Bending is an essential technique for rock and blues. Learn how to pull the strings on the electric guitar. Plus: 6 tips for improving your technique.
Are you a beginner and eager to learn to play the guitar? In our crash course we show you in just
10 steps how to play so to have the fans at your feet.
You will learn…
…how to find THE right guitar for you
…how to properly hold your guitar
…how to read notes and tablature
…how to finger chords
…how to take care of your guitar
…tips and tricks on how to practice effectively and play better
Boredom is not an option.
A variety of exercises, videos, graphics and useful overviews for downloading pave the notso-rocky road to the Olympus of Guitar Playing.
f you’re more of a visual learner, check out our guitar courses and videos to learn how to play!
Let’s get started!
Table of contents
1. Buy a (really great) guitar.
5. Master notes and tablature.
2. Equip yourself with the appropriate accessories.
6. Grasp chords.
3. Know your guitar.
7. Practice is the key to success (becoming a matador).
4. Finger positioning and body posture is important.
8. Watch how the pros do it.
Do you already have your guitar and some accessories? Great. You can jump ahead to Step 3 – how to properly hold the guitar.
Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, concert guitar, western guitar; The variety can subtly overwhelm
some beginners. You want to learn how to play the guitar – but which one?
It’s not so hard to figure out.
The features, advantages and disadvantages of the most popular types of guitars can be found in
the following passage:
Strings: Nylon and steel strings
Emergence of tone: vibration of the strings and sound hole
Level: gets drowned out in combination with other instruments
Costs: Cheaper than electric guitar
Genres: classical, modern, campfire music
The difference between acoustic and electric guitars is particularly obvious in the sound.
The tones are created by striking the strings and are amplified by the vibration of the body and the sound hole. Individual notes played on the acoustic guitar can be heard better.
The acoustic guitar is – because it is unamplified – rather quiet. In a band it would got drowned out. The acoustic guitar can – depending on the type (concert guitars, acoustic guitars, resonator guitars, bass guitars, flamenco guitars) – cover different genres (rock, classical, pop, blues).
The concert guitar has pegs that stand backwards and a wider fretboard. You fret the wrong notes less quickly and the nylon strings are more comfortable for beginners to play. Genre: Classical, rarely Pop
The Western guitar sounds brighter than the concert guitar and can be used in pop, rock, etc. The strings are made of steel (ouch.) Thanks to the narrow fingerboard you can fret the strings more easily.
Advantage for beginners: thicker strings for easier learning
Strings: Steel Strings
Emergence of tone: amplification by pickups necessary
Tone: Tones like errors are swallowed
Genres: Jazz, Rock, Metal
The solid body keeps the volume low, so that it only becomes loud through the amplifier via steel strings and pickups. This way the electric guitar is always heard.
In contrast to the acoustic guitar, the sound of the electric guitar appears more rocky, scratchy – sometimes a bit blurry when individual notes are suppressed. If the genres rock, hard rock or jazz appeal to you, the electric guitar is the right choice.
Advantage for beginners: Smaller in size and easier to hold.
Whether acoustics or electric guitar – it depends on which genres you play and what sound you want to create.
When buying a guitar, you have to take various aspects into account – costs, size, etc. We have put
together a list of tips that can help you when buying a guitar.
Here you will find an overview of acoustic and electric guitar sets for beginners.
The cost of an acoustic guitar is between € 100 and € 200. For an electric guitar you have to put
down more – it costs € 200 to € 300 for beginners.
Get a starter model of the brands Fender, Yamaha, Ibanez, Ortega and Gibson to get you started.
„The more expensive, the better“ rule does not necessarily apply. Nevertheless, high-quality (and
expensive) materials and high-quality workmanship conjure up a completely different guitar sound.
If you plan on owning the guitar for a long time, invest a little more.
You could also buy a used guitar from a proven brand, so you get a quality instrument for a lower price.
Guitar size is NOT age-related – body size is more important.
In the following illustration you can see which body size needs which guitar size. The decisive
factor is the scale – the distance from bridge to saddle (marked in the picture).
Size and cost are one thing. Our six tips will help you consider other factors to find the right guitar:
1. Touch the guitar.
4. Search perfect distance
2. Use your ears.
5. Distinguish brands
3. Pay attention to the material.
6. With A Little Help From My Friends
To be able to properly care for your guitar so that you can play, you need accessories.
You can’t play guitar without strings, that’s for sure. The tension of the strings differ – steel strings
have a higher tension than nylon strings. Depending on the guitar you need different strings. Here is an overview:
Classical guitars: nylon strings
Western guitars: steel strings
Electric guitars and basses: strings with metal elements, steel strings, nylon strings with metal core
Tip: Never, never, never use steel strings on a guitar designed for nylon strings! Not only
could you damage your guitar, you could also seriously injure yourself.
The string gauge tells you how thick the guitar strings are. For electric guitars it is given in
numbers – .011, .030 etc.
For acoustic guitars, only approximate values are given: light, regular, medium, etc.
Thicker, stronger guitar strings have more volume. They sound more powerful, warmer and less bright. But it also requires more hand strength to pluck and strum the strings.
Thinner guitar strings with a smaller gauge do not sound as full. Beginners, however, can play the thin strings more easily.
Start with lighter strings and then change the size when your playing have improved.
If your guitar is out of tune, you have to tune it (wow). With a tuner, it’s super easy and super fast.
This is how you tune your guitar correctly.
Here you will find tuners for acoustic and electric guitars.
With the plectrum, also called pick, you can strike the strings. It is a small piece of plastic (mostly)
in the form of a rounded triangle. You hold the pick between your index finger and thumb of your
striking hand The tip should be perpendicular to your palm.
Ibanez BPA16MS-BK Pick Set
The Sand Grip Pick gives you additional grip in the guitar, since it has a sand coating. It’s extremely useful when your fingers become sweaty.
If you learn electric guitar, you clearly need a guitar amplifier. The electronic device receives the vibrations from the guitar via pickups, and converts them into sound.
You can tell from the wattage what performance your future amplifier can achieve. The rule is: the
higher the wattage, the louder the music.
15 watts: private use without additional instruments (not suitable for live bands)
30 watts: rock
50 – 100 watts: metal, hard rock
Never leave your guitars lying around! A guitar stand or wall bracket is definitely useful for avoiding scratches and other damage. It’s up to you to decide if you want to use either a guitar stand or decorative and space-saving guitar wall holder.
You don’t necessarily need these colorful stickers. On the other hand, they can be of enormous help if you are still having a hard time learning the notes. You attach the stickers to the fretboard under the strings. The colors stand for one note – you can see at what distance the notes are repeated.
One sticker each represents the notes on the fret.
Playing guitar is fun, but only as long as your hands can endure it. This depends on whether or not you’re holding your guitar and your fingers correctly. You can also strike the guitar strings with a pick – we will show you two different ways: finger picking and flat picking.
Sit down with your guitar and do a straight back.
Rest the back of the guitar on your torso.
Position the guitar is on the right leg.
Note that the thickest guitar string is on the top and the thinnest string is on the bottom.
Place the left hand – the gripping hand – on the guitar neck and finger some notes.
Place the right hand – the picking/strumming hand – over the sound hole and strings.
Position your fingers close to the lower part of the fret so that the strings don’t rattle when you play them.
Use the picking/strumming hand to gently strike the strings between the sound hole and the bridge.
Perform the movement from the wrist – the elbow should hardly move.
Press the fingertip of your gripping hand firmly onto the string. It should only vibrate between your finger and hand.
Fingerpicking (fingerstyle) is a technique where you play the strings of your guitar with the fingers of your striking hand.
You don’t play with a plectrum and single strings at the same time or one after the other.
You pluck the strings with fingertips or fingernails. Most of the time you use only thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger.
The movement of your fingers runs from the respective finger root to the hand. Your fingers should bend slightly. The thumb is stretched out.
Advantage: Since you always alternate your fingers, you can play faster and more complex sequences.
Disadvantage: Fingerpicking is usually much quieter than flatpicking.
In flatpicking you play the guitar with a pick and your fingers.
Normally, when you play with a pick, the middle finger, ring finger and little finger are ignored. When flatpicking you include these.
The pick is used with thumb and index finger. So the middle finger has to do the work of the index finger and the ring finger the work of the middle finger.
Advantage: With flat picking you can quickly switch between accompaniment and playing melodies.
Disadvantage: You have to rearrange your fingers, because the index finger is bound to the picking.
If you look at your guitar like this, you may have no idea what the little knobs on the head are there for. However, the structure of the guitar is not that complicated.
A guitar consists of wood (solid or laminated) and metal. Solid wood makes guitars sound better.
Head of guitar
At the head of the guitar you will find the tuning pegs and the nut.
The nut lies under the guitar strings and looks like a white crossbar or collar of the guitar head. It connects head and fretboard. The nut ensures that the strings are firmly in place.
The tuning pegs (the white knobs on the side) are attached to the guitar strings. With their help you can stretch the strings and tune the guitar
The neck of the guitar consists of the fingerboard and the frets.
A fret is the area between two horizontal stripes (fret rods) that are evenly spaced on the guitar fretboard. Each fret represents a semitone step.
If you move your hand up a fret at the neck, the note pitch is raised a semitone higher. If you move in the opposite direction, the note will be a semitone lower. These distances are not uniform: the smaller the fret, the higher the pitch.
If you push the strings down between the fret rods, different notes and chords are created.
With acoustic guitars, the strings are attached to the string anchor of the bridge with knots. On electric guitars they are held in place with so-called ball ends (metal knobs on the string ends) and the bridge pins.
Playing the strings causes the body of the guitar to resonate.
The string position describes the distance from the string to the fretboard. You can play more easily with a shorter distance, but the strings will rattle more.
Sound hole or pickups
Now to the mysterious hole in the body of the guitar: sounds reverberates through the hole. The vibrations are solely output to the front through the hole, which increases the volume of the instrument. Only acoustic guitars have a sound hole.
Sound holes do not necessarily have to be round.
Electric guitars, on the other hand, are equipped with up to three pickups. Pickups are magnets that convert the movement of the strings into electricity. These pickups reproduce the sound through an amplifier.
Single coil: transparent sound
Humbucker: voluminous sound, can ward off interference better
In acoustic guitars, the body consists of the floor, bridge, soundboard and sound hole. The hollow wooden body and the ceiling reinforce the effect of the sound hole. They emit the sound and make the instrument loud.
The ends of the strings are attached to the bridge.
An even closer look into the architecture of a guitar can be found in our article.
Okay enough theory. Now you surely want to know how to hit the right note or how to play a song.
To do this, you have to be able to read the notes you see in front of you and find them on the guitar.
You can learn to play songs on the guitar in two different ways: by notes or by tabs
Let’s start with the notes. In contrast to tablature, notes not only make it clear to you which strings you should play, but also how long.
Sooner or later you will be playing from notation anyway.
The notes are written on these lines (the staff).
At the beginning of these lines you will always find a symbol known as a clef. Fortunately, you only need one to play the guitar: the treble clef, also called the G key.
To the right of the clef you will find the time signature. These numbers indicate how long the bars of this piece last.
For example: 4/4 time means four beats per bar (aka measure). Different note values may exist within the bar as long as the sum of these is 4/4.
The bar sections are delimited by the vertical bar lines.
The notes you should remember are the following root tones:
C, D, E, F, G, A, B
The root tones look like this on paper:
The strings of the guitar are named from bottom to top with the following notes at the „0th fret”:
E – A – D – g – b – e
Make a note of the strings of the guitars with the following saying:
Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually.
E = low E
e = high e
For each fret (from the neck to the guitar body), another tone follows from these tones in a specific order.
In this illustration you can see ALL the notes that are on the guitar:
Root tones: C, D, E, F, G, A, B
Sharp notes (# sign): C#, D#, E# (F), F#, G#, A#, B# (C)
Flat notes (b sign): C♭ (B), D♭, E♭, F♭ (E), G♭, A♭, B♭
Overwhelming, right? But don’t panic.
The frets are very often double-occupied (e.g. G# / A♭).
All of these notes follow an order. They follow the order of the chromatic scale:
C – C#/D♭ – D – D#/E♭ – E – F – F#/G♭ – G – G# / A♭ – A – A#/ B♭ – B
As you can see from the illustration, there are still higher notes and lower notes to the root tones.
These notes are in 12 frets in order. After these 12 frets, this sequence is repeated.
But one step at a time. What was it with sharp and flat tones? There are two symbols to describe them – ♯ and ♭.
The sharp sign (♯) increases tones by a fret or a semitone step.
If a tone is raised with a sharp, its name is appended with the „#“ symbol:
C becomes C sharp through the addition of the # symbol
D – D#
E – E#
F – F#
G – G#
A – A#
B – B# (C)
Here you can see all sharp notes on the staff:
The flat sign ♭ lowers tones by a fret or a semitone step.
If a tone is lowered with a flat, its name is appended with a „♭” symbol.
C becomes C flat (aka B) through the addition of the ♭ symbol
D – D♭
E – E♭
F – F♭ (E)
G – G♭
A – A♭
B – B♭
Please note that in the German note scale, the B note is called „H“ and the B♭ note is called „B“.
Here you can see all flat notes on the staff:
Accidentals and key signatures
Accidentals only change (increase or decrease) the sound of the notes they are associated with.
Key signatures are to the right of the clef and change the corresponding notes for the entire song.
Sharps and flats for a notes can be canceled using the natural (♮) symbol.
That wasn’t so bad, was it? You now know ALL notes by name and know where they are on the guitar and on paper.
How long the notes should be played and when they should not be played are determined by note values and rests (rhythm).
Depending on how a note is “filled” or whether it carries a flag, it is played longer or shorter:
The whole note is the longest: it is held for four counts (beats). A half note is, logically, only half as long: it is held for two counts.
With dotted notes (a note followed by a period), the note length is extended by a factor of 1.5.
Note values are in relation to the bar length. For example, 2 half notes make up a 4/4 bar (1⁄2 + 1⁄2 = 4/4).
You can find all kinds of note values within one measure, but together they always have to match the total value of the measure.
Thanks to the note values, you now know how long you should hold the note.
But there are also symbols that tell you whether notes should be played one after the other without a break. These are called ties.
The tie connects two notes of the same pitch, therefore lengthening the note value. If two quarter notes are joined with a tie symbol, you play these two notes as one note for 2 beats.
The slur connects two notes of different pitches. You play the two notes without interruption.
Last but not least: rests
Logically, when you encounter rests, you should NOT play. How long these pauses have to be observed is shown by the corresponding characters, as is the case with note values:
And that’s it with the notes! Wasn’t that bad as you thought, was it?
Eine Gitarren-Tabulatur ist ein eigenes System um Musik ohne Noten zu notieren. Tabulaturen zeigen dir anhand von “Bildchen”, auf welche Saiten du deine Finger drücken musst.
A guitar tablature is a separate system for transcribing music without notes. Tablatures show you which strings you have to press your fingers with. Tired of plowing through music theory? You can find everything you need to know to read tabs in our video clip:
With tabs you can play a wide range of songs without having to read notes. Tablatures are read and played from left to right, line by line.
The tablature consists of six lines that represent the strings of the guitar. The strings are arranged as you see them on your guitar.
Meaning of the tablature numbers and basic characters
Numbers: they stand for the respective fret of the string that is to be used. The fret directly on the guitar head is the first fret.
0 : represents an empty string; you play it without pressing a fret.
X : A string marked with an X is not played.
How long do I play a note according to the tab?
Many tabs do not specify how long a note should be played. If the note values are taken into
account, they are identified by the following letters above the tab:
w = whole note
h = half note
q = quarter note
e = eighth note
s = sixteenth note
[n]. = dotted note
Numbers on top of each other = chords
If you want to play a chord, you have to play several notes at the same time. You can recognize a
chord on the tablature if several numbers are arranged vertically one above the other.
A chord consists of at least three tones that sound harmonious together. There are two different types of chords:
As a beginner, you will find it easier to get started with open guitar chords. There are 8 open chords – major and minor.
These chords are easier to finger. Changing from one chord to the next is a bit difficult only at the beginning.
Best of all, if you know the following chords, you will be able to play a lot of pop and rock songs.
Tip: Play each chord slowly and deliberately. Pay close attention to which strings you play.
Below is an overview of the open chords:
We have also put together the fingerings for open chords for you in our guitar chords illustration.
With Barré chords, you can press several or all strings at the same time with one finger. Most often the index finger is used for this.
You need these types of chords if you want to expand your repertoire of songs. If you master these, it will be easy for you to play any pop or rock song imaginable!
Barré chords are more difficult to play. All strings must be pressed firmly and evenly. You need more strength in your chord hand.
We have also put together the Barré chords for you in our guitar chords illustration.
We have put together a cheat sheet for the most common guitar chords (open chords and barré chords) for you. This makes it easier for you to finger chords.
Download the guitar chord chart, print them out and practice to play them more fluently.
In our overview, the notes are marked on the left of the tabs and the frets below. The circles with a black background represent the fingers positioning.
1 = index finger
2 = middle finger
3 = ring finger
4 = little finger
There are various scales. They make it easier for you to learn new songs. There are two different types: major (clear and bright, positive sound characteristic) and minor scales (rather dark, brooding sound characteristic).
Each scale has eight tones. The tones are played at a certain distance (interval) from one another.
Your starting point is the respective key (C major scale = C, A minor scale = A, etc.).
First the major scale:
C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C
Each major scale contains the following interval steps:
1 – 1 – ½ – 1 – 1 – 1 – ½
For the C major scale, you start with the root note C. From there, you don’t go half a step, but a whole step (two frets). You do not land the C sharp, rather the D. And so you follow the interval scheme above until you have reached the next C note.
And how do you play the C major scale on the guitar?
C – Use your ring finger to play the third fret of the A string.
D – You play the D string empty.
E – Use your middle finger to play the second fret of the D string.
F – Use your ring finger to grip the 3rd fret on the D string.
G – You play the G string empty.
A – Use your ring finger to grasp the second fret on a G string.
B – You play the B string empty.
C – Use your index finger to grip the first fret of the B string.
Minor scales are available in three different versions: natural, harmonic, melodic. Only their tone steps differ.
Each minor scale is formed as follows:
Natural minor scale
1 – ½ – 1 – 1 – ½ – 1 – 1
Example of a natural A minor scale: A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A
Harmonic minor scale
1 – ½ – 1 – 1 – ½ – 1½ – ½
Example of an harmonic A minor scale: A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A
Melodic minor scale:
1 – ½ – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – ½
Example of a melodic A minor scale: A-B-C-D-E-F#-G#-A
Symbols for scales
Major: C♭, G♭ D♭, A♭, E♭, B♭, F
Minor: A♭, E♭, B♭, F, C, G, D
Major: G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#
Minor: E, B, F#; C#, G#, D#, A#
You know very well that you have to practice a lot to get better. We have 8 tips that will make it easier for you and will make your practice routine even more effective!
1. Practice regularly and briefly.
5. Maintain your most important tools
2. Cleaner sound
6. Stay flexible
3. Thin strings and low strings
7. Perform dry exercises
4. Simply start playing
8. Learn at your own pace
To make your guitar sound like a guitar, you have to tune it regularly. The strings of your guitar are also important so that you can play great and your guitar sounds nice.
We’ll show you how to tune your guitar yourself and change the strings.
Decide in advance whether you want to change string by string or, more radical, all at once.
The tuning of the guitar is better preserved if you change the strings one after the other.
On the other hand, if you remove them all at once, you can clean the fretboard.
You’ll need the following tools to change the strings:
a blanket or neck support to protect your guitar
string cutters shorten the strings
a string crank (optional) speeds up changing the strings
You should use the following instructions for changing strings of a concert guitar (string for string):
Release the tension on the string you want to change. Turn the peg of the corresponding string.
Pull the old string out of the tuning mechanism (on the guitar head) and untie the knot on the bridge.
Now pull the new string through the hole in the bridge and leave about 10cm of extra string, pulling the string over the sound hole.
Twist the end of the string into a loop.
Guide the string several times through the loop.
The strings must be behind the edge of the bridge. Fasten the string between tailpiece and longer part of the string.
Pull the knot tight. Make sure that the other end of the string does not come off.
Turn the tuning peg on the guitar head so that the hole is clearly visible.
Pass the guitar string through the hole on the tuning peg.
Roll the new string twice around the axis of the peg (the white piece).
The string end must point upwards. Guide the string again down into the hole.
Now tune your guitar – the strings will tighten.
Once you have tuned your strings, pull each string starting on the twelfth fret. That’s how you stretch the strings. Tune the strings again. Your guitar tuning is now more stable.
You can now shorten the strings that are too long.
Are you curious about how to change guitar strings from electric guitars? Here you will find instructions on how to change strings of electric guitars, western guitars and guitars with Floyd Rose tremolo.
A detuned guitar doesn’t sound nice at all. Playing on it is no fun, either.
We’ll show you how to tune your guitar step by step so that it sounds like yours again.
Make sure you are tuning in a room that is free from background noise (dishwasher, street, roommate, etc.).
Find out which tuning pegs match which strings (follow the strings).
Hold the tuner on the guitar.
Pick the thickest string – the top E.
Be careful to play the string individually and not a chord.
The strings should ring loud and clear.
Take a look at the tuner – it shows you whether the string sounds sharp (too high) or flat (too low).
If the string is too high, tune it first to a lower pitch and then to the correct one.
Tune the strings higher by turning the upper tuning pegs counter-clockwise and turning the lower tuning pegs clockwise.
You tune the string lower by turning the peg to the left.
Tune all other guitar strings in this way.
Congratulations! You did it. You learned to play the guitar!
But of course that’s not enough. To become a true matador on the strings, we have two tips for you that will make you a professional.
If you devote all your attention to your guitar playing, you will get faster and better than if you only played the guitar occasionally.
Practice slowly and focused. Pay close attention to the following aspects:
Hold the guitar correctly and pay attention to the position of your fingers
Do not grip the strings too gently
Pay attention to the rhythm
Strike the strings evenly so that you produce a consistent volume (unless otherwise requested)
A guitar god – unlike a layperson – can play cool chords and fingerings. We want to bring the following four chords and tones closer to you:
1) Play harmonic tones (flageolet)
You play the flageolet by not pressing the string down in the fret with your chord hand, as you would normally do. You just gently touch the string (as if it were fragile) with your finger and strike the string.
While playing the note, remove the finger on the chord hand so that the note can fully develop.
Tip: The higher the harmonic tone, the more difficult it is to implement and make it sound as it should.
2) The palm mute technique
The name of the technique already describes its purpose. You dampen the notes with your palm of your hand. You play palm mute by placing the palm of your picking hand on the strings near the bridge and pluck the strings with the same hand.
Try sliding the mute hand back and forth to find a position where the tones are neither abbreviated nor very clear. If you often switch between palm mute and normal guitar playing, you will achieve a rousing effect.
3) Make tones sound with vibrato
With the Vibrato technique you can make sustained tones sound crazy (in a beautiful way).
If you play acoustic guitar, you have to use vibrato more subtly than with an electric guitar.
To do this, move the note-playing finger, pressed onto the fret, up and down a bit. This method is easier with nylon strings than with steel strings.
If your electric guitar is equipped with a vibrato lever (aka Whammy bar), you do not necessarily need to use your fingering hand for vibrato.
Tip: Be careful not to overdo the vibrato, it can quickly become tiresome. Make sure that you play in time!
4) Play hammer-on and pull-off
With the hammer-on or pull-off you can greatly increase your playing speed.
Play the hammer-on by fingering the fret of a string with your chord hand, holding it down and at the same time quickly hitting the next string for the next note (hammer on). Let the hammered string sound clearly! At the beginning, just practice this alternating movement from first finger to hammer-on.
You will notice that you can play more notes at the same speed and rhythm.
A pull-off is performed by reversing the hammer-on:
Use two frets of the same string
Pluck the string gently
Pull down the previous hammer-on finger
You are now officially a matador on the strings!
Congratulations – you’ve shown true ambition and perseverance.
Yacine is one of the founders of music2me and the brain behind our piano course. After graduating from high school, he first completed a one-year intensive course of study at a private music school. This was followed by piano studies at Germany’s oldest university of music in Würzburg. He has been teaching piano to students of all ages for over 10 years and has been leading the composition course at the German Pop Academy Frankfurt since April 2013.
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