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How to Play Guitar

Updated on 5/31/2024

If you have never played guitar before, in this article we will walk you through the first steps for those taking beginner guitar lessons.

Learning how to play guitar does not occur overnight.

If you follow these pointers on a consistent basis you will see regular progress.

Remember that playing the guitar is a physical exercise, it is essential to train and retain your muscle memory to accomplish it.

Let's dive in with our guide on how to play guitar!

Know Your Guitar

A guitar is a chordophone, which includes other instruments like the ukulele, mandolin, banjo, and most plucked strings.

This ability to play chords and melodies is what has helped make the guitar so popular.

At the top of a guitar we have the headstock and tuners which allow us to adjust the pitch.

The strings connect to the tuners and run across the nut onto the fretboard.

Each metal fret is one semitone note higher in pitch.

It's the same as moving one piano key at a time.

The fat low strings play bass notes while the higher thin strings play treble range notes.

Knowing the guitar strings order will be very helpful moving forward.

For now you can remember this poem:

Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie (EADGBE)

It's always a best practice to have an online guitar tuner handy whenever you pick up your guitar. 

The strings are attached to the body at the bridge and saddle depending on the style.

All of these elements and parts need to be lined up just right in order for the guitar to play in tune.

This is called 'intonation.'

Some cheap models will never be able to play in tune if the intonation is off.

If possible, have a professional give the guitar a setup and check to be sure it is playable.

Holding and Strumming Your Guitar

Poor posture and incorrect handling of a guitar are common bad habits that occur from your very first try.

Always be sure to sit up straight and make sure that the guitar is manageable for your size.

Electric guitars are great to start on as they are more compact and it is easier to reach the strings.

If the guitar is too big you are going to have a harder time initially learning.

The body will rest on your dominant leg while your dominant hand does the strumming, and your other hand plays the fretted notes.

Your picking arm needs to wrap around the guitar body, but not too tight.

And the fretting hand needs to be angled out so you can press the strings down without muting others.

Check out more free guitar lessons to learn how to hold the guitar.

Playing Your First Notes

Grab a pick, we're going to try a down-stroke.

A down stroke starts on the low bass string and continues all the way across the strings.

Try plucking each string one after another from low to high.

This is a great start!

The three easiest guitar chords for most beginners are G, C, and D.

Once you know these three chords, you’ll already be able to play hundreds of easy guitar songs!

You discover which guitar chords are the easiest by looking up all your favorite songs.

Look up the chords with a guitar chord chart and follow the fingerings.

If a song is too hard, try another.

This process helps you get an idea of different fretboard positions to play chords and melodies on and gives you a great idea of chord progressions.

When you fret, always press down slightly in front of the metal fret itself.

You may have to find the sweet spot on your guitar to be sure that the note or chord you play is clear.

You will have to be careful not to have your fingers touch other strings.

Find the fleshy part of the fingertips that allows you to firmly press and get a clean sound.

As you notice it will get a little harder to fret as the strings move up the fretboard.

Later when we start playing barre chords it will hurt the hands.

This is where proper action and setup really is important as mentioned before.

But don't worry, you'll build calluses on your fingertips with enough practice.

It might hurt at first, but it will get better!

Learn Songs and Chords

Let's be honest, it'll be next to impossible to keep up with guitar lessons if you aren't having any fun.

That's why it's key to start learning songs from the get go.

The beautiful thing is, once you know just a few chords, you'll be able to play hundreds of songs!

Of course guitar scales and other theory is essential to learn.

But if we only focus on the technical stuff, we'll hit a wall rather quickly.

Modern music is built around repetitive chord progressions.

So once you know G major chord, C major chord, and D major chord, you'll be able to play loads of songs.

Technically this is the famous I-IV-V chord progression, which is what a 12 bar Blues progression is based on, but that'll be for another time.

With this progression you can simply start adding chords.

Let's add the vi chord (E minor) and we can get even more songs with G-Em-C-D.

If you ever get stumped or want to know a chord you just heard of, look it up with a guitar chord finder.

You can also use a Circle of Fifths guitar chart to learn the relationships between chords.

But we'll come back to that in another lesson.

Hone Your Rhythm

Rhythm is not an easy thing to learn.

Rhythm is best learned by playing along with recordings of songs.

They key is to use an online metronome.

A metronome will keep such a steady beat that if you're off, you'll know it.

Try turning the metronome to a slow beat like to 60 BPM (beast per minute).

Each 'click' you hear will be beats 1, 2, 3, 4.

Now you can practice any technique you are trying to learn in rhythm.

Once you have the technique down without mistakes at 60 BPM, increase the metronome by 10 clicks to 70 BPM and work on the technique again.

You'll find more challenges as you increase the speed.

Remember - to play guitar fast, first learn it slow.

It totally workd.

You can also try playing along with a backing track.

It can keep your practice fun and enjoyable if you are playing along with other musicians!

Learn Your Music Theory and Train the Ear

It is helpful to pay attention to theory from early on.

Pentatonic scale practice, interval training and other exercises, while relatively dull to playing rock songs, will build the foundation of your understading of the guitar.

The stronger your foundation, the higher you can build and the more techniques you can learn down the line.

Also, ear training is very essential.

Don’t just play guitar tabs and practice picking techniques.

Really listen to the beginner guitar songs you learn.

Listen to each member of the band and try to pick out specific notes and chords on your guitar.

Training your ear to pick out specific notes, guitar parts and other details will help you learn other techniques more quickly.

Learning guitar can be tough.

You will often screech or squawk and it may seem like progress is impossible at times.

But if you stick with it on a consistent and regular basis, you WILL improve.

It's only a matter of time.

So don't be too hard on yourself, enjoy the process and have fun!


Can I teach myself to play guitar?
Absolutely! With the right resources and dedication, you can definitely teach yourself to play guitar. There are tons of online tutorials, apps, and books to guide you.

How should a beginner start playing guitar?
Beginners should start by learning the basic chords and simple strumming patterns. It's also helpful to familiarize yourself with the parts of the guitar and proper hand positioning.

Is learning guitar easy?
Learning guitar can be challenging at first, but with regular practice, it becomes much easier. The key is to be patient and consistent with your practice.

What is the easiest thing to play on guitar?

The easiest thing to play on guitar is probably simple chord progressions like G, C, and D chords. These are used in many popular songs and are great for beginners.

What guitar should beginners start with?
Beginners should start with a guitar that feels comfortable to play, whether it's acoustic or electric. A good quality entry-level guitar will make learning more enjoyable.

What is a good first song to learn on guitar?
A good first song to learn on guitar is "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan. It uses simple chords and has a straightforward strumming pattern.

What is the first thing a guitarist should learn?
The first thing a guitarist should learn is how to tune their guitar. A well-tuned guitar sounds better and helps you develop your ear for music.

How long does it take to learn guitar?
The time it takes to learn guitar varies, but with regular practice, you can start playing simple songs within a few months. Becoming proficient can take a couple of years.

What style of guitar should I learn first?
You should start with the style of guitar that interests you the most. Whether it's rock, blues, folk, or classical, your interest will keep you motivated.

Is it better to start on acoustic or electric?
It depends on your personal preference. Acoustic guitars are great for learning basic techniques and building finger strength, while electric guitars are easier to play and can be more versatile for different music styles.

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