Why learn the guitar the long, hard way? Use these 5 tips to help you instead. It’s not cheating, it’s simply quicker and easier; and you don’t have to be able to read music! You just look at a few pictures or diagrams of a few chord shapes and then put your fingers where they suggest. Use this guide to work out what’s best for you. There are no absolute rules, just the best advice to shortcut the normally much longer process.

If you don’t have a guitar, get one. It’s not that expensive really. Try and borrow one, (which is free) or that’s not an option, buy one from a local charity shop, (approx. £20). It’s probably best to use an acoustic guitar, because you don’t then have to buy an amplifier to be able to use it properly. It’s always best to do a bit of research as well, but not essential. The charity shops could do with your business. They have new ones too. Anyway, decide on a budget and look around first, and try before you buy. It’s up to you what you can afford and what you like the look of.

N.B. If you are left-handed, don’t worry, because there are left-handed models available. You may not find one at a charity shop though, they usually cost more, and there’s less choice. I guess that If you are left-handed, you’re probably used to this kind of scenario by now, like if you’ve ever tried to buy left-handed scissors! Don’t fret, there are a few guitarists that use right-handed guitars and play them the wrong way round, most notably the most influential guitarist ever, Jimi Hendrix. Some lefty guitarists even play right-handed guitars upside down, so there’s still plenty of options. As previously mentioned, have a look around first.

Some tips can be found here.

So back to the tips:

01. Tune it

This process is sometimes overlooked and does take a little bit of time at first. Thing to remember is that if it’s not in tune, you won’t know how what you’re playing is meant sounds like, and so nothing will make sense and you won’t be able to learn effectively. You tune the strings by tightening or loosening the tuning pegs at the top of the guitar.

Buy a cheap set of pitch pipes, then learn how to adjust pitch to the notes using the instructions. These tuning aids will normally include a diagram, but if not, use the picture to help you:

Guitar tuner diagram

Or use a free online tuner. Here’s one great example: tuner-online.com

There’s also a very good, short introduction to tuning found on Youtube.

02. Get used to it

When you pick up the guitar for the first time it will feel slightly uncomfortable. Don’t worry! It’s bound to feel strange because it’s something new. Just sit on a sofa, and hold the guitar whilst watching TV or listening to music.

If you are right-handed, just grab the guitar’s neck with your left hand (or opposite if you’re left- handed) so it’s comfortable. Then lay the body of the guitar on your lap, either resting on your right or left thigh. It’s up to you. There’s no hard and fast rules with my book, they’re just tips.

After a while, it will feel less awkward and the more you get used to it, the easier it will be to learn how to play it, believe me. If I picked up my guitar now, and turned it around so I was holding it like a left-hander, it would feel weird and I’ve been playing for nearly 30 years!

03. Think of a song you really like

The best encouragement is to be able to play your favorite songs. There are loads of free videos on Youtube. Someone probably has a video, showing and telling you how to play your favorite song. It’s probably best to choose a slow song to start with, but you could always slow down some faster pop songs, or give them an “un-plugged” acoustic feel. The link to a video below is an excellent example of how straightforward, it can be to learn some basic chords (in fact the same 4) to play a variety of songs: video link.

You can also check out some simple guitar songs to learn and practice, all of them are easy to play and sound great.

04. Learn some chords

So, hopefully that video, (even with the slightly alternative singing style), has inspired you to try and learn my simple introduction to guitar playing. Preferably find out which are the main chords of your song and learn just those! Search the internet for chords on your song. Here are 15 basic guitar chords to get you through lots of songs, great for beginners. The G, C, D, Em are the chords used in the video example above, where he demonstrated that 22 current pop songs could be played with the same 4 chords. Pick your favorite from those and try to learn it.

basic guitar chords

To do this, use the chord diagrams to familiarize yourself with the chords. Your hand should feel comfortable around the neck, but you don’t have to use exactly the same fingers that are shown. Try various combinations and settle on what feels easiest for you. Next try and change between all these chord shapes. You may want to modify your fingers and hand position, to make it better for you. You decide as there are no absolute rules, because it really is down to your choice, but please keep going if it’s a bit hard at the start.

05. Practice

I’m afraid the only thing you can’t shortcut is the practice, but I’d love it if there was. The good news is that you only have to learn the chords once!

I’ve shown you the shortcuts to learning which will hopefully inspire to carry on and learn more songs and chords. You’ll find as you continue that you can transfer the energy you’ve already put into learning one song, you can apply to the next. Moving on, you find more chord shapes from the internet, and write them out. The act of putting to paper will help you learn. If you prefer, visit a local guitar shop and buy a chord book. As always, it’s your choice.

Now, if you really want to learn guitar, you can and you will. The time should be really enjoyable because you’ll be playing the songs you like. If you don’t want to put in any effort, then you probably don’t really want to learn. Once again, it’s down to you, but please keep on going if it’s gets tough.

Happy playing!

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