Learning how to play a musical instrument from scratch can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. The guitar is no different. There are so many things that you can do and experiment with on a guitar, and that’s one of the most exciting things about the instrument. If you want to give this instrument a try, then you must know where to start from. Whether you want to follow in the footsteps of a guitar legend like Joe Satriani or want to create pop music, we’re here to help you out. If you want to know the best way to learn guitar, then here is our guide for beginners.
Step 1. Familiarize Yourself with the Guitar
Everything starts with a good guitar. There are two important things that you need to be wary of when selecting a guitar for yourself: the sound and the feel of the guitar. As a beginner, you must put more focus on finding an acoustic guitar that has a good ‘feel’. What this means is that the action of the guitar, i.e., the distance between the lower part of the strings and the fretboard, is low. Low action on a guitar will allow you to fret the strings with greater ease. A comfortable guitar will cause you less pain, and you’ll feel more drawn to playing it.
Know how to hold a guitar: To play the guitar properly, you must sit on a chair or use a guitar strap to stand and play. Start with sitting down first. If you’re right-handed, place the guitar’s waist on your right leg so that it sits comfortably. Make sure that the guitar is upright so that your right arm comes over its body. Your left hand should be on the guitar’s neck.
Know the names and numbers of your guitar strings: A regular guitar has six strings in total that gradually reduce in thickness, starting from the top. The top and thickest string is the sixth string, and the bottom and thinnest string is the first. The rest include the fifth, fourth, third, and second strings. In standard tuning, here’s what each string is tuned to:
- 6th string – low E
- 5th string – A
- 4th string – D
- 3rd string – G
- 2nd string – B
- 1st string – high E
Both the sixth and first strings are the same note but have different octaves (you’ll learn more about that later).
Know how to tune a guitar: Now that you know the names and numbers of your guitar strings, it’s important to learn how to tune a guitar at the start because that will allow you to train your ear to recognize notes. If you can get the low E string in tune using a piano or a tuner, you can tune the rest. Your A string should produce the same note as the fifth fret on the low E string. You can repeat this process for all of the strings except when tuning the B string. The B string should be the same note as the fourth fret on the G string. You can use a guitar tuner or a mobile phone tuner app for better accuracy.
How to hold your pick properly: If you’re playing a steel-string guitar, you’ll have to use a guitar pick (also known as a plectrum). Place the pick between your index finger and your thumb. Your thumb should cover most of the larger area of the pick, only exposing about one-third of the pick. You must make contact with the strings with the pointed end of the pick. It helps to slightly slant the pick so that you can strum more effortlessly.
Pro tip: Use a larger and thinner pick for strumming chords (such as the Dunlop Tortex.73mm) and a thicker and smaller one for picking notes (such as the Dunlop Tortex m3).
Step 2. Learn Four Basic Guitar Chords
There are numerous chords that you can learn or even create, but you can get started with just four basic guitar chords. In fact, a lot of pop songs are created over same four chords, albeit with different progressions. Axis of Awesome is a band that has created a video demonstration to show this theory in play:
For the key of G major or E minor, the chords you must know are G, D, Em (the m stands for minor), and C. You can transpose these chords to different keys. It’s important to know these chords because they’re the building blocks of everything you create on the guitar. With these simple four chords, you can create different kinds of vocal melodies, or you can cover some of your favorite songs. You can vary the orders of these chords to fit the song you’re covering or the vocal melodies you compose.
Create clean, buzz-free chords: It’s vital for every guitar player to be clean in their playing. This means that you must fret each note properly so that the sound rings out without any kind of fret buzz. In addition to that, you must ensure that all of your open strings are ringing out clearly. This will give fullness to your guitar playing, and it’ll make your music worth listening to. Your audience will immediately be turned off by dead notes and buzzing frets.
Change effortlessly between chords: Once you can hold a chord well, you must practice switching one chord to another – good thing there are only four, right? There shouldn’t be any break in the rhythm when you switch a chord. If there is a break, it will seem like you’ve made a mistake. With enough practice, changing chords will become muscle memory. So, you won’t have to think before you change chords. Whether you want to upload a cover video of a song or record music, you should be able to switch chords effortlessly and on-demand.
Keep practicing these chords until you can play the chords cleanly and switch them without struggle. Once you’ve got that down, keep trying new things. Learn how to add a capo to change the key of a song to your liking. You must also learn transposed variations of the same chords in different keys. Educating yourself on all things guitar will allow you to expand your creative ability when it comes to creating compositions. You must remember that you don’t have to be an expert player to make your own music. Even basic compositions are worth playing, and you must make it a point to continue creating and playing. If you are a beginner, the best way to learn guitar is to have fun creating compositions and covering songs.
Step 3. Learn Essential Rhythm Patterns (Strumming) on Guitar
Once you know how to play a chord, you must learn how to play a great strumming pattern. This will set the groove of your song and can completely change the emotional weight of a song. Think about the strumming pattern of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister”. It has an upbeat rhythm to match the feel of the song, with a downstroke for every accented note.
An accented note is an emphasized and more powerful note that is usually much louder than the other notes in a rhythm. Therefore, learning how to work with various strum patterns will allow you to complement the feel of a song. This, in turn, will allow you to create more coherent and emotionally engaging music.
Start with simple strum patterns and move on to more challenging ones only after you’ve perfected the simpler ones. Start slow and familiarize yourself with the hand movements. With time, you’ll be ready to upload your own videos on the internet or join a band.
Step 4. Experiment with Essential Chord Progressions
Remember how we mentioned that you could switch the order of the four chords above when playing? Well, each combination you create is a chord progression. Just like countless pop songs sound different with just four chords, you can also bring variation in your music with your chord progression.
Some songs even change the chord progression in some parts of one song. For example, the verse of a song may have a different chord progression as compared to the chorus, even though the chords are the same. So, make sure to practice varying the chord progressions when you play. The benefits of practicing this are that you’ll get better at changing chords, you’ll improve your musical vocabulary, and you’ll manage to play more songs comfortably. This will go a long way in both covering and creating your own music.
Step 5. Learn and Play Your Favorite Songs
A lot of people quit playing guitar a short time after they pick it up. This is usually because they don’t find any satisfaction in playing the instrument. You’ll only want to practice playing the guitar if you enjoy playing this instrument. And the best way to make the experience more fun is by learning a song. There are tons of easy guitar songs, yet sound impressive, that only have four chords (great for beginners). By playing along with a song you like, you’ll immediately feel a sense of accomplishment. You’ll also feel like you’re making progress and you’re indirectly a part of the music you’re playing along to.
You can use sources like Ultimate-Guitar to find the tabs or chords of your favorite songs. Some songs may have the same chords but in a different key. In that case, using a capo may make things a lot easier. You’ll be able to cover more songs, giving you greater encouragement to keep going.
Last Few Words on the Best Way to Learn Guitar If You Are a Beginner
Well, there you have it – our guide on the best way to learn guitar if you are a beginner. Like with every musical instrument, it takes time to learn how to play the guitar. With that said, if you know what you’re doing, you can start playing songs only weeks after you start playing.