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Beginner’s guide to learning to play guitar

Tom Fontana guitar teacher

Tom Fontana

Congratulations, your decision on learning to play guitar is probably one of the best decisions of your life. I don't want to sound cheesy, but really, if you stick with it, you will bring yourself and your loved ones countless hours of joy for the rest of your life, guaranteed.

All it takes is regular practice, with emphasis on the word regular.

It's a simple equation actually: if you don't practice, you won't learn guitar. But if you give it just a bit of effort and get past the initial difficulties, learning the guitar will change your life in so many ways, you can't even imagine yet.


Contents of this free beginner guitar course

After teaching hundreds of live students, and tens of thousands of people online, I've gathered everything I know and created this simple to follow free beginner guitar course, suitable for both the acoustic and electric guitar. You'll build a rock-solid foundation of guitar skills, which have proven to work again and again with my on- and offline students.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that the best way to keep your practice sessions fun and motivating is to start playing songs right from the beginning. With each chapter, I'll list several songs suitable for the level you will be at. I highly recommend you learn these songs as well, as they will bring life to a maybe not so interesting practice session, and they'll let you practice tons of practical guitar skills. And of course, playing the guitar is about making music, that's your ultimate goal.

Each chapter will contain the following elements:

Chapter info

The description and goals of the given chapter, and a list of things you'll learn in the process.

The tutorials

A list of the video lessons you'll need to watch, as well as supplemental written material to read.

Songs to play

Where the fun begins! Video lessons on popular songs to learn and play, relevant to the chapter.

Before moving on

A list of the techniques you must master before moving on to the next chapter in the course.

Lesson index

Chapter 0: Tabs and chord charts

And your journey begins, how exciting! Learning guitar is not exactly the easiest endeavor of your life, but if you stick with it and devote some time to it, you'll definitely become a good guitarist and enrich your life in so many ways. Remember, playing guitar is an acquired skill, all it takes is practice.

Chapter 1: The very basics

Ok, so now it's time to grab your guitar. The previous chapter was more of a pre-theory session to make sure you'll understand the chord charts and tabs you'll be using not just in these lessons, but for many years to come as a guitarist.

Chapter 2: Playing chords

Holding the guitar is an experience you can never get bored of. It's great just picking it up, appreciating the fine workmanship of the instrument, and feeling the vibrations flow through the wood as you strum a chord.

Chapter 3: Chord changes

Are your fingertips hurting yet? If not, than you're probably not practicing enough 🙂 As a beginner, fretting a chord, and thus holding down the strings will definitely cause pain in your fingertips, but don't worry. With practice, your fingertips will develop calluses, and the pain will go away completely.

Chapter 4: Strumming

We're at a milestone, this is where you start making enjoyable music. Just a few chords, a nice rhythmic strumming pattern, and the world is yours.

Chapter 5: Notes on the guitar

A basic knowledge of music theory will definitely be of benefit, since it'll allow you to not only understand why you are playing what, but to progress as a musician as well. And it all starts with learning the notes on the fretboard.

Chapter 6: Fingerpicking

Playing fingerstyle guitar will open up new possibilities for creating beautiful music. Fingerstyle is mostly used on acoustic guitar, and actually a staple of classical guitar, but it can sound wonderful on electric guitars as well. Just turn off that overdrive 😉

Chapter 7: Barre chords

Learning barre chords will be your first big hurdle as a beginner guitarist. They are hard, no doubt about it, but take comfort in the fact that they were hard for Eric Clapton, Slash and BB King as well. Barre chords can be learned, it just takes practice and technique.

Chapter 8: Lead guitar techniques

Ready to rock? Born ready! 🙂 Lead guitar is usually played on electric guitars, but if you only have an acoustic handy, you can still learn most lead techniques to create amazing solos. But still, this chapter is best on the electric.

Chapter 9: Guitar theory, scales

To create your own music, and not just recreate that of others, you'll need to learn a few scales. This is imperative to improvisation and song writing. Learning guitar theory will really improve your understanding of music in general as well.

Conclusion: What the future holds

Learning to play the guitar is really a never ending journey. The more you learn, the more you'll fall in love with the guitar and with making music in general, and the more you'll want to learn. It's a wonderful cycle that will bring joy to yourself and so many others around you as well. Practice hard, it is truly worth it.

Tom Fontana guitar teacher

Tom Fontana

At times, you will feel overwhelmed, like it can't be done. But believe me, it can.

Keep in mind that nobody was born with a guitar in their hands playing it perfectly out of the womb 🙂 Every single guitarist you love listening to was a beginner at one time. They struggled with barre chords, and with all the theory. But they practiced diligently, and eventually got where they are today.

You set your own goals. You don't need to become the next Eric Clapton, but trust me, you will be able to play all his songs soon. How soon exactly? Well, that really depends on how much effort you put into it.

With the information in this guide, you are now equipped to start learning and advancing at the guitar. As I've said many times, practice, and you'll get there. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write me, or leave a comment on the lesson pages.