Playing a musical instrument, especially one you can take with you wherever you go, is one of life’s greatest joys. But learning can seem daunting. Music lessons are expensive, practicing takes time, and it’s not always easy to see results immediately. And once you’re an adult, it becomes harder to learn a new skill. However, learning to play guitar isn’t out of your reach. Getting a basic understanding of the instrument is easier than it might seem at first, and is ultimately fun, rewarding, and a great way to impress new friends. Here’s a quick, easy way to get started.
1. Find a guitar.
You might already have the one you bought in high school and promised yourself you’d learn to play. In that case, you’re all set! If not, you can find a decent acoustic guitar for around $60 if you look around for deals online. If you’re a leftie, you’ll have to get a left-handed guitar — yes, it makes a difference.
2. Get used to holding and strumming the guitar.
Prop the guitar on your knee so the neck is in your off hand and your dominant hand is over the middle. You’ll be strumming with your dominant hand, using either a pick or the side of your thumb as preferred. If you need help, there are videos and tutorials online showing good hand positions for strumming. Don’t worry about picking just now; these are the basics.
3. Learn some chords.
Just doing a search for “guitar chords” will turn up entire libraries of them. The grid that the chords are marked on is the top of the neck of your guitar, unless there’s a number indicating how many frets below the top you should start. The black circles indicate where your fingers go, with the leftmost line indicating the lower E string (the one on top as you hold the guitar). Hollow circles mean you strum the string but don’t have a finger on it; an X means you don’t strum the string at all. To start, try learning E major, G major, and A major, then move on to more advanced chords as you feel ready to try them.
Learning to switch between chords is arguably the hardest part, and takes a lot of practice. Practice moving your fingers between positions until you get faster at it and it becomes second nature. Do this with any new chords you pick up. Even if you’re short on time, half an hour a day can produce results.
4. Look up some simple guitar tabs.
Many popular songs only use a few chords. Do a search for songs that use only E, G, and A; you’re sure to find several. (Try “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, for example.) Whenever you learn a new chords, search for a tab that gives you an opportunity to use it.
5. Go as far as you want to.
You might be happy to just know a few songs. Or you might want to keep improving. If you want to learn new chords, picking, or more advanced techniques, the Internet has a wealth of videos available to help you learn as you go. Just keep practicing, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do!