What Should a Beginner Guitarist Learn First?

Learning to play the guitar can be an intimidating endeavor for a beginner. With so many things to learn – from fretboard notes to complex chords and strumming patterns – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Starting simple is key. As a beginner, you’ll progress much faster if you build a strong foundation before trying to run through advanced songs or techniques. Taking the time to nail guitar basics first, you’ll establish skills that make learning guitar much more intuitive as you progress.

Start With Basic Open Chords

Before attempting to play songs or fancy guitar solos, dedicate some time to memorizing some basic open chords first. Open chords are chords played using unfretted strings, making them simpler fingerwise for beginners to tackle.

The first chords any new guitarist should commit to memory include E major, A major, D major, C major, G major, and A minor. These six chords form the foundation for countless popular songs. Once you’ve learned these open chords:

Focus On Smooth Changes Between Chords

Simply knowing a few open chords isn’t enough. You need to practice changing between them fluidly. Start by changing between E major and A major chords, then throw D major into the mix. The transition between C major and G major is another important one to drill. Be sure to change chords at a slow tempo. As your fretting hand gets used to the movements between chords, then speed up the changes. Smoothing out chord changes takes regular practice, but it’s time well spent.

Learn Strumming Patterns

After memorizing some key chords, practicing strumming is crucial. Work on down and up strumming motions, maintaining an even rhythm. Start simply by strumming once per beat, then try out basic strumming patterns using quarter notes and eighth notes. A great pattern for beginners is two downstrums followed by three upstrums. Additionally, muted strumming is an important technique to practice. Muting unwanted strings takes some dexterity, but makes chord changes sound cleaner.

Explore Easy Song Arrangements

Learning basic open chords and simple songs makes applying what you’ve covered incredibly gratifying. Numerous beginner-friendly tunes only require a handful of chords and minimal strumming skills. Popular options include:

“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King

This soulful ballad features a steady sequence of G, Em, C, D7. Focus on smooth transitions between the chords while maintaining a slow, heartfelt rhythm.

“Wonderwall” by Oasis

Thanks to just four chords (Em, G, D, A), Oasis’ “Wonderwall” is frequently noted as one of the easiest pop songs for guitar. Practice the iconic brush strums during the verses.

“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers

The uplifting classic “Lean On Me” will help reinforce your G and C major chord prowess. Pay special attention to letting notes ring clearly as you change chords.

Build Fretboard Dexterity

It’s not uncommon for beginners to experience soreness or cramping, especially in fretting fingers, when starting guitar. This discomfort often stems from pressing strings too forcefully or holding tension in the hands and wrists. Some ways to counter this include:

Stretching & Massaging Hands

Take short breaks to gently stretch out your fretting hand and massage your palm below the pinky. Stretch out individual fingers as well. Relaxing tense muscles fights fatigue.

Trying Finger Independence Exercises

Assign a single finger to fret and pluck each string sequentially. Do this for each finger to improve independence and agility. This makes play rhythm guitar parts where you maintain a shape while plucking with alternating fingers.

Building Up Finger Calluses

Calluses will build up naturally with regular play to ease string pressure on fingertips. But you can expedite this process with finger exercises. For example, place each finger on the 3rd fret of individual strings and press firmly, holding for 15-30 seconds before releasing.

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FAQ For Beginner Guitarists

Many new guitarists have similar questions when establishing good practice habits. Below are answers to some of the most common beginner questions:

How Long Does it Take to Learn Guitar as a Beginner?

How quickly you progress as a beginner depends heavily on the time you can dedicate to daily practice. Typically within the first three months, you can expect to have basic chords, strumming patterns, and a couple of songs under your belt. Learning to play proficiently and work through advanced techniques takes years.

What Are the Best Guitar Songs for Beginners?

Some universally recommended easy guitar songs include “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, “(Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay” by Otis Redding, and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan. These are great tunes for locking down chord changes.

Should I Learn on an Acoustic or Electric Guitar First?

It’s best to start on an affordable, playable acoustic guitar before upgrading to an electric guitar later.

Acoustics rely solely on the vibration of strings so they help build finger strength and ear training skills based on the sound. Electric guitar playing does require a slightly different technique. Most guitarists eventually learn both.

Do I Need Lessons or Can I Teach Myself as a Beginner?

Self-directed learning from guitar tutorial books and YouTube videos has never been more accessible. However, working 1-on-1 with a guitar teacher, even on occasion, can help diagnose bad habits and knowledge gaps untrained ears wouldn’t catch.

What Are Some Common Beginner Guitar Mistakes?

Typical beginner pitfalls involve poor fretting posture, ignoring rhythm/timing fundamentals, or under-practicing.

The key takeaways for any beginning guitarist are: start simply by polishing open chords, basic strumming, and approachable song arrangements.

This builds solid muscle memory and ear training essential for tackling more advanced guitar skills later on.

Be patient with steady, mindful practice and you’ll be well on your way!

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