Are you interested in getting started playing the guitar?
Believe it or not, getting started playing the guitar can be done easily and simply.
You have to have a little patience though.
Beginners often get excited at the fun idea of playing guitar and dive right in.
That’s great! But there can be some negative results.
Sometimes beginners buy the wrong guitar for them or buy a guitar that they enjoy, but doesn’t really fit their needs.
Finding the right guitar is an experiment.
So, by taking a few minutes before you begin your guitar playing journey, you can save yourself some time, headache, and hassle.
The best way to get started playing the guitar is to S.T.R.U.M.
- Set your sights on where you want to end up
- Think about your purpose in learning the guitar
- Remember the style of music you’re interested in playing
- Understand which guitar is right for you
- Make a decision on the best guitar to start with
Step 1: Set your sights on where you want to end up
Starting to play the guitar will be a lot easier if you know where you want to end up.
It can be a long process to get to your goal, but if you know where you’re headed you’ll be further along than the rest of the crowd.
If you want to be the next shred master your journey will be a bit different than if you want to play classical guitar.
Take a minute and think about what it will look like once you’ve learned to play the guitar.
Are you still playing the same guitar or do you have a collection?
Have you mastered one style of playing and started learning another?
Do you see yourself playing in a band?
Is it a jazz combo or a punk rock trio?
This may seem trivial or unimportant but it’ll help you decide what kind of guitar you should buy and what you want to start learning.
Most guitarists can give you a list of things they wish they’d known before they started.
By taking a few minutes to think about where you want to end up you can shorten your journey.
You can always change your mind or change your guitar but you must start somewhere.
Remember, most people who want to learn to play the guitar don’t learn because they don’t get started.
You’ve already gone farther than them because you’re reading this and figuring out what kind of guitarist you want to be.
This isn’t a waste of time.
Look at it this way: If you were going on a trip would you decide where you were going before or after you started?
Step 2: Think about your purpose in learning the guitar
The style of music you’re interested in playing will have a lot to do with the path you start on.
Learning the guitar can be challenging, so you should think about your purpose in learning.
This’ll save you time in the long run and takes just a few minutes.
Do you want to master your electric guitar?
Do you just want to learn to play a few songs on your acoustic guitar?
Do you just wanna play some of the songs you hear on the radio?
The previous step was important in helping to answer these questions.
If you want to play jazz guitar, then you can say your purpose is to master jazz guitar.
And someone who wants to master jazz guitar is going to have a different journey than someone whose purpose is to play enough acoustic guitar to impress girls at their college.
There is no wrong answer to this question, and you can always change your mind.
I know a guy who played nothing but punk rock for almost 15 years and was dead set against learning shred guitar.
Over the last 2 years, he has spent time learning to play shred guitar.
He says it’s done more to improve his playing than just about anything else he’s done.
He also told me he wishes he’d learned this stuff when he was a teenager because he sees how it would have improved his playing.
I asked him and he said his purpose in learning the guitar when he first started was to be able to play Nirvana songs.
Now? He says it’s to be a better overall guitar player.
He’s started studying jazz guitar recently.
Step 3: Remember the style of music you’re interested in playing
The type of guitar you buy will influence the style of music you’re interested in playing.
If you’re looking for a guitar that looks good and pleases your ear, you must keep in mind: different types of guitars make different kinds of sounds.
Some guitars, like a Stratocaster, have been designed to play a wide variety of different types of music.
You can use it for jazz or rock or country.
It’s versatile and a popular choice for beginners.
But if you’re looking to play death metal, an acoustic guitar isn’t your best choice for a first guitar.
You’ll be disappointed because it’s difficult to get the sound you’re looking for out of an acoustic guitar.
Plus, you’ll be happier in the future if you buy a guitar that’s intended to play the style and type of music you’re interested in.
Looking to shred? A Jackson Dinky is a better choice than a Squier Stratocaster.
Both are good guitars, but the Jackson is designed for easy shredding.
If you’re just looking to learn the guitar and are agnostic about musical styles, then a classical guitar is a good choice.
They have a softer sound than an acoustic guitar due to their nylon strings.
If you don’t like the sound of a classical guitar you might prefer an acoustic guitar.
Step 4: Understand which guitar is right for you
How to Choose a Guitar for Beginners
Look at some of the guitars on different websites or ones you’ve seen guitarists play.
Are there any that look good to you?
Any specific style?
If you’re looking to play the electric guitar you’ve got a lot of choices.
Most beginners start with a Stratocaster or Telecaster-style guitar.
If you’re after a specific sound, you might want something like a Les Paul-style guitar or a Jackson Dinky.
It has to be enjoyable to look at as well as easy to play.
In the past, beginners were limited to what was available and pickings were quite slim.
Today, guitars geared toward beginners are readily available.
So if you’re looking for a guitar with humbuckers they’re easy to find.
Back in the day, an affordable electric guitar with humbuckers was but a pipe dream!!
If you’re more interested in acoustic guitar then you’re choices are a lot easier.
Dreadf, it’s what you should start with.
If you find it’s a bit too big, or find the sound too loud and “boomy” a parlor-sized acoustic guitar might be better.
Step 5: Make a decision on the best guitar for you
Different guitars will be best for different people.
Everything else being equal, one guitar will be perfect for one person because of its looks.
Another person may like the tone of the exact same guitar, but it won’t be perfect because they hate the way it looks.
Guitars are very subjective.
Quality guitars are available for very reasonable prices, so there’s no reason to settle for something you don’t enjoy.
There is no “best” guitar for everyone, but there are some good guidelines.
- If you’re looking to learn guitar from the ground up, a classical guitar is a good choice.
- Beginners looking to learn acoustic guitar often choose a dreadnought-style acoustic guitar.
- Destined for electric? For versatility and time-tested design, choose a Stratocaster-style guitar.
If you want to get more complicated than that, then you need to do more research.
And remember, spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better guitar.
Remember, an inexpensive guitar with a proper setup sounds and plays better than a very expensive guitar that hasn’t been set up properly.
Plus, if you buy a guitar intended for beginners, you’re buying a guitar that’ll cover the basics, sound good, and won’t have unnecessary features.
Getting Started Playing the Guitar: Conclusion
Now that we’ve covered the basic groundwork, you can see how you can get started.
Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple.
Once you know what kind of music you want to play and what you want to learn, you’ll be able to choose the guitar that’s right for you.
Since you’re a beginner, try to keep it simple.
There are a whole lot of things you could learn.
But for now, focus on the basics.
Once you have your guitar in your hands you’ll see how easy getting started really is.
Please See These Posts for More Information:
- Where to Start When Playing Guitar
- How to Start Playing Guitar From Scratch
- How to Get Started Learning Guitar
Getting Started Playing the Guitar: FAQ
- How do I know which guitar is right for me?
- Is playing guitar the only way to know which guitar is right for me?
- What’s the absolute minimum I need to get started?
- What about the different types of guitars?
- Are nylon strings better?
- Are acoustic and classical guitars easier to play?
- Is it more complicated to play the electric guitar?
- Is learning to tune your guitar a valuable skill?
- What’s important about learning basic chords?
- Why is it vital to be patient with your progress?
How do I know which guitar is right for me?
The type of guitar you start with has a lot to do with the music you want to play.
But it also comes down to personal preference.
Playing jazz on a guitar meant for punk rock can be done, but it’s more important to make it easier for beginners to learn.
If you’re not sure whether you need a certain feature or not, you don’t need it.
After you’ve got a bit of experience, you’ll understand why you want a guitar with certain features.
But for now, stick to recommendations of guitars that appeal to you.
The look of your guitar is very important.
Many guitarists will tell you they started out knowing nothing about features but saw a guitar and fell in love with its looks.
It’s easy for a beginner to find an inexpensive guitar with features they’ll be happy with.
Some types of music lend themselves to humbuckers, some to single-coil pickups.
You can’t know if you need one or the other until you’ve played for a while.
If you know you’re going to be playing heavily distorted music, it’s better to start with humbucker pickups.
Look at the guitars played by guitarists you enjoy.
That can help you choose what type of guitar you’ll need.
And remember, tastes change, so the perfect guitar for you today may not be a few years from now.
Is playing guitar the only way to know which guitar is right for me?
Personal preference plays a big part in knowing which guitar is right for you.
Until you have a bit of experience, you won’t know which guitar is right for you or even which features you prefer.
The joy of having a guitar that’s just right for you can not be beaten, but you can’t know until you’ve tried.
For instance, if you haven’t played electric guitar before you can’t say what type of bridge you prefer.
It’s part of your guitar playing experience to try out different styles and features to find what you prefer.
If you play guitar for a bit you’ll discover what type of fretboard radius you prefer and if you like one brand of strings over another.
This isn’t a disappointing fact.
Rather, you should think of this as an experiment.
Playing different guitars over time will give you more experience.
Think of it as a journey.
The guitar you start with may not be the one you stick with over time.
But it might be.
I know guitarists who own dozens of guitars, but their favorite?
The Squier Stratocaster they bought when they were a teenager.
They’ve upgraded it and changed the pickups and it’s still the guitar they love the best.
It’s very subjective but you’ll eventually discover the right guitar for you.
Don’t get too hung up on buying the “right” guitar as a beginner.
Again, as long as it’s set up correctly, it’ll do you fine.
What’s the absolute minimum I need to get started?
New guitar players should keep in mind that they only need a guitar and a pick to get started.
It’s pretty simple but we often get sidetracked by shiny new objects.
Technically, an electric guitar player doesn’t even need an amp, but if you’re playing electric guitar, it’s a bad habit to play without an amp.
If you’re looking to get started playing guitar, a simple acoustic and a guitar pick will get you started.
Don’t think you need anything fancy or specific to start playing.
If you find yourself caught up in finding your “perfect” guitar, you’re putting off the joy of playing your guitar.
The best way to get started playing the guitar is to start with a guitar that’s “good enough”.
The worst thing would be to become caught up in minor details when you don’t know the difference between a C Chord and a C7 chord.
Playing guitar is supposed to be fun and bring you joy!
If you don’t feel you can enjoy playing until you’ve found your “right” guitar you might want to ask why.
In the past, affordable options for beginners were limited, so people learned on sub-optimal guitars.
Nowadays, beginners are spoiled for choice.
What about the different types of guitars?
Different types of guitars have different benefits for beginners.
If you’ve decided on a specific style of music, that’ll influence which type of guitar you want to start with.
- Classical Guitar
If you’re interested in learning to play your guitar “properly” a great choice is a classical guitar.
It has nylon strings and a flat fretboard so it’s easier on your fingers and encourages proper finger placement.
- Acoustic Guitar
If you’re playing rhythm guitar or want to focus on learning chords, you might be better off with an acoustic guitar.
The metal strings are tougher on your fingers and take more hand strength, but it also makes playing electric and classical guitar a lot easier.
You also have more volume and a more traditional “acoustic” sound.
It’s a great choice for beginners who want to learn to play songs or need something with more volume than a classical guitar.
- Electric Guitar
Finally, we have the electric guitar.
The metal strings on an electric guitar are easier to play than the metal strings on an acoustic.
Getting started playing the electric guitar is more complicated than acoustic.
You need an amp and electricity so there are extra steps before you can start playing.
Benefits include the ability to practice silently using headphones.
If you live in an apartment and want to practice without causing your neighbors to hate you, it’s your best option.
3 Types of Guitars for Beginners
Are nylon strings better?
Since the strings on a classical guitar are made of nylon, they are easier for beginners to play.
It can be a challenge to build up hand strength and callouses on your fretting hand while also being expected to learn chords and notes.
That’s why a lot of beginners find it’s easier to start with a nylon string guitar than an acoustic.
Remember, there’s no “right” or “correct” way to learn to play your guitar.
Many professional guitarists play nylon string guitars.
It’s not just classical guitar players.
Buster B. Jones played a guitar with nylon strings because he said it was easier on his hands.
Charlie Byrd played jazz guitar on a classical guitar.
If you start with a nylon string guitar, all of the skills you learn will translate to other types of guitar.
You’ll find they feel different, but things like chords, notes, etc. are the same.
Plus, since nylon strings are at a lower tension, it makes it easier on your hands and fingers.
Most guitarists end up playing all of the different types of guitars.
You may not like the softer sound, or the quieter tone and want an acoustic or electric one.
That’s great, but do consider a nylon string guitar as an option.
Are acoustic and classical guitars easier to play?
How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners
Portability can be a factor when choosing your first guitar.
With an acoustic or classical guitar, you have easy and immediate access to playing.
That isn’t true with an electric guitar.
If you want to learn to play the electric guitar you need to play through an amp.
Yes, it’s possible to play without an amp but your volume will be very low.
This can cause problems because you will unconsciously play harder than necessary in order to raise your volume.
When you finally plug in, you’ll find it’s difficult to control your sound.
Plus, once you’re plugged in you may find you experience fret buzz due to picking harder than necessary.
Electric guitars also aren’t as portable as an acoustic or classical guitar.
You can toss an acoustic guitar in your back seat and take it with you.
You don’t even need a case.
They’re light because they’re hollow and can be carried around using your strap.
Electric guitars, not so much.
They tend to be heavy since they’re composed of solid wood.
You can get a gig bag with backpack straps but it’s still heavier than an acoustic.
Plus, you need some type of portable, battery-powered amp.
If portability isn’t a big factor for you, do you want to be lugging a heavy guitar around in other circumstances?
Standing and playing a heavy electric guitar can be tiring.
Is it more complicated to play the electric guitar?
A bit of forethought is necessary if you’re going to play your electric guitar.
Since you need to set up your amp and plug it in, it cuts down on spontaneity.
Unless you have a space dedicated to your electric guitar and amp you must put away your amp and guitar when you’re done.
Without an amplifier, an electric guitar puts out very little sound.
This means no one can hear it unless it’s plugged into an amp.
Plus, electric guitars need a cable that runs from your guitar to your amplifier.
You can add pedals to your setup and dramatically change your sound.
For dynamic and versatile tones you can’t beat an electric guitar.
But they need electricity to run.
This takes a toll on beginners because the small bit of effort needed to set up their electric guitar can be the difference between practicing and not practicing.
This may seem like a small thing, but it’s part of your process of learning.
An amplifier also takes up space and requires cables that can get in your way.
Keep in mind it takes an extra step or two to play the electric guitar.
Is learning to tune your guitar a valuable skill?
A lifetime of playing guitar means you’ll spend a lifetime tuning and re-tuning your guitar.
Once you’ve got it down tuning will be 2nd nature.
So, the first skill to master is tuning your guitar.
Tuning an electric guitar is exactly the same as tuning an acoustic guitar.
Start with your low E string and work your way up to your high E string.
Repeat as needed.
Practice makes perfect.
It can be intimidating at first because you might be afraid to break a string.
Eventually, everybody breaks a string while tuning their guitar.
It’s a right of passage.
I had a girlfriend who snapped the high E string on her guitar the first time she tried to tune it.
It’s not something to be afraid of, it’s just part of the process.
Second, beginners aren’t familiar with how tight strings need to be.
Once you’ve done it a few times you’ll get a sense for it.
Guitarists eventually get to the point where they know if they’re out of tune just by strumming.
You’ll get there with time and practice.
To start, use a tuner you find online or an app on your phone.
Then, practice tuning your guitar to pitch.
You’ll get there, but be patient and go slowly.
You really can’t damage your guitar by tuning it.
Most likely, your string will break long before you do any damage.
What’s important about learning basic chords?
Your fastest way to progress will be by learning basic chords.
Learning to play 3 or 4 chords will let you play simple songs.
Since you know how to tune your guitar, you’re now ready to learn chords.
For some, basic chords may be all you need to learn.
Songs can be played by reading the chord charts on sheet music.
If you memorize the chord progression of a song, you can play it at any time.
Even if you’re looking to shred or play classical music, it’s good to learn chords.
Chords are the basic building blocks of guitar playing.
Plus, once you’ve learned a C chord or an A chord, you’ve got it for life.
At the very least you’ll be able to play songs.
As long as you play the guitar you’ll be playing chords.
Why is it vital to be patient with your progress?
If you don’t compare yourself to others, you’ll get more joy out of learning to play.
It’s your journey and no one else’s.
It’s important to be patient with yourself and your progress.
It may take you longer than someone else to get your basics down.
Or maybe things will make sense to you immediately but later you get stuck on something else.
You’re doing yourself no favors by comparing yourself to other guitarists.
Some of the best players out there can effortlessly play amazing licks.
This happens because they have spent an enormous amount of time practicing those licks.
With patience and perseverance, you will reach the point where people hear you playing and assume it took no effort.
But, you’ll know the truth.
With a lot of work and persistence, you were able to reach a point where you could play your guitar effortlessly.
And that will only happen if you’re patient.
The best thing you can do is to decide to start learning.
It’s not as difficult or as intimidating as it seems.
At some point in your future, you’ll look back at this point, guitar in hand, wondering what you were so confused or worried about.
Until then, just remember to be patient with yourself.
JT currently resides in Southern California and has been playing the guitar since he was 13. He enjoys baking French pastries, drinking loose-leaf tea, and running Slackware Linux.