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11 Guitar Tips for Beginners: A Love Affair Begins

So, you’re becoming acquainted with the guitar. This is the start of a long, beautiful love affair that can last a lifetime if you stick with it. And with these guitar tips in your pocket, you can progress through this journey in confidence. 

If you’re a beginner, you are likely learning common, open position, major and minor chords, such as A, E, G, C, D, Am and Em, and are playing a handful of songs. You may feel mastering this alone has been a tremendous feat, as you should. It takes months to simply get your fingers to contort into chord positions and to develop calluses thick enough to protect your fingers from the pain of pressing down on the strings.

It’s obvious, you want a relationship with your guitar––badly. We can tell you, though, turning this crush into true love takes work. And that means commitment. So, make a lot of time for practice. Just as you need to spend time with a person you love, it takes years to develop a true connection with music.

So, what should you be focusing on in the beginning stages?

Well, aim for small improvements. And tuning into these 11 guitar tips for beginner players is a solid place to start. 

Guitar Tip #1: Practice your scales up and down the neck.

Why are scales so important? Understandably, the rote nature of scales makes them seem boring. But, look ahead to the payoff: lead guitar playing is based on knowing scales. A guitar player of any merit needs to be able to play leads, especially if they want to play with others. 

So, master your scales. From here, you can pretty much play leads in any key.

In fact, any chance you get to learn guitar fingerboard theory, jump on it. Learning to play scales up and down the neck in every key, major and minor, is a pursuit that will take you from beginner to intermediate to advanced levels. 

It’s like learning good communication skills with your mate: it will serve you well for the long term.

Guitar Tip #2: Pay attention to both hands.

As a beginner, you may tend to focus on your chord hand because, drat, it’s so darn difficult to get your fingers to do what you want. It takes intense focus. But the strumming/picking hand (also noted as the “right hand,” since most people are right handed) may go a bit unnoticed. 

However, your strumming-picking hand needs to work its magic, too. Your timing, finesse and overall style will be shaped and accentuated by that hand. So, do pay attention to both.

Guitar Tip #3: Set your sheet music straight. 

If you reference printed sheet music while practicing guitar, it can be challenging to focus on actually playing. 

To keep your attention where it should be (on your guitar), it is important to keep your sheet music assembled, displayed and accessible… with ease. 

That’s where Sheetminder comes in. 

While the Sheetminder Soloist allows you to organize up to five pages of sheet music at a time, the Sheetminder Songbook enables you to hold up to 24 pages of sheet music. Featuring a proprietary, double-side adhesive, you can keep your sheet together and even write directly on your music – no sheet protectors, no stress, no mess. 

The high-quality construction of both these Sheetminder products will keep you organized for many practices to come  –– and at a fraction of the cost of conventional tools. 

Guitar Tip #4: Try different musical phrasings. 

Take the same song and vary your tempo and strumming techniques to experiment with sound. (Again, it’s why paying attention to the right hand is so important). 

Playing a song faster or slower or in a completely different rhythm can affect the tone and emotional quality of the song. For instance, try playing “Imagine” by John Lennon uptempo with quicker strumming patterns, and you can change the entire feeling of the song, turning it from serious to uplifting.

Guitar Tip #5: Play chords as efficiently as possible.

As you move from one chord to another, figure out efficient moves so you can get to the next chord quickly. 

One way to do so – keep a strong finger planted on the string and slide it to your next chord. 

And, for sure, learn to play a G major with your pinkie, so you can move to a C major chord more easily. It’s challenging to get your pinkie strong enough to do so, but will help you get to that C in time.

Guitar Tip #6: Make sure you can get clean, clear notes. 

Make sure each note you play rings out clear and true. If you can’t press the strings down fully to get clean notes or have a buzz in your strings, you may need to have the action on your guitar adjusted. 

“Action” is how a guitar feels when you play it and, in particular, refers to the distance between the strings and the fretboard. If the strings are too low, you may have great action, but get a buzz. If the strings are too high, it’ll be difficult (and painful) to play, and your action will be less than desirable.

If you’re a beginning guitarist, you’re going to want to take your guitar to a professional to have your action adjusted, as it’ll require filing or shimming the saddle on your guitar.

And keep in mind, when you play a guitar with great action… you’ll know it. 

However, action isn’t the only barrier between you and clean, clear notes. If you are not able to press your strings all the way down, it may mean that you need lighter strings. Try extra lights and work your way up to heavier strings as your fingers get stronger.

Guitar Tip #7: Change your strings often.

Speaking of strings, get in the habit of changing them often… say, every few months. 

A new set of strings will keep your guitar sounding bright, as daily use will load them with oil and grime from your skin. Plus, changing your strings will allow you to clean your fretboard at the same time, a loving gesture that, oddly, will bond you with your guitar.

Guitar Tip #8: Learn to play bass notes.

A bass note is the lowest (or lower) note in a chord. And when picked right before you strum the rest of the chord, out comes the effect of a bass guitar playing along with you. It’s a strumming-picking technique popular in folk, country and other acoustic guitar songs, especially when playing alone. 

Here’s a short exercise, using bass notes with an E major chord. First, pick the low E (top: sixth string) before you strum the rest of the E chord. Listen to how that sounds. Now, pick that note before every E major strum. Then, try alternating bass notes in the following order: 

  1. Pick the sixth string
  2. Strum
  3. Pick the fifth string 
  4. Strum
  5. Pick the sixth string again 
  6. Strum 

This will give you an idea of how bass notes can fill out the sound of a song. 

Guitar Tip #9: Get experimental.

When you experiment, you’ll get to know your guitar’s many tonal facets, building a deeper relationship with your instrument and your music.

For example, try muting your strings after a strum in varying ways to see what that does to the sound. 

Also, an acoustic guitar’s body is hollow. When you thump on it, it sounds a bit like a drum. Try this: strum, then mute your strings and end with a thump on your guitar. Listen to how your strumming can take on a whole new percussive sound.

Guitar Tip #10: Learn popular songs. 

When you study popular songs, you’ll begin to understand keys and chord progressions. For example, you’ll quickly learn that chord progressions in the key of G major (a commonly used key) include easy-to-play, major chords –– G, C, D, Am, Em––in various order and patterns. 

Take “Wish You Were Here” for instance, a popular song by Pink Floyd. This song is in the key of G major, and the main strumming sections are composed of the chord progressions C-D-Am-G, D-C-Am-G, C-D-Am-G, D-C-Am-G.

You’ll also learn that songs are generally structured with an intro and outro, verses, a bridge and a chorus. By learning how popular songs are built, you’ll be able to start writing your own original pieces.

Guitar Tip #11: Keep your guitar out in a stand.

There’s something to be said about keeping a precious guitar in its case with a humidifier inside. However, the problem is, you may not play it as much as you would if it were sitting out in front of you. Your guitar’s presence, sitting there so beautifully, just waiting to be played, entices you to pick her up and play.