From Zero to Beginner

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

- Francis Of Assisi

If you are a complete newbie, this guide will get you on your feet in a few days. If you already have some experience with playing the guitar, you won’t need to read this.

If you want a quick checklist, just read the end of the post.

So you want to be a guitar player, huh? That’s great, so did I. It’s never too late to do what you want to do.

Before you ask: NO, you are never too young or too old to start learning to play. If you are worried about your age, I will be covering this later, where I will be teaching you guys the steps to learning to play in your twenties, thirties, and beyond.

For all intents and purposes, the best moment to start learning is right now.

There is a lot to learn at this stage, so I'll be dividing it into chunks.

This is what we'll be learning in this post:

  1. What is a guitar and how does it sound?

  2. What is your goal for learning to play guitar?

  3. How to choose your first guitar.

  4. Guitar parts.

  5. How to hold the guitar and place your hands.

  6. How to play your first notes.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a guitar and how does it sound?

Simply put, a guitar is a type of stringed instrument that sounds when its strings vibrate. Yep, that’s it, nothing more. This is true for ALL guitars.

Notice how I did not make any distinction between acoustic and electric guitars. This is not a mistake since, in truth, ALL guitars are acoustic.

What people mean when they say that a guitar is “acoustic” is that it has it’s own means to amplify its sound (resonation chamber) and is intended to be played in that way. You are hearing directly the sound that the vibrating strings produce.

On the other hand, when people talk about “electric guitars” they mean a guitar that needs to be electrically amplified in order to produce an appropriate sound (they still sound when played without amplification, though it’s not the intended use). When you play an electric guitar with an amplifier, you won't actually listen to the acoustic sound, rather the sound that is captured by the pickups (we'll see what the pickups are later in this lesson), which is in turn amplified by the amplifier.

Electrical amplification can be considered as part of the instrument in the case of electric guitars. Don't worry about this for now, as we will learn about amplification later on.

What is your goal for learning to play guitar?

Few people talk about this, especially few teachers out there.

It’s not the same kind of training that we have to take when we want to learn a language vs when we want to be a translator for it. The same is true when we approach guitar playing.

In my experience, there are two kinds of players:

  • The casual player

This is the kind of player that likes to play for fun but does not want to get into the hard stuff. They just want to learn some popular songs, and maybe compose a simple song or two for their couple. Of course, they are the #1 players around a campfire.

They play occasionally in the comfort of their homes too, but are not the kind of players that want to rock the whole world.

  • The pro player

This is when we get serious.

This is the kind of player that has an intense passion for the instrument. They are not satisfied with just playing once in awhile in their homes, or with some friends at the beach; that kind of stuff. These are the kind of people who want to go down the rabbit hole: get into a band, play gigs, get a record out there, become famous, and of course, most will also want to have a lot of groupies on their record (you know it’s true).

Why do I say this? It will help lots if you can make up your mind which kind of player you want to be, since that will mean a different learning process. Of course, your objectives are not fixed and may change over time; it’s common that some people start learning for fun and play some songs, and then later they find out they actually want to go full rockstar mode, and so some who thought they wanted to be the next Malmsteen later find out that they don’t want to put in so much effort and resort to just playing for fun. It’s totally fine.

I will teach you how to become either kind of player, but for now, what we are going to learn now applies for all guitar players.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: yes, you could argue that there are more than two kinds of players out there, for example, a third kind which lies somewhere in the middle of the two types I just talked about. If you believe you are one of them, please email me and we’ll talk about it.

How to choose your first guitar.

I cover this topic in this post.