by Scott Zimmerman

If you have been thinking about playing guitar, but have not made that first big step yet, this article will give you a quick and easy plan to easily make the “jump” into guitar playing. The format of this information will be as a “Quick Start Guide”. You know, the instructions that we usually read first, so that we can right-away use what we have purchased- saving the “manual” for later, only when we hit an obstacle. What follows are three steps to launch you into guitar playing: getting your tools, learning your first scale, and learning your first three chords. At the end of these three steps you will have the equipment and knowledge to play some basic blues guitar. Then you can follow-up by getting into the “manual” with some more in depth lessons which you will find on this site. Alright! Let’s get started.

Step 1: Get Your Tools

Assuming that you are starting from scratch, here are my basic equipment recommendations to get you started. First, we will need an electric guitar. Why an electric guitar? Two reasons: it is the easiest to play, and can make some very cool sounds! To keep it simple as promised, I suggest purchasing a Fender Stratocaster or similar model. (This design will give you the most versatility in terms of sound.) Take a look at the Fender Squier, most of them are under $200 and will be perfect for getting started. Next, you will need an amplifier. Get a small “modeling” amp. It will give you more sound options than a traditional amp- which means more “cool” sounds! Check out the Blackstar ID: Core 10 (or something similar). These run about $130. Lastly, you’ll need an instrument cable and some picks. (Ask the salesperson to throw those in for free to sweeten the deal!) Don’t worry about a tuner- you can get a free app on your phone. You can substitute any like guitar and amp- the ones mentioned above will give you an idea of what to get and what you can expect to pay. Alright, go have fun and shop. When you return, I’ll meet you below and we’ll make some noise… ahem, I mean music.

Step 2: Learn The Pentatonic Scale

O.K. after you have played around with your new toy and made some noise- let’s make some music with it. The first thing we are going to learn is the “mother” of all guitar scales- the minor pentatonic. It is the scale most used in blues and rock lead guitar playing, and it is very simple to learn. At this point, your goals should be to learn the scale with the correct fingerings and practice it until you are comfortable playing it. (This may take a little time. The biggest challenge in the beginning is getting the right and left hand to work together. Be patient and practice a little each day and you will see results over time.) See the fretboard and fingering diagram below and also watch the short video to help learn the scale.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale with Fingerings

Note: Each scale is specifically named by its beginning note or root note. In this case, the first note of the scale is A (string 6, fret 5). Therefore, the scale is named: “A” minor pentatonic.

Step 3: Learn Three Blues Chords: A7, D7, and E7

There are two “sides”, like a coin or record, to playing the guitar. First, single-note playing or lead playing, which is what you have just worked on above; and, chord playing or rhythm guitar playing. Let’s take a look at chord playing now. Chord diagrams are used to see how the fingers should be placed on the fretboard to create any given chord. Take a look below at how to read a chord diagram and then we will proceed to learn the A7, D7 and E7 chords. Be sure to check out the video as well to see how it all works together.

How To Read A Chord Diagram

A7, D7 and E7 Chords

Follow Up With The “Manual”

Well, Congratulations! You are now ready to move on to reading some more of the guitar “manual”. To continue on in the Blues and Rock styles check out the following lessons below:

Beginning Improvisation

How To Play The 12 Bar Blues Form

About the author 

Scott Zimmerman

Scott Zimmerman is a professional music instructor with over twenty years of guitar performance and teaching experience. Scott holds a Masters Degree in Music Education from Peabody Conservatory.