Beginners- How to Start Your Guitar Playing Journey

I love teaching new guitar players.  They are full of motivation, excitement and wonderment.  One question that I get asked a lot by beginner guitar players is how to get started in playing the guitar.

Here are seven key things all beginner guitar players should do to make sure they are on the right path in their guitar playing journey.

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Know Your Goals

This question is one that I ask all prospective students and help my students develop, track and revise.  Why do you want to learn how to play the guitar? Do you want to just be able to sit on your couch or by the fire and strum some easy tunes? Maybe you want to write your own song. Whatever it is, it’s important to know your goals, so that way you know how to best practice the guitar.

Someone who is just playing the guitar for fun will have a very different practice routine than someone who wants to play guitar professionally. Different goals require different amounts of work and time. Recognize these things and be okay with them. One goal is not better than another. You have to pick ones that are most realistic and desirable for yourself.  I created a form to help you develop and track your goals along with a practice log.  Check it out in this post


Find a Good Teacher

In order to learn how to play the guitar, you need to be taught in some form. This does not necessarily mean you have to sign up for private lessons or find a local guitar teacher although this really is the best way to learn.  With advances in technology though, there are a lot of great guitar lesson DVDs and online guitar lessons that with a strong sense of self motivation and discipline, can be a good substitute for a private guitar teacher.  A word of caution though.  It can be very easy to mix in some guitar lesson videos on YouTube with the stupid cat trick videos you watch.  This is not a good way to learn to play the guitar.  There is no structure to the lessons on YouTube and you will find yourself doing more surfing than playing.  Read my article on the Internet Guitar Player for more on this topic.

Some of the top websites that have online guitar memberships such as GuitarJamz, GuitarTricks and JamPlay offer structured guitar lessons that will help you progress the quickest.

There are a number of great DVD packages out there as well such as Steve Stine's Kids Rock Guitar, GuitarZoom's Ripfire Guitar and Nate Savage's Beginner Guitar System that, again, offer high quality, structured lessons.

Learn Your Guitar Chords

You can’t play anything unless you know how to play some chords. Start learning some basic guitar chords.   All of the products I mentioned above will do that for you.  You’ll want to primarily focus on learning major and minor chords. Once you start on this, you’ll also want to start practicing barre chords. With the very basic guitar chords, you’ll be able to play a majority of popular songs out there.

Time, Rhythm, and Strumming

As important as it is for your fretting hand to be able to move around the fretboard to shape guitar chords, your pick hand needs to have a good grasp of rhythm, time, and how to strum the guitar. Start learning some basic strumming patterns.

Learn Some Easy Guitar Songs

We play guitar to play songs. This is a given. You can start applying some of what you learned about guitar chords and learn to play some easy songs to get you going.

Soloing and Improvising

It’s fun to be able to strum a song but there’s something powerful and magical about crafting a beautiful and melodic solo or lead line. A good start is to learn how to read guitar tab and find reliable sources of guitar tab for your favorite tunes.  I will give you a tip on this.  Most free guitar tab on the internet is wrong.  So be careful.  Accurate and easy to read tab is a great way to learn how to play some of the lead lines, licks, and solos you hear in your favorite songs.

All of soloing and improvising is based on a very good understanding of guitar scales and music theory.  A couple of great guitar DVD lesson on music theory that were written by guitar players, for guitar players include Steve Stine's Music Theory Made Easy and Marty Schwartz's Music Theory Survival Guide.

Then What…

Rinse. Repeat.  Learning to play the guitar can be frustrating at times so remember- learning to play the guitar and being good at it is a journey and not a race.  The cool thing is it will bring a huge sense of joy, amazement and fulfillment to your life.  Stick with it and just enjoy the ride.