So you’ve decided to play guitar. You’re just starting to delve into the details and combing the internet with searches like ‘guitar lessons’ and ‘how do I start?’. (You've probably done that already, honestly - hence why you are here!)

The research stage might last for a couple weeks, but maybe even months or years, before you make the leap and decide to go shopping for your first guitar.

There’s a small possibility that you might be overthinking it - after all, you’re learning guitar for fun, right? Not for a horribly difficult and never-ending challenge. So try to limit your questions to the essential and just focus on getting going and getting a feel for your new instrument. If you are worried about the cost of the guitar, then that's understandable - but know that you can get a great instrument, a classical guitar, or a jazz guitar or rock guitar, for a reasonable price.

So where should you start? Should you buy an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar? Do you need to learn music theory with a professor first, or can you learn to play guitar on your own, using guitar tabs? Should you sign up to a guitar course, or can you become the best guitar player you can be all by yourself?

Should you put yourselves in the hands of a guitar teacher, or sign up for an online class?

There are many different ways to get started learning to play guitar. There are even video games that can help!

Why Have You Decided to Play the Guitar?

You’ve been thinking about picking up guitar for months, maybe even pondering the idea for years!

The idea of playing an instrument is often appealing, but do you really want to immerse yourself in music theory and different guitar techniques as well? Do you really need to learn about open chords and the pentatonic scale? Do you actually want to learn to read tablature and chord diagrams?

Why should you learn the guitar to a technical level? It’s a question worth considering.

Jimmy Page with his double-necked guitar
Jimmy Page, the legendary guitarist from Led Zeppelin. He’s definitely someone you can listen to playing again and again and again.

For music lovers, you probably don’t even need to consider the question. The guitar is the instrument of the kings of rock-n-roll, of Keith Richard and Jimmy Page, of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

But the acoustic guitar, just like the electric guitar, is first and foremost a form of expression. It’s an instrument, where once you’ve mastered all that technique (music theory, tabs, sheet music, notes, arpeggios, chords, barred chords…), you’ll be able to apply everything you’ve learned to improvise and jam. Guitar becomes a way of expressing yourself and sorting through your emotions, whatever style you’ve chosen to learn, whether it’s blues, rock, hard rock, reggae, soul, jazz, pop…

Honestly, this is one of the best things about the instrument: its versatility. Yes, it can be tiring to master barre chords, or to get your head round improvisation, or to train that hand to do fingerstyle. But it is worth it in the end - because being able to pick up any free guitar and sing songs to your mates is a real real pleasure.

What’s more, there’s numerous advantages to starting playing guitar. You’ll be able to play anywhere - on the street corner, in a park, at a party…you won’t be lacking opportunities to pull your guitar out and start strumming. Once you reach a certain level, you'll be able to play and jam with a group, and if you get good enough, one day you can even teach guitar to another student.

The guitar is also what’s considered a universal instrument. Anyone can play it, whether you’re a novice or a professional musician. And it’s versatile; there are tons of songs that you can play on it.

Start strumming and singing away, but above all, start playing the guitar for yourself, and think about what you want before you head to the music store!

Learn Guitar Using Video Games!

So there are all the normal ways to learn guitar, but are there others?

What about video games to learn the guitar? Games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have gotten children the world over interested in guitar. Of course, the introduction may have been a bit theoretical. But those immense guitar shaped controllers have still given countless individuals their first taste of rock and roll!

Guitar video games controllers
The popular guitar controller to play Guitar Hero. An hors d’oeuvre before the real instrument?

So what about the content of these games? Can they really teach absolute beginners music theory, chords, tabs, how to read music and position their fingers? Will you know how to play an acoustic or electric guitar after playing?

The answer to this is not quite - but playing these games will definitely move you in the right direction. You'll improve your dexterity, your ability to move your fingers around the fretboard, and your ear training will improve as a result of really listening to the music (it's always amazing how little people actually listen properly to the songs they love). Of course, you're not actually playing rhythm guitar or any of those guitar solos, but to play songs - at least along with songs - puts you in the right mindset.

Some Games to Try.

If Guitar Hero puts you right in the role of guitarist, Rock Band also gives you the opportunity to try your hand at drumming or singing as well. You can’t deny that learning to play the guitar on either of these two games will help you become familiar with popular guitar songs and teach you a few things - stage presence, rhythm, maybe even help improve your ear for music.

If you’re ready to start getting serious with the guitar, there’s also Rocksmith to try out, which lets you plug your new guitar right into your game console. It’s a revolutionary method that actually lets you get learning from your game, and it’s well worth considering trying out. But all the video guitar games in the world still won’t quite measure up to the knowledge of a professional guitar teacher who can sit with you and teach you all the things the video games might or might not cover - tuning your guitar, barred chords, music selections adapted to your level, keeping your hands coordinated, learning to sing and play at the same time, working on finger placements…

Maybe a Real Guitar Teacher is Better, However.

In short, video games are great, but finding a teacher might be a good idea too - if not a better one. We wouldn't suggest buying Guitar Hero over an actual guitar, by any means.

In order to find the perfect beginner guitar lessons for you, have a think about your learning style - do you learn better in a group or one on one? Do you like theory, or practical? Once you've worked out a few criteria, it'll be easier to find the right guitar lesson, and teacher, for you. You could find a private teacher, join a group class at a local rec center or music conservatory, or even sign up for classes via webcam, where you can learn from the comfort of your home.

Is the Guitar an Easy Instrument to Play?

For those of you who are just starting, let us reassure you - the guitar is an easy instrument to learn!

Playing your first guitar chords and licks will present a few challenges, of course, just like anything else, but many guitarists have been self-taught over the years. However while it is a relatively easy instrument to learn, the self taught method usually isn't ideal. You'll progress much faster with a teacher to correct you and help you face challenges.

The Beauty of Guitar Tabs.

A good place to start at home though, is with guitar tabs - tablatures are another way to read music, but translated for the guitar, with numbers instead of notes, and symbols to tell you where to put your fingers - magic!

Guitar tabs are therefore often a way to start guitar without bothering with music theory (although we would still recommend learning some theory!) There are many websites who’ll show you how to read tabs, including some YouTube videos.

Combine a Teacher with Regular Practice.

In general, there are many quick and easy ways to learn how to play guitar. First among them is signing up with a music teacher, whether it’s for private classes or lessons at a local music school.

There are also many free music classes and tutorials online where guitarists break a song down for you to learn to play, note by note. Just try typing ‘guitar lessons for beginners’ into your browser.

Once you’ve found a teacher and begun beginner guitar lessons, the most important thing is to practice regularly. Learning how to play the guitar includes practicing… a lot. There’s no other way.

Try to dedicate at least 10-15 minutes a day to run through your chords and any pieces of music you're working on. Short and regular practice will still be better for you than just practicing once a week for an hour. Your hands and body need to get used to your new instrument, and frequent practice will help your muscle memory develop. Maybe one day all your enthusiasm and practice will pay off and you’ll be invited to join a band.

The Guitar, Unfortunately, is Easier for Some than for Others.

Minions with guitars
If you’re just as calm and collected playing the guitar, you have a great future ahead of you.

It’s true that guitar is one of the easier instruments to learn, at least to master the basics. But to become a skilled guitarist, you’ll need to work hard.

But even if some parts of learning the guitar are easy for some people, they can be difficult for others.

That's especially the case for beginner guitarists regarding:

  • Music theory - it’s often considered a science unto itself, and it doesn’t hurt to have a scientific or mathematics background if you’re trying to learn it quickly!
  • An ear for music…unfortunately you either have one, or you don’t. It’s something you’re born with, and it’s pretty hard to play the guitar without!
  • Some people do great playing in a band, and others struggle to find the harmonies. Each person will have their own preference.
  • And finally the love of music, and the motivation that goes with it… that can’t be learned. If you have those two qualities, learning to play the guitar will be much easier. And if you don’t… it’ll be pretty difficult to become a guitar player at all.

To Recap: Some Ways to Learn the Guitar.

A qualified teacherThere are many guitar teachers in the world for a good reason. There is no better way to learn an instrument than with an expert to guide you.
Regular practiceIf you don't want a teacher, or if you are determined to go it alone, that's okay. But remember that regular practice is essential (some guitarists practise up to ten hours a day).
An ensemble, band, or guitar course.These are great for social playing - and they needn't be overwhelming. Join a beginner group and learn with like-minded people.
Guitar video games?Try it - they won't hurt. They'll improve your musicality and develop the dexterity and coordination you need to play the real thing. (Just don't replace the actual guitar with the game, otherwise you'll never learn!)


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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.