And a deep echo on a soaring solo lead guitar passage is nothing short of epic. Key tracks are “Cathedral” by Van Halen and “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd.

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How to Find the Correct Fret for Barre Chords on Your Guitar

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Most movable barre chords on the guitar are either E-based, meaning they get their names from the notes you play on the 6th (low E) string, or A-based, meaning they get their names from the notes you play on the 5th (A) string. To find the correct fret for any E-based barre chord (whether major, minor, or seventh), refer to the following fretboard for the correct frets for notes on the E string. For example, if you want a G chord, play at the 3rd fret; if you want a C chord, play at the 8th fret, and so on. To find the correct fret for any A-based barre chord (whether major, minor, or seventh), refer to the following fretboard for notes on the A string. For example, if you want a D chord, play at the 5th fret; if you want a G chord, play at the 10th fret; and so on. You can even play barre chords above the 12th fret. Starting at the 13th fret, the letter names start over. That is, for E-based chords, the 13th fret = F, 14th fret = F sharp/G flat, 15th fret = G, and so on.

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5 Positions of the F Minor Pentatonic Scale When Playing Guitar

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The pentatonic minor scale is the principal scale used in rock and blues guitar soloing. As its name implies, it consists of five notes (unlike common major and minor scales, which consist of seven notes). On the fretboard, the finger pattern of the pentatonic scale resembles the shape of a box, so pentatonic minor scales on the guitar sometimes are referred to as boxes, or box positions. If you use fretted notes only (no open strings), scale patterns are movable. The lowest all-fretted pentatonic minor scale found on the fretboard is F pentatonic minor (starting from the 1st fret of the low E string), as shown in the first box. The red dots show the F notes — the note the scale is named for. The naming note of a scale can be called the first degree of the scale or the tonic note. The black dots show the scale’s other degrees. The degrees of the pentatonic minor scale are generally referred to by their intervallic distance above the tonic of a normal, seven-note major scale, as follows: the first degree is the “1” or the tonic; the next degree is the ♭3 (a note a half step, or one fret, lower than the 3rd degree of a major scale); the next degree is the 4th; the next the 5th; and the last the ♭7. Any pentatonic minor scale thus has the formula 1-♭3-4-5-♭7; hence, the F pentatonic minor scale is F-A flat-B flat-C-E flat. The second box above uses the same five notes as the first box, but it starts from the ♭3 (A flat) instead of the 1. The third box in the figure uses the same notes, but it begins at the 4 (B flat). The fourth box in the figure starts from the 5 (C), and the last box starts from the ♭7 (E flat). Refer to the fret number alongside the boxes to make sure you start each scale from the correct fret. These finger patterns consist of two notes per string, which are generally played with the 1st and 3rd left-hand fingers or the 1st and 4th (depending on whether the notes are two or three frets apart). When playing a rock or blues solo in the key of F, use any or all of these five boxes. Interestingly, even if the song is in the key of F major, you solo using the F pentatonic minor scale; this produces a bluesy effect. Because all the notes in the boxes are fretted, the scales are movable. So if, for example, you need to play in the key of G, simply move the patterns up two frets (because G is two frets higher than F).

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Translate Fingerboard Diagrams to a Real Guitar

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The following figure, which shows how a chord diagram and a tab staff relate to an actual guitar, helps you turn guitar notation into chords and melodies. Credit: Illustration by Wiley, Composition Services Graphics

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How to Protect Your Guitar

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

If you need to take your guitar out into the world that requires protection, as you discover here. Never leave the house without putting the guitar in some kind of protective case. Protect your guitar on the road Most people don't even think about the guitar's health as they toss their favorite acoustic into the station wagon and head for the beach. But they should. Using a bit of common sense can keep your guitar looking like a guitar instead of a surfboard. If you're traveling in a car, keep the guitar in the passenger compartment where you can exercise control over the environment. A guitar in a trunk or untreated luggage compartment gets either too hot or too cold in comparison to what the humans are experiencing up front. (Guitars like to listen to the radio, too, as long as it's not playing disco.) If you must put the guitar in with the spare tire, push it all the way forward so it can benefit from some "environmental osmosis" (meaning that it's not going to get quite as cold or hot next to the climate-controlled passenger cabin as it is at the rear of the car). This practice also helps if, heaven forbid, you're ever rear-ended. You can pay a couple of bucks to have Freddie's Fender Fix-it repair your car, but all the king's horses and all the king's men can't restore the splinters of your priceless acoustic should it absorb the brunt of a bumper-bashing Buick. A hardshell case is a better form of protection for a guitar than either a nylon gig bag or a cardboard-like soft case. With a hardshell case, you can stack things on top, whereas other cases require the guitar to be at the top of the heap, which may or may not please an obsessive trunk-packer. (You know, like your old man used to pack before the big family vacation.) Nylon gig bags are lightweight and offer almost no protection from a blow, but they do fend off dings. If you know the guitar is never going to leave your shoulder, you can use a gig bag. Gig bags also enable an electric guitar to fit in the overhead compartments of most aircraft. Savvy travelers know what kinds of crafts can accommodate a gig bag and stand in line early to secure a berth for their precious cargo. Protect your guitar in your home Whether you're going on a long vacation or doing three-to-five in the slammer, you may, at some point, need to store your guitar for a long period of time. Keep the guitar in its case and put the case in a closet or under a bed. Try to keep the guitar in a climate controlled environment rather than a damp basement or uninsulated attic. If you store the guitar, you can lay it flat or on edge. The exact position makes no difference to the guitar. You don't need to loosen the strings significantly, but dropping them down a half step or so ensures against excess tension on the neck, should it swell or shrink slightly.

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