Do you want to learn to play guitar online? What if I told you that you will be able to play your first songs on guitar within a week or just a few days? Have you ever thought to yourself
– “I really want to learn this song, but I just don’t know where to begin”
then you’ve come to the right place. This in-depth guide will teach you everything you need to know if you want to learn to play guitar and take the first steps into the life of being a guitarist. It will introduce you to the guitar basics so you can follow guitar lessons online by yourself.
Introduction – How to play guitar
In the first part we will focus on the basics you need when you want to learn to play guitar. By the end of this post you’ll be ready to take on the fun life of a guitarist and pursue you dream of playing the guitar! We will take a look on a few different tools like tabs and chord boxes, which you need to know in order to follow the lessons on this site.
When you learn to read tabs you open up many new doors! You can use sites like Ultimate Guitar to learn a bunch of new songs. Ultimate guitar has an impressive 800,000 songs ready for you to learn! After the introduction to tabs and chord boxes we will go to the second part where we will learn about tuning the guitar and holding it correctly And of course you will get introduced to the parts of the guitar so you know what you’re dealing with. Then comes the fun part! The third part of this post will teach you how to actually play some chords by using a guitar chords chart and simple songs – after that, you will get some lessons that are meant to improve your technique so you will be able to play chords and scales like a real guitar player! It’s that simple. If you follow this guide on how to play the guitar you should be able to play some songs within the first days of practicing! And what’s more important: You will be able to follow other guitar lessons for beginners because you know the guitar basics. Are your ready? Okay, let’s go!
What guitar should you buy?
This is of course different from person to person but I have some main-guidelines that usually helps my students buying the best beginner guitar when they are in doubt.
There are three basic types of guitars:
The classical guitar has nylon strings, which are easy to play and won’t hurt you fingers as much in the beginning as steel strings will. On the other hand, it has a pretty wide neck, which makes it a lot harder to place you fingers correctly on the fret compared to an electric guitar. The acoustic guitar comes with steel strings. They have a much clearer and louder sound than the nylon strings, but they are also harder to play. When you start playing acoustic guitar your fingers will probably be really sore. But don’t worry – You’ll get used to it after some time! The electric guitar is way easier to play than the others in my opinion. It also comes with steel strings, but compared to the acoustic-strings, these are a hundred times easier to play. It has to do with the thickness of the strings. On an electric guitar the strings are thinner and easier to press down. People tend to believe that you need to spend more money on an electric guitar than on a classical or acoustic. Imagine that you’d need an amp, cables, maybe some cool effect pedals etc. That’s not the case! You don’t need any of that right away. I often practice without the use of an amp. The only thing you really need to get started is a guitar! And if you really want an amp you can easily find fine amps that won’t ruin your budget. So.. What I’m saying is that all the extra gear shouldn’t keep you from buying an electric guitar. I personally think you’re better off buying a cheap electric than a cheap acoustic guitar. The cheap acoustic guitars are usually really hard to play – And they sound terrible! For some reason it’s difficult to make a great acoustic budget-guitar. But all this talk really doesn’t matter after all. What I think you should be considering is the purpose of the instrument. Ask yourself this question
“What kind of music do I want to play in the future?”
- If it’s rock: Go with the electric guitar
- If you want to play folk and acoustic singer-songwriter-songs: Buy the acoustic guitar. It suits you better.
- Do you really want to play classic music?: Then you should obviously take the classic guitar.
I believe that these are the guidelines you should base your decision on before buying an instrument and learning how to play guitar. This means that it’s a bit tough to define what’s the best guitar for beginners. Even though some guitars are harder to play than others you will learn it eventually and I think you become more aware of what to focus on in terms of style and sound when you begin with the right guitar suited to your genre. Do a quick google-search on “buy guitars” and you will get a ton of options. That’s the easy solution for those who don’t wanna go outside – I would advise you to go to a physical shop and get some guidance. The quality of guitar varies a lot – two different versions of the same model can sound totally different. I have tried a guitar thinking to myself that it sounded terrible, and then tried another guitar of the same model with a completely different sound. I know it’s hard to hear any differences if your’e a beginner. If you need help I know that those people in the shops are more than willing to express their thoughts on a particular guitar – that’s their hobby! Every guitarist is a nerd when it comes to gear! So.. If you take all this into consideration and go to a store and tell them what you want to learn you will probably be able to find a good guitar for around $300-$400. I know you can find something cheaper, but then you probably will have to buy a new and better guitar in a couple of months anyway.
Now you got your guitar – what else do you need? A favorite subject for guitarists is accessories! We talk about them all the time. We constantly look for new items to expand our never ending list of effect pedals and everything else we can think of. As a beginner you shouldn’t think about that yet, but you should go out an get the essentials. I’ve made a short list of things that you definitely need. There are some few accessories, which could be useful to you as a beginner. I will just introduce you to them briefly A pick Picks will help you strum well and play single-notes in scales and solos. They are really cheap so you should by plenty! I always lose them so I keep a stash of at least ten picks as a backup! You should go for a medium thickness as a beginner. The thinner they are the easier they are to strum with, but you also want to play individual notes, and then it’s nice to have some picks that are a bit thicker. Buy some different ones and try them out so you can find your favorite. I often use the Nylon standard from Dunlop in the thicker end of the scale. You can find many different kinds of picks – even picks made out of stone. They create a really soft and jazzy warm sound. It really depends on what feels good. So try out some different picks. You should however go for something in the middle of the thickness scale in my opinion. Strings It is handy to have an extra set of strings if you break some of those on your guitar (It will happen eventually). For the electric guitar I recommend these from Ernie Ball. They are 10.’s (thickness) and are easy to press down for beginners. And they sound good too! For the acoustic I recommend these from D’Addario. And for the classic guitar I recommend these from D’Addario. When we’re finished talking about essential accessories I will show you how to restring your guitar. Tuner
It is really important to have a tuner. If your guitar is out of tune, it won’t sound good no matter how well you play. So for those living with you and for your own sake – buy a tuner! Later in this post I will walk you through how to tune a guitar. You can either buy a physical tuner (Ask for it in a store – remember to tell what type of guitar it’s meant for) or you can download an iPhone app called Cleartune – Chromatic Tuner for $3.99. All the pros use tuners even though they can tune by ear. It is so important for all the strings to be in tune with each other AND other instruments too. … That’s the essential accessories. There is of course a lot of different accessories but you will find out what you need when you are more comfortable with playing. You can consider buying a strap for your guitar so you have the opportunity to stand up and play – Like a rock star!
How to change strings
Sooner or later the strings on your guitar will snap. This gives us a perfectly good reason to talk about how you should restring your guitar. The proces isn’t the same with the different types of guitars. It’s nothing to worry about though – it’s a simple proces. Restringing an electric guitar
- First of all you need to get rid of the original string(s). Cut those that aren’t snapped with a side cutter if you plan to restring the entire set of strings. But be aware! The tension can cause the strings to snap and it can be painful if they hit you. Lose the strings before you do anything else!
- Second step includes putting on new strings. Make sure the strings are in the right place and not where another string should’ve been. Guide the string through the body or just the bridge (depending on what type of guitar you have) and attach them to the tune pegs. The string has to come from the right side of the pegs.
- Third step. When you put your string through the hole of the peg remember to not tighten it as much as you can. You wanna give it an extra few centimeters so the string has something to roll around the peg.
- Now you have to wind up the string – turn the string anti-clockwise to tighten the string. Hold the string in place with your other hand so it doesn’t pop out of the peg.
- Use a tuner to tune the string to its right note.
- As an extra tip I can tell you what I normally do after restringing. I exercise the strings. When they are tuned I pull them up and down for 30 seconds. Then I tune it again and does it all over. I do this until the string almost won’t need any tuning after the pulling.
- Extra extra tip. If you wanna save some time when your’e changing strings you might wanna buy a tool called a peg winder. It speedens up the task and is inexpensive.
Changing strings on an acoustic guitar The proces is almost the same but the strings on an acoustic guitar is fastened with bridge pins, which you need to remove in order to change the strings. The pins look like little knobs and are usually white or black often with a little dot on them. They can be hard to remove sometimes. If your’e having trouble try to push them out from inside the guitar with a coin. Move on and follow the steps outlined for the electric guitar. Be sure to insert the bridge pins before you’re tightening up the strings. And that’s it. Use my extra tip and exercise the string – it makes the string stay in tune. Changing strings on a classical guitar Restringing a classical guitar with nylon string can be a bit more difficult than with the other types of guitars. I found this wikiHow guide to show you with pictures how to do it step by step. Be sure to carefully follow the guide then you won’t have any problems at all.
How do you practice best?
Now that you are about to learn to play guitar you might wanna consider how you will learn it. I think it’s important to think this through before you dive in with both feet. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you wanna gain from this?
- How will you achieve your goals?
- How much time will you spend on this?
Let’s face it – if you wanna be a talented guitarist you need to practice. And what’s really important is that you practice every single day! It doesn’t have to be a lot – if you practice for 15-30 minutes every day you will see an improvement pretty soon. Set a timer so you are focused in these 15-30 minutes. Use the first couple of minutes to warm up and go over what you’ve already learned and then move on to the things you NEED to learn – these are the important things to practice! One of the most important things is to be your own teacher. If it doesn’t sound right then don’t move on before you have got it right! In this way you won’t learn any mistakes and misbehaves. If your fingers are really sore then give them a break. It’s better that you aren’t able to play the rest of the day than not being able to play the rest of the week!
- Create an environment in which you can concentrate
You will have a hard time learning if you have a ton of other things to do. Clear your schedule totally for the next 30 minutes and log out of Facebook. You know how it is. You log into Facebook and the all of a sudden 40 minutes flew by. If you have a hard time staying away from social media and other sites on the web you can block certain websites for a period of time. There are a lot of plugin for this purpose, e.g., Strict Workflow for Chrome If this doesn’t work and you continue to browse other sites then you should consider turning off your internet completely. When you are ready to learn to play guitar and get started you should make sure to have an overall plan. It could look something like this:
- Warm up with chromatic scales (I’ll show you them later in this post)
- Go over what you practiced yesterday. You should see some improvement.
- Learn a new chord.
- Learn how to shift between the new chord and other chords.
If you outline a plan for your rehearsal time you will be able to stay more focused and you won’t be practicing things you already know.
How to hold the pick
Okay, you’re almost ready to play, but first you need to learn some basics. Don’t worry – I’ll show you how to learn guitar, but the basics are really important and holding the pick right is extremely important! If you don’t, you might end up playing in an awkward position and making it harder for yourself to play the guitar. You should hold your pick as I show you in this picture:
I’ll admit that it’s hard to tell precisely how I hold it from this picture. So let me explain it to you. You can see that the pick should come out of the side of your thumb with an almost 90-degree angel. The pick should be an extension of your 1st finger (index finger). You hold it with the pad of your thumb and the site of your index finger. Try to strum the guitar and play some individual notes to get the feeling right. We will get back to strumming, but be sure to turn your wrist more than moving your whole arm up and down. When strumming the pick should stick more out than if your’e playing individual notes. The position shown in the picture above would be a strumming position. It can take some time to get used to feeling of using a pick. Be sure to let it glide over the strings at a slight angle. In this way the pick won’t be caught up in between the strings.
Introduction to tabs
Reading tabs is a way to quickly learn scales, songs and solos on guitar. It’s kind of like reading scores but tabs are simpler. In other words: I will show you how to read music. To read tabs you will have to know the names of the different strings on the guitar. The top string is called the 6th string or the E-string because it plays an E note at open string, which is when you don’t hold down any frets and just picks the string. The next string is called 5th string or A-string. Then comes the 4th string or D-string. Then the 3rd string or G-string. After that follows the 2nd string or B-string. Finally we have the thinnest string, which is called the 1st string or e-string. Since both the thickest AND the thinnest string plays an E we distinguish the thinner string by writing it with a smaller case “e”. An easy way to remember the names of the string is through this sentence: You see how the first letter in every word represent the names of the strings? Smart right? Let’s move on to the tabs. The first thing you’ll notice when you see the tabs is the strings lined up like this:
It will take a while to get used to looking at the thickest string in the bottom. Try holding up your guitar in front of you with the strings facing towards you. This is how you should see the tabs. You will se a lot of numbers placed within these tabs. It might look something like this:
The numbers represent frets. That means that when it says “2” you have to press the second fret on the string. If it says “0” you need to plug an open string. You read tabs from left to right. So in the above example you will first have to play an open A-string, then the second fret on the D-string and so on. Sometimes you will see the numbers lined up on top of each other like this:
This means that you have to play all the notes at the same time. In this example it is an A7-chord, which is played. I will get back to the chords later. You will probably encounter some other symbols and techniques like hammer-on and pull-off. They will look like this: E———–7h9p7——— These are a bit harder to play, so let’s stick with the basics for now, but if you want to learn more about tabs, visit my “How to read tabs”-page!
Introduction to chord boxes
Chord boxes are fundamental to know when learning how to play guitar. The chord boxes show you where to put you fingers in order to play a certain chord. Let’s get to know som easy guitar chords for beginners! Let’s say you want to play the chord A7. The chord box will look something like this:
Normally, the names of the strings won’t appear in the bottom – I just added them to make it a bit clearer for you. The X in the top indicates that you should not hit this string when playing an A7 chord. The “O’s” represents an open string that is played. The two black dots are where you should place your fingers. In this example they show you where to place your 1st and 2nd finger. Number 1 is the index finger, 2 is the middle finger, 3 is the ring finger and 4 is your little finger. The horizontal lines represent the frets. To get an idea of what the chord looks like in real life you can take a look at this picture:
Be sure that all strings strum and that you don’t have any dead notes. We want a nice and clean sound! The dead notes are when the strings doesn’t produce clean notes and instead sound all, well… dead.
The parts of the guitar
Throughout this post and the entire site, I will talk about different parts of the guitar. In order for you to understand it, I have made this picture showing you the most important names of the different parts of the guitar:
Try to learn the names. It will make it easier for you to follow mu guides. The tuners (or the tune pegs) is what you wind your strings around when restringing your guitar. You also use them to tune the strings of course The frets are the places in which you have to press the strings down to in order to produce clean notes. The neck is the long thing coming out of the body of the guitar. The strap pin is where you attach the strap if you have one. You can get different types of strap pins. I have something called Strap locks. They lock the strap so I don’t drop my guitar on stage when it’s getting wild. The pickups are small microphones. They capture the sounds you play and gives you the ability to play LOUD! Last but not least we have the jack input. This is where you put your jack stick and connect it to an amp.
Hold the guitar in the right way
Sit in chair and place your guitar on the same leg as your strumming hand. If you play classical guitar you should place your guitar on the same leg as the fretting hand. Of course you can do what ever you want but most people find it odd when a rock guitarist places his guitar in classical position. However, a lot of great guitarists do this so just do what makes you comfortable. The thickest string should point towards the ceiling, and the the thinnest towards the floor. Remember that even if you sit correctly you will probably experience some sort of discomfort – You will get used to it eventually. Be sure to relax your shoulders. Many people tighten up in their shoulders when they first learn to play guitar, which only makes it more difficult to play well and you probably end up with a headache. Be relaxed in your whole body! When you are playing chords and notes be sure to place your fingers as close to the fret as possible. If you play a note on the second fret you have to place your finger as close the second metal stripe (The fretwire). In this way, you’ll get a nice and clean sound without any strings buzzing.
How to tune the guitar
I recommend using electric tuners if you are a beginner guitarist. I can be quite difficult to tune a guitar using referent notes (When you listen to a note in tune and tune in to that). But if you have played another instrument and are used to distinguish the different notes you can use this guide. You can tune your guitar with itself. In this way it will be in tune with itself but not necessary with other instruments – however that will be fine if you only need to tune it for practice. First, place your finger on the fifth fret on the E-string and pick that note and the open A-string in turn. Your goal is to make the A-string sound exactly like the E-string when you press down the 5th fret on that. When your A-string is in tune with the E-string you can move forward to the next. Here is where you have to place your fingers in order to tune the string below it.
- E-string: Fifth fret
- A-string: Fifth fret
- D-string: Fifth fret
- G-string: Fourth fret
- B-string: Fifth fret
- e-string: No string below this one.
First position chords
Okay, now we’re finally going to play something! I want to show you a few chords my students usually learn as their first chords. I’m talking about the D, A and E chords! Let’s begin with the D-chord. You have been introduced to the chord boxes so let’s see how a D chord looks like in one of those!
As you see, you should not play the 6th and 5th string in this chord. Instead you play an open 4th string (the D-string) and place your fingers as shown above. You should press down the string with the tip of your fingers and not the pad. Try to make the angel as near to 90-degrees to the fretboard as possible. I know this is nearly impossible but it’s just to make a point on how much you should tweak your fingers in order to make space for the others. This helps you from covering other strings with your fingers. For instance, people tend to get a dead note with the second finger on the e-string. This is due to the fact that the third finger covers the e-string. If you open up your finger position a bit and make room for all your fingers without touching other strings than the ones that they are supposed to you will get a crystal clear sound! Remember that your fingers should be placed as close to the fret as possible. Another thing you might have thought about is the position of your thumb. The thumb on your fretting hand should be placed behind the neck with the pad of the thumb pressing against the neck. Your palm shouldn’t be touching the neck at all. You will see a lot of good guitarists do this, and maybe you will someday, but this is not an easy and good way to learn the chords from the beginning. It will just tighten up your hand and make it difficult to adjust your fingers on the frets. When your D-chord sounds nice and clean try to do the same thing with the A and E chords! They look like this – first the A chord
Then the E chord It might take a while to make them sound crystal clear but once you get it right it will be such a wonderful feeling! When you are ready you can check out this page with A LOT of chords to learn as many as possible!
Easy guitar songs with few chords
If you have learned the three chords above, you are actually now able to play a huge amount of songs! I have found a couple of easy guitar songs to play on the guitar for you. For instance, take a look at Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry or U2’s Desire Can you feel it? You’re a ready to become a rock’n’roll god! I sometimes get asked: “What is the easiest song to play on guitar?” and to be honest, I can’t answer that. BUT! If you feel inspired to learn more guitar music at this point you can go to this list I made for you with 81 easy guitar songs! It consists of links to various online guitar resources – all with free guitar tabs.
Scales for beginners
I have used these scales in my teaching for many years now. They work as a motor coordination exercise for your fingers. It can be hard to force your fingers into doing what they’re supposed to in the beginning but these scales will help you getting faster and more consistent in your playing. They look like this: First an ascending scale. It goes up
And then a descending scale. It goes down
Be sure to use all your fingers. 1st finger for the first fret, 2nd finger for the second fret and so on. Especially the pinky will give you troubles, so really focus on exercising that finger too! These exercises are also really good as a warm-up before you practice – do them a couple of times until there are flawless and then move on to the real practice. Play with a metronome at a low BPM (Beats Per Minute). When you feel you can play it perfectly in a slow tempo then add some extra BPM’s to it. In the end you should be able to play it really fast. Note that this is very basic guitar scales. You can also check out my post about blues scales if you feel ready for that!
Now you are on your way to become the next big rock star! But remember to practice every single day. This will make it sooooo much easier for you in the long run. If you get sore fingers – take a break. But otherwise.. just rock on!
This guides ultimate goal is to get you started and learn the basics on how to play guitar. Every theme in the guide is a never-ending story. You can keep discovering new things about every little subject, but now you’re equipped to go out and learn the more difficult stuff. If you follow this guide through I promise you that a whole new world will open up to you and you WILL be able to play a few songs within the first couple of days and maybe find another guitar lesson on this site to become even better! I hope you enjoyed my in-depth guide on how to play guitar for beginners. Good luck! What do you find especially hard as a beginner guitarist? And for the more intermediate players: What was the hardest thing for you in the beginning when you started to learn to play guitar. Leave a comment and let me know!