How to learn to play the guitar

Step-by-step tips for when you first pick up a guitar. 

How to learn to play the guitar

My experience of playing guitar has been great as it’s given me a new way to be creative and use spare time productively. It’s also granted me another method of creating music alongside my hobby of singing. It was interesting to see how songs that I love listening to are comprised, in regards to what chords, what strumming pattern and what keys are used. As well as being able to hear what my own rendition comes out like!

I enjoy playing a range of different songs, some of the bigger artists include Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana and The Beatles. I mainly play these due to the fact that I listen to their music regularly.

In terms of platforms that helped me learn, Marty Schwartz’ videos on YouTube were useful, his channel can be found via the below video: 

His videos were helpful when wanting to learn a specific song as he goes slowly through the chords, the hand positions needed to perform them, the changes between the chords and demonstrates the strumming pattern - which is essential to getting a particular song to sound right and like the original.

As I started to come across new practices within the guitar sphere, such as bar chords and the use of a capo, I researched how these processes worked on google and used a variety of different websites that came up to get clarification. I made notes on what I felt was relevant and helpful and used this once I’d got to the stage where I could progress with these forward.

Taking the first step - strumming

  • Don’t focus on chords or songs at all to begin with. Get used to the dynamics of strumming the guitar strings.
  • Take your favourite song and replicate the rhythm by strumming on the guitar, ignoring whether it sounds right or not because it won’t sound like any chords at this stage.
  • Next, practice another pattern of strumming, getting used to the movements needed.

Learning chords 

  • After you feel like you’ve got a hang of strumming, familiarise yourself with simple open chords such as E, Am, C and D. Open chords are easier as they don't require you to block out a whole area of the fret with one of your fingers. 
  • Next, practice moving from one of these chords to the other, a simple one would be E to Am.

Putting it all together 

  • Incorporate a simple strumming pattern to accompany the simple open chords you’ve learnt, sticking with two chords to start.
  • It can take a while to feel familiar with this. Once you feel comfortable with strumming and chord changeovers, research a song with less complex chords such as ones with only a few open chords. One I started with was Wonderwall by Oasis as the hand movements aren’t extensive as you stay in the same region of the guitar, with the same hand position the whole way through, despite the chord changes. A chord sheet can be found here:
  • Try to learn a few simple songs on guitar and keep on practicing until you can accompany the correct rhythm with these song chords.
  • If you want to sing alongside playing guitar, this is definitely an added challenge at first as before playing guitar is fluent to you, it feels like you’re doing two difficult things at once. Start by focusing on one section of the song, singing and playing this slowly together. Gradually increase the pace to that of the original. Again, practice is the only way forward and soon the duet of both will be familiar

These steps should leave you equipped with a foundation to develop upon and with enough time dedicated, the songs you can play will become easier to perform. Guitar chord books are useful as they contain diagrams of where to place your fingers on the fret. Most importantly though, keep practicing as guitar can be muscle memory!


Megan Hockley

Megan Hockley

This author has no bio :(

We need your help supporting young creatives

Recent posts by this author

View more posts by Megan Hockley


  • Luke Taylor

    On 20 June 2018, 10:13 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    This is such a handy guide to have!!

Post A Comment

You must be signed in to post a comment. Click here to sign in now

You might also like

A musician’s guide to networking

A musician’s guide to networking

by Candelaria Gómez

Read now