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How to Play Guitar – A Guide for Beginners

07/06/2024

Learning to play the guitar is exciting… but it can also be daunting. The good news is that with consistent practice, you can become a skilled guitarist. All of your guitar heroes started where you are now – with a dream to play their favourite songs and eventually write their own.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to play the guitar. We’ll cover the basics, including guitar anatomy, tuning your guitar, fundamental chord shapes, and top practice tips. Hopefully by the end, you’ll be able to build the necessary skills. Let the journey begin!

Key takeaways

At a glance, here are the basic steps to learning the guitar:

 

  1. Choose your first guitar
  2. Learn the anatomy of the guitar
  3. Understand how to hold the guitar
  4. Identify the fretboard and strings
  5. Tune your guitar
  6. Learn basic chords
  7. Introduce strumming patterns
  8. Learn your favourite songs
  9. Practice scales
  10. Learn finger exercises
  11. Practice, practice, practice!

Our beginner guitar recommendations

LA Electric Guitar by Gear4music, Sunburst1. LA Electric Guitar by Gear4music

The sunburst LA Electric Guitar is a full-sized electric guitar that provides a comfortable playing experience for budding guitarists.

All LA guitars arrive ready to play straight from the box, having already been strung and set up as standard – all you need to do is give it a quick tune.

Crafted with a smooth maple neck, lightweight paulownia body, and a poplar laminate fretboard, the sunburst LA guitar provides a player-friendly platform to begin your guitar journey.

Featuring three single-coil pickups and a five-way switch, the LA guitar is incredibly versatile, allowing you to experiment with all manner of playing styles.

In addition, each LA guitar comes with essential accessories to maximise the playing experience, including a cable for connecting to an amplifier, strap, gig bag, and plectrums.


Single Cutaway Electro Acoustic Guitar by Gear4music, Black2. Single Cutaway Electro Acoustic Guitar by Gear4music

The Single Cutaway Electro Acoustic Guitar by Gear4music is a great option for any budding guitarist looking to learn on an acoustic platform.

With a comfortable neck, great projection, and reliable tuning, the guitar is an ideal starting point which will accommodate you as you grow in skill.

As an electro-acoustic model, this guitar has a built-in preamp which allows you to plug in directly to an amplifier, PA system, or audio interface. This gives the option to directly amplify or record your acoustic guitar without the need for a microphone, making sound engineers across the world rejoice!

An acoustic guitar is often the go-to type of guitar for a budding guitarist, as you don’t need to purchase any additional accessories, e.g., an amp and cables. However, it can be difficult to get to grips with due to the wide neck and thicker strings.

To make things easier and to alleviate any unnecessary strain, the guitar has a cutaway – which lets you access the upper frets effortlessly.


3/4 LA Electric Guitar by Gear4music, Black3. 3/4 LA Electric Guitar by Gear4music

The 3/4 LA Electric Guitar by Gear4music has a short scale length and compact body tailored towards beginner guitarists, offering a user-friendly platform that is perfect for younger players or anyone simply looking for a smaller instrument.

Offering many of the same features found in their full-sized counterparts, the 3/4 LAs boast great sound, comfort, and looks to keep you inspired.

The LA guitar’s construction is deliberately lightweight and manageable, with a reduced neck depth and width perfect for junior musicians.

Plus, in an effort to make getting started as simple as possible, this beginner guitar comes pre-strung and set up as standard, eliminating the need for complex adjustments.

Just like their full-sized versions, each 3/4 LA guitar comes with essential accessories, including a cable for connecting to an amplifier, strap, gig bag, and plectrums.

How to play guitar

1. Acoustic or electric guitar?

Firstly, you need to decide what type of guitar you want to play. Electric guitars are often easier for beginners due to their thinner necks and fretboards. They also allow you to explore many different genres. However, they require an amplifier, adding to the cost and setup.

Acoustic guitars are simpler to start with, as you can just pick them up and play. Playing an acoustic guitar will also help to build all-important finger strength, as the strings are thicker and higher than on an electric guitar.

Your choice should be informed by what type of guitar will most inspire you to keep playing. If you like folk and country music, an acoustic guitar will help learn the songs you love, however, if you’re a massive fan of solos and riffs, then you should probably get an electric!


2. Learn the anatomy of the guitar

Understanding the basic anatomy of the guitar is essential for any beginner. The body of a guitar is the largest section; this is where you strum, pick, or pluck the strings.

On an acoustic guitar, there is a sound hole in the body, which is where the majority of the acoustic energy is projected from. Alternatively, on an electric guitar, there are pickups attached to the body – these work to convert the string vibrations into electricity as you play.

Attached to the body is the neck, topped with the fretboard – where you press the strings to create notes. At the headstock, you’ll find tuning pegs.


3. Hold the guitar correctly

To hold the guitar correctly, start by sitting down in a comfortable chair. Rest the guitar on your right leg if you’re right-handed, ensuring it’s stable. The body should be close to you, with the neck angled slightly upwards.

When you look down, the low E string (the thickest one) should be at the top. Your strumming hand should hover over the sound hole or pickups, and your fretting hand should be ready to press the strings on the neck. This position ensures good posture and ease of playing, preventing strain as you practise.

You might also want to hold a guitar plectrum or ‘pick’ in your strumming hand. Plectrums are usually made from plastic, although they come in all materials, shapes, and sizes. The pick enables you to play more precisely than your fingers and also takes the strain away from them.

Gear4music LA Electric Guitar, Sunburst


4. Get to know the fretboard and strings

As well as knowing the general anatomy of the instrument, you should also familiarise yourself with the fretboard and strings. The strings, from top to bottom, are E, A, D, G, B, and high E. Each string corresponds to different notes as you press down on the frets.

The fretboard is divided by metal strips, and you’ll notice inlays or dots on certain frets. These markers help you quickly identify key frets like the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th. Learning these positions helps with finger placement and navigation across the neck, making it easier to play chords and scales accurately.


5. Tune your guitar

Tuning your guitar is essential for producing the right sound. Start with the low E string and tune it to the correct pitch. Once the E string is in tune, move to the A string and repeat the process until all six strings are accurately in tune.

Regularly check your tuning as you play. Keeping your guitar in tune ensures your practice sounds good, helps you develop an ear for the correct notes and means you can play along with other songs/musicians.


6. Learn basic guitar chords

Learning basic guitar chords is a great starting point. Focus on C major, D major, E major, and G major chords as these form the foundation for many popular songs.

C, D, E, G major chord charts

To read the chord charts, note the vertical lines representing the strings and the horizontal lines representing the frets. Dots indicate where to place your fingers, and numbers show which fingers to use. For example, the C major chord requires you to press the first fret of the B string, the second fret of the D string, and the third fret of the A string.

Practice transitioning between these chords. Strum slowly at first, ensuring each string rings out clearly. Soon, you’ll build muscle memory and fluidity.

Single Cutaway Electro Acoustic Guitar by Gear4music, Black


7. Master some strumming patterns

Next up, you need to learn some strumming patterns – these are sequences of downstrokes and upstrokes that give rhythm to your playing. They’re crucial for adding variety and feel to your music.

Start with a simple pattern like down-down-up-up-down. Use a metronome to keep a steady tempo, and focus on smooth, even strums. Hold the pick lightly to avoid tension and let your wrist guide the motion, not your arm. Practice different patterns slowly and gradually increase your speed as you get comfortable.

Pay attention to the dynamics of your strumming. Varying the intensity of your strums can add expression to your playing. Try emphasising certain beats to create a groove. Mastering strumming patterns enhances your rhythm skills and makes your playing more engaging and enjoyable.


8. Get started on your favourite song

Once you’ve got the fundamentals down, it is time to put them together in a full-length track. It is best to get started with your favourite song, as this can be a great motivator and you’ll already be familiar with the structure.

You can easily find guitar tutorials on YouTube or online guitar tabs for most tracks. Make sure to choose an easy version of the song which is suitable for beginners. This way, you can focus on learning without getting frustrated.

Begin by playing the song slowly, ensuring you hit the correct chords and strumming patterns. If you’re struggling with a particular section, repeat that part until you feel more comfortable with it, rather than playing the whole song through and messing up in the same spot.

As you become more comfortable, gradually increase your speed. Take your time to master each part before moving on. For song suggestions, check out our article on easy guitar songs.


9. Practise your scales

Once you’re happy with the common chord shapes, and perhaps have learned a few songs, you can look into playing some lead parts. To do this, you’ll need to practice scales. Start with the easiest and most common scales, such as the Major and Minor Pentatonic scales. These scales are widely used in various genres and are relatively simple to play.

Practising these scales improves your finger dexterity, hand strength, and overall technique. You’ll find most melodies fit into a major or minor pentatonic, especially in pop music.

A male guitarist playing the Gear4music LA Select Guitar


10. Learn finger exercises

If you’re really serious about guitar, finger exercises are vital for building strength, speed, and coordination. Start by practising slowly to ensure accuracy and proper technique. One simple exercise is the 1-2-3-4 exercise. Place your fingers on the first four frets of any string, playing each note in sequence. Move to the next string and repeat, speeding up as you become more confident.

Consistency is key. Repeat these exercises daily, gradually increasing your speed as you become more comfortable. Finger exercises improve your dexterity, making chord transitions and complex riffs easier.


11. Keep practising

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; consistent practice is essential for progressing on the guitar. Aim to practise every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Use YouTube tutorials to learn new techniques and songs, providing visual guidance and inspiration.

Expand your repertoire by learning more scales and chords. This will improve your versatility and allow you to play a wider range of music. Regular practice helps you build muscle memory, making playing feel more natural over time. Stay patient and persistent, and you’ll see steady improvement in your skills!

Our top tips for learning the guitar

Practise regularly

Consistency is key to mastering the guitar. Aim to practise every day, even if it’s just for a short period. Regular practice helps build muscle memory and improve your skills steadily.


Start slow

When learning new techniques or songs, start slowly. Focus on accuracy and proper technique before increasing your speed. This approach ensures you develop good habits and avoid mistakes.


Use online resources

Take advantage of online resources like YouTube tutorials and websites. These can provide visual guidance and introduce you to new techniques and songs, enhancing your learning experience.


Learn basic theory

Understanding basic music theory can significantly improve your guitar playing. Learn about scales, chords, and how they relate to each other. This knowledge helps you create music and understand what you’re playing.


Enjoy the process

Remember to have fun and enjoy the process. Learning guitar is a journey, and every small improvement is a step forward. Celebrate your progress and keep exploring new music and techniques.

A female guitarist playing the Sunburst LA Electric Guitar

FAQs

Can you teach yourself to play guitar?

You can teach yourself to play guitar through various resources like online tutorials, books, and videos. Dedication and regular practice are key to making progress. Joining online communities can also provide valuable tips and support.


How should a beginner start playing guitar?

Beginners should start playing guitar by learning basic chords and simple songs. Investing in a good quality guitar and tuning it properly is crucial. Consistent practice, along with guidance from online tutorials or a teacher, can accelerate learning.


Is guitar easy to learn?

The guitar is relatively easy to learn with dedication and practice. Basic chords and simple songs can be mastered quickly. However, advanced techniques and playing styles require more time and effort to develop proficiency.

Find out more

We hope our guide has been useful and you’re now equipped with all the building blocks you need when starting your guitar journey! Whether you’re strumming an electric or an acoustic, knowing how to play guitar is a very impressive skill to have.

If you want to learn more, check out our other guitar guides via the link below.

 

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