Step 1: The guitar
Right, so the first thing you’ll want to do is get yourself a guitar, if you already haven’t gotten one. When buying your first guitar keep in mind that it’s your first and especially if you’ve never played an instrument before it might be a wise idea not to spend too much money on it. It might be better to buy a cheap guitar, you never know what might happen. Maybe you’ll get bored, frustrated or after a couple of weeks you won’t have enough time to play guitar. If you’ve then bought yourself an expensive guitar you’ll be stuck with it. Even so, if you do continue on with playing guitar you’ll want to buy a new guitar after a while. Also, do realize what you’re going to do. Don’t just burst into a shop and buy the first and cheapest guitar you can find. There might be stores that sell full packages (guitar + accessories) or that just sell better quality guitars.
If you’ve done all that, take a look at this site. Really no explanation needed. Great site to start with anyway ^^.
Step 2: Gear
So now that you have the guitar it’s time to stock up on some essentials. Firstly, get yourself a tuner. If you’re lucky, or smart, and have bought a guitar package it might have been one of the things that came along with the guitar. For me, my mum got a sack to put the guitar in and one of those tuning flutes. For people, like me, who have never played an instrument before it might be really hard to tune your guitar just by using this flute. In that case, get yourself an electrical tuner (I’d recommend the ones from Korg). They’re cheap and easy to use.
Secondly, get yourself some instruction books. Learn about notes, strumming, rhythm and maybe even learn your first chords. In the end you’ll want to search for songs on this site, or others, to be able to play for yourself. But if you can’t progress from one chord to another and have no idea how hard you need to press the strings or what strings it’s going to be a little hard. Of course, there are people who haven’t learned notes at all and have just started with chords but personally I found that an easy instruction book can help you get on your way. You’re bound to finish them within days but they’ll give you a basic impression on what it’s like to have a guitar.
Thirdly, get yourself some picks. Not too much to explain on this count, they cost like nothing and you’re bound to use them.
Other accessories that might be worth getting are a capo, a metronome, bag for your guitar, a strap, maybe even a standard but when you’re beginning you really don’t need them all. You can search for songs that don’t need a capo, use your foot to get the right rhythm and you can play guitar while you sit down.
Step 3: Chords
So now that you have all the appropriate material and you have learned the basics it’s time to move onto chords. There are a couple of ways you can learn them, I learned them by searching for a song and just trying the chord. You can also follow this link, which will show all of the available chords and just make your way through the list.
Believe me, it’ll take a while ^^. So what I did was simple. I searched ultimate guitar for an easy song. I ended up with Bubbly by Colbie Caillat. If you’ve never heard the song, listen to it once. It’s basically three chords over and over again. It’s really easy.
So, you can start with that song. Don’t mind the strumming/plucking just yet. Just make sure you can play the chords without letting any of the strings ring. Keep practising it until you can transition fluently from one chord to the next. It’s gonna take a while before you can flawless the song. It might get a little frustrating and your fingers may hurt. Just take a break then, you’re not going to learn to play guitar in a day, or a week for that matter. Be patient, it’s a different way of letting your brain work and your brain will probably need to get used to it too.
If you’re really getting pissed with this song or just don’t know the song and want to play a song that’s a bit harder take a look at these: look at the beginner songs program. Though tbh there are a lot of songs on that list that use hammer ons and pull offs and you’ve probably never heard from them ever before.
America - Horse with no name (lesson + tabs). For that song I’d look at the lesson really, since it only features two chords and has a full explanation on what you’re suposed to do.
Guns ’N Roses - Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Four chords, but it’s a good song to start with. Tabs.
Nelly Furtado - Try. One of the first songs I learned. Three chords.
Other than that you can of course always just scan through the tabs looking for something that you think you might be able to play. When looking for songs be sure you look for songs that have been tagged novice and don’t involve too many chords. It helps to find a song you like that you can play over and over. Also, when playing chords and looking at figures featuring chords, bear in mind that the strings labelled with an x should not be played. Might seem straightforward but it can easily be forgotten.
Step 4: Strumming
By now you must be wondering which way you need to strum your guitar. Or in fact, how to. If you’ve bought a pick, this is where they come in handy. I have an acoustic guitar and I felt that strumming with a pick only made it harder to strum correctly. So I decided to strum by hand. There are a couple of sites explaining about strumming and youtube videos to explain strumming itself. As with everything when it comes to playing guitar it takes a bit of practice and patience. It’s more of a personal preference whether you strum by hand or use a pick. Find out which ever suits you.
For me, I just youtubed some videos to see how other people do it. There are a lot of strumming patterns you can learn and a lot of different things you can do during a song, like change the strumming for a song etc. Before I go on, here are some of the resources for strumming. In this article there is an explanation of how to strum but also, at the end there is a list of strum patterns for a few songs which may be helpful.
Nextleverguitar has some interesting videos on youtube, explaining in a clear manner what it is you need to do to create a certain sound. And again, lessons from about.com.
So, read/watch those, or find your own resources. What you’ll want to do is just get a strumming pattern you feel comfortable with. For as you will find out soon enough, most tabs don’t feature the strumming pattern. As you will progress you’ll be able to tell when a person strums upward or downwards and you might make up your own pattern for a song. If you’ve found that strumming pattern you’re comfortable with, just play that for the songs you’re playing. Strumming down all the time would be the easiest, but if you feel comfortable enough to do down-up-down-up then try that. It not only enriches the song, but it’s one of the most commonly used strumming patterns for beginner songs. Or so I’ve found. It sounds right with a lot of songs.
Right, time for a distraction:
Do you remember the Colbie Caillat song I was talking about just now? With that song you don’t strum, but you pluck the strings. This basically means you curl the fingers of your right hand around the appropriate strings and you pull them a bit away from the guitar and then let them go. I make that sound a lot harder on paper then it actually is. For that particular song you’ll want to pluck the DGB string twice each chord. Sounds a lot better then just strumming down right?
Back to what we were talking about. For me, I learned to strum using the Lifehouse song, you and me. The bridge was far too hard for me to play, so I just skipped that but the tabs that are on UG explain something about the chords and give you the strumming pattern to. (Look here) There is also an explanation on the same page about strumming that might be worth looking into.
Oh and remember how I said Try by Nelly Furtado would be a good one to start with? Try strumming that using down-down-up for the Em and D chord and then 4 downs for the Am chord. The actual strumming is down-up-down-up up-down-up for the Em chord, but if you’re just starting it might be better to just start with down-down-up, since it’ll give you some time to transition from Em to D.
Also, if you replace the Bm chord with an Am chord in KT Tunstall’s Other side of the world you can also play that. Try to use down-down-down-up-down-up for the intro (you can actually throw in an extra down at the end) and then down-up-down-up for the strumming part of the song. The first verse doesn’t require strumming all the time, it’s just strumming one chord at a given time. Lastly, you can take a look at the Kooks - Ooh la. It’s a quite easy song, the only thing that makes it hard is the strumming pattern and the pace of the song. Since it’s a pretty fast song and a quite difficult strumming pattern. It’s a really fun song to play though. Here’s a video with a really good explanation. Thing about Ooh la is that you need a capo. So by now, you’ll be able to play a couple of songs. About time we move on!
Step 4.5: Reading tabs
When browsing through UG you’re bound to find tabs at some point. At first they might seem a bit daunting and scary to read. I had some difficulties with them but thankfully I have a friend who has played guitar for 5 years now who could explain it to me.
Tabs are mostly used when playing single notes, for instance in an intro. Take a look at the intro of Far Away by Nickleback or Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. If you listen to the songs you’ll know what I mean. Each line represents one string, each number represent where you need to press it and play it. If all of the numbers are lined up then they form a chord. Mostly, when tabbing chords people will not use guitar tabs but simply write down the chords, cause it takes a lot of time to tab chords throughout an entire song. So basically, you read the tab from left to right. 0 means you play the open string. When the numbers are played diagonally it means you need to play them after each other. (Duh) The space in between the numbers indicate how long the pause between them should be. Even though most tabbers try to get the pauses right it might be a wise idea just to listen to th song itself to hear when or where you need to pause.
Intros and tabs might seem a bit challenging at first and they certainly are but they add up to a song a lot more than just chords do. There are times when a certain guitar plays the intro over and over throughout a song (like for instance Away from the Sun by 3 Doors Down).
It takes more effort to read tabs than it does to read the chords that are already written out but you’ll learn to do it quickly soon enough. Not being limited to only chords means you might be able to play songs you weren’t able to play before.
Step 5: Bar Chords
So, it seems I’ve been holding this off for a while now but it was necessary. Bar chords are, especially in the beginning really hard. A bar chord is a chord in which you need to use one finger to press down multiple strings. Common bar chords are the F and the Bm. If you’ve played KT Tunstall before you’ll have come across this one already (at which point I told you to use an Am instead).
The thing that makes bar chords hard is that you need to stretch your fingers over 3 frets (just talking about F and Bm chord at the moment) and you need to put enough pressure on the strings to not let them ring.
Since the F chord is basically the same as the Bm chord, when it comes to difficulty I’ll just explain the Bm chord. Bear in mind that with the Bm chord you only need to bar 5 strings, with the F that’s 6 strings. Take a look at this video
In case you’re sick of videos, here’s a quick explanation. The finger that’s going to bar the strings should be the last finger you put down. Make sure the other three fingers are in place and just play with the string to see if they ring or not. Then put down your bar finger, so to speak and make sure you press it against the neck as firmly as you can. Try turn your finger a bit to the side, away from the other three fingers. In this case you don’t need to press too hard against the strings since you’re now barring with bones rather than fleshy skin. Also, watch the creases of your finger, if they are on top of a string they are bound to ring. And make sure you press down against the high E string too.
And then strum! If all sounds well you’ll have learned your first bar chord now.
Here are some songs you can practice your Bm chord with.
Set the fire to the third bar - Snow Patrol
Other side of the world - Kt tunstall
Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
I’d really recommend snow patrol since it’s just three chords and i’ve found out that a lot of songs use the A or Am and G chord in combination with the Bm chord.
Step 6: ….
So yeah, this was it. This is how I taught myself how to play guitar. I hope it was helpful and that you managed to read it all whilst staying awake. And since I’m really a beginner myself I’ve sort of run out of things to teach you or tell you about. Sure, there are a couple of misc. Things I can talk about but I’d rather keep it like this. Suggestions are always welcome. And thanks once again for reading.