How To Play Acoustic Guitar : Starter’s Guide

How to Play Acoustic Guitar: 10 Tips for Beginners

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The guitar's diversity, sound, and portability have made it one of the most popular instruments in the world, and many want to learn how to play acoustic guitar. The good news is that with some determination, patience, and practice, you can develop your skills and eventually become an excellent guitar player.

What Do I Need to Play Acoustic Guitar? 

playing guitar

In order to learn how to play the acoustic guitar, you have to be sure you have the right equipment. Following is a list of the items you should have.

  • A tuner
  • Chord charts
  • Guitar picks
  • Thin guitar strings

The Tuner

The tuner is important because it gives you a tone to match in order to ensure that your guitar is playing in tune. You can purchase a handheld one or find tuners online.

The Chord Chart

A chord chart will provide a handy, quick reference to any chords that you need. Another reason that the chord chart is so important is that there are several variations on the same chord. This gives you several options when switching from one chord to another. It's a vital tool for hearing how to play acoustic guitar.

Guitar picks

While it's tempting to strum with your fingers, most beginners will learn faster if they use a guitar pick instead.

Thin Guitar Strings

Thinner guitar strings are a good option for beginners because your fingers will not be as sore as you begin to practice.

Different Types of Guitars

two person playing guitar

There are several different types of guitars, but primarily they can be divided into two categories: acoustic and electric. If you're interested in learning how to play acoustic guitar, you'll immediately notice that this type of guitar offers several clear benefits. The main benefit is that it's very portable because there's no need for an amp or power cord.

Guitars come in a wide variety of price ranges. It's often best to practice on one of the less expensive guitars before investing a lot of money in the more expensive varieties. It's often easy to find a good acoustic guitar for beginners for under $300.

How to Play Acoustic Guitar

person holding guitar

We've provided useful and helpful tips that will help you on your journey of learning how to play acoustic guitar.

1. Adopt the Correct Posture

You can't play the guitar correctly if you're slumped over on a couch or even sitting on a high stool. The important principle to remember is that your arms and hands should have unrestricted movement, which means you should never sit in a chair with arms. Remember: You should never have to reach over your guitar in order to play it. Consider using a low stool. Tall stools aren't ideal because your thighs will naturally slope downwards. Therefore, the guitar may have a tendency to slip while you are playing. It's also important to remember that when playing, your knees should be at a 90-degree angle

2. Understand Your Strings and Notes

The one crucial element in learning how to play acoustic guitar is learning the numbers and letters of the notes you are playing. The guitar strings each have a letter (note) and an assigned number. The notes are: EADGBE.

  • The thickest string is E and is called the 6th string.
  • The 5th string is A.
  • The 4th string is D.
  • The 3rd string is G.
  • The 2nd string is B.
  • The first string is E, and it's often called the high E string. 

Remember that the high E string is the thinnest of the strings.

When one string is played by itself, it's called a note. When several strings are played together in order to produce one sound, it's called a chord. When you're learning how to play acoustic guitar, it's important to start out by learning chords instead of notes. Learning notes and playing them quickly and accurately takes a lot of practice. In comparison, you can learn to play several songs by learning a few basic chords.

3. Learn How to Strum the Guitar Correctly

The good news is, as a beginner, there are really very few strumming patterns you need to know. The most important thing is that you develop a powerful and rhythmic strum when learning how to play acoustic guitar. The strum has to be perfectly coordinated with the chords. The correct technique is that the strum should be an easy swing that comes from your elbow. Your wrist should remain straight.

4. Hold Your Pick Correctly

It's important to understand how to hold your pick correctly because if you don't, it's going to make strumming and learning difficult. First, hold out your thumb in order to make a “thumbs up” sign. Then gently place the pick on your index finger with the pointed in facing your guitar. Then bring your thumb down on top of your pick.

5. Learn How to Read a Chord Chart

A chord chart will look like a grid, mapping the strings and the frets of the guitar. Each string is indicated by a vertical line, and each fret is indicated as a horizontal line. There will be numbers placed on certain strings. Each number corresponds to your fingers, with 1 being your index finger, and so on. Some strings will have an "x" over them, which means you should not strum or play that string.

An "o" over the string indicates that the string should be played, but you should not have your finger on it. When a number is placed on a string, it indicates that you should press on that string with the corresponding finger. While learning chord charts may be confusing at first, as you learn how to play acoustic guitar, eventually it will become second nature.

6. Place Your Fingers on the Strings Correctly

Bend your finger at the first knuckle so the strings clearly come into contact with your fingertip. Remember, you should press the strings with the tip of your finger near your nail, not with the fleshy part of it where your fingerprint is located. Your fingers should be in the middle of the frets and not on the frets.

Do not use your thumb for leverage by hooking it over the fretboard. This will limit the reach of your fingers and establish a bad habit that will make your lessons more difficult when learning how to play acoustic guitar

7. Take Your Time

It's tempting to start playing really fast in order to match the tempo of your favorite songs, but as a beginner, you should slow down when first learning how to play acoustic guitar. Why? The key to learning to play fast is mastering good technique. You can only master a good technique if you start slowly. Be patient and take your time.

8. Consider Using a Metronome

At first, trying to play while hearing this rhythmic click can be distracting and difficult, but there are extensive benefits. First, it will dramatically improve your sense of timing. Second, it will hone your sense of rhythm. Third, it will help you get used to playing in time at a regular tempo. You don't have to purchase a metronome; there are several metronome apps on the internet that will be immensely useful for those learning how to play acoustic guitar.

9. Tackle Difficult Chords with Confidence

It's so easy to be intimidated by the challenging chords, and it's tempting to avoid them entirely. Actually, you should approach these chords as a positive learning experience and practice them diligently. If not, you'll find they become a barrier that will greatly affect your ability and enjoyment of learning how to play acoustic guitar.

10. Establish Good Practice Habits

There is one element that is vital for being successful at learning how to play acoustic guitar—you have to have good practice habits. This means much more than putting your time into learning the guitar. This means practicing and reviewing the lesson while it's still fresh in your mind. By simply setting aside time every day, it will also help you build up calluses on your fingertips which will make it easier to play. It may help to set a timer to remind you when to practice.

Good habits also mean taking things at a reasonable pace. While practicing every day is essential, overdoing it can damage tender and sensitive ligaments. Don't be afraid to take a rest. Even better, while resting, listen to guitar music. See if you can listen for elements of strong, rhythmic strumming. If you watch a music video, pay careful attention to how the guitar player holds his or her hands.


silhouette of two person

Acoustic guitars are perfect for traveling and have a wonderful, clear tone that has made them a popular instrument for hundreds of years. Learning how to play acoustic guitar takes practice, time, and patience, but if you follow instructions and consistently practice, you'll notice an improvement. It's important that you have the right equipment. All you need is a reliable chord chart, guitar picks, a tuner, and thin strings. Once you uncover the basics of fingerings, learning the names and numbers of the strings, and basic strumming techniques, it's time to dedicate yourself to practicing with a metronome and tackling difficult chords with confidence.

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