It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying something new. I remember the first time I ever bought a bagel. We were in Boston and I was sent by our host to get breakfast. At the time, we had beagles—but no bagels—in the south. And this was before cell phones so I couldn’t call for help. I entered the corner store, walked up to the counter, and said, “I want six bagels, please.” The clerk just stared at me with a perplexed look so I repeated myself, “I want six bagels, please.” Then the clerk spoke. “Are you from Australia? I can’t understand what you’re saying.” By this time, two more clerks had moved up to the counter to help the first one stare at me. “I’m from South Carolina,” I said. “We knew it was somewhere down south,” one of the clerks responded, and then added, “What is it that you want?”
“I want six bagels,” I repeated for the third time. “Yoou waaaant sixxx baaagels?” the clerk asked, trying to imitate my accent. I sometimes have trouble understanding folks from up north but it had never occurred to me that they couldn’t understand what I say. Then they really threw a stick in my spokes: “What kind do you want?” one of the clerks asked. “There’s more than one kind?” I replied. “Yes,” laughed the clerk as he pointed to the display case. “Those are bagels?!” I exclaimed, “I thought those were donuts!” Anyhow, it turns out they aren’t anything but bread.
To avoid overwhelming my new guitar students, I start with three easy chords in a pattern: D – A – Em. Four down strokes on the D, four down strokes on the A, and eight down stokes on the Em. I want to get them going. Once they are playing the pattern with confidence then I can explain beats, bars, and upstrokes.
Why D, A, and Em? These are easy chords to finger that can give you a full sound. Why a chord pattern? You can play it over and over and over. It’s like a circle. And it’s fun.
A person who has strength in his fingers can sometimes pick this up in one session. Sometimes it takes two or three. Give it a try.