Often people start learning to play guitar, just to lose motivation and give up because they are not satisfied with the progress they have made. This is usually a result of not knowing how to go about teaching one's self how to play. This article discribes methods that i use to teach my students.
The first thing one must realise about learing any form of music, is that it requires hard work and dedication. There is a reason most people dont play like Steve Vai or John Petrucci.. It takes years of dedicated practise. To become good at guitar you must be willing to commit at least 30 minutes a day to start off with, and moving towards an hour or more once you get used to the physical demands of the instrument.
It is important to have a balanced approach toward learning guitar, and to learn both rhythm and lead exercises to start off with; even the most skilled lead guitarist can play chords if he needs to. Furthermore, each different style of playing will teach you important skills.
As i tell my students, rhythm is the basic 1-2-3-4 that is found in the majority of modern songs, and as a rhythm guitarist it is vital to carry this beat clearly without losing time for chord changes. For this reason one should practise strumming slowly at first so that the rhythm is not comprimised by the chord changes. For this you might consider getting a metronome, and start on a very slow tempo, and make it faster as you become more comfortable with the changes.
To begin familiarise yourself with some simple chord progressions. Some examples of these combinations are:
#1 C G C D
#2 Em Em Am Dm
#3 C G Am Am
Begin with strumming just on the downward movement of your hand, so that as you strum you sound the four main beats of the bar. Ensure that each beat is equal in length. Strum 4 beats of a chord from a combination and then in the next bar(group of 4 beats) switch to the next chord of the progression. If the same chord comes twice in a row (progression 2 and 3) then play the same chord for two consecutive bars.
When you have familiarised yourself with strumming the basic beats of the bar on the down-stroke, it is time to add some additional beats between the main beats. To do this add an up-stroke between two of the down-strokes and in between to beats of the bar. Try doing it just once per bar, in between the first and second beats to create a 1-and-2- -3- -4 rhythm. The strumming for this will be down-up-down-down-down. This added beat keeps the integral rhythm of the song while adding emphasis to the newly introduced chord.
As a rhythm guitarist you are resonsible to a large degree to carry the beat of the music. For this reason it is incredibly important to work hard on the fundamentals of playing, even if they seem boring, having a firm sense of rhythm will be an immeasurable tool as a musical performer. So practise hard, use a metronome and never give up!