The D Chord

Why can't I get my fingers to look like yours?
Well it's very important to realize that everybody has different shaped fingers, different lengths and with different levels of flexibility - so what is very important is that you find a way that is comfortable for you. You should be able to place your fingers in the correct positions without straining or hurting your joints. Watch the angles that my fingers are at (sometimes looking at your hand in a mirror can really help!) and try to copy it, look specifically at the angles of the fingers - and use that as a STARTING POINT to find the most comfortable way to do it yourself! The one thing I think is very important is not to let the palm of you hand touch the back of the neck. It's something that will change as you get better but in the beginner stages I think it's crucial, you need to develop strength in the thumb muscle!

Why do my fingers hurt so much?
Everybody's fingers hurt when they start playing - especially if you are using steel strings! Your fingers are just not used to it - but the good news is that the pain goes away pretty quickly for most people, by quickly I mean several weeks, not hours! But be careful not to overdo it because if you make the fingertips too raw you will need to take some time off to let it heal before getting back to practice! But stick with it and you'll be rocking the world in no time!

One thing to check is the gauge of strings (the thinner they are, the easier they are to press down) and your 'guitar action' (how high the strings are from the fingerboard). Changing to much lighter strings might change the neck angle and create further problems, so I highly recommend taking your guitar to a local store and having them 'set it up', it may turn your old banger into a sports car! :) or at the very least make your guitar comfortable to play! Every student I have met that has had a pro setup done has said what a HUGE difference it's made for them.

I must be rubbish I can't even play the first chord!
Again, nearly everyone feels that when they start but you just have to stick with it. This course is as easy as it's going to get and if you can stick with it the first few months then it all gets easier and more fun, I promise! I really struggled with chords when I learned to play, strings buzzing all the time, I couldn't get the stretches and it hurt my fingers... But the strangest thing happened, I woke up one day and could play like Hendrix... Nah, just kidding of course... the more I practiced the better I got. Very strange indeed!

Where is the buzzing coming from?
Notes buzz when they're not played properly - it's most commonly caused by the fingertip being too far away from the fret, so check that first. Then sometimes it can come from another finger (or fingernail) touching a string, so check for that. Last thing to check is that you are pressing hard enough, so try pressing harder and see if it goes away.

If all that fails, try playing each note, one at a time, and ONLY fretting that one note - remove all your other fingers and pick that string alone - if you try all the above on just that one note and you're still getting a buzz then you need to take your guitar in for a service - ask a more experienced player to try playing your guitar or try another guitar.

If it's none of the above it might be The Guitar Gods are angry about something, so go and check your CD collection (or mp3 folder) and ensure you have no Milli Vanilli or similar offensive albums in there ;)

Where exactly should I put my strumming hand on electric guitar?
On electric guitar you'll find you can't rest your strumming hand on top of the guitar - same with smaller body acoustics, so you will lean it on the front. If you are doing it wrong you will probably find your shoulder hurting, so make sure that your forearm is resting on the front of the guitar, I find it very difficult with a jumper on because my arm slides around, so you either want to roll your sleeve up or play in a t-shirt. You'll find you can adapt for 'jumper playing' as your progress and get more comfortable with the 'mechanics' of playing!

Where exactly should I be strumming the strings?
On acoustic guitar you should be between the soundhole and the bridge, nearer the soundhole - but experiment, you'll clearly hear how different it sounds - see what sounds good to you! On electric you'll be strumming somewhere around the pickup nearest the neck - on a Strat type I strum between the middle and front (nearest the neck) pickups and on a Les Paul type it's between the two pickups. Being comfortable and having a relaxed arm is the most important element though!

Why does my shoulder hurt?
Shoulder pain comes most commonly from bad posture or tension - for most beginners they carry a lot of tension in their shoulders without realizing it! The best trick I know of is to force your shoulders down as far as they can and then relax - you'll probably find they don't come up much - and that's the position that should be most relaxed!

Why does my neck hurt?
This is another very common beginner ailment, and it's most commonly caused by "craning" you neck to see the fingerboard, or twisting. I have a Posture Lesson which will help, but try to avoid stretching your neck in unusual ways, you'll find using a music stand to keep you notes or books on will help, and I used to use a mirror to see my hands rather than twisting my neck (bad back runs in my family, so I gotta be careful!).

Beginner 1: First Steps