It’s easy to ask around how to get started playing the guitar and claim that you want to learn it quick, but it’s not that easy to give correct advice on that matter – there are various different ways to play the instrument, and you should take the time to study all of them in order to figure out which the best one for you is.
There are some basic questions that you should be asking yourself, like:
- What kind of music would you like to play?
- Do you want to use the guitar as a background for your voice, or on its own?
- Are you interested in playing an acoustic or an electric guitar?
Let’s have a look at the basic guidelines for each style, and for all styles in general.
General tips for playing the guitar
There are some things every guitar player must know, regardless of their choice of style – once you’ve mastered those basics, you should be able to play the instrument nicely in most styles.
- Tuning a guitar – it’s imperative that you know how to tune your guitar properly. For most beginners, this won’t be that easy – you’ll lack the proper training your ears would need to do it right, but you can invest in a guitar tuner (which wouldn’t be that expensive anyway) to help you with that. In the beginning, you’ll really need one!
- Reading guitar tabs – guitar tabs are a special kind of notation for writing guitar music, which is much easier to read than the standard way of writing them. Learning to read guitar tabs is quite easy, and once you’ve got the hang of it, you can do a whole lot more with your skills.
- Reading guitar chords – you’ll also have to learn how to read guitar chord charts and diagrams – those are another way to write down guitar chords, and just as reading guitar tabs, it’s very intuitive and easy to learn.
- Basic guitar chords – no matter what style you’re playing, you’ll want to learn the basic guitar chords.
- Playing guitar chords – after you’ve learned how to play the basic guitar chords, you’ll want to know what to do with the right hand to get some sound out of the instrument. Strumming is often the first technique you’ll learn.
Playing rock and metal
There are several things you’ll need in order to play rock and metal:
- Electric guitar – the basic instrument prevalent in these styles, you’ll need a guitar with a cable and a pick.
- Guitar amp – you’ll also need an amp, preferably one with distortion. Most guitar amps have a distortion, but if yours doesn’t you can buy it separately in a guitar pedal.
- Rock guitar tabs – once you have the basic tools you’ll need, you should start learning the tabs of your favorite popular rock songs and try to replicate them – some good ideas for learning include “Smoke on the Water,” various riffs by Metallica, AC/DC, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Hotel California”.
There are some more things you’ll need to learn apart from the basic skills we outlined above too:
- Power chords – this is the basic “soul’ of rock music, and that’s basically a lighter version of barre chords, typically much easier to play compared to barre chords too. Power chords are normally played with distortion.
- Barre chords – these are also essential to rock music. Most beginners find those difficult, and sometimes it seems that you’ll never get the hang of them – but with enough practice you’ll be able to learn them sooner or later
- Lead guitar – rock music often involves a lead guitar of some sort.
- Plectrum technique – you’ll need to learn how to use a pick for your rock guitar too, as strumming power chords and playing lead both sound more powerful when you’re using a pick rather than your fingers.
Playing classical guitar
The basic things you’ll need for playing the classical guitar include:
- A classical guitar – naturally, classical music sounds best on a guitar with nylon strings!
- Long nails – picking in classical music is often done with the nails, so yours would need to be of a certain length to do it properly.
- Sheet music – look up some sheet music for easy classical pieces, the easiest way to do that is to buy a book.
There are some skills that are essential to playing the classical guitar too, including:
- Reading music – you should learn how to read classical music notation, because most classical sheet music lacks guitar tabs.
- Classical finger picking – forget the pick, you’ll need to use your fingers for the job.
- Holding the guitar – this is done differently compared to other styles too.
Playing lead guitar
Lead guitar relies on a few basic skills to work properly, including:
- Alternate picking – this is a plectrum technique which lets you play a lot faster, by basically switching between up and down strokes.
- Guitar scales – you’ll have to learn various guitar scales in order to play guitar solos, the best scale to start with is the minor pentatonic scale since most rock/pop solos use it.
- Improvising – good lead guitarists have to improvise often, so don’t just memorize someone’s solos – learn to improvise your own.
- Guitar techniques – playing lead guitar relies on knowledge of various guitar techniques, like hammer ons, pull offs, bending, vibrato, slides and tapping.
Playing blues guitar
Blues guitar is generally learned fast and rather easily, and if you want to learn how to play it you don’t even need any specialized gear. Blues is played on both acoustic as well as electric guitars, and if you go with an electric one there are some special brands of guitars and amps that sound better when used for blues. Apart from the basic skills you’ll also need to know these:
- The blues scale – a pentatonic scale with one extra note, the b5 (commonly known as the blue note).
- The Mixolydian Scale – another scale commonly used in blues.
- The dominant 7 chords – these chords are used very frequently in blues music
- The 12-bar blues – a kind of blues that’s played quite often.
Extra guitar tips
- Most people like to learn the guitar on a classical guitar with nylon strings, because they’re more easily available on the market – make no mistake though, they’re far from being easier to play – an electric is typically much easier!
- Having a good teacher goes a long way in learning faster.
- Start simple and move slowly – play some easy songs to avoid getting frustrated.
- Play songs that you enjoy and know well
- Your fingers will hurt a lot in the beginning but you’ll get used to it.
- Most important of all, have fun and you’ll go on forever!