Cathy's Chords - songs for guitar & uke

Lyrics and chords to old folk songs and favourites from the 50's on. 
Learn-to-play acoustic guitar and ukulele tips for beginners... and some banjo as well.

FOLK GUITAR BASICS

 If you’ve never played a guitar before, but you like to sing, then an acoustic guitar is the perfect instrument for you.

All you have to do is make some chord shapes with one hand and strum a rhythm with the other, and you can accompany your singing.

A nylon-stringed guitar is easier on the fingertips, and the neck is a little wider, so there’s more room to make the chord shapes (also further for your fingers to stretch, though; you can get 3/4 "beginner" guitars if you have very small hands).

You can use your fingers to strum or pluck. A pick is often used on a steel-string guitar, so the sound is a bit louder.

Types of Acoustic Guitar-

Steel-stringed “country” style guitar (some have a little “pick-up” microphone etc built in, so that it can be amplified- then it is a semi-acoustic guitar)

Nylon-stringed “folk” or classical guitar (the 3 thickest strings are steel-wound, but still nylon inside).

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                          So, What do you need to get?

First, you need to beg, buy or borrow a guitar. A basic nylon-stringed guitar is ideal- you don't need a really good guitar to start with (you'll probably bump it a few times until you get used to handling it, anyhow.)

Don't be scared to get a cheap second-hand guitar in good condition; guitars can mellow with age. Check that the neck is straight, that the strings are not too high off the neck, that there are no splits in the wood, and that it has a nice tone when you strum the strings. It will probably need new strings, so check the cost of re-stringing at a music store and factor that into the total cost (later on, you can re-string it yourself, but you may not want to do it yet if you're not familiar with guitars). If you have an experienced guitarist friend, they may be very helpful with choosing and stringing a second-hand guitar. 

You'll also need to have some way of tuning your guitar- a keyboard or (in tune) piano is fine if you have one, or you can buy pitch-pipes or an electronic tuner for guitar. The tuner is the easiest to use, and they are becoming cheaper as they become mass produced.

You can also get a free online tuner at get-tuned.com, HERE (you need to click on each note, listen to the sound and then tune your string to the same sound), or  you can download a free audio tuner that uses a microphone from supernifty.com.au,  HERE. You can install this on your computer, iphone etc. You need to select your instrument and tuning type (e.g. guitar standard), then the string. 

A capo is also very useful so that you can make the pitch of the guitar a bit higher to suit your voice when you sing along (see below for different types).  

That's all you need to start playing, once you have some simple songs, chord diagrams and some basic instructions... you're ready to play your first song! (see First Guitar -easy songs . 

           What is a Capo, and How do you use it?

A capo (pronounced cay-poh or cah-poh) is a clamp which goes across the fingerboard to hold down all the strings. It effectively shortens all the strings, raising the pitch.

So if you try the chords for a song, and it's too low for you to sing, you just put on a capo, and play the chords as if the capo is the nut. You can go up* several semitones this way, but it can be awkward to use too far up the fingerboard.

*(If you need to go down, though, you'll need to transpose the chords to a lower key- see the  Key Transposer  page)

The most basic kind of capo is a pencil held by a rubber band; but there are several kinds you can buy. The easiest to use is the spring lever type, which is quick to put on and take off.

Some different types of capo: 





Using a capo: here, the capo is on the 2nd fret, so when you play a C chord, e.g, it sounds like a D chord (2 half-tones -or one full tone- higher). 

This 'k style' capo has a clamp with a lever for fast release:

Here are some other types of capo:








Clamp type:


          






        Strap type: 


Elastic strap and bar type (a primitive version of this uses a pencil held in place by a strong rubber band)


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             Make a Hook-on Guitar Strap*

Many guitars have a small knob on the end of the body, so that a guitar strap can be attached.

Classical /Spanish guitars don't have this. They are usually played sitting down with the guitar resting on your knee ( a foot rest may be used to raise the knee).

However, if you wish to play standing up, and don't want to deface your guitar, this can be awkward.

Here's a nifty little clip-on strap which is easy and cheap to make. 

You just need some suitable cord (a metre and a half), a small piece of felt and a four-pronged curtain pleater like this.      



Full instructions, with pictures, are in a free PDF download here



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