In this article I will try to answer the question on how to learn to play the guitar from scratch. If you decide to learn the instrument by yourself, you do not know where to start learning and how to build your classes. Let’s not drag out the introduction. Make some tea, get comfortable, and let’s figure out where to start learning to play the guitar.
Where to begin learning to play the guitar
Where does any learning begin? By setting a goal. How trivial, right? I agree, but how do you learn to play the guitar and line up your lessons properly if you don’t see the end goal?
There are several different scenarios:
- you want to play your favorite songs on the guitar, sing those songs with your friends, in short – you want to learn to play the guitar at a basic level and don’t aspire to become an incredibly successful rock star in the nearest future;
- you want to become a professional musician, to work in the studio, to travel around on tour as a session musician.
As you understand, in the first and second case you need to make different efforts, and if in the first case, studying 2-3 hours a day for a couple of weeks is enough to learn a couple of chords and for a couple of months of such studies you can play some simple songs. The second case we are talking about are hard studies 24/7 for at least several years.
Despite the fact that the way of progress in these two directions will be very different, your learning to play the guitar in any case will start with a few basic points, which in one way or another face both amateurs and professionals:
- you first need the right instrument;
- you need to learn the basic chords on the guitar;
- you need to know the basic differences between fingerpicking and strumming
If you’ve chosen the guitar as a hobby, this modest kit is enough to get you started learning to play. You’ll find everything you need online at websites with chords.back to menu ↑
The Way To The Diamond Guitar
If you’re serious and your goal is to become a professional guitarist, then in any case, among other things you should start taking guitar lessons with a competent teacher who will see your goal as clearly as you see it. In addition, a good teacher must know how to lead you to this goal in the shortest possible way. Finding such a teacher is extremely difficult, but if you are lucky enough to find one, I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart.
One more important point I want to mention is core education. Guitar mastering for beginners is always full of questions and a set of typical mistakes that most self-taught people make. I’m in no way persuading you right now to drop everything and run to a music college. These days guitar lessons from scratch are available on the internet for anyone who wants, but you have to collect information by yourself, and this information can be incorrect and even hurt.back to menu ↑
How to Choose a Solid Guitar to Learn
One of the most important things in learning to play the guitar without exaggeration can be called ”choosing the right instrument”. It seems that you can find a lot of information online about choosing an instrument. So why do we touch on this subject in an article on how to learn to play the guitar?
The thing is, I have seen a lot of guides on how to choose a guitar. Some argue about the effect of wood species on sound, others hint at the difficulty of caring for solid wood guitars and claim that your first guitar should have nylon strings. This is all very important, but I have a different opinion on the subject. It’s up to you to listen to or not.
I’m convinced that the guitar you’re going to learn to play should have only two specifications:
- You like the outfit of your guitar;
- The guitar has to be playable.
Why do I think these two things are the most important? Well, that’s easy. The more time you spend playing the guitar, the faster you’ll learn to play.
You have to like the guitar. You have to like it so much that you can’t just walk by without picking it up for at least a few minutes. The instrument itself must motivate you. And it doesn’t really matter why you like this guitar in the first place. Maybe it’s because of its unusual color, maybe your favorite guitarist played on something like this in some movie, or maybe you want to play only on a “Fender” guitar at any cost – it’s absolutely not important. As long as you don’t want to let that instrument out of your hands.
As for playability, it’s a little more complicated, due to your lack of experience. Here a teacher or a friend who already knows how to play the guitar can help you. Now I will list the most basic requirements for the simplest guitar:
- all guitars have to sound accurate;
- fret should not scratch your hands;
- height of the strings should be optimal;
- anchor must be adjusted so that the strings at any place on the fingerboard sound properly without background squeal and rattle;
- the upper threshold must be properly tuned.
All this is important not only for beginners, but if an experienced guitarist understands what’s wrong and corrects it fast, a beginner will drop lessons because of the discomfort. Although the reason for all the discomfort can be that the instrument is out of tune. You’re lucky if you buy a guitar in that store, where there is an in-house master. He will quickly bring the instrument to mind and you will practice on it with pleasure.
Now let’s talk about strings. I’ve already mentioned that many beginner’s guides on choosing guitars advise to buy only instruments with nylon strings. They say that guitars with nylon strings are easier to learn playing and their fingers don’t hurt so much. But what if a beginner guitarist who chooses an instrument decided to learn to play guitar for one purpose only – to play all the songs of Nirvana? In that case the idea of buying a guitar with nylon strings doesn’t seem so reasonable, right? So your fingers will hurt a little bit longer, so it will be harder at first to press the chords, so what? But as a result, you’ll learn the instrument that will sound the most appropriate for the style of music you’re going to play.
Besides, you can also target your favorite musicians in the same way in this regard. If you’re a fan of Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucía or even want to go to music school to play the guitar exclusively on Sergei Rachmaninoff – then nylon is more suitable for you. If you like something close to rock, blues for fingerstyle and you’re a fan of what Tommy Emmanuel, Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour or Don Ross are doing, then you should probably go for guitars with metal strings.back to menu ↑
There are several ways to tune a six-string guitar. I suggest you take a look at the simplest of them.
First, you need to tune the first string to the note E. You can do this with a tuning fork or a tuner. When the first string is tuned, clamp the second string on the 5th fret and tune in unison with the open first string.
The other strings are tuned in the same way, except for the third string. It is clamped on the 4th fret and tuned in unison with the second string. If you have difficulty tuning by ear, check yourself with the tuner.
For clarity, here is the tuning diagram:
- 2 on the 5th fret sounds in unison with the 1st open;
- 3 on the 4th fret sounds in unison with the 2nd open;
- 4 on the 5th fret sounds in unison with the 3rd open;
- 5 on the 5th fret sounds in unison with the 4th open;
- 6 on the 5th fret sounds in unison with the 5th open.
Several Types of Guitar Strumming
The most common way for beginner guitarists to sound is the guitar Strumming. There are many variations of the strumming, but my advice is to start with these:
- the eight – ↓↓↑↑↓↓↓↑;
- the six – ↓↓↑↑↓↑;
- the four – ↓↑↓↑.
In time, you won’t need this cheat sheet to play a particular song. You’ll know how to play as soon as you hear the song. But in the beginning, you need to practice a lot and get the above three strumming patterns down to automatism.back to menu ↑
How To Learn To Play The Guitar From Scratch: Step By Step Instructions
So, we are done with the theoretical part. You’ve already understood why you took the guitar in your hands, learned the basic chords and know a few strumming techniques. What’s next? And then begins a never-ending and fascinating process of self-improvement. If you decided not to take guitar lessons from a teacher and want to learn this beautiful instrument by yourself – I’ll try to outline a rough plan of actions for you.back to menu ↑
How do you begin to learn to play the guitar? First, learn how to tune it. I suggest using tuners just to check yourself. Why is this important? The sooner you start developing your musical ear, the sooner you’ll get to a point where you don’t need the chords, the chorus or the looping of a song, you can identify it by ear and play it instantly on the guitar. How do you learn to play without developing an ear? You can’t. So try to tune your guitar by ear.back to menu ↑
Get to the point where you can quickly jam any of the chords you learn. At first, it will look like this: look at the diagram, put your finger on the fingerboard, clamping the desired string, then look at the diagram again, put your next finger, and so on. At first, it will be very clumsy, but the more time you spend on it, the faster you will make it automatic. When your muscles will remember the positions of your fingers in chords, you will not think about it anymore. Ideally, you should be able to instantly pick up any of these chords.
Combine different fingerpicking and strumming techniques. At this point, work on left-right hand synchronization and pay attention to the speed of the chord changes. Pay attention to the purity of the sound. Focus on not striking neighboring strings when playing overdubbing.
I offer the following chord sequences for practicing all types of fingerpicking and strumming:
- Am – Dm – E – Am;
- Em – Am – D – G;
- Am – F – C – E;
- C – E – Am – F;
- Am – C – Dm – G.
You have already learned how to play a given chord progression with both chord progressions and chord changes. Try to record your playing on a tape recorder and listen to yourself from the side. It’s very useful practice. You might not notice some mistakes when you’re playing guitar, but listening to your recording you’ll notice them straight away. When you’ve listened to the recording and heard your mistakes, start working on these moments. Remember this algorithm of actions, it will be useful in your future studies when you will be playing exercises.back to menu ↑
Download the metronome on your computer or phone. For now, understand that it is your true ally on the way to mastering the guitar. Try to practice with the metronome more often. Start with the chord progressions I listed in the previous paragraph. Why is it so important? Everyone talks about the benefits of practicing with a metronome, but no one, including some guitarists I know, is practicing with one for some reason. As a result, their playing sounds crooked and unconvincing. If you compare two guitarists of the same level who play the same song, but one practices metronome and the other doesn’t even want to know what it is – I assure you, the first will sound much more powerful and professional than the second. Don’t make the mistake of all beginners who underestimate the usefulness of the metronome.back to menu ↑
If you’re feeling down, unmotivated, or in general want to quit, watch a concert of your favorite guitarist or band. This has always helped me to get my motivation up and keep practicing despite the difficulties. Watching videos of guitar players like Tommy Emmanuel, Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour, Erik Mongrain gave me so much motivation that I had no choice but to pick up the guitar again and try to do what they did.back to menu ↑
Tips from the Professionals
Develop your guitar technique
When talking about technique, they often mean speed of play. Don’t get hung up on speed only. Develop all aspects of performance. Work on clarity and dynamics, bends, and vibrato.Steve Vai
Explore more new compositions
Constantly learn something new. Endlessly playing what you’ve already learned won’t make you better. Listen to new music and learn. For example, learn one new song by your favorite band every month.Joe Satriani
Take time to study music theory
Learn music theory. Learning theory seems boring, but it’s really important. Knowing music theory will allow you to play whatever you hear in your head and make you a talented improviser.Yngwie Malmsteen
Play with other musicians
Find other musicians and try to play with them. Have a jam session. Playing together with other people will take you to a whole new level and allow you to develop as a musician much faster.Richie Kotzen
Befriend the metronome
Take plenty of time to learn a new song. There is no need to rush anywhere. Play the song at a very slow metronome a million times. This is the only way to perfect any song.Tommy Emmanuel
Try to pick it up more by ear
Develop your ear. It’s tempting to find a breakdown of the song on YouTube or learn it from the tabs. Resist it. It doesn’t develop you as a musician. Try to pick everything by ear and it will pay off.Andy McKee
Maintain regularity of exercise
It is very important to practice regularly. Set a goal to practice at least one hour a day. Believe me, this approach will bring you the best results and speed up your guitar learning.Tom Morello
Study the classics
Study classical pieces. For beginning guitarists, this is technically challenging, but very achievable. It’s great practice to help you develop technique and learn harmony.Tosin Abasi
All right, I’ve done a little bit of that and we’ve run through the obvious truths. Now let’s see what beginners are advised by one professional guitarist.
In conclusion I’d like not only to summarize, but also to give some advice for those who decided to learn how to play guitar.
My “not-so-great experience” suggests that you shouldn’t cram anything in isolation from the piece of music you’re learning. Don’t start learning chords by simply memorizing everything indiscriminately. In the same way, I advise you to approach drumming, chord progressions, and any guitar playing techniques in general.
For example, if you want to learn how to play slap guitar or learn how to sweep, that’s fine. But would you be interested if you don’t know where to apply these techniques? I doubt it. It’s quite another thing if you really like a certain composition and it uses these techniques. In that case you will be very motivated to finish it, and you will definitely do well.
I wish you good luck in your studies.