We’ve all fantasized about being a rock star with droves of fans who worship us. There seems to only be one thing that stands in our way: actually learning how to play the guitar.
Between work, school, and our social lives, it is hard to find time to take lessons, let alone the money. However, if you are serious about learning to play the guitar, these helpful tips and tricks can potentially make you go from a novice to a master.
Who knows, if you get good enough maybe Dave Grohl will call you out onstage to play “Monkey Wrench!”
I mean it probably won’t happen, but you never know!
Buy your guitar wisely
Even if you are serious about learning how to play the guitar, we highly advise buying an expensive first guitar. You can avoid the $5,000 Gibson and settle for the $85 starter package you can buy on Amazon. Most places that sell guitars offer a guitar, amp, picks, case, strap and a tuner for less than $100, so shop smart!
You do this for the same reason you don’t get a teen a Lamborghini for their first car: wear and tear. You simply don’t know how to properly care for your new axe yet, so it’s best to start off as cheap as possible so you’re not making an expensive mistake. Also, if you give up halfway, that $5,000 guitar is suddenly a very expensive conversation piece.
What you need to buy
If you’re just starting off, there’s a bunch of things you will need to get going. However, don’t get suckered into buying a bunch of junk that will just take up space, or stuff that’s overpriced.
What you need:
- Picks: If you’re spending more than 50 cents per pick, you’re being ripped off. Also, just because a pick looks cool doesn’t mean you should buy it. Think about it: your pick is sandwiched between your fingers and is hidden behind your palm when you’re playing. Who is even gonna see it?
- A strap: If you want to ever perform for people, you are going to do it while standing up. If you try to play standing up without a strap, you are going to drop your guitar and potentially ruin it. Get yourself a simple strap that doesn’t look too complicated. Remember, if you can’t figure out how to put the strap on then you can’t keep your guitar safe. This should cost about $5 for your basic strap, but no more expensive than $20 if you want something a bit more stylish.
- Amp/chords: You should buy a package that includes an amp with your guitar. However, if you want something that’s a bit nicer, you can get a decent amp that won’t break the bank. For your first amp, don’t spend more than $100. Also, make sure whatever you buy comes with an amp chord and overdrive settings. Overdrive is basically a distorted tone you hear in some songs. Later on, you can buy pedals that will give your guitar more unique sounds, but don’t worry about those in the beginning stage.
- Strings: The first thing you should do when you get your new guitar is to buy new strings. Often, guitar manufacturers will slap cheap strings on mass-produced guitars that will break almost immediately. Also, if you bought your guitar off the showroom floor at a guitar store, there’s a good chance that many other people played on those strings. Strings shouldn’t cost more than $10-$15 and should be replaced every few months or as needed.
- A capo: A capo holds down an entire fret for you. Basically, if a song is basically a series of the same barre chord, or if you need to play the whole song an octave higher, a capo really comes in handy. Again, you should only pay about $10 for this one.
- A case: First off, always buy your guitar case from the same place you bought your guitar. If you don’t then you will have no idea whether or not your guitar will fit inside. You can always try to wing it and buy a one-size-fits-all case, but you may end up buying something overly baggy that won’t protect your guitar. Get yourself a canvas case with a strap so you can easily throw it on your back. Expect to pay around $20.
- A stand: You can’t just let your guitar lean up against the wall; that’s how they fall and snap their necks. Dish out the extra $10 and buy a stand to keep it safe.
- A tuner: Even the most experienced musicians have trouble tuning by ear, so don’t think you can do it right out of the gate. Instead, you need to get yourself a tuner. However, here you have the option of getting one for free! Download our free guitar tuner app below!
Have an idea of what you want to play
Finally, you need to ask yourself what kind of music you want to play. This can help you decide what kind of guitar you should eventually buy, what kind of pedals, what kind of amp, and also what songs you should learn to play.
You don’t need to buy yourself a “My First Guitar” songbook. There are plenty of hit songs that you can learn online for free that are easy to learn.
Ask yourself, would you rather jam out to “Stairway to Heaven” or “The Grumpy Snail?”
How to learn to play guitar online for free
Sure, there are online lessons you can pay to view, but there are also a ton of free options on YouTube.
Videos you should watch
Just to get you started, the following videos are ones you should watch when first learning how to play guitar.
Your first chords
This video does a good job of teaching you a few starting chords before you start to learn full songs. Once you master these few chords, you are then ready to start moving on to some more intermediate ones.
Learn to play House of the Rising Sun
Weirdly enough, “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals is an extremely popular first guitar song. It’s a very easy-to-play song with basic chords, so you don’t have to worry about anything too intermediate. Master this song and you’ll soon be the envy of the block.
Play with songs playlists
If you ever want to play in a band, you need to learn how to keep up with others. Luckily, there’s a YouTube playlist that has songs with a wide range of difficulty and with guitar chords scrolling across the screen! Now, you can play along with the studio recording of your favorite songs! As an added bonus, this will make you feel like a real star as you play along with legends like Neil Young and Lionel Richie!
If you want to learn a specific song, Ultimate Guitar has more than one million songs tabbed out for you. There are premium options that cost money, but many songs do have user-submitted tabs that can be viewed for free. Ultimate Guitar also has an app, but it does cost money.
If you don’t want to sift through the premium and non-premium options, Guitar Tab Universe is completely free. The catalog of songs is not as extensive as Ultimate Guitar’s, but it is still extensive.
Chances are you’re not going to be the next Jimi Hendrix. However, learning to play the guitar is very rewarding and can lead to you making strong friendships. Who knows, maybe you will end up forming a band and playing on stage! Regardless of where this journey takes you, these tips can help get you where you need to be.