Guitar Shop

Everything You Need Know To Start Playing Guitar!

It’s 2021 and you’re finally ready to learn guitar!

Maybe it was your New Year’s Resolution to pull that old acoustic out of your closet or you just got your first guitar during the holidays. Either way, there’s no time like right now to pick up and start learning to play the guitar.

However, for many, it can be confusing to know where to start and discouraging when things don’t click right away.

To help, here are a few pieces of wisdom to help you get started!

Start Slow

Eddie Van Halen didn’t wake up one day, pick up a guitar and write Eruption, he first had to learn how to hold the guitar, how to make chords, and how to play solos. He also had to learn to do this slowly before he could do it fast.

The same goes for anyone learning the guitar.

Whatever skill you’re working on, play it slowly first until you really have it under your hands and then work on gradually speeding it up. Not only will this make your playing more clean in the long run but it will help you avoid building tension in your hands and arms that can eventually lead to not being able to play anymore.

Work your right and left hand on their own then together

One of the challenges of the guitar is that you not only need both hands to play it but that those hands are doing different things. As contrary as this may sound, the best way to get them working together is to work on them separately.

For example, practice changing your chord shapes with only your fretting hand (don’t strum the chords). Once your hand is used to the changes it needs to make, practice your strumming pattern by resting your fret hand on the strings (so they don’t play a note) and just focus on strumming the right way.

Once you have that down, put them together!

Your body literally was not made to do this and that’s okay (Wait, What?!?)

So many people that I talk to about starting the guitar tell me “I can’t play because the guitar just isn’t comfortable” or “my fingers just won’t go where I want them”.

If you’ve thought this, there is good news!

Your body is literally not made for the guitar to be a natural thing to hold and play and if you don’t already play other instruments, you're trying to make your fingers do something they’ve never done before.

And that’s okay, because with practice, anyone can train their body to do these things. Eventually you may even feel weird not holding a guitar!

  • Guitar Pick

Picks vs fingers

A lot of people want to know if they should use a pick or just their fingers and it really comes down to what kind of music you want to play.

There are tons of resources out there about the pros and cons of each but I would recommend you first think about the artists that made you want to play and see what they do. Most guitar players, unless they’re going straight into classical or fingerstyle guitar, start off with a pick but may drop it later on.

If you’re going to use a pick though, remember that getting used to holding the pick takes just as much work as getting used to holding the guitar itself but you WILL get it.

Chords and Melody

If you want to start playing songs on the guitar, you will need to understand how songs are put together.

Most songs have a melody. This is a collection of sequential notes that stand out in a song- typically it’s what the signer is signing. For example, think about what you would sing if I said “sing me Mary Had a Little Lamb with no words”.

But song that’s just melody can get boring. So we use chords to provide context for the melody and give it color.

Millions of songs are as simple as that- someone plays chords on the guitar or piano and someone signs the melody. Once you’ve grasped those two pieces, a whole world of music is open to you.

Get a teacher - at least at the beginning

One of the great things about guitar is that it’s a very approachable and popular instrument so there are a ton of online resources for people to learn guitar for free on their own.

However, there are a few things missing in self learning. The two biggest is having someone help you navigate what to work on next in order to meet your goals and having someone to point out bad habits you may be developing.

This is where a teacher comes in! Even if you only take lessons while you’re learning, doing so can help make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with the right foundation.

If you are looking for a teacher, feel free to email me at and we can discuss potential lessons either in person or online.

Nobody gets it overnight (and everyone was once where you are)

Remember what I was saying about Eddie Van Halen? There was a time when he was exactly where you are now, picking up a guitar for the very first time. He had wins and defeats on his path of learning and you will too, everyone does.

Just remember that tomorrow is a new day and it’s okay to take a day or two off when you’re frustrated. You may even find that what you were struggling with comes easy one your hands have had a short rest.

Keep playing, and have fun!