Music is here to help us express ourselves the way we wouldn’t be able to by using words only. Learning how to play an instrument is a gratifying experience. One of the most popular instruments, that’s evolved into a perfect expressive tool, is the guitar.
However, if you’re new to music, you might feel a bit lost trying to wrap your mind around this 6-string (or more) instrument. But worry not, as we’ve come up with this brief guide that will assist you on how to teach yourself guitar even if you’ve never played anything else in your life.
It might not be the easiest task, but it certainly isn’t impossible.
Use The Material That’s Available Online For Free
Thankfully, we’re all blessed enough to have an abundance of great material available online, mostly via YouTube. Countless of guitar teachers and content creators will share lessons about anything from basic stuff up to advanced jazz solos. It requires some lurking and research, but it’s not that hard to find the best teachers for basic stuff.
Related article: 10 Best Music Blogs to Follow
Holding The Guitar
If you’re right-handed, the neck should be in your left hand and the soundhole or the pickups (depending on whether you’re playing an acoustic or an electric) should be in your right hand. The opposite is applied if you’re left-handed.
Sitting down, the indent on the guitar’s body should be placed somewhere above your knee, either on the left or the right leg.
Tune It Yourself
Speaking of basics, you should first learn how to set the strings and how to tune the guitar. It might feel like a tedious task, but it’s an important step in the process. Putting your stings the proper way is essential if you want to have a good experience playing the instrument.
The standard tuning is E-A-D-G-B-E, going from the thickest to the thinnest string. The strings are also referred to by numbers, 1 to 6 going from the thinnest to the thickest.
While you can use electronic tuners, it would be a great idea to learn how to tune the guitar by ear. Use one reference note, let’s say the high E string, and then go from there. The 2nd string on the 5th fret should be the same note as the open string above it, which is the 1st string. The same rule applies for the 4th, 5th, and 6th string. The 3rd string is an exception and it should sound the same on the 4th fret as the 2nd open string.
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You’ll start wrapping your mind around intervals when you learn how to tune the guitar. The intervals are “distances” between two notes and you’ll learn more about this when you get to basic music theory.
Picking And Strumming
Next up, you should learn how to hold the pick. The recommended way is to hold it between the thumb and the index finger, with the sharp part pointing towards the strings. Your wrist should be straight, with the arm somewhat parallel to the body of the guitar and the strings.
There are plenty of ways on how you can strum the guitar, but you should first start with the downstrokes. Try playing both individual and multiple strings.
Focus on your fretting hand as well, the left one if you’re playing right-handed. The thumb should sit firmly on the back of the neck, allowing other fingers to press the strings on the frets freely. Each string should be pressed on the fret area, as close as possible behind a fret. It will take some time and painful effort for callouses to form and your fingers to get accommodated, but you should be patient and persistent with this.
The next task is to slowly start and coordinate between the fretting hand and the picking hand. The easiest way is to start with some basic open chords. There are plenty of resources showing you which fingers to use and which frets to press, along with exact fingers you should strum.
Always Count And Sing Along To What You’re Playing
As a beginner, it’s important to get acquainted with rhythm patterns, chords, and melodies. Try and use a metronome, start with slower tempos, and count along with the song that you’re paying. When you get the rhythm, try and sing what you’re playing – whether these are melodies or fundamental (root) notes of the chords.
Related article: Top Easy Songs for Beginner Guitarists
Learn Music Theory And Apply It On The Guitar
More advanced stuff will come later, but you should be familiar with basic concepts like notes, intervals, tonalities, scales, and chords. This should all be applied on the guitar and you should, at every moment, be aware of where each note is located on the fretboard.
After that, you’ll be able to learn how each interval is played, how scales work, and how chords are built on the guitar. Music theory gives you an explanation of how stuff works in music and allows you to implement it on an instrument.
Related article: Top 12 Guitar Books for Beginners
Additional Advice On How to Teach Yourself Guitar
There’s also some additional stuff that might help you in the process. For instance, you can try and record yourself and keep track of your progress. There’s no better way to motivate yourself than to actually hear how better you’re playing now compared to a few months ago.
You can also surround yourself with guitarists and other musicians. This way, you’ll stay in contact with the instrument, and the music in general, as much as you can.
Last, but not least – try and listen to as many guitar players as you can. Thankfully, these days we have access to almost all the music that was ever recorded.
This brief guide should give some basic outlines and further directions on how to approach learning the guitar. It’s a very long process, but if you’re patient enough, it’s definitely rewarding. Now pick up your guitar and start practicing.