“I have always dreamed of playing the guitar, but I don’t have any time or talent. I have tried to teach myself, but I don’t know what to do and in which order. I love the guitar’s sound, but I’m too old …” There are so many stories about why people fail to learn the guitar – let’s start a new chapter with my five tips on how to start playing the guitar.
You don’t need any special talent or an enormous amount of extra time to start playing the guitar. Everyone (I mean it – everyone) is capable of learning the guitar. It just comes down to the right tools, mindset and approach. You are not different from thousands of people who already enjoy playing the guitar.
Yes, some people might learn and progress faster, some might have a natural talent for it, and some look like they were born with a guitar in their hands (by the way, have a look at my article – Do I Need Natural Talent To Learn The Guitar?). But does it all matter?
I was never super talented nor a fast learner – I just loved the guitar and the sound of it. If I could learn, you can too. Let’s look at some steps to start playing the guitar in the way you always wanted to.
1 | Buy a guitar | You Need To Practice
There will be no results if you don’t practice, so having a decent-quality instrument that makes your practice more enjoyable and fun is essential. Depending on the style of music you want to play, you may want to buy an acoustic or an electric guitar.
Personally, I suggest starting to play the guitar as an acoustic instrument. The body’s size, the instrument’s general feel, and no need for any amplification and cables make the acoustic guitar a great place to start. I have also noticed that it is much easier for students to develop a good foundation and strumming habits on the acoustic guitar. Most of them progress to playing the electric guitar later, anyway, albeit with much better guitar skills and technique.
If you haven’t bought a guitar yet, look at my article – 5 Tips To Help You Buy Your First Guitar for a detailed guide.
2 | Learn A Few Simple Chords
Chords are the building blocks of the songs, so it makes sense to start here. The A minor and E major chords are a perfect place to start. These two chords share the same looking shape (you just move it up or down across the strings), making them simple and easy to learn.
As a beginner, names like A minor or E major may not have much meaning to you yet, however, these mysterious symbols are just labels for the sound that these shapes make when you strum the guitar. You’ll soon get used to this musical language, which will soon become second nature.
Again, please have a look at my starter pack. I will show you how to find shapes like these on the guitar – Beginner Guitarist Starter Pack.
3 | Learn A Simple Strumming Pattern
The chords on their own are great, but the strumming is what will make them sound more musical and great. Of course, you can start by simply strumming every chord DOWN, but the combinations of downstrokes and upstrokes will make them sound much more musical. One of the easiest strummings is to strum something like this: DOWN DOWN UP:
When you look at the diagram, you can see a small space between the first and the second down strum – the reason is that there is a little time gap between them. These kinds of nuances are what make the music sound great and unique.
You may have noticed that some of the strings might be slightly muted or even make no sound at all when you play. It is ok, you are just a beginner. You will find your way of playing the guitar. Your body needs to adjust to your new hobby, your hands need to build some strength, and that requires regular practice and time.
If you are curious about improving the sound of your guitar chords, check my 6 Ways To Avoid Muting Strings On Guitar.
4 | Learn A Few Simple Songs
Now, we are getting to the core of it all – Real Songs. Chords and strummings are necessary to learn, but they are just the building blocks and tools that will help us play our favourite songs.
A very easy song to start from is “Zombie” by The Cranberries. It has just four very simple chords and super easy strumming. I covered this tune in my How To Play Zombie | The Cranberries tutorial. If rock music is not your thing, try to learn this song anyway. Think about it as another learning tool rather than me trying to turn you into a Cranberries fan.
Unfortunately, the chords A minor and E are not in this song, but the chords are so easy you will be able to play this song in no time. The chords Am and E, from my point #2, are essential because they are the building blocks of thousands of hits you hear daily on the tv and radio.
5 | Find A Guitar Teacher Or Invest In Some Kind Of Educational Materials
When I started playing the guitar, I had no teacher, everything I have learned was a result of my own searches (pre-internet, imagine that), studying books and playing with others. So you will be absolutely fine on your own, but you may save a lot of time and frustration by having clear guidance from an experienced tutor.
The modern world with access to the internet has brought us closer together, so you can study and start playing the guitar with a teacher who is on the other side of the planet – which is pretty amazing!
Let me know your biggest struggle whilst learning to play the guitar, and if you want to study with me (a little plug), you can do it in person with my Guitar Lessons in London, online via Zoom or with my Online Membership Program.
Darius | Guitar Couch Lessons