Guitar FAQ: Should you learn on an electric or acoustic guitar?

This is a question most beginners will face when deciding to start learning guitar (unless of course somebody already bought you a guitar). Choosing the right type of guitar can be the difference between giving up in frustration and having a successful learning experience. The link to the article below discusses in detail the points you need to consider when purchasing your first guitar to ensure you choose the right one.

Access the article ‘Should you learn on an electric or acoustic guitar’ here

There is no one answer for everybody so while on answer will be right for one person, it won’t be the best choice for another person. If anybody ever says something like “everybody should start learning on x type of guitar” remember that everybody learns differently and has different needs. For some people it is best to start on an electric guitar while others will benefit more by starting on a nylon string acoustic. It isn’t a simple choice as many people believe so take your time on this important purchase to ensure you choose the right one.

Birthday Cake

Tempo Music Cards’ First Birthday

July 26 will be Tempo Music Card’s Birthday so we figured it would be good to celebrate by sharing the 10 most popular lessons/articles/features on this site in the last year. There are many more lessons than the ones listed below; however these were the most requested and popular. So have a read through and enjoy!

July 2010 – Proper Way to Hold the Guitar (Video Lesson)

26 July 2010 – The 50 Essential Chords Pack was released and available at the online store

August 2010 – 10 Steps to Playing Any Chord

October 2010 – When You Shouldn’t Practice Guitar

November 2010 – Writing a Basic Song on Guitar

February 2011 – Memorize 50 Chords in 10 Minutes a Day

March 2011 – Blog section created

March 2011 – What to Buy When Starting to Learn Guitar

March 2011 – Understanding Chord Formulas and the Major Scale

May 2011 – A Guitar Flash Card Game to Write Chord Progressions and Overcome Writer’s Block

26 July 2011 – Tempo Music Card’s Birthday (including a special surprise)

Birthday Cake

Quick Guitar Quiz – June 2011

This month’s Quick Quiz looks at how well you know Guitar TAB. Being able to read and write Guitar TAB is crucial for every guitarist. From learning how to play songs, finding exercises and lessons to writing your own songs, Guitar TAB is widely used. At the end of this post are lessons to help you understand the skills needed to read and write TAB.


Reading Guitar TAB

1. What chords are being played in the below TAB?

2. What are the two chords being played in the below TAB and how are they played?

3. How would you play the below TAB?


Writing Guitar TAB

4. Write the following left to right in Guitar TAB format:

  • An E powerchord starting on the low e string
  • A slide from the fifth fret on the fifth string to the seventh fret
  • A hammer-on from the seventh fret on the fourth string to the ninth fret
  • An Em barre chord formed on the seventh fret

5.Write the following chords in Guitar TAB format showing strumming direction:

  • Em strummed four times (one beat each)
  • Am strummed two times (half beat each)
  • D strummed once (two beats length)
  • C strummed once (one beat length)



Don’t cheat! Give the questions a proper try before checking the answers.

1. Am C D7 Em

2. Asus4 and E7 played as arpeggios

3. To play Barre chords (in this case Am) you flatten your first finger across the fifth fret then reach with your 2nd & 3rd (or 3rd and 4th) fingers to play the two seventh fret notes.



NOTE: You can choose whatever strumming direction you want, the pattern used in this answer is a very common way of strumming the chords.



If you found the reading questions difficult, check out this lesson here to read up on the basics on how to read Guitar TAB. Once you understand the basic format of Guitar TAB questions like these become very simple.

If you found the writing questions difficult, this lesson will explain the steps to take to get used to writing your own TAB. All it takes is a bit of practice and you will get the hang of what needs to be done.

Learn to read Guitar TAB lesson here

Learn to write Guitar TAB lesson here

If on the other hand you found the questions easy, well done! This skill is incredibly valuable and well worth the effort learning. These were meant to be fairly simple questions so don’t stop at this skill level – continue to develop your skills by trying to transcribe songs by ear and writing more complex TAB.


How to write your own Guitar TAB for your song ideas and riffs

Being able to read Guitar TAB is obviously a crucial skill to every guitarist. But some people don’t consider how important it is to learn to write TAB as well. Learning to write your own TAB is very simple and will help you out in a few different ways.

Writing your own TAB can help you:

  • Write down any song ideas
  • Ensure you don’t forget any riff or lick ideas you come up with
  • Transcribe songs
  • Write full songs to give to other players to learn
  • Come up with a collection of your own riffs and licks

This lesson here will explain the basics and the points you need to remember when trying to write your own TAB. The lesson is very straight forward because if you can already read TAB then you’re half way there.

You can access the lesson here – Learn to write your own Guitar TAB

Included in the lesson is a free Blank Guitar TAB Sheet you can download, print out and use straight away for any ideas you come up with.

New Guitar Lesson: Create your own rhythm and strumming patterns

This new guitar lesson will explain the basics of rhythm and how you can come up with your own rhythm patterns. The lesson will explain standard notation as well as provide you with a blank rhythm sheet you can print out for your own ideas.

This is a very basic exercise worth learning. Learning to write out rhythm patterns can help you:

  1. Write strumming patterns for chord progressions
  2. Transcribe strumming patterns from songs by ear
  3. Learn to play along with a drummer
  4. Give drummers ideas for beats and patterns
  5. Add an interesting rhythm to your licks and melodies
  6. Write riffs that are focused on a rhythm pattern


You can access the lesson here:

Create you own rhythm and strumming patterns

There are many more things you can do when you develop this skill so check the lesson out and start coming up with your own ideas.

Guitar FAQ: Proper way to hold a guitar

Getting the hang of guitar is a tough job for all new beginners. When you are first starting it’s crucial that you start out with the right techniques. A common question from beginners is how they should hold the guitar. Is there a right or wrong way to hold it and does it impact how you play? In this blog post a video lesson will explain and demonstrate important points to consider when holding the guitar. Check out the video below then have a read through the written explanation in the lesson here.

Don’t underestimate how important it is to hold the guitar correctly. Even a simple mistake like reaching your thumb over the top of the neck can have a big impact on your ability to play chords.

After you watch this lesson, don’t forget to check out the written explanation here.

A guitar flash card game to write new chord progressions and overcome writer’s block

This simple game will give you a fresh way to come up with interesting chord progressions next time you’re faced with the dreaded writer’s block or want to try something different. It’s based on the word game ‘last letter’ where you say a word then the next person must come up with a word that starts with the last letter of the first word.

For example: Cat, Tiger, Rabbit, Turtle, Elephant, and so on. The difference with this game is that you will be using chords and the notes in the chords to pick the next chord.

Steps for the game:

  1. Pick a chord
  2. Pick the last note out of the chord (refer to the chord formula)
  3. Pick a chord based on that note
  4. Repeat until you have enough chords


An example using playing this game:

Let’s say the first chord we pick is Em. The chord Em uses the notes: E G B. The last note in that chord formula is B so we can pick any chord based on B now. So Lets pick B7. B7 uses the notes: B D# F# A. So the next chord will be based on A. Let’s pick Am7 which uses the notes: A C E G. For our final chord we will pick G Major.

So our chord progression will be:
Em  B7  Am7  G

If you pick a chord and it ends with a note such as C# or G# and you don’t know any chords based on C# or G#, you can either pick the second last note of the chord or pick a different chord that ends in a note you’re more familiar with.

When you play through the chords you will find you either like how they sound or you don’t. Either way, try to come up with a way to make those chords work together. This is a great creative exercise to get you thinking of different ways to play chord progressions. Something as simple as this is a great way to work through any writer’s block and try something different. If you don’t like the sound of the progression and can’t get it to sound right, simply start again – it’s very simple to come up with a new progression.


How flash cards can help you

Guitar Flash Card with chord formula

Using flash cards like the 50 Essential Chords Pack to help you find and pick out chords will help you in several ways.

First, the chord formula and the chord notes are displayed on every card (see picture to the right) so it’s very simple to pick out the last note in every chord. This will help you learn the notes faster.

Second, if you get stuck on one of the chords (eg: the last note is G# and you don’t know any G# chords), you can easily find several alternative chords that will end on a note you feel more comfortable with (eg: ending with G).

Third, by using the cards you aren’t limited to the chords you have in your head and can learn new chords you normally wouldn’t try.

All these small points make a big difference when taken together and will help you learn faster and come up with more chord options.


What this simple game does for you:

  • Helps you learn and memorize the notes in a chord
  • Gets you thinking ‘outside the box’ with chord progressions
  • Gives you a quick and fun way to come up with song ideas
  • Teaches you why certain chords will work together while others won’t.


Give the game a go and see how many unique sounding progressions you end up with. Once you get the hang of this game you can easily come up with similar games to try out. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any other similar games people can try out or any great sounding progressions you come up with using this game.

Quick Guitar Quiz – May 2011

Read a few lessons and think you understand everything? Unless you test yourself you won’t know for sure what you really understand and what you need to work on. This little quiz will give you a quick snapshot on how well you know a certain topic on guitar. The topic this month is figuring out chords that fit into keys. Once you fully understand how to do this, your playing ability and understanding will move to a whole new level.

Write out your answers as you go through the questions then compare them to the answers below. There’s no point cheating – you will only set yourself back.

Working out chords in a key

What basic chords (major, minor, diminished) are part of the Key of:

  1. C
  2. E
  3. A
  4. D
  5. F#
  6. Bb


Take your time and write down your answers before you even think about checking them below. It’s okay if you need to pick up your guitar and work the answers out by checking if the chords work – it’s all about getting the answer in the end. Over time these answers will come to you in an instant.



  1. C Major D minor E minor F Major G Major A minor B diminished C Major
  2. E Major F# minor G# minor A Major B Major C# minor D# diminished C Major
  3. A Major B minor C# minor D Major E Major F# minor G# diminished A Major
  4. D Major E minor F# minor G Major A Major B minor C# diminished D Major
  5. F# Major G# minor A# minor B Major C# Major D# minor F diminished F# Major
  6. Bb Major C minor D minor Eb Major F Major G minor A diminished Bb Major


How did you go?


“That was easy!” Great! Many guitarists struggle to answer questions like these so if you got through them easy you should be happy with your understanding.

“I got most of the answers, it just took a while to work them out” Good work. You don’t need to be able to answer the questions instantly. If you understand the theory behind the questions then that’s great. Over time you will get faster at figuring out the answers until it becomes a piece of cake.

“I sort of knew what to do, but didn’t get many right” Don’t stress about it. With practice you will get the hang of it. Being able to answer questions like these is a skill like any other. It may be worth reading up on the theory again to make sure you understand what you need to do (see resources below).

“The questions may as well be written in Greek, I didn’t understand anything!” If you are only starting out guitar, questions like these may seem confusing and hard. But like anything else, you can learn the theory and learn to apply it. If you struggled with these questions, check out the lessons below as they contain all the explanations and exercises to help you out.


Resources (to help you get the right answers)

Check out these lessons to learn the theory behind these questions. After reading them, save this post in your bookmarks/favorites and come back to it in a couple weeks time to try out the quiz again.

Understanding guitar chord formulas and the major scale

Working out chords in a key

It’s worth mastering this skill so take your time reading through the lessons and come back to the quiz again to make sure you fully understand how to work out the chords.

Guest article at on learning tools

If you are planning on teaching yourself to play guitar then this article will give you an idea on five different tools that will help you learn faster and easier. This article has been posted on the website and can be read by clicking the link below.

5 Tools to Help You Become A Better Guitarist – click here

The article explains why tools are so important to your development and explains how the five tools will benefit you and what you can get out of them. Check out the article and feel free to ask in the comments here if you have any questions.

My experience with music schools and group lessons

When I first started guitar at the age of about 8 I had a personal tutor who was fantastic. Unfortunately after a couple of years of lessons we moved towns and I couldn’t go to the same tutor. My parents decided to take me to a local music school. They expected top service as many people expect from music schools.

The first problem was obvious to me in the very first lesson. It was a group lesson of three students and there was an obvious skill difference between the other two students and myself. I was a full year worth of lessons ahead of the other two. This meant that whatever we would be learning would either be too hard for the other two or too easy for me. So most of the time I would learn something quickly then sit there waiting for the other two students to catch up. I estimate that I would have spent about 7-10 minutes every lesson (30 minutes long) sitting listening to the other players. That’s a huge waste of time.

The next problem was that we tuned the guitars up at the start of every lesson. The tutor explained that it’s a very important skill to be able to tune a guitar properly (which I agree with) so we would ‘practice’ tuning the guitar every lesson. Now I absolutely agree that every guitarist should be able to properly tune a guitar. What I don’t agree with is spending up to 10 minutes every lesson tuning all three guitars. That’s a massive waste of time and money. In a one-on-one lesson tuning up a guitar is quick and important. But tuning up three guitars (four considering sometimes the tutor would have to do his too) takes too much time out of a very short lesson.

The third problem I eventually noticed after a few months was that the tutor wasn’t an expert guitarist. It’s pretty bad when a 10 year old student can recognize the limitations of a tutor’s skill level. Now when I look back I can clearly see that he was not an accomplished player at all despite the certificates on his wall. I still remember to this day when we were learning ‘Beat it’ by Michael Jackson and the tutor making mistakes when demonstrating it. Not exactly the type of tutor you would expect in a music school.

After a couple months of lessons I became frustrated and wanted to quit. We had to wait until the end of the term because we were locked into a contract so I had to go to three more lessons and never went back. I was too scared to tell the tutor in person that I was leaving (explained why below) so my mother cancelled the lessons by phone.

The reason I was too scared to quit in person was because of what a friend had told me. I mentioned I was learning guitar from the school and he said he used to learn from the same person a year ago. My friend was also frustrated with the lessons so one day he told the tutor he was quitting. The tutor apparently tried to pressure my friend to stay with lines like ‘the chicks won’t be interested in a quitter’ and ‘if you quit these guys (the other group students) will become great guitarists and you will miss out’. Not exactly a professional response.

Why I share this story

I have put this story here not to lash out at music schools or discourage anyone from using them, but to give warning on potential problems you could face. Over the years I have had many students come to me after experiencing similar issues so unfortunately this is fairly common. I put my experience here because my parents sent me to a music school expecting quality lessons and ended up receiving garbage. The amount of time wasted in the lessons means that my parents wasted a lot of money for nothing. Hopefully by posting my story other people can avoid the same thing from happening from them.

What to learn from this story

To avoid the same situation I faced as a beginner, watch out for the following:

  • Don’t assume because it says ‘music school’ that it’s high quality
  • Group lessons can be extremely ineffective and waste time
  • Music schools can lock you into contracts
  • You may not get any refund for missed lessons or if you quit half way through
  • Group lessons often don’t work because everybody learns at different rates
  • Not all tutors are equal
  • Wasting as little as 5 minutes every lesson adds up to 6 full lessons wasted a year


This is based on my personal experience. Please note that everybody will have different experiences so I am not saying that all music schools and group lessons are worthless.


If you have had similar experiences, please post them in the comments so other beginners can take note.