How to Play Guitar: Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar

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Written By Will Fenton

Founder of MidderMusic. From numerous bands to stints working in music shops, read more about me on the 'Here's My Story' page!

If you want to learn how to play guitar, this comprehensive guide will help you kickstart your guitar learning journey in the right way. 

We will take you through the basics of learning guitar, but we will also provide you with useful tips and tricks on how to make the whole process easier. 

So, without further ado, let’s start with your first guitar lesson!

Table of Contents

Part 1 – Starting Out 

How to Play Guitar: Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar 1

Chapter 1: Things to Keep in Mind

If you’re still not sure if the guitar is the right instrument for you, let us remind you of some potential reasons why learning the guitar might be beneficial to you.

1.1. Benefits of Learning How To Play the Guitar – 7 Reasons 

Reason #1: You can master the basics quickly

As a guitar beginner, you’ll be able to play your first songs relatively quickly. And of course, playing gets easier with time.

Reason #2: You can play it anywhere

The guitar is a popular instrument to learn because it’s very convenient – you can easily carry it around and play it at your friend’s house, on the beach, or at a picnic.

Reason #3: There are many learning resources at your disposal

Because the guitar is so popular, you don’t have any problems finding a suitable learning source. 

There are many professional and freelance guitar teachers for you to choose from. Plus, the internet is full of guitar song tutorials and online programs. 

Reason #4: You can join the community of musicians

Thanks to its popularity, you can easily find a group of fellow learners to share your experiences with. 

You can even find a local club where you can jam (once you master the basics, of course.)

Reason #5: You’ll enhance your creativity

Certainly, playing any instrument enhances your creativity, and the guitar is no different.

Learning the guitar will indeed allow you to explore various music genres and help you improve your improvisation skills.

Reason #6: Learning guitar comes with physical and physiological benefits 

Did you know that playing an instrument like the guitar also comes with numerous health benefits?

Learning guitar will improve your memory, concentration, and hand-and-eye coordination. 

Playing guitar is also a great way to relieve stress and reduce anxiety levels. 

Reason #7: It’s a good foundation

If you learn how to play guitar, learning other instruments will be much easier.

Guitar lessons cover a wide range of musical topics and skills such as musicality, rhythm, finger dexterity, and so on – and all of this will give you an excellent starting point for learning other instruments.

Are there any disadvantages to learning guitar?

Yes, learning the guitar has many benefits, but no instrument is perfect.

1. Guitar looks confusing

One of the cons of learning the guitar is its looks. For example, a piano is a linear instrument, and it’s easy to connect notes to keys. Also, the higher the key the higher the pitch…

But the guitar is very different in that matter. You’ll have to get used to strings and frets, and that will take some time.

2. It’s not comfortable – at first

Holding the guitar might feel a bit unusual at first. You need to pay attention to a lot of things, and it’s easy to feel finger and neck pain after your first sessions. 

However, all of these ‘problems’ aren’t important enough for you to question your motivation. Although it can be challenging, learning the guitar is extremely rewarding. 

And when you come across some obstacles, the only thing to do is to overcome them!

1.2. Expectations

Nevertheless, some of the concerns of people who want to learn guitar are that learning the guitar is expensive and time-consuming.

Well, that depends on how you look at it. But it also depends on your goals.

So what should you expect as a brand-new guitar player? 

Is learning guitar expensive?

Short answer: yes, playing the guitar can be an expensive hobby. 

But your biggest expense will appear in the very beginning, and that’s buying the guitar. 

Buying a guitar to learn how to play.

Guitars can be very expensive, but some beginner acoustic guitars are actually quite affordable. How much you’re going to spend on a guitar depends on your wishes and preferences. 

You can easily find a good entry-level acoustic guitar for approximately $100-300. On the other hand, professional-level acoustic guitars often cost several thousands of dollars.

And when it comes to the average price of electric guitars, entry-level electric guitars cost between $100 and $400, the mid-level range ranges from $400 to $1,000, while high-end models cost above $1,000. 

Generally, the price of guitars is defined by the country of origin, brand, body, and wood type.

Another expense you have to take into account is guitar lessons. Lessons with a guitar teacher can cost anywhere from $20 to $100+ per hour. There are also guitar learning websites that offer affordable online guitar lessons. And guitar learning apps and online programs are probably the cheapest options.

We’ll discuss the advantages and drawbacks of online and in-person guitar lessons in our Shopping Guide down below.

As a guitar beginner, it’s important to make your learning process as easy and effective as you can, and that’s why we recommend considering some extra costs.

There are some essential guitar accessories you should consider buying: a hard guitar case or a good gig bag, spare strings, guitar picks, a tuner, a guitar stand, a guitar capo, and a music stand.

But once you get all the necessary guitar accessories, you won’t have to think about it later and you’ll be ready to start your lessons in the right way.

via GIPHY

How much practice does the guitar require? 

Well, that depends on your goals and expectations. 

If you want to master the basics and learn simple songs on guitar, you don’t have to practice 5 hours a day. A good 15-30 minutes practice session every day (or every other day) will quickly bring you the results you want.

If you want to become a skilled guitar player, you’ll have to practice a lot more. If you want to reach advanced levels, you’ll have to be patient and persistent.

But whatever your goals are, the key is consistency. And that’s why we recommend short practice sessions – it’s better to practice for 20 minutes each day than for two hours on Sunday.

That being said, try to practice at least 15 minutes a day. That way, you can easily incorporate your guitar practice into your daily routine, but you’ll also be able to make progress. 

1.3. What Age Is the Best to Learn Guitar? 

Am I too old to learn the guitar? This thought often occurs before adults start their guitar lessons.

The simple answer is – no. It’s never too late to start learning the guitar. On the other hand, kids are amazing learners and learning guitar as a child comes with many advantages.

But if you’re an adult beginner, you also have certain advantages. So let us first explain why learning the guitar as an adult isn’t a bad thing at all.

Learning Guitar as an Adult

Firstly, as an adult, you’re used to having responsibilities and you know how to stick to your schedule. So taking guitar lessons and maintaining regular guitar practice won’t be so challenging for you. 

Also, your motivation to learn will allow you to keep moving forward. Adults usually want to learn guitar because they want to play the song they like, and that’s definitely a good starting point – you know what you want and what you like and you’ll therefore have a blast reaching your goals.

Finally, think of your age as your ally. You have more life experience than a child, and therefore more knowledge – all of this will help you acquire certain playing skills and understand complex musical terms.

Learning Guitar as a Child 

Generally speaking, kids are great learners. And there are many studies suggesting that it’s easier to learn an instrument at a younger age. 

However, learning guitar can be challenging for a young kid. Many sources suggest that the best age to learn guitar is around age 7. 

Nevertheless, there are countless benefits of learning how to play an instrument as a child.

Guitar learning encourages kids to be creative, and it improves their memory, focus, and fine motor skills. They will also learn about work ethics and responsibilities.

Finally, kids who continue their practice as an adult are more likely to become great guitar players. Even if you don’t touch a guitar for a couple of months (and even years), it will all come back to you very quickly – you’ll have it ‘in your fingers.’

Chapter 2: Guitar Shopping Guide 

2.1. How to Choose Your First Guitar 

With so many guitar models on the market, buying your first guitar can be a bit overwhelming. 

If you feel confused or overwhelmed, we suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

What is my budget?

Before going to a music store or browsing guitars online, you should determine your budget. That way you’ll narrow down the choices and be able to make a purchase in a quicker and more efficient way.

What type of guitar do I want?

The next thing you need to decide is what type of guitar is the best for you. 

An acoustic guitar has a hollow body and it doesn’t require electrical amplification. It’s used for music genres ranging from classical to rock and folk. 

Electric guitars tend to have lighter strings, smaller bodies, and thinner necks. But the biggest difference is, of course, the sound. The pickups and amplifiers project the sound and make it significantly louder. 

Person playing an electric guitar.

Whether you’re going to buy an acoustic or electric guitar mainly depends on the music styles you want to play. 

But the acoustic guitar is easier to practice for beginners because it allows you to hear what a note is supposed to sound like.

Who will play the guitar?

You should also think about who’s going to use the guitar you’re buying. Will your children also play it? If you’re a beginner, do you want to buy an entry-level guitar and upgrade later on? 

Rent or buy?

If you’re uncertain if you’ll continue with your guitar lessons, you can opt for a guitar renting option. Check out what kind of guitars you can get in your area and if they fit your expectations.

Research the brands!

Before heading to a music store or guitar-buying website, conduct a little research about the most popular guitar brands. Every guitar manufacturer has their own values and target customers, so make sure the brand you’re purchasing aligns with your goals and abilities.

Features to Look for in a Guitar

To make our guitar buying guide more helpful, we have some specific advice about what to look for in a guitar.

First of all, we know it’s more convenient to search for a guitar online, but it would be better for you to go to a music store. After all, a salesman will be able to tell you all you need to know and answer all of your questions.

However, you should come in there prepared. Assuming you’ve researched the brands and determined the type of guitar you want, you’ll be able to make a shortlist.

Needless to say, the guitar needs to sound good. And it needs to be able to stay in tune.

You should also check the guitar neck joint for cracks and potential damage. 

Finally, you should check if you can comfortably reach the entire fretboard. Holding the guitar simply needs to feel right.

Useful Guitar Buying Resources 

If you’re looking for a more detailed guitar buyer’s guide, you can check out the following websites:

  • Piano Dreamers provides all kinds of articles, including a comprehensive Guide to buying your first guitar. 
  • School of Rock offers a guide covering all parts of buying a new guitar.
  • YouTube can also be a good place to search for guitar reviews. Just make sure you find a reliable channel. 

See also: Best Acoustic Guitars and Best Electric Guitars 

2.2. Guitar Accessories

Besides getting a guitar model that fits your level, budget, and abilities, you should also invest in essential guitar accessories. 

Gig bag

A quality gig bag will protect your guitar and keep it protected from scratched and weather conditions. 

Most gig bags have handles or straps which allow you to conveniently carry them like a rucksack. 

Spare strings 

Since guitar strings tend to break, it’s a good idea to get an extra pair of strings from the start. 

Different types of guitars require different strings, so make sure you find strings suitable for your guitar. 

Guitar picks

And the same goes for picks. Picks don’t break though, but since they’re so small, they can be lost easily. 

They come in different shapes and sizes, and you’ll eventually find out which type fits you best.

Chromatic tuner 

If you’re serious about your guitar learning, you should also invest in an electronic chromatic tuner.

Alternatively, you can use an online chromatic guitar tuner that will show what note it is, and how accurately it is tuned. 

Guitar stand

If your guitar doesn’t come with a stand, you should definitely get one. A good stand will keep your guitar safe and unscratched while you’re not using it.

Metronome 

This practice tool is very common and helpful, especially for beginners. You can get a ‘real’ stand-alone metronome or simply download a metronome app.

Guitar capo

A guitar capo is a small clamp-like device that can help you play in a certain key more easily by attaching it to a certain fret. 

Music stand 

Instead of placing sheet music on your knee or the edge of a bed, you should get a proper music stand. Luckily, they’re normally very affordable. 

Guitar Maintenance 

Like any other instrument, guitars require care and maintenance. 

To keep your guitar in good shape for a longer period of time, you should clean it regularly. You can simply wipe it off with a cloth after your practice. 

You can also use string cleaners and fretboard conditioners. 

Finally, pay attention to the humidity level. Moisture will make your guitar less playable, so making sure your guitar sleeps in a dry place is essential. 

2.3. How To Find Guitar Lessons

See also: Best Online Guitar Lessons 

Over the past few years, online learning programs have truly flourished. Therefore, hiring a guitar instructor or going to a music school is no longer your only option.

Truth be told, online guitar programs are a great way to learn the guitar. They’re convenient, affordable, and efficient. Some of them even offer 1-on-1 online lessons. 

Guitar learning apps are also very convenient and accessible, and allow you to learn in a fun and engaging way. They often feature interactive exercises, games, quizzes, and so on.

But many would agree that nothing beats in-person lessons. That way, a teacher can help you notice your weak spots and help you improve them. And you won’t need any special technology – it’s just you, your teacher, and music.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to your preferences, abilities, and learning habits. So let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of popular ways of learning guitar. 

In-person Lessons 

Pros:

  • Direct feedback
  • Clear guidance
  • Professional teaching methods 

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Lack of flexibility

Guitar Learning Apps 

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Fun and engaging 
  • You can choose your learning material
  • Extensive song libraries 

Cons:

  • Lack of quality feedback
  • Potential lack of advanced lessons

Online Guitar Lessons

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • You can learn from home
  • Flexible 

Cons:

  • Lack of quality feedback

Combination of Methods 

Another viable option is to combine learning methods. For example, you can meet with a guitar coach once a month, and practice with a guitar app or an online program in the meantime.

In other words, take advantage of all the possibilities you have at your disposal. 

Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to establish a routine – you might feel overwhelmed or a bit lost otherwise. 

That being said, online guitar programs are a great source because they usually offer structured learning. Lessons are usually linear, and you can move forward once you complete them. 

Person learning how to play guitar online.

2.4. Other Methods 

With so many learning options out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or confused. But if you know what you’re looking for, everything will be easier.

There’s no single best way to learn guitar for beginners. Everyone has their own preferences and unique learning habits. 

Furthermore, traditional methods might be more pricey, but they will provide you with quality learning and clear guidance. 

Modern methods turned out to be quite effective too. Online music programs and apps are designed to teach you how to play guitar quickly and easily. And you’ll probably have a lot of fun along the way. 

So, you need to choose a learning path you believe is best for you. Luckily, we live in a time when it’s possible to learn guitar regardless of where you live. New technologies also allow us to learn in a productive as well as cost-effective way. 

However, don’t expect to see results overnight. Gaining guitar skills takes time and dedication, but it will definitely be worthwhile.

Part 2 – Mastering the Basics 

Now, are you ready to start with the fundamentals of playing the guitar? Let’s dig in!

Chapter 3: Playing Position 

3.1. How to Hold a Guitar 

A crucial step before learning guitar fundamentals is learning how to hold a guitar.

Playing with the correct guitar posture will not only make you feel comfortable but will also allow you to produce the best sound possible.

To hold your guitar properly, keep in mind the following steps:

Step 1 – Rest the guitar on your right leg

Step 2 – Put your arm on top of the guitar 

*Your elbow should point out towards the top corner of your guitar. 

Step 3 – Rest the guitar flat against your chest 

*Leaning a guitar towards you comes naturally to beginners, but try to avoid it – you will only end up with tension in your hand. 

Step 4 – Make sure your guitar is stable without using your fretting hand

Step 5 – Don’t hunch your back

And that’s it! If you keep up the good posture, you will have an enjoyable playing experience without any back pain. 

Person learning to play guitar.

Chapter 4: Basic Skills 

4.1. Strings and Frets  

Are you ready to start playing the guitar? To do that, you need to get to know the numbering systems for the guitar. 

Fingers

For starters, you need to memorize the numbers of your fingers. 

When you play the guitar, the index finger on your left hand is your first finger, the middle finger is your second finger, the ring finger is your third finger, and your pinky is your fourth finger.

Guitar finger numbering.

Frets 

Frets are metal strips located on the guitar’s fretboard (or fingerboard.) The first fret is the metal strip closest to the headstock of the guitar.

So in tablature, the fret number indicates the number of the fret at which you should place a finger. But more on that later.

Chart of the guitar frets.

Strings 

When it comes to string numbers on guitar, the string closest to the floor (the thinnest string) is the first string. Beginners usually think it’s the opposite.

So the thickest string is actually the sixth string. 

Diagram of guitar strings.

Bringing it all together

It will take a while until you feel completely comfortable with these three numbering systems. 

Once you learn how to read tabs, you’ll be able to practice, and these numbers will come to you automatically sooner than you think.

4.2. Notes of the Guitar Strings 

Besides memorizing the correct numbers of frets and strings, you need to become familiar with the notes. So the guitar strings have a number and a name. 

And it simply isn’t possible to play the acoustic guitar without learning the notes of the strings.

In standard tuning, from low to high, the guitar string notes are E, A, D, G, B, E. 

The 6th string (the thickest one) is tuned to E, and it’s usually called the low E string. This is also the lowest guitar note you can play. The rest goes like this: 

  • The 5th string (the next one down) is tuned to A – it’s called the A string
  • The 4th string is tuned to D – it’s known as the D string
  • The 3rd string is tuned to G – it’s referred to as the G string
  • The 2nd string is tuned to B – it’s called the B string
  • The 1st string is tuned to E – it’s also known as the high E string
Guitar string diagram on an acoustic guitar.

As a beginner, you can try to memorize the string names by using mnemonics.

This is a popular guitar string mnemonic phrase: Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually.

But you’ll probably memorize this one better: Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie.

See also: Guitar Notes for Beginners 

4.3. Difference Between Chords and Notes 

Before moving on, we want to clarify the difference between guitar chords and notes.

In short, notes are solitary pitches that you hear when you pluck one string, and a chord is a group of notes played together at the same time.

As a guitar beginner, you’ll probably learn how to play chords first. That being said, let’s take a look at the basic guitar chords.

4.4. Your First Chords 

To play the following chords, you just need to press the correct strings with your left hand and sweep your pick or fingers across the strings with your right hand. 

So for right-handed players, typically the left hand is used for pressing down a string, while the right-hand strums the guitar 

Let’s start with one of the easiest chords on guitar – E minor.

E minor is easy to learn for beginners because it requires only two fingers to play. 

To play it, you need to do the following:

  • Put your second finger on the 5th string in the second fret 
  • Put your third finger on the string below it in the same fret space
E minor chord chart.

A Major is also an essential guitar chord for beginners. 

This chord is simple to play because you need to put 3 fingers on the same fret. 

So on the second fret of your guitar neck, place your index finger on the D string, your middle finger on the G string, and your ring finger on the B string.

And that’s it!

A major guitar chord.

G Major is a commonly used chord in music.

There are several ways to play it, and we will show you one of the most popular ones. 

  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the A string
  • Place your third finger on the string above it, in the third fret of the E string 
  • Your fourth finger holds the first string down on the third fret 
G major guitar chord.

Now when you know how to play a couple of chords, you can learn other simple (and more complex) chords more easily. 

See also: Basic Guitar Chords for Beginners 

4.5. How to Strum a Guitar

Strumming is one of the first things people learn in their guitar lessons. This is basically how you’re supposed to play the guitar and how music comes to life.

In short, strumming means brushing your fingers over the strings. So how do you properly strum a guitar?

If you strum with a thumb, you need to use the fleshier part of your thumb. You also need to keep your fingers open and strum from your elbow. 

You can also strum the guitar with your first finger. With time, you’ll find out what suits you best.

You should also keep in mind that strumming close to the bridge creates a brighter sound. And when the further you move away from the bridge, you will create a darker sound. 

Should I use a pick to strum the guitar?

For many reasons, it’s easier to strum the guitar with a pick. Using a pick will give you a more consistent tone.

On the other hand, strumming a guitar with your fingers allows you to play with different tones and styles. 

Therefore, it all depends on your taste and what feels right for you.

via GIPHY

4.6. Practicing Chord Changes 

When you feel comfortable with playing basic chords, you can mix it up a little by trying to perform chord changes. 

Once you pick two or three chords you want to practice changing between, you can begin with your practice. 

Firstly, you need to start slow. Master the chords at a slower speed and then increase your pace. Either way, you should stick to a steady pace when doing chord changes. You can also use a metronome to practice staying in time.

Chord transitions are challenging for beginners because they require thinking ahead. But with the right approach and enough practice, you’ll be able to perform chord changes smoothly in no time.

This exercise will not only help you memorize chords but will also help you improve your strumming technique.

Part 3 – Music Theory 

Chapter 5: Chord Charts and Diagrams

If you want to play songs on guitar, you need to learn how to read guitar chords. 

Here’s what you need to know to make sense of all of those lines and dots. 

5.1. How to Read Guitar Chords

Essentially, a chord chart is a visual representation of how any given chord looks when played on the guitar. 

A chord diagram contains 6 vertical lines and 5 horizontal ones. So it’s a depiction of a section of the guitar fretboard used to play chords. Vertical lines represent strings, and horizontal lines are frets. 

The thick black line at the top represents the nut of the guitar.

How to read a guitar chord chart.

Black or Red Dots 

Black or red dots on the diagram show you where to place your fingers on the fretboard. 

And you’ve already learned the finger numbers: “1” is your index finger, “2” is your middle finger, “3” is your ring finger, and “4” is your pinky.

In rare cases, you’ll see a “T,” which means you should fret the string with your thumb. 

X’s and O’s

X’s and O’s above the string positions on the chart mark strings that you’re not fingering. 

An “X” means you should mute or avoid playing that particular string. And an “O” indicates you should play the string open, so with no fingers touching it.

Bar Chords

Bar chords are thick black lines across the strings that show you which fret you should place your index finger on. 

In other words, you’ll need to use your index finger to “barre” across multiple strings on the fretboard, essentially creating a new nut. So your finger acts as a capo fretting multiple strings. We’ll come back to this later.

For now, it’s important you learn all the parts of a guitar diagram. 

To make things even clearer, let’s look at the C Major chord.

C major guitar chord chart.

This chart tells you to put your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th string, your second finger on the second fret of the 4th string, and your first finger in the first fret of your 2nd string.

You also need to skip a string (the third) and try to refrain from picking the 6th string.

Let’s summarize what you’ve learned about reading chords:

  • The vertical lines are your strings
  • The horizontal lines are the fret bars
  • The dots tell you where to place your fingers
  • The numbers tell you which fingers to use
  • “X’s” mean you should mute (or not play) the string
  • “O’s” mean you should play the string open

5.2. Guitar Scales 

Generally, a scale is a series of notes played in ascending and descending fashion. And practicing guitar scales is essential for every guitar learner.

But scales are not used only for practice. In a way, they are used to play melodies, riffs, and solos. If you master the basic scale patterns, you’ll be able to do everything else effortlessly.

The C major scale is one of the easiest and most common guitar scales. To play the C major scale ascending, you need to find the C root note and play the notes in order: C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C. 

Guitar scales chart.

To do the descending C major scale, just go back to playing B – A – G- F- E – D all the way back to the lower C. 

Once you’ve learned to play a scale position ascending and descending, you can start to practice your scales in sequences. 

Learning scales is also important because it will give you an idea of which chords go well together. But that will sound more logical once you reach a certain level of skill.

5.3. Tempo and Dynamics 

One of the most essential things for a beginner guitar player is to develop a sense of time.

In music, a time signature consists of two numbers. The upper number tells you many beats there are per measure, and the bottom number tells you what note value takes one beat. The measure refers to the section of music enclosed by bar lines.

Time signature.

In guitar playing, tempo is measured in Beats Per Minute (bpm) – so this is basically the speed at which you perform a certain song.

In the beginning, we suggest using a metronome. This is one of the best ways to use it to improve your timing. 

You can set the metronome to 4/4 time – this is the most common time signature. And you can set the metronome’s tempo to a relatively easy pace or around 70 beats per minute. You should then evenly strum the guitar to the beat (hitting just one strum per beat.)

Playing songs at a slower speed will help you develop the feeling for rhythm, but it will also allow you to think about the notes, chords, and chord progressions without getting stressed. 

As a beginner, you should take it step by step. Learning how to play guitar is a long process, but it’s also exciting and very rewarding. So, be patient and persistent, and you’ll be able to see the results sooner than you think.

Chapter 6: More About Chords 

6.1. Guitar Chords 

We already introduced you to the basic guitar chords and showed you how to read chord charts. But guitar chord theory is much more complex than that.

Understanding how chords work is essential for every guitar player, but it can also be a bit confusing at first. But don’t worry – it will all make more sense as you keep improving your skills.

Open chords are the chords you learn when you start to learn the guitar. Essentially, an open chord (an open-position chord) is a chord that includes one or more strings that are not fingered. 

And barre chords (or bar chords) are the opposite of open chords. They are movable chord shapes that you can play all over the guitar neck.  

Barre chords might be a bit challenging to play because they require you to press multiple strings at once with the same. But with regular practice, you’ll improve your finger strength and dexterity and you’ll be able to play them effortlessly.

See also: Essential Barre Chords

6.2. Chord Progressions 

Chord progressions are a series of chords that sound good together from the same key. 

Learning common chord progressions will help you understand how chords generally work, but it will also make learning new songs easier. 

Moreover, becoming familiar with the patterns in chord progressions is very useful for songwriting. So if writing songs is something you want to try in the future, understanding chords and chord progressions is a must.

Chapter 7: Your First Songs 

Main article: Easy Guitar Songs for Beginners 

Are you ready to play your first songs on the guitar? 

If you feel familiar with everything we mentioned in the article so far, then you’re ready to move on to your next lesson.

7.1. Easy Songs on Guitar 

Needless to say, you should start with simple guitar songs. Even if you probably want to jump to playing your favorite songs right away, don’t rush – you must learn to walk before you can run.

Luckily, there are many popular songs that are suitable for beginners. Plus, there are many great tutorials that can help you learn them.

So, if you don’t feel comfortable with reading chords and tabs just yet, video tutorials can help you get through your first songs. 

Here are some of the beginner-friendly songs you can play on the guitar:

1. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley

Besides being one of the most iconic songs of all time, “Three Little Birds” is fairly easy to play on the guitar. 

The song has only three chords: A, D, and, E. And the strumming pattern is simple as well. 

2. “Love Me Do” by The Beatles 

“Love Me Do” is another easy 3-chord guitar song. You’ll only have to use G major, C major, chords, and D major chords.

This is also one of the Beatles’ classics, which ultimately makes it easier to play. It’s better to start with the songs you already know by heart.

3. “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith 

Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” is a beginner guitar song with easy chords.

Playing this famous hit doesn’t require any advanced techniques, so you can easily add it to your repertoire. 

4. “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” by Tracy Chapman

“Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” is one of Tracy Chapman’s signature songs and an absolute timeless classic. 

And luckily, it’s one of the best guitar songs for beginners. It requires learning four chords (G, C, Em, D) and using basic techniques. 

5. “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals 

“House of the Rising Sun” is another all-time classic you can learn on guitar. 

The song has an easy chord progression and beginner guitar chords (A minor, C major, D major, and E major) and a more challenging F major chord. But you can learn a simplified version. 

This is also a good song for learning arpeggiated picking.

7.2. The Fastest Way to Learn Songs on Guitar 

All of the songs we mentioned above are easy to play on guitar. However, when you are a beginner, each song is challenging in its own way. 

That being said, we want to share some tips and tricks on how to learn guitar songs in a quick and easy way.

1. Pick the right song 

Choosing the right song to play is essential. You should choose a song suitable for your level of experience. When the song is too difficult to master, it’s easy to get discouraged. 

Once you master a number of beginner-level songs, you can also choose a song that is slightly above your level. That way, you’ll be able to expand your knowledge and improve your technique.

2. Find accurate tabs 

Once you decide which song you want to play, you need to find a reliable learning source.

If you’re taking online guitar lessons or using a guitar learning app, you’ll most likely choose something from the program’s song library. The best platforms have extensive song libraries, usually categorized by level, artist, genre, etc.

Of course, you can also find instructional videos on YouTube. Just make sure you find a reliable channel. 

3. Take it step by step 

Regardless of what your learning source is, you should take a step-by-step approach to learn songs. The best way to do this is to divide songs into chunks.

For example, some instructors will first teach you the chorus. You should also practice chord transitions and repeatable riffs, and then you’ll be ready to play the song in its entirety. 

You should first feel comfortable with all the parts of the song. That’s the only way to perform the whole song smoothly. 

4. Work on your weak spots 

One of the ways to perform the song smoothly is to work on your weak spots. 

So during your practice sessions, don’t play the whole song over and over. Focus on the parts that you don’t feel comfortable with and stick to them. It will be worth it in the end! 

And remember – mastering songs on guitar takes time. Yes, some songs are simple to play, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require focus and practice. 

A person drinking tea and learning to play guitar.

Chapter 8: Guitar Practice 

Hopefully, everything makes more sense now, including charts, chords, chord progressions, and tempo. 

But if you really want this knowledge to sink in, you need to practice. And you need to practice a lot.

Of course, you don’t need to practice every day for 8 hours to acquire basic guitar skills. But it will take a while before you can play the guitar well

So let’s take a look at some of the most common questions regarding guitar practice. 

8.1. Establishing a Practice Routine 

The first thing you need to do is to structure your guitar practice routine. The word ‘routine’ is very important. Why? 

Because consistency is the key. 

Certainly, everyone needs a break once in a while. And you can’t affect some unexpected situations. But if you structure a practice routine, even if you’re learning guitar by yourself, you’ll be more likely to reach the results you want. 

How long should I practice every day?

Ideally, you should practice 30-45 minutes each day. As you progress, you can prolong your sessions and practice for an hour.

However, try to avoid long and unbroken practice sessions of longer than one hour at a time. If you want to practice for longer than 20 minutes, split up your practice sessions by having short breaks. 

How often should I practice guitar?

In short, as often as you can. It’s better to practice 20 minutes a day than for 3 hours once a week. 

When to practice guitar?

That depends on your learning habits. Most people feel refreshed first thing in the morning. On the other hand, early morning practice can be a bit inconvenient because of the neighbors, so most people actually practice in the evening or the afternoon.

Where to practice guitar?

The guitar is a portable instrument and you can practice literally anywhere. 

And although practicing scales under a tree in a park sounds great, it’s important to have a quiet and safe space where you can do your practice without any distractions.

Girl practicing acoustic guitar.

8.2. Before Your Practice Session

If you’re practicing at home, you should remove all the distractions. Mute your phone (if you can) and let your family members know that you don’t want to be disturbed (unless really necessary.)

This will help you improve your focus and really use the most out of your session. It’s easy to get distracted otherwise. 

8.3. Structuring Each Session

Your guitar practice session should start with a warm-up. There are many warm-up exercises for you to explore – find the one that suits you best and incorporate it into your session.

You can then continue with the new musical concepts or scales. In this part of the practice, you should focus on your technique. You can start by repeating the things you know and moving on to new stuff. 

The next part is probably the most fun – playing the songs. You can start by playing the sections you know and moving on to new parts of the song. 

8.4 How to Avoid Common Mistakes

In the beginning, every guitar student makes mistakes. Even professional guitar players make mistakes. 

But if you become aware of common mistakes people make during guitar practice, there’s a higher chance you’ll end up avoiding them. 

These are some tips on how to avoid these mistakes and make your guitar practice more efficient:

  • Hold the guitar properly all the time 
  • Practice with a metronome
  • Start slowly (there will be time for fast tempos later on)
  • Don’t use too much force
  • Don’t skip lessons (super important for people who use guitar apps)
  • Don’t take big chunks of music at once 
  • Record yourself playing (and ask for feedback)

8.5. Guitar Goals and Motivation 

One of the ways to maintain regular practice is to set realistic, short-term goals. That way, the whole process will feel more rewarding

Motivation is a crucial part of gaining music skills. It’s what got you started in the first place.

And as you progress, it’s important to keep your motivation high. Everyone feels bored with practicing scales and chord transitions once in a while. But if you have a clear goal in mind, it will be easier to keep moving forward. 

That being said, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Learning guitar can be really tricky. But if you have an inner motivation, a reliable learning source, and clear goals, we’re sure your learning path won’t be that bumpy. 

After all, the most important thing is to enjoy the process!

PART 4 – Guitar History and Culture

Chapter 9: Background 

As a guitar learner, you’re supposed to know a thing or two about the history of the instrument.

But getting to know the guitar’s background can also be fun and interesting – after all, we’re talking about one of the most popular instruments in history. 

9.1 When Was the Guitar Invented?

Guitar probably originated in Spain early in the 16th century. The word is derived from the guitarra latina, a late-medieval four-stringed instrument with a waisted body.

By the late 18th century, the guitar became a 6-string instrument. 

In the 19th century, the look of the guitar also changed – became broader and shallower, which resulted in increased sonority.

Antonio Torres was a Spanish guitarist and luthier, and generally one of the most important Spanish guitar makers of the 19th century. He is responsible for the innovations in the 19th century, and his guitars are considered to be the first modern classical guitars. 

Christian Frederick Martin is another important name in the history of the guitar. He was the founder of C.F. Martin & Co., one of the world’s oldest musical instrument manufacturers. 

Chapter 10: Exploring Genres and Styles

Many things have changed since the first classical guitar appeared in the music store. And one of the most significant changes is the emergence of various music genres and styles.

There are so many music genres and playing styles for you to explore as a guitar player. So let’s take a quick look at the most popular ones.

10.1. Jazz Guitar 

People playing guitar in the mountains.

One of the popular and interesting genres you can explore is jazz. 

Jazz can be played on any type of guitar, but most musicians use full-depth archtop guitars. 

However, jazz guitar playing requires some skill and experience as it includes improvised solos, learning common jazz forms, and so on. But it’s a beautiful and versatile genre, and it’s certainly worth exploring. 

Jazz Guitar Tutorials 

  • Jazz guitar chord progression exercise tutorial 
  • Jazz standard “Autumn Leaves” beginner guitar tutorial 

10.2. Classical Music 

Person playing classical guitar.

Classical music for guitar is very versatile. But when talking about classical music guitar pieces, guitar players usually refer to music like the Spanish classic “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Francisco Tarrega. 

But classical music composed for a lute also sounds beautiful on a guitar. “Guitar concerto in D” by Vivaldi is one of the most played classical pieces.

Classical Music Guitar Tutorials 

10.3. Pop Rock Music 

Person playing electric guitar.

Pop Rock Guitar Tutorials: 

10.4. Fingerstyle Guitar 

Fingerstyle guitar is a popular technique of playing the guitar that entails plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails or picks attached to fingers.

It’s a great style of music to learn for both the acoustic guitar and the electric guitar. Although it’s common in a variety of musical genres, fingerstyle (especially fingerpicking) is mainly used to play folk, country-jazz, and/or blues music.

Fingerstyle Guitar Tutorials: 

Chapter 10: FAQ and Resources 

10.1. Free Online Resources 

Our final chapter is dedicated to online resources that can help you in your learning process.

Guitar learning for beginners comes with many expenses – from lesson fees to guitar accessories costs. Not to mention the price of the instrument itself…

However, there are free online resources that can make things easier, especially if you’re on a budget. They can also be used as extra learning resources

Free Guitar Tabs 

  • Ultimate Guitar has one of the largest collections of tabs. It’s free, but you can also pay for extra features. 
  • Guitartabs.cc is simple and useful. You can search songs by artist and song title. 

Recording Software and Programs 

If you’re learning the guitar by yourself, it’s important to hear yourself playing – that’s how you’ll be able to spot your weaknesses and improve your performance. 

And that’s why recording programs can come in handy.

  • Audacity is a free, open-source, cross-platform audio software that’s easy to use

Online Learning

Whether you’re taking in-person or online guitar lessons, finding reliable online learning resources can be very helpful. You can acquire new information but also test your knowledge in quizzes, online games, and so on.

  • Guitar Tricks is one of the best online guitar learning platforms. Their website also offers free tutorials and video lessons. 
  • TrueFire is a popular and well-designed guitar learning platform that offers useful tools such as a metronome, chord finder, scale charts, and so on. 

See also: Guitar Tricks Review and TrueFire Review.

10.2. Guitar Players Community 

The guitar learning process can get a bit lonely if you’re taking online guitar lessons. However, there are solutions to this: you can join online guitar communities.

Forums can be a great source of information, but they can also give you a chance to meet fellow learners. Many learning programs and apps also have their own members’ area. 

10.3. FAQ

Am I too old to learn how to play guitar?

No, whatever your age is, you’re not too old to play guitar. You have many advantages as an adult learner, including focus, working habits, and strong motivation.

Do I need to learn music theory to play guitar?

No, you don’t have to learn music theory in order to learn how to play the guitar. However, studying music theory will help you become a better guitar player. If you want to learn how to play guitar properly, you should learn basic chord theory and become familiar with general musical terms and symbols.

How can I improve my guitar chord changes?

You can improve your guitar chord changes by reducing tension in your hands, memorizing guitar chord shapes, and working on individual chords. Also, consistent practice will help you build muscle memory, and that’s the key to switching chords smoothly.

What’s the best guitar to buy for a beginner?

Acoustic guitars are considered to be best for beginners. And the guitar model you should opt for depends on your level, goals, and the music style you’re interested in. 

How long does it take to learn guitar?

That depends on your dedication and self-discipline. If you practice regularly, you can master basic guitar skills relatively quickly. You can even learn a simple song within a few hours. Acquiring intricate guitar skills, on the other hand, takes a lot of time. It will take years of dedicated practice to reach advanced levels.

How to tune a guitar?

Electric tuners are a great way to tune a guitar, especially for beginners. You can also use a reference note from another instrument to tune one of your strings and then tune your guitar “by ear.”

Can I learn guitar in 3 months?

Yes, it’s possible to learn guitar in 3 months. But that also depends on your practice and focus. If you practice regularly and properly, you’ll be able to gain basic guitar skills within 3 months. 

Is guitar hard to learn?

The guitar is not so difficult to learn. However, it’s also not the easiest instrument to learn. To acquire basic guitar skills, you’ll have to learn all about chord and chord progressions and develop a sense of rhythm. But with a good learning source, your guitar learning process can be smooth and enjoyable.

Can I teach myself guitar?

Yes, you can teach yourself guitar. But you need to find a reliable learning source – an online learning program or a well-structured guitar learning app. If you follow the instructions and stick to your schedule, you’ll be able to gain guitar skills without using traditional methods.

Is guitar easier than piano?

In terms of difficulty, guitar and piano are equally challenging to learn. Guitar basics can be picked up relatively quickly. On the other hand, it’s easier for a beginner to learn notes on a piano. The piano is a linear instrument and it’s also visually more logical than the guitar.

Is playing guitar healthy?

Yes, playing the guitar comes with multiple health benefits. Playing the guitar reduces stress levels and anxiety, and it improves hand and finger strength and dexterity. It’s also good for your brain – it improves memory and boosts brain processing power. Music has also been shown to lower blood pressure and increase immune response.