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How to be a guitar god

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(CNN) -- So you wanna be a guitar god? Here's everything you need, bar the leather trousers.

Anyone can play guitar: Guitars are cool. Guitarists are cool. Playing the guitar is a shortcut to popularity and acclaim. And, unlike the clarinet or bagpipes, say, the guitar requires no musical talent whatsoever -- just ask Neil Young. So why bother learning scales, complicated chords or Van Halen fingering patters when all you really need is a couple of fingers capable of pointing in the same direction at the same time? We're not talking six-string showmanship here (leave that to Slash); just the basic skills necessary to impress girls. And remember, lessons are for losers and posh kids.

Three chords and the truth: Ok, assuming you've got your guitar ready (preferably plugged in and amped up to 11), place the third finger of your left hand on the second fret (the spaces between the metal bars across the neck of the guitar) of the second string. Place your fourth finger one strong higher on the same fret. Now wrap your first finger over the first fret and put it on the first string. Strum the first three strings -- this is the power chord that has driven rock n' roll for the past 50 years. Hold it for a while to get a feel for the shape. Now, keeping your fingers on the same strings slide them up to the fifth fret and then the seventh fret. It should be starting to sound something like "Smoke on the Water," the laziest and easiest of all classic riffs. Slide around a bit more to get the feel of it and maybe nod your head a bit. This should be all you need to tackle most of rock's back catalogue.

Spinal tab: Many people are put off learning to play an instrument by their inability to tell a diminished fourth from a suspended seventh. But guitarists are so lazy that they've invented their own idiot-proof instant notation called tab. Basically, the six strings are represented by six lines and the numbers on each line correspond to the frets where you're supposed to put your finger. The great thing about tab is that there's loads of it out there on the Web, for pretty much any song you could possibly want to play, from the Beatles to Britney Spears ("Toxic" anyone?). Most of it's wrong but, hey, you probably won't notice and the real version would only be more work.

Uncomfortably numb: The only true sacrifice made by any slacker rocker is the pain involved in bending your fingers into position and holding them there for the entire length of a 24-minute Pink Floyd solo. Learning the barre chord (basically, pressing down that first finger in the chord above across all six strings) is possibly the most common instance of self-imposed torture since medieval flagellation fell out of favour. Nevertheless, to have any hope at all of acquiring any guitaring dexterity -- and competing with the typical dysfunctional teenager in his bedroom -- you're going to have to master it. For a few months it will feel like dragging your fingers over a particularly vicious cheese cutter. Under no circumstances do the washing up with extra-soft liquid. In fact avoid soap altogether (It's good for the rocker image, anyway). After a while your fingers should stop bleeding and the tops will start to flatten into calluses. These are the guitarist's badge of honour. As Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers writes in "Acoustic Guitar" magazine, "Veteran players often remember their first clean barre chord as a historic victory."

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of: Think you're past it? Once upon a time rock stars may have died before they got old but now they rumble on long beyond the age most of us have started drawing a pension. Not hip enough? Well, James Blunt has made rock n' roll look about as sexy and dangerous as chartered accountancy, so don't worry on that score. Now get out there. Your fans are waiting... As AC/DC said, for those about to rock we salute you.


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Slash: keeping top hat and leather trousers manufacturers in business.

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