First Guitar Lesson – 5 Easy Steps For A Perfect Start

Your first guitar lesson is important; it needs to be easy, fun and give you a glimpse of the fantastic journey that lies ahead.

We’re excited for you! Ask anyone who plays guitar and they will tell you that learning the instrument is one of the best things they did in their entire life.


In this free first guitar lesson we’ll show you:

  • The 5 essential pieces of guitar knowledge
  • How to get up and running with chords quickly
  • 3 easy songs you can play with those chords

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First guitar lesson step #1 A quick look at your guitar

Before we start, let’s ensure we know which bit of the guitar is which, just so we don’t get confused.

It’s important in your first guitar lesson that you learn basic guitar anatomy.

first guitar lessonThe frets as you can see in the diagram are the metal things that we press the strings against when we play chords.

The-Thing-You-Sit-On to play guitar is important. Don’t sit in an armchair; the arms will get in your way. Don’t sit on a squishy sofa; your backside will sink down and your thighs will elevate, which makes it much harder to play. Sit up straight with no obstacles around you.

First guitar lesson step #2 – Tune your guitar

Your guitar must be in tune or it will sound bad. As a beginner, your ears won’t be attuned to this, so there is a simple rule for all beginner guitarists: Tune up every time you play.

If you only take one thing from your first guitar lesson, this should be it! 🙂

Tuning isn’t something you do every week or two. It’s something that happens every time you pick up the guitar. The quickest way to tune up is to use a guitar tuner.

Read this article for lots of cool tuning tips: How To Tune A Guitar: A Guide For Beginners

If you don’t have a tuner, you can install a guitar tuning app on your smartphone and use that.

strum-a-guitar/”>How To Strum A Guitar Correctly

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What are the notes of strings?

Another first guitar lesson essential is learning the notes of the strings.

first guitar lesson

Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears” works well for most people!

Free guitar lesson step #3 – Learn your first chords

The sooner we know how to play a few basic chords, the sooner we can get cracking with some songs.

In your first guitar lesson you definitely want to play some songs. Forget all about riffs, lead guitar and scales for now. Chords and songs should be your first priority.

We’re going to have a go at four chords today. That may not sound like many, but it’s plenty for your first guitar lesson.

Here’s our first two chords. Em and G6.

first guitar lesson

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

These chords are great because they only need two fingers and the change between them is really easy.

Listen to this audio example from Mike which explains how this should sound:


Try that Em chord first. Give it a strum.

  • 1st finger on the A string at the 2nd fret
  • 2nd finger on the D string at the second fret
  • Strum across all six strings

Now, before you go taking your fingers off… there’s a quick way of turning that Em into a G6.

  • Keep your 1st finger where it is (A string, 2nd fret)
  • Lift off your 2nd finger and move it to the Estring, 3rd fret
  • Strum across all six strings

By keeping that first finger pressed down we’re really speeding up the chord change.

Pro tip: The fastest way to speed up your chord changes is to NOT MOVE unnecessary fingers. Watch out for this during your chord changes. Learning which fingers can STAY in place is a huge accelerator.

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More easy and cool-sounding chords

Now try bouncing back and forth between these two chords for a bit.

Our next chord is called Cmaj7.

first guitar lesson

Can you see how it’s the same shape as G6, just in a different place? (Instead of pressing down on the E and A strings, we’re pressing the A and D strings.)

This means we can change between G6 and Cmaj7 by hopping the shape over by one string. Back and forth. Simple!

This is a great chord to learn in your first guitar lesson because you can use it as a substitute for a normal C chord. (Which is very difficult for beginners to master.) So whenever you need to play C, you can play Cmaj7 instead. Nice!

first guitar lessonNote that there’s an ‘X’ by the thicker E string for the Cmaj7 chord, so try to avoid strumming that string when you play that chord. (It will ‘muddy’ the chord a little.)

Strum these chords 4, 8 or 16 times each. For reasons we won’t go into here, the musical world often works in groups of 4. Beats of 4. Chord progressions of 4.

A trickier chord

Our fourth and final chord for this first guitar lesson is Dsus2. This is a must-know chord, but it’s harder to play than the others, so you better concentrate!


first guitar lesson

Like our other chords, this one uses just two fingers. But it is a bit further away from the others, so it’s more of a leap to change to and from it.

Note that the thicker E string and the A string are both marked ‘X’, so we want to avoid strumming those and just strum the other four strings when playing Dsus2.

Give it a go!

Once you have these under your belt, check out this guitar lesson which will help you move to the next level:

First guitar lesson step #4 How to hold a guitar pick

Another must-know tip for your first guitar lesson is how to hold a pick.

First, make a thumbs up sign:

first guitar lesson

Then, place the pick on top of your clenched fingers, like this:

first guitar lesson

Lastly, clamp your thumb down on top of the pick:

first guitar lesson

How to strum a guitar (from the player’s perspective)

This video will show you how to strum a guitar from the player’s perspective. Your strumming hand should look something like this:

It will take a while for you to get comfortable with this. You will not master strumming in your first guitar lesson, so take it easy and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t sound great.

One last point: Do not strum with your thumb. It’s a terrible and limiting habit that will cause you problems further down the road. Avoid it at all costs!

First guitar lesson step #5 Let’s play some songs!

Now we’ve got our first four chords, we’re ready to have a go at some songs.

The aim of your first guitar lesson is to reach this point. Chords are just static shapes, but they come alive when we play songs!

We’re going to try three beginner-suitable songs that use the chords we’ve looked at today and that you’ll hopefully recognise.

‘Songbird’ by Oasis.

This song just uses G6 and Em. That’s it. Just two chords.

|G6            |G6                |Em           |Em               |

It’s just those two chords going round and round and round for the entire song.

Give it a try!

Check out this lesson of ours: 10 Easy Songs For Beginners

‘The Joker’ by Steve Miller

This song use G6, Cmaj7 and Dsus2… in that order.

It’s a little trickier because we have a bit of a jump to our Dsus2, but with practice and patience, you’ll get the hang of it.

|G6    Cmaj7    |Dsus2   Cmaj7    |

Like with ‘Songbird’, the chord sequence repeats for the entire song which makes is a useful one for a first guitar lesson.

That Dsus2 is a killer for beginners though, so keep practicing!

Want a more in-depth explanation of how to play this song? Check out this video by Jack:

Next, let’s try one more song.

‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King.

The last song in this first guitar lesson uses all four of the chords we’ve learned today.

|G6         |              |Em          |                 |Cmaj7       |               |Dsus2         |               |

Much like our previous two songs, ‘Stand By Me’ is just the same sequence throughout.

We also have a video explanation of this song:

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