How to play the guitar? How to learn the basics of the guitar? Thousands of people wonder these questions. Every Year. And that’s easy to believe because the guitar is an amazing instrument. You can play almost anything with it. But enough with a rambling…you are here for a reason…am I right?
You want to learn the guitar? First of all, that’s awesome, and secondly, you can absolutely do it!
Of course, it will take a real effort, but once you master some basics you will be good to go.
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part…but I have good news for you. That’s exactly what we are going to do today. We will get you started!
This post will give you
- Beginner info about guitar playing
- Basics to get you going
- Direction to go if you want to learn more for free(Slower, but free)
- Directions to go if you want to invest in your learning(Faster, but includes cost)
I recommend that you learn some cool stuff from here, then bookmark this site and go play your guitar. After that, come back to this site and learn more.
Let’s stop the small talk. Now it’s time to learn the guitar!
Use the table of content to jump to the section you want:
Buying Your First Beginner Guitar
If you already own a good, actionable guitar, feel free to skip this section.
When you are buying your first guitar, you should ask questions:
- What music do I want to play?
- Do I have small hands?
- Electric or acoustic guitar?
- Nylon or steel strings?
- Do I need a whammy bar?
Answers to these questions will lead you to the right path.
What is the most important question? It depends, ofc. But in my case it was this: What music I want to play?
I bought an electric guitar. Beginner pack to be specific, and I’m 100% happy with my decision. I was able to play music I love and that kept me going. That’s why I’m here 10 years later, writing helpful content for guitar players.
I hope that this makes sense to you. Play what you love.
I will quickly give you a couple of good options for your first guitar. I have played most of these and I would recommend these for my friends. All of these are solid guitars.
Best nylons-sting acoustic/classical guitar for a beginner: Yamaha C40 Classical Guitar
I have owned this one for almost 9 years(read my full review). It was my first acoustic guitar. Really nice sound and feel for the price. It has been serving me well, really good quality.
Note that classical acoustics guitars are a little bit harder to play than electric guitars and steel-string acoustic guitars due to thicker neck and higher string-action(distance between strings and fretboard). String action can be adjusted, but it’s still higher than in other guitar types.
Especially if you are a kid or have really small hands, I would look for a different option to make things easier. But if you want to play classical music, get a classical guitar. Play what you love, you can learn how to play classical guitar. Even with small hands.
- Complete acoustic guitar package for beginners
- Includes full-sized guitar, digital tuner, padded gig...
- Constructed of Indonesian mahogany on the back and...
- Javanese rosewood fingerboard with 19 frets
- Limited lifetime warranty
Best steel-string acoustic for a beginner: Yamaha APX600 Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Easy to play, good quality, and great clean sound. I don’t own steel-string acoustic guitar at the moment, but there is a high chance that I’m going to buy this one in 2020.
Steel-string acoustic is harder to play than an electric guitar too. Strings are harder for your fingers, the neck is slightly bigger and string action is higher. But again, if you really want to play steel-string acoustic, you can learn it. Absolutely.
- Thin-line cutaway Body design for exceptional...
- 25" Scale Length and narrower string spacing for...
- New scalloped bracing pattern for increased bass...
- Abalone sound hole rosette
- Stage-focused pickup system for shaping your sound in...
Best electric guitar pack for beginners(if you are on a budget): Yamaha GigMaker EG Electric Guitar Pack
If you want an electric guitar and everything you need in the same pack at an affordable price, I recommend the Yamaha GigmMaker pack. It has stayed popular for ten years because they got it right for the first time. Good amp, versatile, and easy to play guitar.
There is one flaw though, a cable that comes with this pack is not so good! I advise that you replace it at some point, the good quality cable is not expensive.
- PAC012 Metallic blue
- 20-watt amp
- Quickstart DVD
- Picks, straps, strings, tuner
I also wrote a full guide about buying a beginner electric guitar pack. Click here to check it out.
Best electric guitar for beginners: Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Stratocaster
If you have a slightly bigger budget and want to buy a guitar which will serve you for a long time, this would be a wonderful choice.
A while back I was in a music store nearby and tested a lot of different Fender Stratocasters. Then I saw this Squier and decided to test it out. I was surprised! It was easier to play than Fenders. And sounded almost good as the hundreds of dollar more expensive Fender Stratocasters. Really nice guitar. A great option for beginners!
- 100% designed by Fender
- Inspired by 1950s-era Stratocaster models
- Fender-Designed alnico single-coil pickups
- Vintage-tint gloss neck finish
- Nickel-plated hardware
Best Electric guitar Amp for Beginners: Fender Champion 20 Guitar Combo Amp
This amp gives a great bang for the buck. It has enough power to give you an eviction. It is portable and easy to use. And for the price, it offers really amazing quality sounds. I highly recommend this one.
Some might complain that this one doesn’t offer many different functions. And I agree, but as I said, this is a beginner/practice amp, although you can perform in small spaces with this one too.
- Shape your sound with the EQ section (Bass + Treble) as...
- Jam along with your favorite tracks by simply plugging...
- With a turn of a knob, choose from clean to mean tones...
- Store extra cables or other small accessories with the...
- Enjoy the peace of mind that this amp is backed by...
These were my go-to guitar and guitar gear recommendations for beginners.
Now it’s time to get our hands dirty. We are going to learn how to play the guitar!
Different parts of guitar/Anatomy of Guitar
Many beginners skip this part, they just want to get playing. I totally understand that, after all, playing is the main part. But if you use a couple of minutes to learn guitar anatomy, that will benefit you greatly in the long run. It’s delayed gratify.
You have an idea about where the different parts of the guitar locate. Basic guitar anatomy also makes buying and playing the guitar easier.
I made this photo for you to clear things out:
If that photo didn’t tell you enough, I recommend that you check this video out. Justin does an awesome job with teaching the guitar anatomy:
Thanks Justin! Now you are a step ahead of many other guitar players because you took the time to learn some guitar anatomy. Let’s move ahead…
How to Hold Your Guitar the Right Way?
If you hold your guitar correctly, playing will be soo much easier for you. Here you can see me 4 years younger, holding my ESP correctly:
Notice my leg which is supporting the guitar. It’s in a slightly upward position. That prevents the guitar from sliding down my leg. Also, I have a better view of the fretboard thanks to my upwards pointing leg. You may need to use some kind of stand(for example: books or box) or lower chair to get your leg like that. But trust me, holding your leg like that helps a lot.
Don’t let the guitar lean anywhere. Sit up straight and pull the guitar close to you and play. Cool. Let’s move on.
How to Tune Your Guitar?
First, learn the name of each string in standard tuning. From lowest to highest pitch(thickest string is the lowest pitch and thinnest the highest):
I learned strings order by making a word out of these letters: EADGBE. This helps me to remember the correct order.
When your pick or strum a string, pitch of it depends from 3 different factions:
- Length of the string
- The thickness of the string
- The tension of the string
When you tune your guitar, you adjust the tension of the string.
So, if you want that your guitar sounds like a charm, it needs to be in tune. You can get your guitar in tune easily by using a tuner or app from your phone. I recommend using Fender Tune-app. Basic tuner features of the app are free and it’s really easy to use:
Now tune each of your string using a tuner or fender app.
If you feel lost, this video will help you out:
How to Hold Guitar Pick?
Your picking determines the power, rhythm, and which strings you want to play. And because we are at the start of your guitar journey, we are only focusing on using the pick to strum your guitar. Fingerstyle and hybrid picking(using pick and fingers at the same time) are valuable skills and you should learn those when the time comes. But now, let’s learn how to use a pick!
This video will help you get started with picking(05:16-time when he shows you how to hold a pick):
Now give it a try, hit your string with your picking hand, each string separately and together. Use different power and rhythms. Make your picking hand loose and relaxed. Use both, down- and upstrokes. Get a feel for it and warm you picking hand up a little bit.
Awesome! You now know how to hold and use a pick! It’s a good idea to practice using your pick hand regularly.
Let’s move on to your other hand, the fret hand
How to Use Your Fret Hand?
If you want to master the guitar, your fret hand needs to be flexible, fast, and strong. And you will get there, but let’s lay a good foundation first.
First of all, your fret hand doesn’t support the guitar neck. Your guitar should be resting on your leg or if you are using a strap, it should support it. That makes your fret hand able to move easily around the neck.
Second of all, cut fingernails from your fret hand. It’s almost impossible to play guitar if you have long fingernails because you will not be able to press the strings correctly. So cut those off.
Now let’s dive deeper. This video will give you a nice head start with your fret hand, you should watch it:
After watching this video, play with the guitar, hit some notes with it. It doesn’t matter how those notes sound together at this point, just make sure that those notes sound clear.
It’s about the time to learn 4 the most popular chords. After learning these, you can play almost any pop-music song. How cool is that! But before that let’s quickly learn how to read chord boxes.
How to read chord charts?
Reading chord charts is one of the first things you should learn when starting out.
- Six vertical lines represent the six strings of the guitar. On the left side is the thickest, and on the right side is the thinnest.
- The first horizontal line is the nut of the guitar(strings go through this piece at the headstock). This line is usually thicker than the others.
- All other horizontal lines represent frets.
- Numbers show which left-hand finger you should use to play the note/press the fret. (1=index finger, 2=middle finger, 3=ring finger and 4=pinky)
- In(or sometimes over)the nut is X and O’s. Meanings are: X=don’t play this string, O=play the open string.
This picture shows you how to read chord charts/chord boxes. I use the D-chord as an example:
Now, it’s time to learn those 4-magic chords.
How to Play 4-Magic Chords?
Most of the popular music (country, rock, and pop) can be played with only 4 chords. And you are about the learn these 4 powerful chords. If you want to see these chords in action watch this video:
Now let’s learn these 4 chords which Ed Sheeran just used(thanks Ed!).
Here are pictures of those chords(chord charts) on a fretboard:
Try playing every one of these. Get your hands and brain used to these chords.
Make sure that you can play chords cleanly. Place all your fingers on the fretboard to produce a chord, and then, play through each string of the chord. If some strings don’t sound right, make sure that you are pressing the string properly and hard enough. And check that your hands are not touching any wrong strings or part of the strings.
If you want to learn to play some songs with those chords, this video demonstrates those chords in action with real songs: It also shows you how to play those songs, so you can learn some easy songs right now!:
You are off to an amazing start with the guitar. I recommend that you take a little break and recap what you have learned. And play your guitar a little bit with those 4 chords. And learn some songs with that video above if you feel like it!
After that, it’s time to learn a couple more chords. These chords are really versatile and you can use it all over the fretboard.
How to Play Barre Chords/Movable Chords?
When you are just starting out, you can add some spice to your playing with barre chords.
Did you know: The Ramones songs are almost exclusively made of barre chords
Note: Barre chords are harder than 4-pop chords, so take your time. Keep using 4-pop chords and play songs with them. But challenge yourself once in a while with barre chords. Don’t lose hope if you have to practice these a lot more than other chords you have learned, you will get there.
Next, watch this video to learn beginner barre chords yourself:
Here are pictures of bar chords on a fretboard(chord charts):
Note: When playing bar chords, your thumb placement is really important. When your index finger is covering all the frets, your thumb should be in the bottom half of the neck. Straight below your middle finger. This forces you to press all the strings correctly.
Wow! You have laid a solid foundation.
Now again, I recommend that you have a little fun with your guitar. Play it. Use those 4-chords and barre chords which you just learned.
After that, I believe that you might feel some of those chords were pretty bit hard. And maybe you have some pain in your fingers. So let’s deal with those next.
Beginner Problems/How to Deal With Finger Pain?
Some chords will feel a little bit hard to play. And especially shifting fast between chords can be an issue when starting. But you know what? Everyone faced those problems when starting out. For me, barre chords were especially hard, because I broke my index finger when I was a kid, and it’s not working properly. But I didn’t let that stop me. I practiced. I showed up, I showed effort….
And now, I’m pretty comfortable with the fast shifts between chords. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen after a lot of practice. You can do it too!
You will probably feel like doing something easier sometimes. Maybe you would want to play some video games or watch series instead of practicing the guitar…
But think about which one is more useful in the long run. Watching TV for couple hours or developing a real skill. Every time you practice guitar, you will get better. Mastering the guitar is not about one big step, it’s about taking small steps consistently. That’s how you master the guitar. And you can absolutely do that!
When practicing feels hard or boring, watch some amazing guitarists playing or listen to your favorite guitar music. That should give you a nice motivation boost. After that, practice.
But what about finger and hand pain?
Every time you start making some new physically, there will be some issues with your muscles and physics. So these should stop with time, if you keep practicing. But you can do something to make things easier.
This video includes 3 tips which help when your fingers are hurting:
Now it’s time to do something cool. Let’s look at how you can learn to play real songs with your guitar.
This is the best part of guitar playing. You can play your favorite songs! It’s soo much fun.
When you are learning a song, start of so slow that you are able to play everything correctly.
Then you can speed up slowly.
When you are at the right speed, try to get used to the right rhythm.
You need to be patient. Take your time. You will learn with some practice.
Now, I’ll give you a couple of ways to learn your favorite songs.
You can use Google or Youtube to find the right chords for specific songs. For example: I wanna learn chords for the song, ‘’Let it Be’’ by The Beatles. I write ‘’Let it be Beatles Chords’’- to the google(or just ‘’Let it be chords’’). And BOOM! Click one of the first sites or videos and you can start learning.
Wanna make things easier? Google ‘’´´song name´´ -chords easy’’ or ‘’´´song name´´-4 chords’’. For example: ”Let it Be chords easy” or Let it Be 4 chords”. This helps you to find the easiest way to play that specific song.
If you found some unfamiliar chords, just write ‘’´´chord name´´ -chord on guitar’’ and you can found out how to play that specific chord. For example: ”G chord on guitar”.
If you don’t know how to read tabs, check this guide to find out.
You can do exactly the same thing with tabs as with chords. Just use Google or Youtube. This time write ‘’´´song name´´ -tabs’’. For example: ”Let it be tabs”. It’s really that simple! Now you basically can learn any song you want! You just have to practice.
If you want to learn songs by using chords and tabs, check this post I made: Easy Guitar Songs For Beginners From Every Genre – 70 Songs. It gives you a ton of easy and awesome songs to learn.
One way of learning songs by ear. And this will be really beneficial in the long run. I recommend that you try to learn at least some songs by ear. The best way is to start with some really easy and familiar songs.
This video will help you to get started learning songs by ear:
This can be a great free method to learn some songs or other stuff. Just go to Youtube and search for ‘’How to play ´´song name´´ -on guitar’’. Or you can watch the band’s live performances and try to find out how to makers of the song play it.
What to do Next
I hope that this is the start. Start for your guitar journey.
You learned couple of easy chords and ways to learn songs using chord charts or guitar tabs. Now the only sky is the limit!
But remember that if you want to improve your skills, you have to continue practicing. Show the effort. Show up. That’s the secret. That’s how you learn to play guitar.
For now on, continue doing these:
- Learn new chords
- Learn new songs
- Go out of your comfort zone when playing and practicing
- Learn guitar scales
Now, I’ll give you a couple of directions to go. These directions help you along your guitar journey.
The Free Route.
Look, all the information is available on the internet for free, but sometimes the quality of this info is low or it’s hard to find.
So it’s true that you can learn to play guitar for free. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to learn next. And I decided to help you out…
I searched for the best of the best guitar videos and lessons on Youtube. I organized those videos to the right order for you and composed those videos into the one killer playlist. It’s a complete beginner road-map. It helps you to learn guitar using Youtube videos. 100%free.
If you want to check this playlist out, click here. Also, remember to subscribe to my channel, so you don’t miss out on any of my videos. It helps me a lot. Thanks!
If you want to learn faster and with more high-quality lessons, investing some money will help you. This is not a must. But it helps. Personally I have paid for some softwares and lessons online(online lessons are much more affordable than getting guitar lessons from a live teacher).
Paid Routes(and how to get free trials)
At this point, I will recommend GuitarTricks for online guitar lessons. You can learn both songs and theory with them. Very high-quality video lessons at cheap price. You can get started with them for free.
If you want to check GuitarTricks out and start learning with them for free, Click Here.
Also, more info about GuitarTricks on this video (Note: This video is made by GuitarTricks team, so you won’t hear any cons. I’m going to write a full review of GuitarTricks this year. But, to be honest, there are no huge red flags to be found on GuitarTricks).
Note: If you want to read a review where 2 big guitar online learning platforms are compared, check this review that Steve from Guitarniche.com crafted: Fender Play vs Guitar Tricks [Which Lesson Site is Better?]
If you just want to learn from tabs, some guitar tab softwares are handy. I started learning the first songs using GuitarPro(in 2010). You can learn almost every song possible with it. You can get a free trial with them too and after the trial time, it’s one-time payment. So, in the long run, Guitar Pro is really cheap way to learn songs.
Here is a quick intro video for you. (Note: This video is made by Guitar Pro team, so you won’t hear any cons. I’m going to write a full review of Guitar Pro this year. But to be honest there are no huge flaws in Guitar Pro.)
If you want to start your free 30-day trial with Guitar Pro 7,5, Click Here.
If you want guitar tab software to your phone or tablet, Songsterr is great option. They also offer a free trial. After that, a small payment every month. I’ve used it for a couple of months and it works great too.
So go and pick the best fit for you. Or learn in your own way. Do what feels good for you. But promise me one thing…Keep playing and learning no matter what.
Which route do I recommend?
If you don’t want to spend any money, go and use my free Youtube-playlist.
If you can spend some money, and want to learn songs and theory, GuitaTricks is a great option.
If you have some money to spend and only want to learn songs online from high-quality videos, again, GuitarTricks is a good pick. If you want to learn from tabs, GuitarPro is a solid pick for PC and Songsterr for phone and tablet.
What Mistakes to Avoid?
While practicing and playing your favorite songs are the most important things when learning the guitar, it’s a good idea to know what mistakes to avoid too.
Here are my top 5 common mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t force yourself to just learn the theory. Learn your favorite songs too. You get that wonderful ”I can really play something” feeling from doing so. This motivates you to play and practice every single day. And that’s how you master the guitar. By practicing consistently.
- Of course, don’t skip the basic theory either. Learning some chords and scales at the start gives you a solid foundation on your guitar journey, and help you in the long run.
- Don’t quit easily. Sometimes practicing can be frustrating and overwhelming. That sucks. But every guitar player goes through that phase. Remember that learning the guitar is not one huge step. It consists of many small steps. And by not giving up and practicing often, you take those small steps.
- If it feels too hard, don’t try to do it alone. Get help. Someone can teach you online or offline. Someone can lead you in the right direction and make learning easier, faster, and more fun for you. Be ready to invest a little bit when you are developing this real skill of playing the guitar.
- Don’t learn with hard to play guitar. You can learn to play with any guitar. Absolutely. But it’s true that some guitars are easier to play than others. Comfortable and easy the play guitar can make playing more enjoyable and learning faster.
When you avoid these 5 things, learning will be easier, faster and more fun.
If you want to know more about common mistakes to avoid, check this post out: Most Common Beginner Mistakes When Learning Guitar-40 Musicians Share Advice.
This is ”the post I wish I had when I started”. I really tried to include everything you need to learn the basics of guitar.
And now, it’s up to you. You either choose to practice or not… I hope that you do tho…
Guitar playing is an amazing hobby, and you will feel the same when you practice and make progress. Go and play the guitar, my friend!
I hope that this post really helped you to get started with the guitar playing! If you have any questions, leave a comment below. And feel free to share this post with others.
I wish you all the best and keep rocking!