Free Guitar Lessons

Here you will find a sample of the topics we cover and the material that we create and use with guitar students involved in lessons at the studio.  We feature a topic for beginning guitar students, a lesson for intermediate players, and a lesson for the serious and advanced guitarists.  Check back as we periodically change the free guitar lesson topics on the site.


Open Chords

Some of the first chords that people typically learn on the guitar are what are commonly known as open chords. These chords lie in the first three frets of the guitar’s fretboard and in most cases use at least one open string. I typically start my beginning guitar students with easier versions of some of these chords but we quickly move on to the full versions as seen in this chart.

Here we have a chart that is essentially a list of the most common open chords used by guitarists. These chords are essential for even the casual player as they are used in countless songs and have been heard in a large number of classic recordings. The chord shapes displayed here also have suggested fingerings. In some cases people learn some these chords with different fingerings, such as the G chord using three fingers and the A chord. While chords can often be played with different fingerings I would recommend getting used to playing these with the fingering labels on this chart.

When guitar students are learning these chords I typically run them through some exercises during our lessons to develop fluid transitions from any chord to any other chord and then we begin to tackle songs that use them. When combined with a capo there are a large number of songs and recordings a beginning player can play along with using only the chords in this chart.


“CAGED System” Chords and Scales

Advancing beginners and intermediate guitarists are usually working on more and more scales and chords and are starting to play over the entirety of the guitar neck. For guitarists it is beneficial to be able to play the same chords and scales in multiple places on the neck and to be able to find all of these musical elements in any key, anywhere on the instrument. You will often hear guitarists and playing tutorials use the term “CAGED System” to describe how chords and scales align and lay across the neck of the guitar. While I’ve always cringed a bit at the name given to the concept I spend a lot of time working on the idea with my guitar students during their lessons.

The name “CAGED System” comes from the fact that the major chords and major scale shapes that lie over the entire guitar neck are also found in the open position and are some of the first open chords a guitarist would learn. A beginning guitar player knows these shapes as C, A, G, E, and D major chords with some open strings so it is useful to use these labels for the movable shapes as well, even though they all can be used to play any other of the other major chords. When moved away from the open position the fingerings of these chords need to be modified as there are no longer open strings available for the voicings.

In the chart posted here I have major chords, scales, and pentatonic scale arranged where the shapes and roots fall in the same position and have done the same with minor chords and minor pentatonic scales. The lowest sounding root in each position is labeled with a white fretboard marker and it is notable that a guitarist could map out scales and chord on the entire neck using only roots on three strings for their landmarks.

It is very useful for guitarists to be able to find chords and scales in the same manner and realize the relationship of the scales to the chord in the same position on the fretboard. One exercise I have my students work on is playing the same chord progression in different areas of the neck while trying to keep all of the chords within four or five frets. Once that becomes easier we will work on being able to improvise over chord changes using the pentatonic scale that corresponds with the current chord in the progression. You hear this approach on many recordings in different styles and is essential that a guitarist can see how scale shapes and chord shapes overlap. As we move on with the “CAGED System” in guitar lessons we also look at how smaller triad shapes and various arpeggio shapes fit in as well.


Jazz Guitar Chords One-Sheet

I teach quite a few advanced guitar students who focus on learning jazz guitar. One element of jazz is advanced chords and harmonic structures and guitar students usually have to spend a bit of time studying and working things out on the fretboard. There are quite a few different classes of chords and ways of working on them and I have always wanted to create a concise way of referencing a lot of the basic jazz chords and voicing concepts. The sheet here is my attempt to get a good amount of jazz guitar concepts on to one sheet and I have been using this in lessons with my students for reference and as sort of a workbook for becoming adept at finding and creating a wide variety of voicings for more advanced chords on the guitar. There is a ton of information on this sheet so I will break down each section and discuss it a little bit.

In the first section I have three, four note Maj7 chords with the roots on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings. To the right of that I have listed the chord formulas for common, four note chords. The chord tones for each chord shape are labeled and I have my students make all of the other four note chords by manipulating the notes in the basic Maj7 shapes. It is essential that guitarists learn to make and create chord voicings rather than just memorizing shapes with no idea of what the collection of notes actually is.

In the second section I have the basic Maj7 shell voicings with the roots on the 6th and 5th strings. These chord shapes contain the root 3rd, and 7th and omit the 5th. The 3rd and 7th chord tones are often referred to as “guide tones” and are the most important notes for defining what these chords are. Again, I would have students modify these shapes to make the other chord types. Here one must eep in mind that with no 5th in the voicing m7 and m7b5 chords use the same 1, b3, b7 shell voicing and m6 and diminished 7 chords use the same 1, b3, 6 voicing. Another useful shell voicing concept is to eliminate the root and just play the 3rd and 7th of every chord.

The next topic is adding extensions to the basic four note chords. Here we are building on the basic shell voicings and adding other chord tones on the B and E strings. I would recommend starting with the Maj9 shapes and then building all of the variations listed on the sheet. The section that follows is a continuation of the extended chord exercise and focuses on extended and altered dominant chords. I encourage students to start with the basic shell voicings of the dominant 7 chord and then build all of the different chord types listed. When dealing with extended chords there can often be six or seven possible chord tones so it takes some experimenting to become adept at choosing which notes to include and which ones to omit.

The final section introduces drop 2 voicings. I’ve listed the four Maj7 inversions for both the ADGB and DGBE string sets and I would have my guitar students work through modifying them to build all of the four note chord types. A more advanced idea is to start building extended chords by adding 9th’s and other upper structure chord tones by replacing some of the existing basic chord tones.


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