Guitar Lessons For Beginners Online – An Essential Guide

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • How to read tablature
  • The difference between notes and chords in tablature
  • How to tackle your first guitar chord exercise
  • The relation between the strings & your fingers

Your Guide To Guitar Lessons for Beginners Online

Thinking about learning to play the guitar?

You have definitely selected the right time to do it, because there is plenty of information available online to enable you to learn everything you need to know about how to play!

  • You can go from “what’s a guitar?” to playing songs in very short order without even having to leave your home.
  • Of course, it is best if at some point in your learning you hire yourself a guitar teacher.
  • Even the best guitar lessons for beginners online cannot really compete with the personal attention and immediate feedback and support of a teacher who cares about your progress on guitar.


Meanwhile, to get you started, here is a meta-guide to guitar lessons for beginners online. You’ll choose your guitar, if you haven’t already got one, and go from taking it out of the box to playing your first song.

There are a lot of resources available online for learning guitar, and we’ll break down everything you need to know, so if you need further help, you can simply look it up!


Guitar Lessons For Beginners: Guitar Parts

The first choice you have to make, if you don’t already have a guitar, is whether your first guitar will be electric or acoustic. There are a few practical differences:

  • Each has inexpensive models, but electric guitars tend to be a little more costly.
  • Electric guitars rely on amplifiers to make sound, so you’ll need one of those as well, although there are tiny inexpensive amplifiers available to start.
  • Acoustic guitars tend to weigh less and are more easily portable.
  • Acoustic guitars, particularly steel stringed guitars, have heavier strings that are slightly more difficult to play at first.

For more information on beginner guitars, check out this lesson: What’s the Best Beginner Guitar?

Learn the 12 EASIEST beginner chords with our famous FREE guide

  Stop struggling. Start making music.

  Learn 12 beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

  This is our most popular guide and it will improve your chord ability quickly.

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Guitar Lessons For Beginners: Anatomy Of An Electric Guitar

The parts of an electric and acoustic guitar are pretty similar.

Both have six strings (there are exceptions that we can ignore right now), they are tuned the same, the mechanism of playing is the same, and you’ll learn the same things.

The electric guitar’s main differences are in the controls.

  • The vibration of the strings is picked up by, well, pickups, and sent out through the wiring to the amp.
  • A switch and a set of two to four knobs controls how much each pickup is used and how loud the output of sound is.


Guitar Lessons For Beginners: Anatomy Of An Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar’s speaker is built in, so when you pick or strum the strings, the sound comes out of the body of the guitar, with the sound hole positioned to allow more sound to escape in that direction.

Volume is controlled by how gently or heavily the player attacks the guitar strings.

Acoustic and electric guitars both have pitch indicators called frets, and you’ll explore how to use the frets to change the pitch of your guitar notes, meaning how high or low the notes sound.


Would you like some more support in deciding which kind of guitar to try first? Check out this lesson on Electric vs. Acoustic Guitars.

Holding A Guitar & The Importance Of Posture

As you’re doubtless aware, guitars are sometimes played sitting down and sometimes standing up.

  • Many guitar players practice standing up with their guitars on a strap.
  • The length of your strap can cause your guitar to sit pretty low, creating a risk of injury that some players choose to ignore for purposes of style.

Here’s a handy meme for you!


The main objective of strap height is comfort while playing standing up. A strap that is too long will result in repetitive stress injury, an unnecessary career-ender.

If you are practicing and playing sitting down, chair type and height is important, as is posture.

  • You need room to play and enough comfort to be able to play for a while.
  • Your chair should not have arms, and your feet should be able to touch the floor with your knees at a 90º angle.


If you’re a shorter person sitting in a taller person’s chair, your upper legs will slope downward enough to make it difficult to seat your guitar properly on your lap, and it will always feel like it is slipping.

  • Your guitar on your lap should be at a height that allows you to play without straining your arm over your guitar or slouching over.
  • With the waist (narrow part of the body) of the guitar on the side of your strumming hand, your upper arm should be comfortable on top of the guitar.


This guy above gets it, from a posture standpoint.

  • His arm is resting on top of the guitar but not crooked around it, so the force from his resting right arm is holding the guitar on his lap.
  • His left arm is more or less relaxed and not resting on his left thigh, which is not good because it hampers movement and promotes slouching.
  • All guitar lessons for beginners online will tell you that the point of good posture and proper strap height or seating is to avoid fatigue and injury.
  • It sounds very un-rock-and-roll, but this is the kind of thing that keeps you playing longer!

For more information on holding the guitar, check out these lessons here & here.

Pro-tip: You don’t  have to use a flatpick to play the guitar, but while you’re a beginner, why not give it a try?

Check out this lesson on How to Hold a Guitar Pick.


Guitar Lessons For Beginners: Frets, Strings & Fingers

To navigate the guitar, you have to get used to a little bit of weird geography.

  • Directions go by sound, not space, so although the lowest sounding string on the guitar is the one closest to your nose, it’s called “low E.”
  • The highest-sounding string on the guitar is the one farthest from your nose, and it’s called “high E.” They’re both named E.
  • “Up the neck” feels like down the neck, because as you go up the neck, you go up in pitch, and that is toward the sound hole.
  • “Down the neck” is toward the headstock. Getting used to thinking about the guitar this way will help you get much better much more quickly.
  • The guitar strings are named with letters – the notes they produce when properly tuned and not fretted – and numbers. It goes like this:


Most musicians refer to the strings by their letter names, and you can remember them, lowest to highest, like this:

Even After Death, God Bothers Everybody

The fingers on your fretting hand (the hand you use on the fretboard of the guitar, usually your non-dominant hand) are assigned numbers to help you learn to play.

  • Watch out, piano players! The numbers are different!
  • Your index finger is 1, middle finger is 2, ring finger is 3, and pinky is 4. Your thumb, when it’s used, is T.

If you’d like to get a little more in-depth on the above, there are guitar lessons for beginners online to help you. Check these out:

Guitar Notes

Guitar String Notes


Guitar Lessons For Beginners: Reading & Creating Chords

The goal of guitar lessons for beginners online is to get you playing guitar as quickly as possible, and the best way to do that is through playing chords.

  • Chords are what you get when you make shapes on the fretboard with your fingers, and then strum the strings with your other hand.
  • They are how you accompany yourself or others singing songs, and with just a little work, you will be able to play a song by the end of this very lesson!
  • A chord diagram or chordbox shows you where to put your fingers to make a chord, and it tells you the name of the chord. The blank form looks like this, with the nut at the top and the first fret immediately under.


You’re about to learn simple two-finger variants of four chords that will enable you to play literally thousands of songs, and hundreds of songs where the chords go in the same order.

The chords we’re learning are G major, E minor, C major, and D major. The variants have slightly different names and sounds, but they will work, and they are easy! Check them out below:











These chords are not fussy about which fingers you use – 1 and 2, 2 and 3, 1 and 3 – so try them all and see what is comfortable.

Here are some other guitar lessons for beginners online to help you get used to reading chords.

How to Read Guitar Chords

How to Read Guitar Chordboxes


Your First Guitar Chord Exercise

There are loads of guitar lessons for beginners online showing you how to practice changing between chords.

Try This: Pick two of the above chords. It doesn’t really matter which, because you’ll get to all four, and eventually all four in the order in which they appear.

  • With your thumb, fingernails, or flatpick, strum one chord eight times, and then try to change chords and strum the other chord eight times without pausing in between.
  • Try to leave the old chord early to get to the new chord on time.


Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

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Side Notes: Reading Tablature

So far, we’ve explored some guitar lessons for beginners online that focus on playing chords to accompany yourself or others singing or playing the melody of a song.

Tablature, or tab for short, is a staff-like stack of horizontal lines, each line representing a guitar string, with a series of numbers on each string, telling you which fret to play on that string.

Here’s a little example:


Tablature is great because it tells you exactly where on the guitar to place your fingers.

Numbers stacked on top of each other represent chord shapes – notes played or strummed at the same time.

Tablature is also a bit tricky because it traditionally lacks two key pieces of information: which finger you should use to play the indicated fret, and what the rhythm should be.

The answers to those two problems are simple, but not necessarily easy:

  • Use the finger combination that makes the tablature passage easy to play; and
  • Use the tablature as a guide to playing the rhythm that you hear when listening to your reference recording.

Just for kicks, here’s a great piece of beginning tablature that’s a whole song!

Repeat this over and over, and you can play “Hit the Road, Jack,” or “The Cat Came Back” for two examples.


Pro-Tip: The strings on tablature are represented according to “guitar geography.”

That means that low E, the 6th string, is on the bottom and high E, the 1st string, is on top.

If you would like additional guitar lessons for beginners online to support you in learning how to read tablature, check this out:

How to Read Guitar Tab


Putting It All Together In A Song

The four chords presented earlier – G major, E minor, C major, and D major – form a series, or chord progression, that has been used by every musician ever.

To turn that chord progression into a song, you’ll need to figure out how to strum your guitar in a repeating pattern with a steady beat.

It isn’t too hard to keep the steady beat, but what you need to know is how long to strum each chord.

  • Pieces of music are broken up into measures – repeating groups of counts.
  • Four counts is the length of a measure the majority of the time. You’ll hear people count off before songs begin – one two three four! – to tell the rest of the group how fast to count and play. Always be counting.

The song we’re going to play is “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. Here are the chords we’ll use again:

For each chord symbol, you’ll strum the guitar for four counts. You can strum downward once for each count.

G6  G6 Em  Em

Cmaj7  Dsus2 G6  G6

If you would like some guitar lessons for beginners online to spice up your strumming skills, you will find some great tips here:

How to Play In Time

How to Strum the Guitar

Strumming Patterns

The Best Guitar Lessons For Beginners Online

You’ve got everything to get started playing guitar and even getting through an entire song, but there are other great resources to supplement your learning as you go.

There are websites offering online courses, and there are teachers in your neighborhood to give you instant feedback and take an interest in your progress.

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