Get Started Playing Guitar
What You Need to Know to Succeed at Learning Guitar
Beginners Guide To Getting Started Playing Guitar
Learning how to play the guitar is both a difficult thing and at the same time, a thrilling journey that unleashes creativity and provides a lifelong source of joy. Whether you’ve just picked up your first guitar or have been pondering the idea for a while, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you embark on this musical adventure.
Tips To Learn Guitar And Be Great
Learning guitar is one wild adventure, starting with nailing those fundamental basics. It’s gonna take some serious time, infinite levels of patience, and relentless practice to truly rock it. But hey, even the most badass players once stood right here, and it took ’em a boatload of time and effort to reach their mind-blowing awesomeness. So buckle up, believe in yourself, and dive headfirst into the joyride of learning guitar because it’s going to be one hell of an extraordinary ride. Oh, and don’t forget to jam with your fellow string-strumming comrades for some extra epic fun. And remember, throughout this journey, never forget to prioritize having an absolute blast!
Have Fun Learning Guitar
No matter if you choose a private teacher or teach yourself to learn guitar, you should start slow with the fundamentals. Believe me, even the best players started here and it took them time, patience, and practice to get to the stage you see them at now. Believe in yourself and know you can do it. Most of all it is important to have fun and enjoy the journey. Guitar is fun and when you start playing with other musicians it becomes even more fun. You will find some great advice in the following paragraphs, but the most important piece of advice is to have fun! These tips will help you get started as you learn guitar.
1. How To Choose The Right Guitar For Beginners
The first thing to consider when you learn how to play the guitar is choosing the right guitar for beginners. Guitars range in price from around $100 for the least expensive to thousands of dollars, so where do you start? First of all, starting with an inexpensive guitar is a good choice for beginners. You do not want to spend $1000 or more on an instrument and then discover that you do not like it. Also, if you do discover you love playing guitar, this first guitar is just that, your first. You will likely be investing in more guitars as you grow as a player. There are two types of guitars to consider when choosing your first, an electric or acoustic guitar. This choice is often determined by the style of music you want to play. So here are some important considerations when choosing a guitar.
Ways To Amplify Your Guitar
The most simple way to amplify your guitar is to buy an amplifier and a chord to connect it. You can always add pedals to alter your tone and add effects later on. There are so many great amps to choose from and you can spend as little as $50 on up. Pedals vary in price as well. These days a great option for beginners is a modeling amp. These types of amplifiers have software attached to them that lets you experiment with tone.
One great and affordable amp to consider that allows you to use software modeling for your tones is the Spark amplifier. Spark offers a couple of different amplifier options that range in price from $130 for the 5W ultra-portable Spark Go to the $270 Spark 40-Watt and the 10-Watt Spark Mini at around $229. These are all great practice amps that use a phone app to control tones and give a selection of different amps to try. There are tons of different modeling amps to try on the market these days and they are a great way to get started experimenting with tones you like.
Computer Interfaces for Guitar
Another option is to buy a computer audio interface and connect your guitar to a computer. Then you will need software in order to make it work and you will need speakers or headphones so that you can hear what is coming through. The advantage to this is that you can record through your computer using the interface, Some interfaces also come with modeling software as well and you can play around with recording yourself and writing music if that is the course you want to take.
Choose a guitar that feels comfortable to hold and play. Electric guitars tend to be more comfortable but if you are looking for an acoustic, you can choose one for comfort as well. Take a look at the different sizes available for acoustic guitars and try them out. You will find one that feels just right for you.
Set a budget that aligns with your commitment level, but remember, quality matters for an enjoyable learning experience. In today’s day and age, you can find some quality affordable guitars if you research.
Choosing To Play Acoustic Guitars
An acoustic guitar produces sound without amplification and is an excellent guitar for beginners due to its portability and simplicity. Acoustic guitars are a great way to start for many reasons. One reason guitar teachers recommend this type of guitar is because acoustic guitars are more difficult to press down on the strings. The reason some feel this is good is because it will develop your finger strength and calluses better. Then if you wish to move to an electric guitar, you will find it much easier to play. However, if you start on an electric guitar and move to an electric it will be more difficult. Another great thing about acoustic guitars is that they do not require a lot of extra equipment to amplify the sound. Also, since you do not need a lot of equipment and they are naturally amplified, they are very portable.
Choosing To Play Electric Guitars
As we said before, an electric guitar requires an amplifier to be heard properly. Sure you can play them without an amplifier, but you do not hear the nuances of the sound, the tone is not as clear, and it is much less pleasurable to play without amplification. If you do choose to go with an electric guitar, then you must find a way to amplify the sound so that you can hear what you are playing and have a much better experience. Another great reason to make sure you have amplification is because at some point, you will want to play around with different tones and pedals and you will need amplification to do this.
Both types of guitars have many other considerations to look at, see this article for information on the types of electric and acoustic guitars and sizes that you may be interested in trying.
2. Essential Equipment To Learn Guitar
At a minimum, you should consider the following items when you start to learn guitar. These items will make your first experience with guitar much more enjoyable.
The first and most important item to purchase when you learn guitar is a tuner. A guitar tuner is an essential piece of equipment for beginner to keep your guitar in tune. Many people learn to tune by ear, but this takes time, practice, and ear development. So for beginners, the best option is one of the inexpensive clip-on turners available today. You can also consider an app on your phone, but I find that the clip-on tuners are very accurate and are very easy to use.
These small, triangular pieces of plastic are used to strum or pluck the guitar strings with your non fretting hand. They are made of plastic or other materials and allow more volume as you pluck or strum the strings. Many people strum or pick with their fingers, but a pick will help you to not only amplify your sound but it is also better for long period of playing where your fingers might get sore.
Guitar straps are used for playing while standing, however, they are handy to have when you are sitting as well. Having your strap around your neck as you practice allows you to concentrate on your playing and technique while not having to worry about balancing a guitar. I highly recommend using a strap whether sitting or standing. The other good reason to have a strap is that you are less likely to drop your instrument if you are using a strap.
Strings break and wear out if you play a lot, Having spares is always a good idea. There are lots of different strings to choose from on the market, but be sure to choose strings that are suited to your type of guitar. Acoustic guitars should use acoustic strings and electric should use electric strings. Also know that there are two types of acoustic guitars, nylon and steel string, and the two types of strings are not interchangeable. You should also consider string gauge which is the thickness of the strings. Strings can be quite in depth and are a subject of another post.
A guitar case protects your instrument when not used or traveling to other locations like a guitar instructor’s studio. Another great consideration with guitar cases is that they help stabilize the humidity of your guitar. If you live in a very humid or very dry climate, a case is your best friend. If the environment is too humid, a guitar can warp, if it is too dry it can crack, the trick is to keep the humidity between about 40% and 60%. A guitar case can help you maintain these levels more easily.
See this article for a detailed list of guitar accessories that you may want to consider. There are many other useful items that you may want as you learn and grow.
3. Resources To Learn Guitar
There is more than one way to learn to play guitar. Each has it benefits and drawbacks so choose the one that suits your the best.
Private Guitar Lessons
Private guitar lessons are often the preferred way to learn guitar. I offer private lessons both in person and online. The great thing about taking lessons from someone is that your instructor will hold you accountable for learning things correctly and practicing them correctly as well. It is easy to develop bad habits when playing guitar, an instructor will notice these bad habits, such as posture or points where you may be straining yourself too much.
Online Guitar Tutorials and Courses
A vast repository of free guitar tutorials covering various skill levels and genres. This can be a bit overwhelming, but if you are looking for instruction on a specific technique or how to play a certain song, this can be a great resource.
Websites like Fender Play, JustinGuitar, or Yousician offer structured lessons and progressive learning paths. These are both paid and free. The great thing about free beginner lessons is that you have a chance to try learning and see if you like it before you invest a lot of money into a subscription. My courses are either free or you pay a small one-time fee where you have lifetime access to the course.
Free Online Guitar Courses
Most websites that offer guitar lessons offer at least a few free courses to get you going. The premise is that you will enjoy it an continue on with some paid courses.
Bobbi Guitar has several free and paid courses to get you started playing guitar. I’m adding new courses as often as possible so sign up with our email newsletter to get the latest releases. The courses offered here are either free or you pay a small one-time fee where you have lifetime access to the course.
Join a Guitar Community
There are many guitar forums out there to check out and people are often willing to give advice based on their own experiences. This is an amazing resource if you have specific questions on gear you may be considering. Local music groups or shops offer an amazing support system for people learning. You should also check out social media sites as you can ask questions, help others, and learn along the way, and can offer support, advice, and motivation.
One of my favorite communities to learn guitar from is Ultimate Guitar. I use this sight all the time for tab and to practice songs but it also offers a community and if you want to pay extra, you can also get lessons. Check it out, you will love it.
Guitar Books and Apps
Look for beginner books with chord diagrams, exercises, and music theory basics. Some of my favorite books to learn guitar fundamentals include The Hal Leonard Guitar Method books as well as Mel Bays Guitar Method books. I learned how to play with private lessons where we used the Hal Leonard Guitar Method for the learning material. I have recently discovered that the Mel Bay Guitar Method is really good as well. It is possible to self-teach yourself with either of these titles.
The downside to self-teaching through a book is that it can be a bit dull, thankfully these books offer videos on YouTube so you can see how to play lessons. Another downside to being self-taught is that it can be difficult to stay motivated.
GuitarTuna, Ultimate Guitar, or Yousician offer good chord libraries, tuning tools, and interactive lessons. Justin Guitar is a great online teacher who I visit often as well. Justin also offers several apps to help you learn. Guitar Pro is an amazing Windows and Mac application that allows you to write music in either tablature or standard notation
Learning guitar can be a lifelong journey and if you choose to, you never have to stop learning.
4. Practice Habits
Consistency Is Key
Anyone can learn guitar if they put their mind to it are patient and practice consistently. Regular shorter practice sessions daily are preferable to one long practice once per week just before your lesson. This consistency helps you to remember vital aspects of your lessons and do them during your practice sessions. Practice not only makes perfect, but it also makes it permanent.
Set Achievable Goals
Set your long-term goals such as playing in a band, at church, or just being able to sing songs around a campfire. Then set short-term goals to help you reach your long-term goals. These can be anything from learning open chords as you are just starting, to learning a simple song you can play for Aunt Gladys. Goals are important because they will keep you on track and keep you interested
Be Patient and Persistent
Progress takes time and everyone learns at their own pace. Be patient with yourself and be persistent. Learning guitar is hard, its one of the harder instruments to learn because not only must you develop your muscles and muscle memory, the fretboard and chord are not as easy to understand as something like the piano. Celebrate the small victories and have fun.
See my free Before You Begin guitar course and learn more about forming good practice habits before you begin playing.
5. Learn Rhythm and Basic Theory
Music is all about rhythm so you must start using rhythm from day one. My free Beginner Guitar Course begins teaching rhythm in lesson 4 so that as you practice playing chords you are also practicing rhythm.
Guitar Music Theory
There is a certain amount of theory you will want to learn. Knowing something about scales, intervals, and chord progressions will only help you as a musician. So start with the basics and start learning a scale. Playing a scale will help you develop finger strength and speed. Play scales at tempo starting slow and gradually increasing your speed.
6. Proper Ergonomics
The important thing about where to practice is finding a quiet place where you can be alone with your guitar. I was very self-conscious about my playing in the beginning and did not want anyone to hear me practice. This still bothers me today. The other thing about finding a private place to practice is that you go over a technique or piece of music many times before you finally have it down. This can be annoying to people around you so having a room to go to that you feel more comfortable in and lesson the noise for others in your house it essential.
Being comfortable when sitting or standing while you learn guitar or practice time is essential. Maintaining good posture and playing as ergonomically as possible will allow you to play for longer periods without strain. Knowing where to put your hands to get the proper position over the strings and how you hold the guitar is essential. Mom always told us to sit up straight for good reason, because it saves your back and neck from becoming sore. If you were like me when I was learning, I would go into my room, sit on my bed, and hunker over my guitar to look at sheet music and my hand placement. Sometimes I used a music stand but I often skipped it because music stands back in my day sucked. Get yourself a decent music stand for holding your books or tablet.
Proper guitar placement
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here. Get yourself a strap and use it even if you are sitting. Using a strap even if you are sitting is much more comfortable and helps you to keep the guitar at the correct angle. It is recommended that the neck be at about a 45-degree angle when playing. A guitar strap will help you to do that and will keep you from accidentally dropping your instrument which can cause a lot of damage. If you are sitting you should rest it on the leg corresponding to your dominant hand. This lessens the weight of the instrument on your shoulders which will lead to less strain on your back and neck.
I show all these fundamental poster techniques in my Beginning Guitar Course. Check it out for more details on proper posture.
7. Learn Songs
When you take the time to learn other people’s songs you learn a lot about music in general and playing guitar. This is especially evident when you play with other musicians. However, the main reason to learn songs is because it is fun and helps keep you motivated. I still get excited about learning new songs even after 40-plus years of playing guitar. Besides, when you tell someone you are learning guitar, they either want to hear you and/or want to know what songs you can play. Having an opportunity to play songs with another musician is also extremely fun and motivating.
8. Guitar Anatomy
Discover the captivating beauty and essence of guitar anatomy. Each element, from the graceful body curve to the precise fretwork, harmoniously combines to unlock a world of endless musical possibilities. It’s important to know your guitar’s anatomy so that you can understand what other people are talking about as you learn to play. For example, you need to know what a sound hole or fretboard is to comprehend your guitar lessons. My free beginner course includes a quick and easy lesson on the guitar to get you started. You can find it in the Before You Begin lesson. This short free course and lesson introduce the absolute beginner to the names of the parts of the guitar. This short free course and lesson introduce the absolute beginner to the names of the parts of the guitar.
9. Develop Your Ear
Developing your ear takes time and practice. Ear development will help you recognize notes, song keys, chords, and more. Start slowly by trying to learn to tune your guitar to a piano or to itself. This is a very beneficial skill to learn especially since guitar tuners are not always available. Then move on to trying to figure out simple melodies by ear and playing them. Start with the simplest nursery songs and move into more complex songs. Next, try to figure out the chords of your favorite song’s melody, then move on to string to figure out which chords are played against the melody. Knowing scales will help you develop your ear by giving you the possible notes and chords to play. Being able to figure out the notes by ear will not only make you a better musician but will allow you to play with other musicians more easily. This is a skill I still work on even though I have been playing for some time.
10. Guitar Maintenance
Basic guitar maintenance is not difficult and can be learned quickly. At the very least you should know how to do the following independently.
Regularly wipe down your guitar to remove dust, dirt, and sweat. Have a soft cloth available to wipe down your guitar after each use.
Guitar String Care
The ability to change guitar strings when they lose their tone or feel rough, or worse, break is well worth the effort to learn. Nothing sucks more as a guitar student when you can’t play because you have to take the guitar to someone else to get the string changed. Also, strings wear out over time begin to weaken, and sound dull. Being able to change your strings when this happens will not only make your playing time more enjoyable but will save you time and money.
Storing your guitar properly is important to keep the wood from warping or cracking. This has to do with humidity and where you store the guitar when it is not being played.
- Keep humidity around 50%.
- Store your guitar in the case when not in use. This is the best method for keeping the humidity controlled and will keep it protected from getting knocked over by pets or others in your household. It also helps to keep the dust off the guitar. Be sure to wipe down your guitar with a soft cloth before setting it back in the case.
11. Expanding Your Musical Horizons
Experiment with different music styles to broaden your playing skills and preferences. For example, if you are a rock or pop musician, you would benefit a lot by learning classical or jazz as these genres have a lot in common. Playing the same thing over and over again can get boring and tiring so challenge yourself with learning new styles, songs and skills.
Learn Guitar Note Names
To truly understand the guitar you need to learn the note names up and down the fretboard. This will allow you to expand your understanding of scales and chords. It will also allow you to experiment with different chord voicings.
Learn Music Theory
Understanding scales, notes, and chords enhance your playing and songwriting abilities. By knowing theory, you will be able to play with confidence with other musicians by now how to communicate in musical terms. Also, if you have any interest in writing music, having a basic understanding of music theory will go a very long way. Don’t let it scare you, music theory is not as hard as it can be made out to be if you start with basic concepts and grow from there.
Check out my course Introduction To The Major Scale. This short course is the beginning of your journey into music theory and with only 8 lessons, makes it easy,
12. Enjoy the Journey
These are just a few tips to help you get started. There are lots of guitarists who will add their opinions to these tips and it may behoove you to listen to others. Everyone’s experience is different and your experience may be closer to their experience. Talking with other guitarists is an awesome way to learn new things and gain valuable tips. Above all, remember that as you learn guitar, that learning this instrument is an ongoing, enjoyable journey. Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities, stay motivated, and relish the joy of creating music. As you progress, you’ll discover your unique musical voice and find endless fulfillment in playing this beautiful instrument.