The Best Ways To Learn To Play Guitar
Learning to play guitar can be tough, and even downright frustrating at times. Discover the best ways to learn how to play guitar at home with Fender.
By Ben Nemeroff
At one time or another, almost everyone has found themselves caught in the moment of listening to a great song and overcome by the urge to rip into an air guitar solo. And while mostly everyone can play air guitar, learning to play a real acoustic or electric guitar is something that takes practice and dedication.
If you want to learn to play guitar, you might not know where to start. What is the best way to learn guitar? Can I learn guitar at home or do I need an instructor? Should I learn to play chords or scales first? Your mind may be brimming with questions and it can feel intimidating. You might also wonder if you’ll be good at guitar. In some instances, new players don’t always give themselves enough time to learn the basics and unfairly put a lot of pressure on themselves to “get good” right out of the gate.
Relax! Learning to play guitar should be a fun experience that’s more about the journey than the destination. Even the best guitar players find new ways to express themselves and experiment with new techniques. As a beginner, one of the best ways to learn guitar is to start slowly and learn the style you love to play. Even new musicians can learn to play easy songs on guitar, helping you put any new skills or chords that you learn into practice. This can help keep you motivated.
In this article, we’ll walk you through a few tips and tidbits of information to help you build a successful practice and learn to play guitar. Let’s get started!
What Is The Best Way To Learn Guitar?
Anything worth doing is worth doing well -- and often, that means it takes time, patience, and practice in order to hone a particular skill. Learning to play guitar is no different. While you may wonder what is the easiest way to learn guitar, the truth is, there are no shortcuts or substitutions for developing a regular practice schedule.
One of the most important things beginner guitar players should know is that they should be patient with themselves. Even the best guitarists don’t become great overnight. It’s important to devote time each week -- even if it’s a few minutes every day -- to sit down and practice chords, scales, and techniques involved with playing guitar. Developing good habits is harder than breaking bad ones.
While regular practice is a must when starting to play guitar, there are still some ways to make learning to play guitar as easy (and fun) as possible.
The 10 Best Methods For Learning To Play Guitar
1. Start With The Basics Of Playing Guitar
The first steps are always the most difficult. But you have to learn to crawl before you can walk -- building up strength and confidence before you can get going. Whether you’re learning to play guitar at home and using the Fender Play curriculum, or if you decide to take weekly guitar lessons with a teacher in-person, learning the basics and practicing them can help you work your way up to more advanced techniques.
It may not be as exciting as playing your first solo or strumming the chords to your favorite song, but little things like learning the names of your strings and the different parts of your guitar can help you build greater familiarity with your instrument. Here are just a few guitar basics and why you should learn them:
• How to Set Up a Guitar - Keeping your guitar in good working condition is essential to better playing and developing your ear. Learn how to use a guitar tuner and be sure your strings are properly tuned. Learn how to replace a string in case one breaks during a practice session. Understand the different parts of your instrument and how those little things impact the sound of your guitar.
• How to Remember Guitar String Order and Names - Learning the names of strings and the order in which they appear on your guitar can help you to identify tones and notes, as well as transfer that knowledge to more advanced practices, such as reading tablature. Get tips and tricks for remembering guitar string order and their names.
• How to Hold A Guitar Pick - Holding a pick correctly can help you to create a much more pleasing sound. Understanding more about the different sounds achieved with picks of varying thickness (or thinness) can also help you to hear how the right pick can impact the tone of your guitar.
• How to Play Notes On Your Guitar - One of the earliest things you’ll learn as a beginner guitarist is learning where to place your fingers on the fretboard to be sure that note clearly rings out. Hearing notes clearly is key to identifying notes and learning how to play guitar.
• How to Strum like a Pro - Little things like keeping your wrist loose while strumming can not only help you to achieve a more fluid style of playing, but it can also help to decrease pain or tightness after a practice session. Get more tips for strumming like a pro!
• Guitar Chords 101 - Learning to play guitar chords are one of the fundamental building blocks of a guitar education. Even if you’re not able to play a guitar solo (yet!), beginner guitarists can easily learn a few simple chords and strum along to their favorite songs as a rhythm player.
2. Find The Best Guitar For You
Whether you’re learning to play an acoustic or electric guitar, or decide that you want to learn how to play bass, finding the right instrument is essential.
Shopping for your first guitar is an exciting experience for new players. And while you might be tempted to pick a guitar based on looks, it’s important to weigh a number of factors when choosing the right guitar for you.
One way to help narrow the field is to try out our Find Your Fender tool. Find Your Fender asks you a few simple questions about the type of tone you prefer, your budget, and even your physiology -- such as whether you have smaller hands or if you play guitar left-handed or right-handed. Based on that criteria, it gives you a short list of guitars to explore to see if they might be the right fit for you.
4. Create An Ideal Learning Environment
One of the first steps on your path to playing guitar is to set up an environment that makes you want to practice. If you’re learning guitar at home, setting up a comfortable practice space is key to wanting to sit down and play more often.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your practice space:
• Keep your guitar prominently displayed. You know the saying: “out of sight, out of mind.” Keeping your guitar in plain sight is a visual cue to prompt you to play more often.
• Maintain an optimal temperature. Playing in a well-ventilated room that is at a comfortable temperature can go a long way toward creating a comfortable environment to practice guitar. You might not be as inclined to sit down for a practice session if the room feels like a hot box or if you’re too cold. Additionally, maintaining a comfortable, consistent temperature in your practice room can also help keep your guitar in tune as temperature fluctuations can impact its performance.
• The right lighting. Choose a room with either plenty of natural light or be sure that your room is well-lit. Being able to see your fretboard clearly is essential for beginners learning the correct positioning to play a note.
• A comfortable chair or practice stool. The right place to sit while practicing is important, too! Be sure you have a chair or stool that encourages good posture. A chair without arms is ideal since they can sometimes get in the way of your own arms when strumming or navigating the fretboard.
• Privacy and/or quiet. If possible, set up a space where you won’t be interrupted during a practice session. Using accessories such as headphones while playing can also insure that you’re not a disruption to others (such as neighbors or roommates), too.
• Inspirational decor. Making your learning environment comfortable and inviting. Whether you choose to decorate it with colorful plants or paintings, or posters of some of your favorite artists, creating the right atmosphere can go a long way toward prompting you to practice regularly.
5. Build Skills By Learning Songs
Learning to play notes, scales and chords are certainly fundamentals of your musical education. But the best way to learn guitar is to put those techniques into practice while learning a new song. Strumming a chord progression or practicing a hammer-on pull-off can feel much more real when you’re playing it in one of your favorite songs. This makes the experience much more fun instead of practicing the same things over and over without context.
Not sure where to get started or what songs are suitable for beginners to learn? Check out some of Fender’s picks for 40 of the easiest songs to learn on guitar. There are tons of songs to choose from and one of them is bound to be a song that can challenge you and inspire you to keep going. From there, explore Fender Play’s collections and see some of the most-played songs favored by beginner guitarists and more seasoned players!
6. Pick Up Songs By Ear
Consistent practice and repetition of different notes and chords can help you develop your ear, learning to correctly identify notes and patterns in your playing. Learning to play guitar becomes much easier when you are able to pick out which notes are in a song, what key that song is in, and what chords are involved.
Learning which notes -- sharps, flats, and root notes -- comprise a particular scale can help you identify the key of a song. In turn, that can help you narrow down what chords and notes are included in some of your favorite songs and how the artist decided to structure a riff or solo based on those scales.
Although learning to play by ear may seem difficult at first, with continued practice and actively listening to music to apply your musical knowledge, you can better pick up songs by ear over time. Start by applying this to your rhythm guitar playing and identifying which chords make up a specific tune. Over time, as you become more advanced, you can use this knowledge to play guitar solos in your favorite songs, or start crafting guitar solos of your own.
7. Learn With Other New Players
If you’re learning to play guitar at home, you might not necessarily have other new players to chat with about what you’re learning, challenges you face, or breakthroughs in your practice sessions. Having a community of musicians and music lovers to connect with can help keep you more motivated to keep playing, practicing, and cheering one another on.
Fender Play recognizes the importance of community. It allows you to connect with other like-minded musicians who are at a similar point in their learning journey as you, as well as learn from more experienced players and level-up your skill set.
Every week, Fender Play LIVE features free YouTube episodes that show players of all skill levels how to play different songs, explore techniques within a variety of musical genres, and broaden their depth of knowledge with experienced players sharing their own stories. Beyond that, Fender Play also has an online community where players can compare notes, victories, and ask questions.
8. Practice, Practice, Practice
It can’t be said enough how important regular practice is to improving as a guitarist. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your practice sessions:
• Carve out regular time to practice. Setting aside as little as 15 minutes to practice each day can help you to steadily increase your proficiency as a guitarist. Fender Play’s bite-sized video lessons are an ideal way to help structure your practice sessions, guiding you along a specific path and building upon learned skills.
• Warm up first. Warming up your fingers and practicing a few scales or finger exercises can help you prepare for a practice session. It can also help you be sure your guitar is in tune.
• Record yourself. Sometimes, it can be difficult to hear yourself getting better without having a starting point to compare yourself to. When learning to play guitar, it’s best not to measure your progress against anyone but yourself. Every player learns at a different pace. However, if you record your practice sessions, you can compare your progress from one month ago to where you are now and notice a marked improvement. Recording your practice sessions and reviewing them -- like an instant replay in a sporting event -- can help you not only see what you might be doing wrong, but also hear what you are doing right.
• Try new things. Don’t just stick to playing the same scales or chords over and over again. Branch out with learning new scales or try different variations of a chord and see which ones feel or sound best to you. Then, try applying these newfound skills by practicing new songs. Before you know it, you’ll be adding more songs and skills to your own repertoire.
• Try playing with others or with a metronome. While you might not feel confident enough (just yet) to play with other musicians, practicing with a metronome or to backing tracks can help you get more comfortable with playing along with a band. Fender Play has a practice mode that allows you to hone your skills by playing with a metronome and staying on-beat, or with backing tracks to simulate jamming with others.
9. Be Patient With Yourself
Practice makes perfect… But patience is the key to it all. Every player will have good days or not-so-good days. When you first pick up the guitar, there’s a good chance that you will hit a few sour notes or those chords might not ring out as clearly as you’d like. That’s okay! Rome and Jimi Hendrix weren’t built in a day!
Even professional musicians have performances where they didn’t feel they did their best. When you’re first learning to play guitar, don’t let your frustrations overshadow your progress. Take each mistake in stride. Learn from them and keep practicing. Above all, be patient with yourself. When you hear yourself getting better -- Fewer missed notes! Easier transitions between chords! Building up speed and accuracy with your fretting hand! -- you’ll be glad you were kind to yourself and kept going.
10. Use A Guitar Lesson App Like Fender Play
For many new players, using an online guitar lesson app can help give you access to the tools you need to learn no matter where you’re at. Fender Play gives new guitarists access to top-notch instructors who have been there, done that, and created an easily-accessible curriculum broken into bite-sized video lessons. The portability of using an app like Fender Play allows you to practice anytime, anywhere -- as often or as you like. If there’s a particular concept of lesson you haven’t quite grasped, simply replay the lesson and practice it until you feel satisfied. Fender Play also gives you access to a library of hundreds of songs that you can learn to play. Learn chords, riffs, or even songs in their entirety to put the skills you learn to practical use.
Sign up for a free trial of Fender Play and get started on your musical journey today!