If you are looking for the easiest way to learn how to play the guitar as a complete beginner, look no further! In this quick and step by step tutorial, I`ll share with you the techniques and tips to get you up to speed and playing in the shortest amount of time.
I wish I knew this when I started out and with this knowledge, you will be off to a flying start. It is very important to not overcomplicate things when you are first starting out. So let`s get straight to it!
First of all you will need to get yourself a good beginner guitar, a tuner, a pick, and an amp if you are going to play electric guitar.
If you want an electric guitar safe and quick delivered to your home then check out this guitar package I found on Amazon. You get a guitar, amp, and guitar stand tripod for $250. Click here to see guitar and price (it might change with time).
Many companies offer affordable guitars that are perfectly playable and even easy to play. A light guitar with a neck that is not too thick is a great place to start your electric guitar journey.
If you want to play an acoustic guitar that is okay too just get an acoustic guitar, a tuner, and a pick or use your hand for strumming.
Looking for the cheapest acoustic guitar?
Donner 36” Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Package 3/4 Size Beginner Guitar $125. Click here to check prices on Amazon.
Step 1) What is the first thing you should learn when playing guitar?
We need to get the guitar in tune. There are 4 main types: microphone-based tuners, vibration-based tuners, pedal tuners, and smartphone apps.
We can also use a tuner app for our smartphone. Check out Guitartuna. This can be downloaded in the app store for both iPhones and Android phones. It is also possible to tune your guitar by using your ears but this is very hard when you`re starting out since most newbies are tone-deaf when the start playing guitar.
We will use a tuner and also learn how to tune our guitar by using a Youtube tuning video in standard tuning. The standard tuning on a guitar with 6 strings are E A D G B e where the thickest string is the 6th string and is the E note. The A string is the 5th string etc. The 1st string is also an e string just like the 6th E string but just a higher octave.
Microphone-based tuners need to ‘hear’ the guitar notes to tune. (You can also plug-in electric and electro-acoustic guitars on most modern tuners.)
You pluck a note and the tuner shows you the note you played.
The tuner shows you this in three ways:
- It will tell you the string it thinks you’re trying to tune.
- It will show you with an oscillating ‘needle’ how far away from the note you are as you want it to be centered.
- It will show you whether the note is too low or too high. If the light is green then you are in tune, if it is red you are out of tune.
You need to get the needle in the middle.
In the picture above, the green light is lit. This note is perfectly in tune!
If you don`t have a guitar tuner, the Korg GA-1 is perfect and you can check out the price at Amazon.
We can see it’s tuning the A string (the 5th string) because in the top left corner it says “5A”.
- If the needle was over to the left, the green light would not be lit. The red light to the left of it would be lit and this would tell us the note was too ‘flat’ (too low).
- If the needle was over to the right, again the green light would not be lit. The red light to the right would be lit and this would tell us the note was too ‘sharp’ (too high).
Here Are The Steps To Tune Your Guitar With A Tuner
1 – Turn the tuner on.
2 – If necessary, tell the tuner the string you want to tune. (Most tuners default to ‘auto-detect’ the strings, but some tuners need to be manually told what string you want to tune.
3 – Pluck a string.
4 – Look at the tuner. Is the needle in the middle? If not turn the machine head one way or the other.
5 – Pluck again. Which way did the needle go? If it went towards the middle, keep going! If it went away from the middle, turn the machine head in the opposite direction.
6 – Repeat the cycle of A) pluck string B) look at tuner and C) turn machine head until the needle is in the middle.
While tuning, pluck the string a LOT.
Most beginners are quite timid and pluck once and then wait for ages while the tuner ‘listens’ for a note that’s stopped ringing.
Don’t do this. You should pluck, pluck, pluck away!
The more your guitar is ringing out a note the easier it is for the tuner to hear, so pluck lots. (About once a second is ideal.)
Vibration-based electronic tuners
Vibration-based tuners clip on to your guitar’s headstock.
They are brilliant if you’re in a noisy place as they detect the note’s pitch through vibration, so if there’s lots of noise around, it doesn’t affect the tuner (because it isn’t reliant on a microphone).
Once in position and switched on they will usually automatically show you what note your string is tuned to when you pluck it. (You don’t need to worry about ‘manual’ or ‘auto’ detection.)
They are very accurate and have color LCD displays that are easy to read, even in bright sunlight. (The ‘needle’ is indicated by different colors.)
Plug-in and pedal tuners
Plugin tuners are VERY accurate and connect directly to your electric, bass or electro-acoustic guitar via a jack lead.
They are expensive but awesome. A good tuner is the Boss TU3 which you can get on Amazon.
Pedals operate like any tuner (the lights represent the ‘needle’), but of course, you have to stomp the pedal to activate or deactivate them.
How to tune a guitar using a smartphone app.
For most modern guitar learners smartphone apps are a good cheap starting point when learning how to tune a guitar. Check out Guitartuna on app store.
There are hundreds of free and paid smartphone apps that are decent. They operate exactly the same as the microphone-based electronic tuners that we covered above.
How to tune a guitar using its own strings (and your ears)
Here is a good 6-step method for ’emergencies’, like if your electronic tuner isn’t to hand and your smartphone’s battery is flat. It’s the ‘anytime, anywhere’ method of how to tune a guitar.
Step 1 – Tune the 6th string
Tune the thickest open string as accurately as you can to a low E. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just ‘guesstimate’ what the thickest string usually sounds like.
(All the other strings will be tuned relative to this, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s a little sharp or flat.)
Step 2 – Tune the 5th string
Place your first finger on the fifth fret of the thickest string. This will give you an ‘A’ note that will sound exactly like how you want the open 5th string to sound.
You can now tune the 5th string to match the note you are holding on the 6th string.
Keeping your finger on the fifth fret, gently pick both the 6th string and the open 5th string in turn, gradually turning the 5th string’s machine head until the two notes are in harmony.
You need to listen carefully here. The two notes will ‘resonate’ when they match.
Step 3 – Tune the 4th string
We’re going to do the same thing again here, except a string higher.
Place your first finger on the fifth fret of the 5th string. This is a D note.
Keeping your finger on the fifth fret, pluck the 5th string and then the open 4th string one after the other, at the same time turning the 4th string’s machine head until the note of the 4th open string chimes like the note of the fifth fret of the 5th string.
Step 4 – Tune the 3rd string
Same again. Place your first finger on the fifth fret of the 4th string. This gives a G note.
Keeping your finger on the fifth fret, pluck the 4th string and open 3rd string alternately, turning the 3rd string’s machine head until the 3rd string is in harmony with the fifth fret of the 4th string.
Step 5 – Tune the 2nd string
It’s different here. Place your first finger on the fourth fret of the 3rd string. This gives a B note.
Keeping your finger on the fourth fret, pluck the 3rd string and open 2nd string alternately, turning the 2nd string’s machine head until the 2nd string rings brightly with the fourth fret of the 3rd string.
Step 6 – Tune the 1st string
Place your first finger on the fifth fret on the 2nd string. This is an E note.
Tune the thinnest and last string to that, again by turning the 1st string’s machine head until the tone of the 1st string dings with the fifth fret of the 2nd string.
- So you can see we tuned each string to the prior string. To remember this pattern, think “5 5 5 4 5”.
- Don’t forget the 2nd string is the only one that uses the fourth fret to tune from. All the others use the fifth fret.
Now that our guitar is in tune we need to learn how to play something!
Step 2) What every guitarist needs?
Learn how to fret notes and at the same time pick and strum the notes we want to play.
We will start by playing open strings and we`ll start at the thickest string which is the closest to you or the E string (6th string). Pick the string either with a pick. If you don`t have a pick you can use a coin or just your fingers.
Try to pick the E string with the picking pattern down – up – down – up – down – up – down – up. This is called alternate picking and is the correct way to pick and which you should learn when starting out. Try to hold your pick as close to the strings as possible to get more control and also to develop better technique.
When you can do this try to place your pointing finger on your left hand on the first fret of the E string. Do the same picking pattern down – up -down – up, etc. If you can do this then try to fret the 2nd fret of the E string with your middle finger and do the picking pattern. Then do the same with your ring finger and lastly with your pinky if you manage. Remember that it will take time to build up strength in your fingers. It is completely normal to struggle with making clean notes and stiff fingers in the beginning.
Now, if you can do this try to move down and up the string and then move to the next string. The idea is to get used to changing strings and also synchronize the left and right hand so that you change a string with your fretting hand or the left hand, then you also change the string with your right hand. You should practice using all of your fretting fingers. If you get tired just take a break.
Step 3) What Is A Chromatic Scale?
Build up finger strength by doing chromatic scales.
Start on the E string on the first fret. Press your pointing finger down until the string hit the fretboard and try to be as close to the fret bar as possible. Place your middle finger on fret 2. Slightly drag it to the side and release while still holding down your first finger. This is a pull-off. Now hammer the 2nd finger down again, this is a hammer-on. Do this for as long as you manage.
Then try to do the same but start with the 2nd finger on the 2nd fret and hammer-on your ring finger on the 3rd fret. Pull-off and hammer down repeatedly until you are tired. Then do the same but starting with your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret and hammer on the pinky or 4th finger. Then do this until you can`t do it anymore.
If your fingers are too stiff, then move your hand down the fretboard where the distance between the frets are smaller. You should also try to change strings once you can move up and down on one string to get familiar with the feel of playing far up as well as far down the fretboard.