A Beginners Guide To Playing The Guitar

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Learning how to play guitar can be quite an exciting and fulfilling experience. If you’re a beginner, grab yourself an acoustic guitar for beginners and follow the steps below.

From the day you play your first chord until the day you’re playing your favorite songs with ease.

A few factors that might influence the direction of where you start could be the following:

  • What kind of music will I be playing?
  • Will I be playing an acoustic, electric or a bass guitar?
  • Do I intend on playing lead or rhythm?

We’ll look into these at a later stage but for now, let’s have a look at a few of the basics.

Learning How To Play Guitar

First of all, we need to become familiar with our new piece of equipment. When having a look at your guitar you will see that it is comprised of various different components:

  • Fretboard – A fretboard is the front section on the neck of the guitar. It is the part that you will be pressing with your fingers, usually using your left hand
  • Headstock – The piece of the guitar where your tuning pegs are, you will be using these to keep your guitar in tune
  • Body – Here is where the pickups and/or sound hole will be depending on what type of guitar you have (acoustic or electric)
  • Bridge – This is the part of the guitar where the strings start before stretching over the whole fretboard

How To Hold Your Guitar

We are going to learn how to play sitting down before advancing to a standing position at a later stage.

While sitting in an upright position, position your guitar body on your right thigh with your right arm over it. Place your left hand on the fretboard comfortably.

Guitar Tuning

Your guitar needs to be in tune to ensure that the notes you’re playing are in fact the notes the strings are making. Learning how to tune your guitar is one of the very first steps when learning how to play guitar. If any of these strings are out of tune it will change the note/chord that you’re playing.

Eventually, you will start to realize immediately when your guitar is out of tune and everything just sounds wrong. A good rule of thumb here is to check the tuning each day.

The standard tuning for your guitar should be the following: EADGBE. These refer to the root notes of a string, it’s the note that gets played when no note is pressed on the fretboard, this sequence is from the low string (E)of the guitar up to the high string (E) of the guitar.

In order to tune your guitar, you would need to either make use of a guitar tuner or you can download a guitar tuner app for your phone. Another alternative is getting a clip-on guitar tuner.

How To Hold Your Pick

In terms of picking there are a few options available, some people prefer to play the guitar with nothing but their hands but for now we are going to assume the usage of a pick.

A pick is a tear shaped piece of plastic that’s used to strum or pick the strings. It is also referred to as a plectrum.

There are various ways people end up holding their picks, the key here is finding the most comfortable/effective way for you.

Just make sure to hold the pick between your thumb and your index finger and make sure to bend your index finger, I tend to curl my index finger over just enough to get a comfortable place for my thumb to rest.

If you’re still a beginner, i’d recommend you take a look at our best guitar picks for beginners list.


Strumming is what’s referred to when you play multiple strings one after the other.

An easy way to strum for the first time is to strum the open fretboard, without playing a single chord.

Play the strings of your guitar from the low string to the high string with a fluent, almost raking motion, all strings should be ringing simultaneously.

An example of when you will use strumming is when playing chords.

Strumming isn’t as technical as picking so feel free to relax a when doing so.


This is the action of playing one string at a time with a more controlled motion, this technique usually requires only one string to ring at a time and requires more precision.

In order to do this with a controlled motion you will need to place the palm of your hand on the bridge of the guitar to reduce the range of motion and increase accuracy.

An example of picking is when playing a single note, this is usually used most among lead guitarists.

Try picking (playing) each string without pressing the fretboard, do so from the low string to the high string just as before.

Make sure you only hear one string at a time. You can mute a string after it has rung by simply touching the string before continuing to the next string.

Muting the string is simply for clarity in this case as we want to learn how to play clean and clear notes from the start.

Now lets have a look at the individual notes that we have picked so far. In order to do so lets refer back to the standard tuning: EADGBE. In this example we played the strings in order, we will have played the notes E then Athen D etc.

Learning Your First Chord

A chord is what’s referred to when playing multiple notes at the same time in a certain pattern, learning chords is the founding block of learning how to play guitar.

Possibly one of the simplest chords is an Em which can be seen to the right.

Place your index finger on the second fret on the  A  string (number two in the image) followed by your middle finger on the second fret on the string (number three in the image).

Next all you need to do is to strum all the strings, you have now successfully played a chord.

Now lets have a look at picking the strings that we strummed.

While maintaining the finger positions on the fretboard place the palm of your right hand on the bridge of the guitar.

Pick each string from the low string to the high string, in order you would have picked the following: EBEGBE.


Learning how to play guitar might take a while and this may seem like a lot of information. Don’t feel discouraged at first, piece by piece it will all become more clear. More to come soon.

Whether you want to learn about guitars, guitar equipment or other instruments, Guitarsquid has all the answers.