Whether you have a Stratocaster, a Telecaster, a Jumbo, a Yamaha, an Ibanez, a Cort, an Epiphone, a Fender or a Gibson Les Paul… learning the guitar is not always easy!

You must be able to follow a metronome and learn basic techniques (in a guitar course) all while staying in tune. So it also helps to know how to read music and how to tune your guitar. Why not take guitar lessons?

For beginners, many parts of learning the guitar - from melody playing to scales, chords, and notation - can be daunting. Yet all of them are essential parts of guitar training, just as they are essential for learning any other musical instrument (bass, piano, flute…).

So take your tuner, your electric guitar, and your amp, and roll up your sleeves! It’s time to learn guitar .

Playing guitar (folk, acoustic, bass, classical, electro-acoustic or electric) requires motivation and regular practice (and it doesn’t hurt to have a great guitar teacher). Once you’ve got your new guitar pack, amp and all the accessories (pick, strings, strap, cover…) you’re ready to begin your training on becoming the best guitar player that you can be.

There are many techniques that will allow you to differentiate the pieces so that they don’t all sound the same. And string instruments each have numerous techniques at your disposal - and that's whether you’d like to play heavy metal, blues, jazz, rock, or whatever other genres pique your fancy.

Study guitar methods to research guitar tabs or sheet music that will teach you these techniques in the best way.

Don’t be discouraged! Even absolute beginners can learn to play the guitar like experts.

Take your time. Rushing won’t help you progress. Through practice, your rhythmic technique will become an automatic reflex. You'll find that you can play the guitar without even thinking about it; you’ll no longer need to reflect to control your hands.

You’ll be ready to play just like your biggest idols and record your solos in a home studio. And why not one day play riffs on Bob Dylan’s guitar?

It doesn’t hurt to dream!

A Quick Beginner's Guide to the Guitar.

Different guitar techniques demand more of different hands. This image shows the guitarist's right hand
In the alternate picking technique, the guitarist's right hand is most important.

When beginning to play guitar, it’s very useful to know to use the alternate picking technique. To achieve this and other techniques, it’s important to know which accessories to use.

And this begins with the instrument itself.

Choosing a guitar is an important step in the life of a musician. This means selecting from different types of guitars and brands as well as the wood used to make them. This might be rosewood, spruce, ebony, mahogany, cypress, oak, maple, or even bamboo.

Find out how the guitar has evolved over time...

The entire construction of the guitar that you chose to buy will play a large role in its tone and strings. For electric guitars, these are made for the most part of steel, in contrast to nylon strings for classic guitars. String choice will be important for learning strumming and finger picking techniques! Finding the best guitar is a personal choice.

If you’re a beginner guitar player, learn to tune a guitar and try to get some picks. These small and generally triangular bits of plastic will help you strum the strings correctly.

Chords and Power Chords: The Beginner Technique for Rhythm Guitar.

No matter whether you are learning the electric guitar or the acoustic guitar - jazz guitar or classical guitar - you need to be able to find your way around chords. Essentially, these are different notes played at the same time, and in all pop and classical music they are used all the time.

Guitar chords, it is important to know, take usually take the first, third, and fifth note of any scale. So, with a major scale - a C major scale, say - you would have C, E, and G. For the G chord, you would have G, B, and D.

However, whilst such chords may be easy to navigate on the piano, the chord shapes on a guitar are different - owing to the placement of the notes on the frets and the strings.

This is why guitarists - particular in pop and rock music - make use of the power chord. This is merely the first and the fifth note of any scale. On a guitar, you can put your first finger on the first fret of the top string, and your third finger on the third fret of the string below. This is your power chord shape, and it can be easily moved all of the fretboard.

Finding free online guitar lessons is possible here.

Beginner Guitar: The Alternate Picking Technique

With all of this, you can begin to learn the first technique, which is the most prevalent in guitar playing.

For this, take the pick in your right hand (if you’re right-handed). Don't worry about the left hand at all: take it away from the fretboard and just focus on your right hand. Pick a string; it is best to begin with the lowest string (the one that is highest in pitch). You’ll make one downward picking stroke and one upward picking stroke. Keep doing this - down up, down up, down up - as regularly as you can.

This technique isn’t too hard to execute. But take your time, and you’ll rapidly learn the reflex. Once you have mastered that basic technique on the open string, add a finger of your left hand.

In any case this technique is definitely part of the history of the electric guitar!

The movement for this technique must come from your wrist, and not your elbow or fingers. This might seem a bit complicated to you at the beginning but, little by little, your wrist will get used to it and relax.

However, don’t waste hours on this technique. It’s more efficient to work on it for several minutes each day. This will also help you avoid tendinitis! Remember though that some of the masters of rock guitar - from Hendrix and Clapton, to the guitarists from Van Halen - will have done this exercise every day. It's not just a thing for beginners, but it helps players of all levels of experience.

To execute this technique don’t use a very thick pick. You’ll need one that is under one millimeter thick. It will be easier for you to strum the strings (one of the components of an electric guitar), without your movement becoming too stiff.

Equally, you can use a metronome to help you keep to the rhythm if that isn’t your strong suit.

To get an idea of what this might sound like, look up a few tutorials on YouTube. They’ll allow you to learn the rhythm and to understand how the pieces that use this technique should sound.

Check for guitar lessons here.

Progressing to Legato: A Left Hand Guitar Technique

Now that you’re equipped with your picks and you’ve mastered the alternate picking technique, it’s time to progress to another one.

Legato, ever heard of it?

Rest assured, this one is actually easier to learn than the previous one. Since the alternate picking is the first technique you learn, it’s difficult to relax the wrist. Once this step is achieved, it will be easier to add new methods.

A five-string bass guitar demands a guitarist with good technique
Legato is a simple technique that gives a greater smoothness to a guitarist's style.

With this technique you’ll be able to play in any style you wish. For this, play a first note with your pick, and let the other notes ring through your left hand. You now have two possibilities, the hammer-on or the pull-off.

The hammer-on consists of hitting the strings with the help of your left hand on the neck. To do a pull-off, you must also use the left hand. But ease up on the string plucked by your hand with an upward or downward stroke.

Pay attention that all the notes have the same duration and intensity. To obtain a good overall sound, block off the notes that you don’t have to play with the palm of the hand that is closest to the bridge.

Most of the licks and guitar solos that you will want to learn how to play will involve these techniques - particular in rock and metal guitar. If you are going to play guitar through an amplifier, the important thing to recognize is that you don't have to pick every note: this gives your playing a very staccato tone. When you hear a very smoothly played guitar solo, you can be sure that the guitar player is using the legato technique.

Discover the sounds and effects of the electric guitar!

Get guitar lessons for beginners on Superprof.

A More Advanced Guitar Technique: Sweep Picking.

Whether you’d like to play metal, jazz or a fusion, the sweep picking technique can be useful. However, you must already be in the habit of using your pick so the training won’t be too frustrating for you.

The sweep picking technique is often used for playing arpeggios, where you’ll play several strings by sweeping them with your pick. Your movement will thus be either descending or ascending. It's a technique that can produce very beautiful guitar licks - and it is essential to learn if you want to reach the heights of guitar music.

To complete this technique, a few guitarist qualities are necessary. You must be able to play in a coordinated manner while avoiding making too many interfering noises. Use your palm to muffle the strings once played. This will omit too much undesired vibration. Are you excited to learn your first arpeggio?

A guitarist practicing technique in the studio
Every guitarist practices technique every day.

Each string must be played one by one by your pick. Look up some online tutorials to learn what angle to use the pick.

For intermediate musicians, work on this technique a bit each day. Your hands already possess good reflexes, so you should acquire the technique rapidly. Next step is mastering chord progressions and other guitar techniques!

The Techniques of the Great Guitarists.

So, basic techniques are no longer enough for you? 

You’ll soon feel the urge to reproduce the pieces and techniques of your music idols.

Begin by listening and observing. Before all else, take advantage of the resources readily available on the Internet to see how your idols play. Pay special attention to close-ups on hands during live shows. This way you’ll be able to study their fingers attentively.

Once you know what you’d like to reproduce you can easily find a tutorial on YouTube where all the details of the technique will be explained point by point.

Take your time and don’t get frustrated if you don’t understand when you begin.

You’ll need to practice every day to succeed, become used to it, and be able to play automatically like the big guitarists. Make a schedule and set aside a few minutes for practicing the technique you’d like to learn.

Remember that each technique is very personal so it’s very difficult to copy it exactly on another guitarist.

For example, Jimi Hendrix had a very specific way of playing the tremolo (or vibrato). This may have also been due to the fact that this famous musician was left-handed but played on guitars for righties. He had to invent his own techniques.

Do you know the different types of electric guitars?

Invent your own technique!

Playing like the greatest guitarists in the world is good and all. Playing your own technique is even better. Become a songwriter!

As we explained above, it’s very difficult to copy the exact technique of another player, even with a lot of patience, motivation and progression.

So think about playing in your own manner and style. Create your own music universe and refine the techniques that you are already familiar with. Write your first song. By adapting them to your style, you’ll set yourself apart from other musicians.

A guitarist with good technique playing.
Invent your own technique and set yourself apart from the rest.

And to invent your own style through technique, begin by getting some inspiration from your idols. Even if you can’t copy them, they’ll help you to understand how a chord or technique can evolve. This is inspirational.

What’s more, it’s essential to practice often. In doing this your ear training will improve and your playing begin to evolve.

It’s also very important to know oneself.

Don’t start by going in every direction. Choose what corresponds to you the most. Be honest with yourself and don’t overestimate or, in contrast, undervalue your skills. Be conscious of your level as a musician.

So improvise and compose music pieces, play songs, and create new melodies as the mood arises. When you learn the basics it will be easier to let go of them. The amplifier and the pickups on your electric guitar will do the rest.

And before all else, have fun!

And that’s how the best sounds of a guitar are made.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.