How to play Guitar – Beginner’s Guide

No matter your current age or occupation, learning to play a new instrument is always rewarding. The guitar is a very popular instrument, and while many have a desire to learn, often they give up because the learning gets too demanding for them.

Don’t let this discourage you; I will give you a simple guide which you can overcome very quickly and grow from it. You will learn everything a beginner needs to know without paying for a guitar instructor or beginner guitar classes. All you need is a desire to learn and the determination to become a guitarist.

Buying your first guitar

Before we get started with basic lessons, first you need to get yourself a guitar. While browsing guitars, you can choose whichever you want based on your personal preference. But, there are some important factors you need to consider.


Pay attention to:

  • Guitar’s price
  • Guitar’s style
  • Your size and age
  • The condition of the guitar
  • Where you’re buying it

Where to get it

Since you’re new to all of this, avoid the flea market, yard sales, and pawn shops. Used guitars should be purchased by people who have plenty of experience with guitars. Beginners are easily tricked; you might end up buying an overpriced guitar that has a lot of wear and tear.

Your safest bet is to go to the nearest music shop and get yourself a brand new instrument. You can even buy it online, but use only the trusted sources and be sure that the shop has a good return policy.

How much will it cost

The price tags of guitars can vary a lot. The prices go as high as $1000 and beyond, but most agree that a good quality guitar is between $300 and $500.

This sounds a bit much for a start, doesn’t it? Don’t worry; there are plenty of good quality guitars for just a couple hundred of bucks.

There are plenty of package options as well, these are good beginner options since they include everything you need to get you started, and they are often offered at a discount too.

Three types of guitar

It’s up to you to decide which type of guitar you want to play. You can choose from classical, electric and acoustic. My advice to everyone who is just starting is to learn how to play the acoustic guitar first. Classical guitar has a wide neck which can be pretty hard for newcomers.

Especially for the younger players, since they have smaller hands. Electric guitars are not that hard to learn, but they require a lot of additional equipment, amplifier at least, which raises the cost significantly.

Acoustic guitars are affordable and don’t require additional equipment, which makes them the best choice for beginners.

Checking the guitar’s condition

If you have a really limited budget, and you want to get a used guitar, you should know at least few pointers how to inspect it properly. I wouldn’t recommend at all that you go on a search for a guitar that has some mileage on it, but if you have to, at least I can help you a bit.

Take the guitar in your hands to inspect it. Take a look at its neck and run your hand slowly up and down, and I don’t mean that you should check the strings, but the back part. The surface should be smooth with no sharp edges.

Now turn it over and check the heel. The heel is the below the neck, where it meets the body. If the guitar is in fair condition, it shouldn’t have any cracks between the neck and the heel.

Now check the front. Inspect the bridge, grab a pick and run it between the bridge and the body. It shouldn’t have any gaps. The only thing left to check is the guitar’s string height. Press down on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd fret.

You should be able to do it with minimal force applied. Now come to the 12th fret and press the strings down, the distance between the top of fret and the bottom of the string shouldn’t be more than 3 times. If it’s 5 times the distance, the neck of the guitar might be warped, or the bridge might be too high.

First things first

The first lesson we need to cover is how to hold the guitar properly. I don’t know do you have any experience with guitars, so we will start from the beginning. Right off the bat, you should also learn three basic numbering systems.

How to hold it

The first lesson we need to cover is how to hold the guitar properly. I don’t know do you have any experience with guitars, so we will start from the beginning. Right off the bat, you should also learn three basic numbering systems.

Numbering systems

There are 3 numbering systems for frets, fingers, and strings.

Frets

are the metal strips that lay on the neck of the guitar. If you’re right-handed the one that’s farthest to your left is the first one. The one next to it is the second one etc. Even though this is extremely simple, it’s important that you understand it before you start practicing chords.

Fingers 

have a very simple numbering system. The index finger is the 1st one, the middle one is the 2nd, the ring finger is the 3rd, and the pinky is 4th. Also very simple, but very important to remember, so you will know where to put your fingers in order to make a chord.

Strings 

are the last numbering system. The thinnest string is the 1st one, and the fattest one is the 6th. Maybe the easiest numbering system to remember.

Basic Strumming

Now it’s time for you to get to know the guitar pick and the strumming technique.

How to choose a pick

Since you’re just beginning to use one, I would suggest that you get a standard medium thickness pick. Start with that one, and go from that point as you prefer, you can try thinner or thicker later on. You can play without one if you want to, in that case, you can make the motions with your thumb and index finger.

How to hold the pick

The way you hold a pick depends on your preference, grab it with your thumb and your index finger in a way that feels the most natural to you. Hold it firm, but stay relaxed, if that makes sense to you. A lot of new players have the difficulty with holding the pick if you notice that you can hold it, include your middle finger in the grip.

That way you will have the stability you need, and eventually, you will be able to hold the pick using only two fingers. Try different grips and keep the one that feels the best for you.

Strumming technique

Before we start with the strumming technique, I would like to tell you few things that will help you at the start. Remember not to use only your elbow in the motion; you should use your wrist and the elbow simultaneously. Your hand should be relaxed, but you should hold the pick firmly.

Try a few downstrokes. They are easier, and you will start to get the feeling how you should strum. Downstrokes don’t require a lot of practice and time, and as soon as you get the feeling how you should strum, we can move on to upstrokes.

Upstrokes could be pretty demanding for you right now. But, you can make them seem a bit easier by following these tips:

  • Don’t strum through all the strings. Not even if the chord requires them. Most players go only through the top three strings.
  • Use as much as the pick you need to get the desired volume. But, if you use too much of it, you might have trouble pushing it through all the strings.

Relax and try few upstrokes and keep the things above in your mind.

When you overcome upstrokes, it’s time for you to learn the counting. Majority of the song is in 4-4 time. That means there are 4 beats for each music measure. You might saw a drummer count “1-2-3-4”, those numbers are the beat.

Try strumming while counting “1-2-3-4” out loud. Strum with downstrokes on “1” each time you count. That way you’re strumming whole notes. If you try strumming on every number, you will be strumming quarter notes.

Chord Shapes

The easiest chord shapes are E-Minor and D2, but I will tell you about a couple more. Before you start learning chords, make sure your guitar is in tune.

C Major

  • Put the first finger on the 2nd string at the 1st fret. Your middle finger should be at the 2nd fret, and the ring finger should be on the 5th string at the 3rd fret.
  • Let the 1st and 2nd strings be open.
  • check
    Strum the bottom 5 strings, that’s C-chord for you!

D Major

  • Put the first finger on the 3rd string at the 2nd fret, and your fourth finger should be on the 2nd string at the 3rd  fret position.
  • Let the 4th string be open.
  • check
    Strum the bottom 4 strings.
  • check
    Listen to the sound that is D-chord.

D2 Major

  • Put your index finger on the second fret of the third string, and your third finger on the third fret of the second string.
  • Strum all strings and you will hear the D2-chord!

E-Minor

  • Put your middle finger on the 5th string at the 2nd fret, and your ring finger on the 4thstring at the 2nd fret.
  • Leave all other strings open.
  • check
    Strum all the strings and you got yourself E-minor chord!

G Major

  • Put your middle finger on the 5th string at the 2nd fret, your ring finger on the 6th string at the 3rd fret, and your pinky on the 1st string at the 3rd fret. This one might be a bit tricky.
  • Leave other strings open.
  • check
    Strum all the strings and you will get the tone of the G-chord!

How to make those chords clean

If you’re having trouble making these chords sound clear, try pulling your elbow a bit closer to your body. Now your hand should be in a better position. You can even try sitting on a footstool or standing and carrying the guitar on a strap. These positions should make the guitar stand higher and give you the ability to reach the notes correctly.

Smooth chord transitioning

Almost every new player finds the changing of chords extremely challenging. You can change the chords smoothly by following these two tips:

  • Try to remember the shapes of the chords, this way you will know how to create the shape instantly and transition smoothly. The time you spend memorizing the chord shapes will mean less time spent frustrated when you can’t transition smoothly.
  • Before you need to switch to another chord, try to visualize it, think about how it looks and how it feels, this way you will anticipate it and make the change much faster and natural.

Playing your first song

Now to put everything we went through to work is to play an actual song. The only thing left for you to learn to play music is chord progressions. A chord progression is an order of chords that you play together to form a song.

I got a simple song for you that involves only two chords. Play in E-minor for one “1-2-3-4” measure, and then play D2 chord “1-2-3-4” for one measure. Count out loud and strum each chord on “1”.

Congratulations! You played your first song!

In conclusion

And that’s it; you learned everything you need to call yourself a rising guitar player! From this point onward you should progress to more complicated songs and overcome them one by one. Remember that practice makes perfect, and playing the guitar is all about practice.

If you truly want to be a good guitar player, don’t neglect it, and keep on practicing!