Acoustic Guitar Tips for Beginners

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Many of you have asked for advice for beginners learning how to play the guitar. Here are some answers to your common questions:

Which guitar should I buy?

Choosing a guitar should be fun!

When choosing your first guitar, it can be tempting to buy the cheapest instrument you can find. While it’s important to work within a budget, I’d encourage you to invest in a quality instrument that will stay in tune.
 Go to a guitar store and play several guitars to find one that you love and that feels and sounds really good to you.

If you love the vibe of your instrument, it will be way more fun to practice with!

If you’re wanting to use your guitar to play live shows, look for one with a built-in pick up/preamp.

My Guitars

When my sister Lindsay was first learning to play, we got her a Little Martin guitar, which is a great small size, making it easier to play and to pack around when traveling.

I love playing my Koa top Taylor GS Mini for live shows because of it’s portable, smaller size and bright sound.

My favorite guitar to write with and play on studio recordings is my Martin X Series Custom X1-000E. Martin makes my favorite guitars- beautiful instruments with great resonance and tone!

What accessories do I need?

1. A guitar tuner. I use this Snark clip on tuner.

2. A quality capo. Or two. Or three. Because let’s be real- you’re probably going to lose one at some point. I use this one, but I’ve heard this one is also great. You might have to test out a couple to find one that works best for you!
3. Guitar picks. This pack has a variety of picks with varying thickness. These are my personal favorite picks.

4. Pick holder. I have this one that sticks to the top of your guitar so you can grab picks easily while playing!

5. Extra guitar strings. Breaking strings happens more often than you’d think! I always keep a couple packs of Martin 80/20 Bronze light strings in my guitar case.

6. Guitar string winder and cutter. My uncle gave me one of these when I first started playing and let me tell you – it is a life saver! Trying to pry the pegs out to remove and replace your guitar strings with tweezers is no fun at all! Trust me. I know from experience.

7. Guitar case. Most guitars come with a soft top case when you purchase them, which is great for every day use. If you plan on taking your instrument on the road or on an airplane, I recommend investing in a quality hard case that will protect your instrument from changes in elevation and weather.

8. A guitar strap. Here’s one similar to mine. If you’re planning on standing up when you play live, you’ll need a strap to hold your instrument in place. A fun guitar strap lets you add some of your own personal style to your instrument! Most music stores sell them, and Amazon has a pretty good selection as well.

What’s the best way to learn to play guitar?

Everyone learns differently!
I taught myself how to play by watching YouTube videos and playing by ear, but now that I’m learning to read music and teaching lessons, I’m expanding my knowledge and continuing to improve by opening myself up to new ways of learning.

You might benefit from the discipline of private guitar lessons.

Or, you might be self motivated enough to teach yourself and practice on your own!

Either way, learning to play guitar should be fun! Enjoy the process, even if it doesn’t sound perfect at first.

Playing the guitar hurts my fingers! What can I do?

Holding your precious little pinky down on that thin metal high ‘e’ string for a whole song can really do a number on your fingers!

The only way to build up the callouses and strength you need to play more comfortably (but let’s be honest, some things are just always a little bit uncomfortable) is to PLAY your guitar!

If I start to lose my callouses on my fingertips, sometimes I’ll do slides up each string on the guitar, starting with my index finger and ending with my pinkie.

It hurts a bit at first, but eventually your fingers will get used to the pressure!

What do I do if my guitar buzzes and doesn’t sound right when I play chords?

Usually my answer to my students when this comes up is to PRESS DOWN HARDER!

I’m merciless.

Carefully place each fingertip on the designated strings BEFORE you strum each chord to make sure they are where they should be.

You have to apply a good amount of pressure before strumming. It WILL hurt at first.

If you don’t press down hard enough, you will simply be muting the strings and this can cause it to buzz or to sound off when you strum or pick.

How do I develop smoother transitions?

Transitioning from chord to chord can be one of the most difficult aspects of learning the guitar!

When I come across a tricky transition or picking pattern, I will drill my fingers by moving back and forth between the chords over and over, picking up speed as I do so.

I’ve found that the more you practice the transitions, the more easily your hands will remember where to go.

Be patient with yourself! It takes time to memorize chords and chord progressions and to transition effortlessly.

Do I have to be able to read sheet music to play the guitar?

No! If you’re like me and reading sheet music is not your forte, don’t fret. You don’t have to be a technical musician to learn to play the guitar.

There are three main ways I learn to play songs if I can’t figure them out by simply listening:

  1. Look up the chords to the song. You’ll need to know how to read chord charts for this method.
  2. Look up the tabs to the song. Learning to read tablature has been a game changer for me! I’m now able to play more complex songs because I can just look up the tabs online instead of trying to watch someone else play the song and figuring it out note by note.
  3. And speaking of watching someone else play a song…looking up a guitar tutorial online is always a great idea! There are awesome teachers out there who break down songs step by step. If this is something you’d be interested in seeing from me, let me know!

I hope you found this post helpful! Happy playing!