Are you a beginner guitarist? Learn how to play guitar the easy way with our first guitar lesson that takes less than 30 minutes!
First Guitar Lesson
What better way to start than with a great foundation? Your first guitar lesson should not skip over the most fundamental topics. In this first lesson, we’ll go over the following topics:
-How to hold a guitar: proper posture and hand positioning
-How to hold a guitar pick and strum properly
-String names and tuning your guitar
Each of these topics is essential for any beginner guitarist. By the end of this first guitar lesson, you’ll have a strong foundation on which to build your guitar playing skills!
Part 1: About the Instrument and How to Play It
An acoustic guitar is a stringed instrument with a hollow body which uses the vibration of the strings to make a sound. So you can easily remember its parts, let’s divide the guitar into three (3) groups: the headstock, neck and body.
The upper part is the headstock, it holds the string post, tuning pegs/keys and allows the guitar to be tuned.
The middle part is the neck, a long section holding the headstock, the strings and frets connecting it to the body. The specific parts in place are the nut supporting the strings, fingerboard or fretboard divided into frets, strings and position markers or dots inlaid into the fretboard as a visual aid to guide the guitar player as it moves from one fret to another. These custom marks keep you in the proper place.
Another large part is the body made up of the soundboard/top, back and sides. From top to bottom it’s divided into the upper body, waist and the lower body larger than the upper body. Within the body are other parts in place such as the sound hole, pick guard, bridge, saddle, bridge pins and rosette (a decorative pattern around the sound hole).
How to Properly Clean the Guitar
- Use a soft cloth to polish and clean your guitar.
- Store your acoustic guitar in its case
- Change your guitar strings at appropriate intervals.
- Wipe down your guitar before and after playing guitar.
We recommend keeping a soft rag in your guitar case to wipe smudges off the finish and clean finger oils off the strings.
How to Hold a Guitar: Proper Posture and Hand Positioning
There are different ways to hold a guitar: classical position, standing and using a strap and sitting down.
Sitting down to play is the most common way to play the guitar. This is more relaxed and is friendly to beginners. Find a chair where you can comfortably rest the sole of your feet and have your arms move around freely.
Sit upright with both shoulders rested & relaxed and keep your guitar straight. Rest your guitar on your right leg (casual position, right-handed) and use your right arm around the body of the guitar and keep it close to your chest. The thumb on your left hand (fretting hand) should rest behind the guitar’s neck while the rest of your fingers are set to play a note or a chord.
How to Hold a Guitar Pick and Strum Properly
Do a thumbs up then slightly bend the other fingers and place your thumb on top of your index. Place the guitar pick in between your thumb and index with the nose facing the strings as if you’re pinching it. When holding the pick, remember to keep the other fingers slightly bent. Do not hold the pick too firmly as it needs to flex over the strings with ease.
On strumming, do not strum from your elbow but sway your wrist to move your arm along.
Part 2: Strings, Tuning, and the Musical Alphabet
The second part of this first guitar lesson will cover the strings, proper tuning, and the musical alphabet.
Guitar strings are typically made of steel or nylon. Steel strings are found on most acoustic guitars and electric guitars. Nylon strings are found on classical and flamenco guitars.
There are six (6) strings on a standard acoustic guitar. The thinnest string is the first string or high E, and the thickest string is the sixth string or low E.
Proper tuning is essential for any musician, and it is especially important for beginners. An out-of-tune guitar can be very frustrating to play. There are a few different ways to tune a guitar: by ear, using an electronic tuner, or using a piano (or another tuning reference).
String Names and Tuning Your Guitar
The string names in open strings serve as the standard guitar tuning method. You can manually tune your guitar but for beginners, using a tuner is highly recommended.
Open String Names:
- E – the thickest or lowest sounding string is known as the 6th string
- A – is the 5th
- D – is the 4th
- G – is the 3rd
- B – is the 2nd
- e – the thinnest or highest is the 1st string
You can say, “Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye eddie” to quickly remember the letters of the six open strings. It is vital to memorize these to better understand how your music alphabet moves from one fret to another either in half or whole steps on the fretboard.
The musical alphabet is a great way to learn the names of the notes on the fretboard.
A – B * C – D – E * F – G – a (an octave)
The musical alphabet is, in ascending order by pitch, A, B, C, D, E, F and G. After G, the cycle repeats going back to A. It’s beautifully crafted that wherever you are on the fretboard, whatever first letter you start pressing, you always move alphabetically as you move forward on the fretboard.
This way you will not get lost and will be able to identify what chord, letter or note you’re in now with the open string name as your reference point. We just have to consider that the distance you go from one letter to another can be in a half step or whole step. And within the whole step is a sharp or flat chord.
- Half Step means you move right to the next fret.
B – C and E – F
Remember: The space between B and C, E and F are half steps. There is no accidental notes (sharp or flat) between them. All other intervals (the distance from one letter to another) are whole steps.
- Whole Step means you skip one fret or move 2 frets forward. The fret in between two chords is the sharp of the previous chord and the flat of the next chord.
A – A#/Bb – B * C – D – D#/Eb – E * F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab –A
(Those in sharps and flats are the same chord)
- There are only two pairs where you move half step or one (1) fret forward going to the next letter/note; B to C and E to F.
- The rest of the alphabet moves one whole step or two (2) frets forward to the next letter or note.
- You always move alphabetically, from your reference note, as you move forward on the fretboard.
For this lesson’s Finger Exercise:
Try to identify your alphabet with the Open Strings’ Name as your reference point.
Note: The first fret is a half step from the open string note .
- E – move half step to F – G – A – B half step to C – D – e
- A – move 2 frets or one whole step to B half step C – D – E half step F – G – a
- D – move 2 frets or one whole step to E half step F – G – A – B half step C – d
- G – move 2 frets or one whole step to A – B half step C – D – E half step F – g
- B – move half step to C – D – E half step F – G – A – b
- e – move half step to F – G – A – B half step C – D – e
You are not doing a whole chord yet, this is just moving from one note to another. You will double check if you’re doing it right if you will sing the Sofa Syllables as you move forward. Your first letter/note serves as your “Do” and the last is your “do”, that gives one octave, “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-do”.
Activity #1: Just press the note and recite the letter name. Go through all six (6) strings.
Activity #2: Do the 1st activity while picking the note downstroke using the 6th and 5th string (E & A) only.
You can repeat these activities until you’re confident enough that you are comfortable and familiar moving half and whole step and you’re able to make a fine sound as you strum each note. It’s okay to do fingerpicking but it’s highly recommended to use your guitar pick in the early stage.
First Guitar Lesson Unlocked!
You made it! You’ve completed your very first guitar lesson, which will get you started on the right foot. Be sure to have fun with it, and before you know it, you’ll be shredding like a pro!
Ready to take your skills to the next level?
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You are just getting started and I’m sure you’ll find this journey worth your time!