Where To Begin: Playing Guitar For The Guitar Illiterate [Part 1]

There is a uncomfortable feeling when first attempting anything you’ve never done. Playing guitar is not an exception. It’s not the easiest instrument to learn. Especially by yourself. The best route to venture down is to find a teacher who can walk you through the process. I wrote this article, so you can feel like you at least know something. It can be intimidating to ask, because no one wants to be a beginner. Asking is the best way to get the information you need and you have to start somewhere. Right?

Here are some guidelines to get you started if you have never learned anything on the guitar before or even picked one up. We will address this for right-handed people. Reverse the instructions if you are left-handed.

It might be obvious, but first pick up the guitar and hold it while sitting down. Even holding it often will get you more familiar with it and it won’t feel so foreign to you. If you have an acoustic or standard shaped electric, set the curved part at the bottom of the body(the body is the big part) on you right leg close to your body. This position is the most common and feels pretty comfortable, but is not the best for playing. To increase the ease of playing sitting down, I would highly recommend the classical position. Eventually(unless you play classical solely) you will be standing while playing. Holding the guitar in the classical position is similar to how it will be when you are standing. To do this you should get a foot stand for your left foot(if you’re right handed), have your feet at a wider stance and place the guitar curve on your left leg instead of the right. This will put the fat end of the body between your legs. At this point the neck should be at an angle of 45°. It will be much easier to play for your hands.

The neck or long skinny part of the guitar should be facing to your left. Your right hand is the strumming hand and left hand is the fretting hand. Fretting is placing your fingers on the strings in the appropriate location on the fretboard. The fretboard is the part of the neck with the metal strips and most often white or black dots. Another obvious thing is the fretboard should be facing away from you. The headstock is at the end of the neck. It has tuning pegs that when turning tune the strings pitch either up or down. Pitch is the specified note.

Now that you have everything in position you’re ready to learn.

The two most common ways of playing guitar are strumming and picking. Strumming is when you move your thumb or guitar pick across more then one string at a time. This is called a chord. Picking is when you use the thumb, pick, or finger to strike one string at a time. This creates the sound of a single note.