How To Play Guitar

how to play guitar

So many people try to learn how to play the guitar and give up prematurely. This has resulted in millions of unloved guitars gathering dust in a corner. After playing and teaching guitar for 15+ years, I have realized a few patterns that if addressed, can result in a lifetime of guitar playing enjoyment. These tips lean towards popular music, so be sure and tune to standard tuning when first starting out:

1 Define some goals

When starting out, it's smart to have some kind of goal. Keep it simple and attainable but make it something you'd be proud of. A good choice would be learning that song that never gets old, no matter how many times it plays. What kind of music would you like to play? Performing classical music on the guitar will require more of a focus on scales and fingering. Country music tends to favor more strumming with a strong focus on chords and rhythm. Do you want to play face-melting rock solos? Maybe your goal is to just strum that cover song and impress friends around the campfire. Whatever your goal is, be sure and stick to it no matter what. Eventually, you'll get there if you set your mind to it.

2 Impress yourself first

No matter what your goal is, you'll want to impress yourself with small accomplishments along the way. This is what it takes to keep your focus and stay interested. Too many people find themselves in some boring classroom thinking to themselves "I Hate This" In the beginning you may notice that the strings are buzzing and it's killing your fingers to push them down. Eventually, you're fingers will strengthen and clamp onto those chords with ease. For this reason, some may choose to start with electric guitar, which is much easier on the fingers than say, a steel string acoustic.

3 Repetition is your friend

Get used to playing the same guitar chords and scales over and over. This can feel robotic at first but it will improve your dexterity when switching back and forth from one chord to the next. If you get frustrated then just try something else! Most popular music today is based on rhythm so if you can tap your foot in perfect time, then you can strum in perfect time too. The key is to never stop in the middle of a song. Just play right through those bad chords and keep the flow. One technique I use to advance my playing is to fake it. I will imitate a style that I heard somewhere and use that to just have fun. This isn't boot camp, it's music, and can interpreted a million different ways. Do whatever it takes to find your own sound, and get hooked.


This one is by far the most important. Eventually, you'll want to play guitar with others and hear their sound merge with your own. If you don't know anyone who plays the guitar, then just pick a radio station! This is a massive learning tool and will help you to associate what you play with what you hear. It's always exciting to find the chords on your own, just by hearing the song on the radio. In the beginning you'll just want to pluck a string or two and notice how it fits with the song your hearing. Once you find that string that seems to fit, simply keep plucking it, in time with the song. It's very simple, but will bring you instant gratification and inspire you to keep going. Soon you'll be exploring other notes and getting bolder with your sonic interpretations.

5 Buying a Guitar

One of the biggest questions I get over the years is: Which guitar should I get? So many feel like they need to spend a ton of money on a guitar. Let me set the record straight right now: You don't need to spend a fortune on this. Out of all of my guitars, my favorite one was found at a pawn shop for 80 bucks. There is just something about a well worn instrument and only you can know when a certain guitar stands out for you. There are some amazing instruments out there and sure, the higher-end stuff certainly is awesome. The only problem is that you have to break in a new instrument before hearing how it truly sounds. This process can sometimes take several years! One thing you want to avoid is buying a guitar online. I prefer to walk into a shop and sit down to play it for a while. Would you order a wife online? If the answer is no, then your guitar selection process should be no different. Take a little time and find the right one in person.

6 Have Fun

Yes, this a tip. Sadly, many musicians (inducing myself) get in ruts, playing the same thing over and over for years. That little tune or blues riff may sound amazing to others, but don't let yourself get bored of playing it over and over. To keep things fresh, I have a a simple boredom-busting technique: try a new tuning. This erases the patterns you've learned and forces you to rely on listening again. Often, this simple trick will help you write that first song, before you're even aware of it. Let yourself get lost in that strange tuning and don't be afraid to play something that sounds wrong. Once you've found some cool tunings, it may be time to add a few more guitars to your collection. Each one will have it's own tuning and serve as a portal to new sonic territory.

by Ben Long

Guitar Tuner Navigation

  • Open G Tuning
    open g tuning
  • DADGAD Tuning
    dadgad tuning
  • Standard Tuning
    standard tuning
  • Drop D Tuning
    drop d tuning
  • Open D Tuning
    open d tuning
  • Low C Tuning
    low c tuning
  • Open C Tuning
    open c tuning
  • Drop B Tuning
    drop b tuning
  • Open E Tuning
  • Guitar Collection
    guitar collection
  • Tuner Developer John
    guitar tuner developer
  • CEO Fredrik Kaupang
    guitar programmer CEO
  • Musician Ben
    guitar tuner musician
  • Bass Tuner
    bass tuner
  • Guitar Tuner
    guitar tuner