The guitar is a great learning instrument for beginners, but it can feel challenging when you first start to learn to play the guitar. You don’t immediately know how to do everything you wish you did when learning, but guess what?
Neither did the best guitar players when they started either. Learning how to play chords, hold strings properly, and eventually play your favorite songs takes time.
When you first start your practice sessions, you probably have multiple questions, such as: Is acoustic guitar or electric guitar better for me? How do I get better at guitar? What should I practice to be a good guitarist? Can I learn the guitar as an adult? And more importantly, What is the secret to playing guitar?
To answer the last question – there is no real “secret” to playing guitar. Some guitarists pick up bad habits when learning that aren’t easily undone. However, some helpful tips can genuinely benefit you in your journey to learn how to play guitar.
People don’t just magically know how to play overnight – it takes a lot of time, effort, patience, and practice to become a proper guitar player.
Here are some of the best guitar tips that can help you avoid bad habits and learn how to excel when learning to play the guitar as a beginner.
Tip 1 – Find The Right Guitar For You
If you are taking guitar lessons, you may be utilizing a borrowed guitar. However, if you don’t own a guitar or have one at home, you might want to figure out first what type of first guitar will work best for you.
It is beneficial to have a guitar that you can practice on at home, and it doesn’t have to be the best or most expensive, but you should look for an acoustic guitar or electric guitar that feels easy to hold so that you are more likely to keep practicing.
In addition, buying a guitar you can practice with regularly allows you to speed up your progress and learn techniques more thoroughly.
You should also be aware that learning the guitar doesn’t have an age limit. For example, Chuck Berry was almost 30 years old when he learned how to play, so don’t feel you missed a chance to try your hand at the guitar.
Tip 2 – Invest in a Guitar Tuner
While it can be challenging to play during practice sessions, it’s worse if your guitar is constantly out of tune. Finding a decent guitar tuner is a tool that every guitarist should possess. The first thing after identifying your guitar is working with a tuned guitar.
If you are a beginner, you don’t necessarily know how to tune your guitar by ear, so having an electric tuner will help ensure that you start every practice with a guitar that is in tune and ready to play.
You can also use the tuner to test a major chord, like G, C, or D. If you don’t want to buy a separate tuner, there are plenty of tuner apps you can find on your smartphone and download for free.
Tip 3 – Avoid the “Death Grip”
One key factor in playing guitar is learning how to hold a guitar. With an acoustic guitar, in particular, you will notice that pressing strings against your fretboard is tough. It hurts the tips of your fingers on your left hand (or your right hand if you are left-handed) and you will leave many practice sessions with indents in them, maybe even eventually get calluses.
Most people will combat having to press on the fretboard by hooking their thumb over the top of the fretboard so you can press the strings harder. Holding your guitar this way is called a “death grip,”
It has the opposite effect that you desire because it restricts your finger movement and puts your wrist at an angle. The key to a good hold has your thumb completely behind the guitar neck, which is the right place.
You force yourself to use just your fingertips to hold your guitar strings down. The problem is that it doesn’t feel comfortable to many beginners, but it is the best way to ensure you don’t pick up the bad habit of playing with the “death grip.”
Tip 4 – Take It Slowly and Learn Correct Fingering
We live in a world where things are at our fingertips and happen quickly. But, you shouldn’t go into learning to play the guitar and expect to pick it up right away. Learning takes time, and you have to exercise patience.
Learning how to play chord progressions or a piece of music may be your end goal, which is excellent. But, you need regular practice, understanding of how to properly hold the guitar, or work on how to hold a guitar pick for many hours before you can tackle chord progressions or a piece of music.
Good technique works with accurate fingering and plucking with a pick or strumming the right notes every time. Trying to speed up and blow through your technique so you can play a great song quickly will usually result in poor style.
One of the best ways to learn proper technique is by going slowly and knowing from the start that to master it, you need lots of practice. Beginners have a much easier time picking up speed when they learn good technique.
Tip 5 – Take Lessons
An important thing that many self-taught guitarists will say is that they should’ve taken lessons as the first step. While it is possible to learn guitar and not take lessons like Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan, there are many benefits when you work with a guitar teacher who already knows good technique and can teach you as a beginner guitar player.
It’s also a good idea to take lessons so that you can learn to read music, work on music theory, and learn many basics when playing. For example, many instructors of an instrument understand that knowing and practicing scales and songs becomes more manageable when you can decipher the notes on sheet music.
Even the best guitarists who didn’t take regular guitar lessons had to work extremely hard and for a long time with practice to learn chord progressions, notes, and music, and it was anything but simple. Working with a good guitar teacher is worth the investment, as it can help you learn more quickly.
Teachers will also help you focus on the basics, which include how to hold the guitar, how to hold your pick, fingering, strumming, and flat-picking. They can also teach you other advanced guitar methods like palm muting, using a capo, and barre chords, which are options you may not consider if learning on your own.
For instance, when learning to mute, your hands touch the strings close to the bridge on an electric guitar so the strings won’t vibrate as much, creating a dampened sound.
Tip 6 – Rehearse Standing and Avoid Looking At Your Hands
You may have started with learning the guitar while seated. Eventually, though, you want to ensure that you do some practicing while standing up. Standing is a great way to help you to break another bad habit – which is looking at your hands while you play.
It is more difficult to look at your hands when you stand up, so when you feel you have gotten the hang of your basic chords, use your practice time to stand and avoid looking at your hands so that you know you have mastered them.
For example, if your goal is to play with a band, many bands won’t have seating for you to play when performing. So as you put more difficult chords into action, you must consider how you would want to play if you were on a stage.
Plus, as you continue to put your practice into learning while not looking at your hands, you work your muscle memory, help build strength in your wrist, and become a better guitar player. Finally, moving your body as you learn is a great idea, so you don’t get stuck in one position as you play.
Tip 7 – Practice With a Metronome
A metronome is a powerful tool for any beginner guitarist. Chord changes may be tricky if you don’t have a good rhythm, and using a metronome helps you keep time much more straightforward.
For example, if you’re working on learning a new tab, you may not be able to master it because it has a more challenging time signature. A metronome will provide the right time to help you get a sense of rhythm, so you know when to strum or pluck your strings.
A metronome will also be beneficial when practicing scales and other warm-up exercises, which are crucial when you learn how to play. Just like a runner has to stretch and warm up their body, you must also work to warm up your hands and spend at least five or ten minutes practicing some strumming, chord progression, or changes to help you feel prepared to play.
Tip 8 – Play With Others
As you grasp a basic understanding of how to play, it can be beneficial to play with others. An important part of being a good player is learning more about dynamics, such as when to be louder or softer with your strum patterns when playing in a group.
In addition, you will discover that playing solo is very different from playing with other people. There are many different sounds than just your guitar, which will help expand your musical knowledge.
When playing with others, it helps to start by learning covers of songs you know and other easy songs for beginner guitarists. Then, the more you play, the better your hands will learn where to go and help advance your technique. You will also get some guitar tips and tricks from the other players and possibly learn some better songs to aid in your progress.
Tip 9 – Work Your Hands With Exercise
Stretching your hands is a great way to help you when learning guitar. There are some handy finger and hand stretches you can do that will go a long way to work your fingering when practicing specific chord shapes.
It also helps to stretch and work your wrist, since it has a big job of holding up the fretboard, especially when working with more challenging strum patterns or picking.
Tip 10 – Have Fun
The whole idea of learning to play the guitar as a beginner is while it is a challenge, it is something you should enjoy. The practice may not always be fun, and it helps if you practice so that you can build upon your skills, learn new chords and new techniques (like stringing a guitar), and become a better player.
The best thing you can do for yourself is set up to achieve small goals and take things one at a time. Then, as a new challenge presents itself, you can feel more motivated and be successful with each obstacle you take on and watch yourself improve.
Learning the guitar is a challenge, but if it is something you truly desire, you should continue working at it. Eventually, you can learn more than just how to tune a guitar and play chords – you could end up playing lead guitar in your band.
Don’t give up playing when things become a little bit difficult – if it helps, you can take a break and come back to playing the next day. Work with a good teacher so that you can avoid bad habits and learn proper techniques. Eventually, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you progress and become a better player.
There are many tips for learning guitar outlined in this article, but if you only take away a few, you’re already off to a great start in your learning.