Learn the C chord. The first chord we will cover is a C chord—one of the most basic chords in music. Before we do, let's break down just what that means. A proper chord, whether played on a piano, a guitar, or sung by well-trained mice, is simply three or more notes sounded together. (Two notes is called a "diad," and while musically useful, is not a chord.) Chords can also contain far more than three notes, but that's well beyond the scope of this article. This is what a C chord looks like on the guitar:
Getting to grips with how chords are formed gives you a basic introduction to music theory and helps you understand the ways you can alter them to create more interesting sounds. All chords are built from certain notes in scales. The C major scale is the easiest, because it just runs C, D, E, F, G, A and B. These notes are numbered (usually using Roman numerals) in that order, from one (I) to seven (VII).
The next step is to figure out what gauge, or thickness of string is best suited to your playing ability and style. Thinner gauges are easier to fret and bend, and may be better suited for beginners, until callouses build up on the fingertips. Heavier strings tend to produce greater volume and fuller tone. Nylon strings are typically categorized as light, medium or heavy tension. Steel strings for both electric and acoustic guitars are categorized by the gauge, or thickness of the lightest string, the high E string, measured in thousandths of an inch, with .09 being a common size for an electric set. A set of electric strings may be labeled .09-.042 - this is the gauge of the lightest and heaviest string in the set. Acoustic sets are a little thicker, so a typical medium-gauge set might be .012-.054.
Once you know the basic chords, it might be easier to think of them the way the function inside a key. For example, when in the key of E, the E (I) is called the Tonic. It's what all the other chords want to get to—which is what helps give western music its sense of motion. The A (IV) in the key of E functions as the Subdominant—it's sort of a passive in-between, just as happy to continue forward, as to relax back to the Tonic. The Dominant is just what it sounds like: it leads you where it wants to go. In the key of E, that role is filled by the B (V), and will definitely make your brain want to get back to the Tonic! When you get more familiar with the chords, and want to sketch out a tune, try writing it as I-IV-V (or variations of that) instead of E-A-B. It will make it much easier to transpose when you find out your singer cannot sing in the original key!
The top, back and ribs of an acoustic guitar body are very thin (1–2 mm), so a flexible piece of wood called lining is glued into the corners where the rib meets the top and back. This interior reinforcement provides 5 to 20 mm of solid gluing area for these corner joints. Solid linings are often used in classical guitars, while kerfed lining is most often found in steel string acoustics. Kerfed lining is also called kerfing because it is scored, or "kerfed"(incompletely sawn through), to allow it to bend with the shape of the rib). During final construction, a small section of the outside corners is carved or routed out and filled with binding material on the outside corners and decorative strips of material next to the binding, which are called purfling. This binding serves to seal off the end grain of the top and back. Purfling can also appear on the back of an acoustic guitar, marking the edge joints of the two or three sections of the back. Binding and purfling materials are generally made of either wood or plastic.
Left-handed players sometimes choose an opposite-handed (mirror) instrument, although some play in a standard-handed manner, others play a standard-handed guitar reversed, and still others (for example Jimi Hendrix) played a standard-handed guitar strung in reverse. This last configuration differs from a true opposite handed guitar in that the saddle is normally angled in such a way that the bass strings are slightly longer than the treble strings to improve intonation. Reversing the strings, therefore, reverses the relative orientation of the saddle, adversely affecting intonation, although in Hendrix's case, this is believed to have been an important element in his unique sound.
Body size, shape and style has changed over time. 19th century guitars, now known as salon guitars, were smaller than modern instruments. Differing patterns of internal bracing have been used over time by luthiers. Torres, Hauser, Ramirez, Fleta, and C. F. Martin were among the most influential designers of their time. Bracing not only strengthens the top against potential collapse due to the stress exerted by the tensioned strings, but also affects the resonance characteristics of the top. The back and sides are made out of a variety of timbers such as mahogany, Indian rosewood and highly regarded Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra). Each one is primarily chosen for their aesthetic effect and can be decorated with inlays and purfling.
Though they may not be as exciting of a topic as instruments or amplifiers, choosing the right type of strings for your guitar is incredibly important. Guitar strings have different responses and different feels, and when the right type of string is used it’s a huge asset to your playing. Likewise, when the wrong type of string is used it can be incredibly detrimental.
The Guitar Program at Musicians Institute is designed to develop professional level technique and musicianship through performance-intensive and immersive experiences. Guitar classes are taught by leading professionals and students will get trained in the basics of guitar playing, including performance, ear training, melodic soloing along a huge variety of contemporary styles.