Learning how to play the guitar is definitely a bucket list item for many people. And if you are not musically inclined, or have not learned another instrument before, it could seem like a daunting idea, but don’t worry it could be one of the most exciting things you ever try.

Like anything in life, everyone has to start somewhere, so even if you are a great admirer of Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix, remember that they were not born knowing how to play guitar chords, they too, started somewhere.

Perhaps you have already invested in your first guitar purchase, but because you have not yet had guitar lessons you still do not know the difference between power chords and barre chords.

Perhaps you have heard about fingerpicking and alternate picking, but don’t actually know the difference!

There is so much to learn when it comes to learning a musical instrument.

But, if you are serious about learning to play guitar and all that goes with it, even how tablature corresponds to the fretboard, then it’s time that you seriously consider taking guitar lessons! Of course, when it comes to how to play guitar, there is obviously much more to it than that and the journey is bound to thrill you.

Some of the other topics you can look forward to in your guitar lessons include the differences between a guitar solo and a rhythm guitar, as well as the nuances that make up the differences between guitar licks, rhythm guitar, arpeggio and chord progression.

If this sounds complex, don’t worry, the right guitar tutor is trained to take you through each aspect of learning to play the guitar until you are not only confident in your ability, but actually able to enjoy it too!

How to Start Learning to Play the Guitar

Regardless of whether you have natural musical talent or not, the basics of guitar playing are actually the same for everyone. Even the most adept professional still needs to know and understand guitar chords. In fact, you’ll probably find that even Slash or Elvis had guitar lessons at some point in their musical journeys!

Here are a few important steps to consider before you even start your guitar lessons.

  • Think about what style of guitar music you are really interested in as this will guide you on which type of guitar to purchase. If you are into heavy metal, then you might want to learn how to play on an electric guitar and not an acoustic guitar.
  • Know your instrument! This is also a vital first step because, without the foundations of knowing your way around your guitar, you may get lost when it comes to the exciting parts of the lessons. Know the difference between the headstock and the fretboard, or the body from the guitar neck.
  • Knowing how to hold your guitar is also helpful. You could even check out YouTube for demonstrations regarding finger placement and posture
close up of fender guitar headstock
It is important to know the different parts of the guitar. | Source: Unsplash

All of these tips could give you a slight advantage for when you are ready to start guitar lessons with your own tutor.

Other Equipment You May Need

So once you have decided on what type of guitar you will need, depending on whether you are leaning towards blues, rock, jazz or classical guitar playing, there are a few other accessories you may want to consider:

  • An electronic tuner to keep your guitar strings in tune
  • A plectrum for strumming
  • A capodaster which can help you change tone
  • An extra set of strings
  • A metronome.

Structured Guitar Lessons

One of the first and most important aspects of learning how to play the guitar will include technique.

These include the different finger styles and learning how to place your thumb, index, and middle fingers. But that’s not all.

If you really want to know how to play guitar you will need to understand music theory too.

This could include topics like chord progression, guitar scales even how to read music scores and tablatures.

Musical ability is one of those things that people grasp at their own unique and individual place. This is why private guitar lessons are almost essential. A tutor will be able to recognise the areas in which you are struggling, take you through basic improvisation, ear training, and even chromatic technique exercises.

How to Tune a Guitar

It is absolutely pointless trying to learn how to play guitar when the strings are not in tune. Knowing how to tune your guitar is as vital as understanding your guitar chords. There are many methods, some are very traditional, and yet effective, and others are more high-tech and sophisticated. You could choose to find out more about any of these techniques online or from your guitar tutor.

  • The ringing tone of a landline phone which plays the perfect A
  • A tuning fork
  • An electric tuner
  • The adjacent strings method
  • An online tuner
  • A guitar tuning app downloaded on to your smartphone.

How to Play the Electric Guitar

It’s a myth that learning how to play the electric guitar is more difficult when learning to play guitar.

One of the advantages of the electric guitar is that it is more versatile than the folk, classical or acoustic guitars. The reason is that you can play notes faster because the neck is longer and thinner. When you hear the term ‘lead guitar’ which refers to those iconic guitar solos that you would hear in a song, it’s usually being played by an electric guitar.

If you are interested in learning the electric guitar, find a tutor who actually gives electric guitar lessons and let them know if you are more interested in rock, blues, funk or jazz.

Private lessons are definitely one of the best methods to learn how to play the guitar. To find a guitar tutor in South Africa near you, you could use a platform like Superprof that lists guitar tutors from all over the country. You could search by location to find one near you, or elect to sign up for online tutoring if you have an internet connection and a webcam.

One of the advantages to finding a Superprof tutor is that many of them actually offer their first lesson as an introductory trial at no charge!

How to Play Guitar and Sing at the Same Time

woman playing guitar and singing
With some practice, you can master playing the guitar while singing. | Source: Unsplash

Once you have more or less mastered your guitar chords, you may well be itching to sing along to your own music!

This of course is absolutely possible and even though your favourite professional musicians make it look so easy, it takes time and practise. The best advice to learning to play the guitar and singing at the same time would be to firstly, work on the two challenges independently, and secondly to start with the vocals first.

How to Play the Guitar Faster

As your guitar lessons become more advanced and you start to feel more confident around your guitar chords, playing faster is something that you will want to try and achieve.

This is really when learning to play the guitar starts to get fun!

When you are working with a tutor to learn how to play the guitar faster, they will help you to break down the exercises and pieces to better understand the strings you are using. All this can be achieved while you are also interpreting the music scores and tablatures!

The way you will master faster guitar playing is to start playing slowly and to then increase the tempo very gradually. This is an excellent way to improve your finger work and improve the flexibility in your wrist as well.

Learning to Play the Guitar with One Hand

man playing guitar with laptop and keyboards nearby
Find a guitar teacher who fits into your schedule. | Source: Unsplash

If you want to learn to play the guitar with one hand and even become the next John Denner, you could certainly check out his great YouTube videos where you could learn advanced guitar playing techniques like legato, pull-off, tapping, or hammer.

If you want to play with one hand, bear in mind that this works best using an electric guitar and an amp with a little distortion, this makes the sound reverberate longer as you pluck the string.

Speak to your tutor about this at one of your guitar lessons and find out if they are willing to help!

Buying an Affordable Guitar

Finally, the wish to learn how to play guitar is absolutely achievable and could become a dream come true.

But before you rush ahead, remember there is a process of learning any new thing!

You will definitely need your own guitar, but factor in that you will also need guitar lessons and a few accessories. Guitars can be wide-ranging in price, but as a beginner, bear in mind that you may want to start off with an affordable option until you advance.

Take a browse through your nearest music store, such as Marshall Music, to chat to qualified sales assistants and get a feel for the different types of guitars that are available. You could even consider buying a second-hand guitar by finding something on Gumtree or Facebook’s Marketplace.

After a few lessons, you're bound to be strumming your new guitar confidently.

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.