If you’ve always wanted to play the guitar, but didn’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place! This guide goes all the way from purchasing your first guitar to playing songs and solos.
I often get asked, “what kind of guitar should I buy?” The short answer is, buy a guitar that you’re going to play! The 3 most common types of guitar are classical, acoustic, and electric. Classical guitars, also known as Spanish guitars, are very similar to acoustic guitars, but they have a wider neck and use nylon strings. Many students like the softer strings that don’t hurt your fingers, but it’s a lot harder for kids and people with small hands to play chords on the wide neck. Acoustic guitars use steel strings, which can hurt your fingers at first but help build finger calluses. They also have a much louder and brighter sound, making acoustic guitars much more versatile. Electric guitars require an amplifier and a cable to really hear, but if you plug in headphones, they are very quiet. Electric guitars tend to be a little bit more expensive than comparable acoustic guitars, but if your kid really wants to shred like Slash, they aren’t going to be happy with anything that isn’t electric. Each type has its pros and cons, so it’s worth your time to go to your local guitar shop and try them all out. Get a guitar that you love!
The other things you are going to need are a tuner, guitar picks, a strap, and extra strings. If you picked electric guitar, you’ll need a ¼ inch cable and a practice amp.
Start with the basics
So now that you’ve got your guitar, you’re ready to start playing! I recommend starting with learning a couple of basic open chords: A, D, G, E, and C. Just about every other chord is basically a variation on one of those 5 chords. You can use the chord diagrams below. The letters across the top label the strings, from lowest to highest. An X means don’t play the string, and a circle means to play the open string. Each of the big numbers is for one of your fingers (index finger is 1, middle finger is 2, ring finger is 3, and pinky is 4).
Practice strumming these chords and switching between them. Once you’ve learned these basic chords and how to read chord diagrams, you can start playing songs! Check out the chords for songs like Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Time of Your Life, and Ring of Fire.
If you’re a big fan of punk and rock music, I also recommend learning Power Chords pretty quickly. Power chords are really simple 2 or 3 finger chords that you can use all up and down the fingerboard.
You can play pretty much any basic chord with the same hand position, just moving it up and down the fingerboard. Using just power chords, you can play songs like Smells Like Teen Spirit, You Really Got Me, and Iron Man.
Take it up a notch
Once your confidence is up and you’re ready to take your playing to the next level, start working some basic scales. The different scales follow the same patterns, just shift it up and down the neck to change the key. Here are the basic patterns:
Tools and tips
Practice! Practice will help you build strength and calluses. When you’ve got the chords drilled into your muscle memory, it’s like riding a bike.
Be Patient! You aren’t going to be a rockstar right away, and nobody expects you to be. Your hands need time to build strength and dexterity, so even if you feel clumsy and awkward at first, you will get better.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! While learning on your own can be rewarding and productive, you might notice diminishing returns as you start to get into the intermediate level. When you reach the limit of what you can teach yourself, it might be time to take private lessons from a pro.