How to Learn Guitar

So you’ve decided you want to play guitar. Congratulations, and welcome to a lifetime of learning and enjoyment. Learning to play guitar is one of the most rewarding endeavors that anyone can pursue. Here we’ll outline some of our best tips and strategies to make your journey a fun and productive ride.

Guitar Lesson Tips for Chords, Licks, Theory, and Blues

I’m going to give you my best tips to learn chords, how to play licks, how to play the blues, and discuss the pros and cons of learning guitar theory.

Tips for Learning Guitar and Beginner Guitar Chords

Learning guitar may be difficult at first, because your finger tips are soft and without callouses. The biggest complaint of most new players, is that the tips of their fingers hurt from pressing down on the strings. One way to reduce the pain for a beginning guitar player, is to slowly break into your guitar practicing routine and not try to become James Taylor or Jimi Hendrix in a day.

Start by practicing for ten or 15 minutes at a time, then give your fingers and hands a rest for a few hours or a day before you start your next session. As you continue to practice, your finger tips will form blisters and then callouses that will allow you to play without soreness. Slowly increase the amount of time for your practice sessions and soon you won’t even notice the pressure of the strings anymore.

beginner guitar

It’s important to take a guitar lesson or have someone who plays guitar well show you how to finger chords properly. Proper wrist and finger position will make it easier to play and reduce strain on your wrist and fingers. You should also get some instruction on how to hold the guitar and how to strum properly.

The way most all guitar players learned how to play guitar is by having someone show them how to finger a few beginner guitar chords. If you don’t know anyone who plays guitar who can show you, plenty of people have learned how to play basic guitar chords by watching YouTube videos and studying online guitar websites. With all the resources available online these days, learning guitar is easier than ever before.

The first chords that are important to learn are the open chords in the basic guitar keys: C, G, D, A, and E. Chords in a given key go together and you should start to learn what chords fit in the various keys. If you learn the major chords C, G, D, A, E, and then learn the minor chords A minor, E minor, B minor, F# minor, and C# minor you’ll be able to play a ton of songs with just these ten chords.

Below is a chart of the ten chords that you can start learning:

C MajorA minor
G MajorE minor
D MajorB minor
A MajorF# minor
E MajorC# minor

How to Play Acoustic Guitar and Learn Guitar Chords

Most people who learn to play guitar start learning how to play acoustic guitar first. Acoustic guitars are less expensive since you don’t need an amp, and they’re more commonly available to learn on. The strings on acoustic guitars are heavier and harder to push down with your fingertips, so it can be a bit more challenging to learn guitar chords on an acoustic guitar than on an electric guitar.

The good news is that your fingers, hands and wrist develops strength and tough callouses by learning how to play on an acoustic guitar. If and when you switch to playing an electric guitar, your fingers will push those strings around with ease.

Learning how to play acoustic guitar first is probably a good idea for most beginner guitar players because it develops strength and a good sense of rhythm when focusing on strumming properly.

The easiest way to learn guitar chord on an acoustic guitar is to pick out a song that you like with a few simple chords. Let’s say it’s a song with D, G, and A. Get a guitar chord chart or watch a video to show you how those chords are fingered and practice forming the chords one at a time. A guitar lesson or two should help you get a few basic chords under your fingers.

When you’re comfortable with the basic shapes of each chord, try switching from one to another and back again. When you’re ready, play along with the song and try to get used to making the chord changes. If you can’t keep up with the song, stop and practice fingering each chord again until you can make smooth transitions between chords.

Guitar Lessons for Kids and Fun Learning Guitar

If you’re a parent looking to introduce your child to the world of guitar playing, finding a studio or teacher that offers guitar lessons for kids is highly recommended. You don’tguitar for kids want your child to get turned off to music forever because he’s had no fun learning guitar and quit due to frustration. Most major cities and even small to mid-sized cities have teachers and studios who offer lessons for children.

If your child is not having fun learning guitar, she will eventually quit and miss out on a lifetime of enjoyment. A good guitar teacher will make learning the guitar fun and interesting and your child will look forward to her lessons.

You might be tempted to buy a guitar for your child and sit down in front of YouTube to try to teach them yourself and save money on lessons. For all but the most highly gifted musically talented kids who can learn to play from watching videos alone, it’s usually a good investment to hire a competent guitar teacher.

There’s no doubt that it’s possible to learn the basics of guitar playing by watching online videos, but without a good guitar teacher, it’s easy to develop bad habits. Bad guitar playing habits are very hard to break.

Learn Guitar Chords for Blues Guitar

Are you learning how to play guitar because you love the blues? Is this your main reason for picking up the instrument? If so, you’ll still want to learn the basic chords first, as they’re the foundation for so many songs. After you master the basics, you may want to study and learn the specific language of the Blues. You’ll need to learn the foundational chords of the blues sound which is the dominant 7th chord and it’s extensions of 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths.

You’ll want to learn the basic structural forms of the blues such as the 12 bar, 8 bar, 16 bar, and other variations. You should learn blues turnarounds which occur at the end of a section to bring the progression back to the beginning.

While you’re working on your chords, progressions, and turnarounds, you may as well start working on learning the blues scale that makes blues guitar so distinctive in it’s unique sound. Isn’t this one reason you want to play the blues? So you can express yourself with your guitar by playing soulful licks and riffs?

Check out the distinctive blues guitar sound of Albert King playing “Blues Power.”

How to Learn Guitar Licks

If you’re wanting to learn guitar licks to starting building your skills towards being able to play guitar solos, the best way to do it is by practicing short basic phrases. Listen to some of your favorite players, watch some YouTube videos, or ask your guitar teacher to show you some classic guitar licks as a starting point. Practice these until you’re comfortable and start putting them together while practicing.

Once you’ve got the basic fingering and technique of the licks you’re working on so it’s smooth and natural, you can start playing along with backing tracks and string the licks together to make improvised solos. Many guitarists start out learning the same classic licks that they use to later improvise from and create their own styles for solos. Once you learn how to read TAB, a great place to find note for note solos is the Ultimate-Guitar website.

Do I Need to Learn Guitar Theory?

Learning guitar theory scares off many guitar players at first because it seems so complex and undecipherable. Is it absolutely necessary to learn guitar theory if you just want to play your favorite songs? If that’s your main goal, then no, you do not need to learn guitar theory. If your goals include being able to play in a band, write songs, or to become the best player you can be, then  yes, you should learn guitar theory.

learn guitar chordsGuitar theory is the same as music theory but applied to the guitar fretboard. Understanding guitar theory will help you understand what scales to play over what chord progressions. It will help you to play in a band when you’re not sure what the chords are and the bandleader says, “Let’s do a I, IV, V in E for 16 bars, then end on the six chord.”

Having knowledge of music theory is almost a requirement for writing good songs. Without it you’re limiting your creativity and the choices in your music arsenal.

Learn How to Play the Bass with Bass Guitar Lessons

Some people think of the bass guitar as completely separate from the six string guitar, but in many ways it’s similar. The four strings on the bass guitar are of the same tones as the bottom four strings on a six string guitar, just an octave lower. In the same way studying guitar with a qualified teacher can accelerate your progress, taking bass lessons can speed up your progress dramatically.

Learning to play bass guitar may require even more instruction in the basic technique than learning a six string guitar, because it can be a little more difficult to fret and pluck the strings. If you’re going to learn how to play bass it would be a good idea to find a qualified teacher at least to get you started with the proper techniques.

Learning Guitar is Easier with a Good Teacher

I think most competent guitar players would agree that it’s easier to learn how to play the guitar with a good teacher than without. There are guitarists who proudly proclaim that they’re self-taught and never took a guitar lesson in their lives.

While it’s possible to become a good player without lessons, the real question is how much faster or further the self-taught players would have progressed by studying with a teacher.

Good luck with your journey on becoming a guitar player and we hope you have tons of fun and enjoyment in learning and mastering the guitar.