Learn How To Play Guitar
Learning to play the guitar is a great skill to have whether you’re an artist, producer or songwriter. It doesn’t really matter – it can help in all instances.
And it’s an instrument that many beginner musicians tend to pick up. It’s not overly complicated, but like with any musical instrument, it takes practice and work.
In this article we’ll show you the basics of how to play a guitar so you can be on your way to being the next great guitarist.
The Basics of Playing Guitar
Learning the Parts of the Guitar
Regardless of the type of guitar you’re wanting to play, the basic structure of the instrument is the same. Some are made of metals, plastics and woods but they all work off the same basic idea. And it’s important to understand.
How does it work? Tightly wound strings lay across the body of the guitar and resonate when plucked or strummed. This is then amplified either through the body or the electrical components contained within the body.
Here are the basic different parts of the guitar:
- The Guitar Head
- The Bridge
- The Neck or Fretboard
Certain guitars will also have specific parts like a sound hole on acoustics or pickups for electrics. And other accessories to help include the guitar pick and strap.
Holding a Guitar the Right Way
It may seem like something basic but the way you hold the guitar has a lot to do with how well you’ll be able to play.
It shouldn’t matter much if you’re right or left handed – the guitar should play fine either way.
Here’s some tips on making sure you’re holding the guitar right.
- Sit up straight – use a stool or straight-backed chair
- When holding the guitar, the thinnest guitar string should be closest to the ground
- Hold the guitar so it’s resting on your dominant leg (same side as hand you’ll use to strum/pick)
- Cradle the guitar and hold it against your chest/stomach
- The hand you’re not strumming with should support the neck of the guitar
It might not feel super comfortable at first, but you’ll get into it.
Now comes time to tune your guitar. There are a lot of guitar tutorials online and it’s pretty straight-forward, so we won’t get into it much.
If you’re got a smartphone you can download a free guitar tuning app to help you get everything sounding right.
Basically start the app, and play each string one at a time near the phone’s speaker. The app will tell you if that string is too low or too high.
What you’ll do is adjust the tuning knobs at the top of the guitar head tighter or looser until it’s perfectly in line with what the tuner says.
While you’re adjusting the tuning knob with your hand that supports the guitar neck, keep strumming or picking the string with your dominant hand so the tuning app gives you feedback.
Here are the order of the notes on the guitar from top (thickest string) to bottom (thinnest string)
These will be important later so memorize the order (Think of it this way – Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie) and remember how they each sound.
Don’t Strum Away – Fret First
Got your guitar in tune? Great. But don’t start strumming away yet. First practice fretting the strings.
Frets are the metal strips that run up and down the neck of the guitar. By pressing your fingers on a string right before the metal fret you change the note that string will play.
Make sure you’re pressing before the fret and not on it. That’s where it will give you the best sound.
But how do you know which fret is which? Well let’s call the very top fret closest to the tuning pegs/knobs Fret 1. And you can count down from there.
So, if you’re asked to play the second fret, you’d press down on the string between fret 2 and fret 3 (as close as you can to the actual fret without touching it).
Practice doing this on different frets and strings until its second nature – move up and down the fret board. And make sure you’re pressing hard enough that the string doesn’t buzz when you pick/strum it.
It may start to hurt your fingers, but you have to build up callouses eventually if you want to play guitar!
Holding the Pick and Strumming
It’s up to you whether you use your fingers or a pick to play the guitar, but it’s good to be comfortable with both techniques.
A guitar pick is a small tear-drop shaped piece of plastic (in varying weights) that you use to strike a guitar string. It produces a different sound than if you just used your fingers.
To hold the guitar pick make a loose fist with your hand and put your thumb on top of it. Put the pick in between your thumb and top of fist with the pointy side away from your inner palm.
The pick should be resting between your thumb and index finger and poking out enough so that your fingers won’t hit the guitar strings while picking.
Now glide the pick across the strings from top to bottom. Make sure you’re not rigid and playing too forcefully.
Be gentle, but firm. You should hear each string play fully without any muting caused by your fingers hitting and dampening the strings as they ring out.
Practice doing this until it becomes second nature.
Actually Playing the Guitar
Congratulations – you just learned how to play the guitar.
Wait what? You just read 1000 words and still have no idea how to play a proper song!
But don’t worry, it’s not over yet. Those were just the basics. There’s a ton more you’ll need to learn before you can start playing the guitar for real. And we’ll cover all that stuff, but first – want a shortcut to guitar mastery?
Then you’ll need the help of the best online guitar lessons out there. These programs (like JamPlay) will cut your learning time down so much that you’ll feel like a master super quick! We like Guitar Tricks too.
Up Next: How to Play Guitar Chords