Friday, June 19, 2020

How To Play Guitar - Beginner's Guide | Music Think Tank

How to play guitar? How to learn the basics of guitar? Thousands of people wonder these questions. Every Year. And that’s easy to believe, because the guitar is an amazing instrument. You can play almost anything with it. But enough with a rambling…you are here for a reason…am I right?

You want to learn guitar? First of all, that’s awesome, and secondly, you can absolutely do it!

Of course, it will take a real effort, but once you master some basics you will be good to go.

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part…but I have good news for you. That’s exactly what we are going to do today. We will get you started!

This post will give you

  • Beginner info about guitar playing
  • Basics to get you going

I recommend that you learn some cool stuff from here, then bookmark this site and go play your guitar. After that, come back to this site and learn more.

Let’s stop the small talk. Now it’s time to learn the guitar!

This post was originally published at

I recommend that you check the original post out too, it gives you videos to support your learning, guitar recommendations, more learning resources and directions to go after mastering everything in this post.

Different parts of guitar/Anatomy of Guitar

Many beginners skip this part, they just want to get playing. I totally understand that, after all, playing is the main part. But if you use a couple of minutes to learn guitar anatomy, that will benefit you greatly in the long run. It’s delayed gratify.

You have an idea about where the different parts of the guitar locate. Basic guitar anatomy also makes buying and playing the guitar easier.

I made this photo for you to clear things out:



How to Hold Your Guitar the Right Way?

If you hold your guitar correctly, playing will be soo much easier for you. Here you can see me 4 years younger, holding my ESP correctly:

Notice my leg which is supporting the guitar. It’s in a slightly upward position. That prevents the guitar from sliding down my leg. Also, I have a better view of the fretboard thanks to my upwards pointing leg. You may need to use some kind of stand(for example: books or box) or lower chair to get your leg like that. But trust me, holding your leg like that helps a lot.

Don’t let the guitar lean anywhere. Sit up straight and pull the guitar close to you and play. Cool. Let’s move on.


How to Tune Your Guitar?

First, learn the name of each string in standard tuning. From lowest to highest pitch(thickest string is the lowest pitch and thinnest the highest):

I learned strings order by making a word out of these letters: EADGBE. This helps me to remember the correct order.

When your pick or strum a string, pitch of it depends from 3 different factions:

  • Length of the string
  • Thickness of the string
  • Tension of the string

When you tune your guitar, you adjust the tension of the string.

So, if you want that your guitar sounds like a charm, it needs to be in tune. You can get your guitar in tune easily by using a tuner or app from your phone. I recommend using Fender Tune-app. Basic tuner features of the app are free and it’s really easy to use:

Now tune each of your string using a tuner or fender app.


How to Hold Guitar Pick?

Your picking determines the power, rhythm, and which strings you want to play. And because we are at the start of your guitar journey, we are only focusing on using the pick to strum your guitar. Fingerstyle and hybrid picking(using pick and fingers at the same time) are valuable skills and you should learn those when the time comes. But now, let’s learn how to use a pick!

This video will help you get started with picking(05:16-time when he shows you how to hold a pick):

Now give it a try, hit your string with your picking hand, each string separately and together. Use different power and rhythms. Make your picking hand loose and relaxed. Use both, down- and upstrokes. Get a feel for it and warm you picking hand up a little bit.

Awesome! You now know how to hold and use a pick! It’s a good idea to practice using your pick hand regularly.

Let’s move on to your other hand, the fret hand


How to Use Your Fret Hand?

If you want to master the guitar, your fret hand needs to be flexible, fast and strong. And you will get there, but let’s lay a good foundation first.

First of all, your fret hand doesn’t support the guitar neck. Your guitar should be resting on your leg or if you are using a strap, it should support it. That makes your fret hand able to move easily around the neck.

Second of all, cut fingernails from your fret hand. It’s almost impossible to play guitar if you have long fingernails because you will not be able to press the strings correctly. So cut those off.

Now let’s dive deeper. This video will give you a nice head start with your fret hand, you should watch it:

After watching this video, play with the guitar, hit some notes with it. It doesn’t matter how those notes sound together at this point, just make sure that those notes sound clear.

It’s about the time to learn 4 the most popular chords. After learning these, you can play almost any pop-music song. How cool is that! But before that let’s quickly learn how to read chord boxes.


How to read chord charts?

Reading chord charts is one of the first things you should learn when starting out.

  • Six vertical lines represent the six strings of the guitar. On the left side is the thickest, and on the right side is the thinnest.
  • First horizontal line is the nut of the guitar(strings go through this piece at the headstock). This line is usually thicker than the others.
  • All other horizontal lines represent frets.
  • Numbers show which left-hand finger you should use to play the note/press the fret. (1=index finger, 2=middle finger, 3=ring finger and 4=pinky)
  • In(or sometimes over)the nut are X and O’s. Meanings are: X=don’t play this string, O=play the open string.

This picture shows you how to read chord charts/chord boxes. I use the D-chord as an example:



Now, it’s time to learn those 4-magic chords.


How to Play 4-Magic Chords?

Most of the popular music (country, rock, and pop) can be played with only 4 chords. And you are about the learn these 4 powerful chords. 

Here are pictures of those chords(chord charts) on a fretboard:

Try playing every one of these. Get your hands and brain used to these chords.

Make sure that you can play chords cleanly. Place all your fingers on the fretboard to produce a chord, and then, play through each string of the chord. If some strings don’t sound right, make sure that you are pressing the string properly and hard enough. And check that your hands are not touching any wrong strings or part of the strings.

You are off to an amazing start with guitar. I recommend that you take a little break and recap what you have learned. And play your guitar a little bit with those 4 chords.

After that, it’s time to learn a couple of more chords. These chords are really versatile and you can use it all over the fretboard.


How to Play Barre Chords/Movable Chords?

When you are just starting out,  you can add some spice to your playing with barre chords.

Did you know: The Ramones songs are almost exclusively made of barre chords

Note: Barre chords are harder than 4-pop chords, so take your time. Keep using 4-pop chords and play songs with them. But challenge yourself once in a while with barre chords. Don’t lose hope if you have to practice these a lot more than other chords you have learned, you will get there.

Here are pictures of bar chords on a fretboard(chord charts):


Note: When playing bar chords, your thumb placement is really important. When your index finger is covering all the frets, your thumb should be in the bottom half of the neck. Straight below your middle finger. This forces you to press all the strings correctly.

Wow! You have laid a solid foundation.

Now again, I recommend that you have a little fun with your guitar. Play it. Use those 4-chords and barre chords which you just learned.

After that, I believe that you might feel some of those chords were pretty bit hard. And maybe you have some pain in your fingers. So let’s deal with those next.


Learn Songs

This is the best part of guitar playing. You can play your favorite songs! It’s soo much fun.

When you are learning a song, start of so slow that you are able to play everything correctly.

Then you can speed up slowly.

When you are at the right speed, try to get used to the right rhythm.

You need to be patient. Take your time. You will learn with some practice.

Now, I’ll give you a couple of ways to learn your favorite songs.



You can use Google or Youtube to find the right chords for specific songs. For example: I wanna learn chords for the song, ‘’Let it Be’’ by The Beatles. I write ‘’Let it be Beatles Chords’’- to the google(or just ‘’Let it be chords’’). And BOOM! Click one of the first sites or videos and you can start learning.

Wanna make things easier? Google ‘’´´song name´´ -chords easy’’ or ‘’´´song name´´-4 chords’’. For example: ”Let it Be chords easy” or Let it Be 4 chords”. This helps you to find the easiest way to play that specific song.

If you found some unfamiliar chords, just write ‘’´´chord name´´ -chord on guitar’’ and you can found out how to play that specific chord. For example: ”G chord on guitar”.


If you don’t know how to read tabs, check this guide to find out.

You can do exactly the same thing with tabs as with chords. Just use Google or Youtube. This time write ‘’´´song name´´ -tabs’’. For example: ”Let it be tabs”. It’s really that simple! Now you basically can learn any song you want! You just have to practice.

If you want to learn songs by using chords and tabs, check this post I made:  Easy Guitar Songs For Beginners From Every Genre - 70 Songs. It gives you a ton of easy and awesome songs to learn.



This can be a great free method to learn some songs or other stuff. Just go to Youtube and search for ‘’How to play ´´song name´´ -on guitar’’. Or you can watch the band’s live performances and try to find out how to makers of the song play it.


This is ”the post I wish I had when I started”. I really tried to include everything you need to learn the basics of guitar.

And now, it’s up to you. You either choose to practice or not… I hope that you do tho…

Guitar playing is an amazing hobby, and you will feel the same when you practice and make progress. Go and play the guitar, my friend!

I hope that this post really helped you to get started with the guitar playing! If you have any questions, leave a comment below. And feel free to share this post with others.

I wish you all the best and keep rocking!

Teemu Suomala



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