Beginner Guitar Lesson 2 : Getting Ready to Play

Beginner Guitar Lesson 2 : Getting Ready to Play

Report Error

In this lesson we will learn how to check the guitar to make sure it is in good, playable condition. If a guitar is out of adjustment in any way, it will cause one to struggle unnecessarily when trying to play it.

The height of the strings - how far they are from the fingerboard, is referred to as the "action". If the guitars action is low - close to the fretboard - the guitar will be easy to play, but the sound will not be very loud and the string might buzz against the frets. On the other hand, if the action is high, the guitar will have a much louder tone and won't buzz, but the fingers will wear out much faster from having to push the strings further and harder.
Finding out if your guitar has the action set at a good height requires checking the action. It's not hard, but you will need a ruler divided into 32nds of an inch.

Find the twelfth fret, which means count frets up from the nut to number twelve. Better is to note it's the fret after the two dot fret marker on the neck close to the body of your guitar.

Looking sideways, put the ruler on the twelfth fret next to the biggest, lowest string, the one on the left (this is the sixth string). The string should be between 3/32" and a little under 1/8". Now check the same thing on the thinnest string all the way to the right (this is the first string). It should be 1/16" or a little over (technically 5/64"). If the strings on your guitar are within these measurements, or a little under, you will be fine. If they are over these measurements, though, your action is too high and should be adjusted.
Now look at the way the strings pass over the nut by the headstock. The strings should be very close to the fretboard, less than one millimeter. This is difficult for most people to measure so you will just have to be your own judge on this, however, if the strings are too high here, it will also make the guitar more difficult to play.

With a little training anybody can learn how to adjust their guitars action, however, there are a number of different causes for high or low action, so it is recommended to take the guitar to a reputable guitar service center and have it adjusted if you believe the guitar needs it. This will not be very expensive and you will be glad you went to the effort because the guitar will be much easier to play when the action has been adjusted properly.
The Pick

You will need a pick (plectrum) in order to use these lessons.

The pick is responsible for starting the sound on your guitar and it affects the guitars tone, so it is important to select a good one. Like the violinist goes through several bows before settling on the one they like, you will go through several picks before you settle on the one you prefer. Luckily picks are much less expensive than violin bows!

There are so many picks available today it is beyond the scope of this lesson to attempt to cover the various styles, plus, everybody's taste in picks is different, so the following is only a suggestion.

  • Do not think a light gauge pick is easier to play. They are useful for soft music, but because they are so flexible, they often make more noise than stiffer picks.
  • If your pick is too heavy, it will be difficult to control at first until you are used to it.
  • Larger picks aren't necessarily better, but you are less likely to drop them when you're playing.
  • Picks wear out eventually. Some are triangular shaped, which means they are essentially three picks in one and will last three times as long as those that only have one point on them.
  • See how the pick feels when held between your thumb and first finger. Does it slip easily or does it stick a little? Sticky is better.
  • Do not go cheap on the pick. Although it is not necessary at this time to pay $40 for a Blue Chip pick, don't be reluctant to pay a few dollars for a good one.
  • For now, avoid picks made of alternate materials such as wood, stone or metals and stick to conventional plastic materials.

When you have your pick and are sure your guitar is ready to play, then it is time to move on to the next lesson!

Beginners Guitar Lessons

© 2000-2020