How To Play Acoustic Guitar – Beginner Guide

Want to learn how to play acoustic guitar? You’re in the right place. This is one of our most popular guides so let’s jump straight in!

In this free guitar guide you will learn:

  • Posture: The best way to hold the guitar
  • 4 easy beginner chords that sounds great
  • Anatomy: The important parts of your guitar that you need to know
  • How to strum a guitar (AKA ‘how to sound musical’)
  • Melody & harmony: Understanding notes vs chords
  • The correct way to hold a guitar pick
  • 3 easy beginner songs you can play right now

I hope that sounds useful for you? By the end of this lesson you will have an excellent understanding of how to play acoustic guitar. Let’s do it! 🙂

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You’ll learn how to play acoustic guitar a lot faster if you put great ‘fundamentals’ in place. And the most important thing of all is posture.

Posture (AKA ‘how you hold the guitar’) isn’t the most sexy subject in the world but it is the most important. Nothing will influence your chances of successfully learning guitar more than your posture.

If there are errors in your posture you will never learn how to play acoustic guitar as well as you’d like.

How to have perfect guitar posture

Ok, this is super important: The Thing You Sit On is vital.

1) Don’t slump down into a low sofa

how to play acoustic guitar

This restricts your movement and makes playing guitar very difficult. (Especially if you’re using a large bodied dreadnought or jumbo acoustic.)

You shouldn’t have to reach OVER the guitar to play it.

2) Don’t sit in a chair with arms

Again, this restricts your movement and encourages you to keep your left elbow tucked in to your torso, this is terrible for guitar playing!

If you want to learn how to play acoustic guitar correctly your left arm must be completely free of obstructions.

learn how to play acoustic guitar

3) Don’t perch on a high stool

Low stools are perfect for guitar playing, but high stools are forbidden for guitar players! If you’ve tried playing at the breakfast counter you will probably have experienced this already…

Playing on a tall stool tends to make your thighs slope downwards and this means the guitar slips away from you while playing.

If you want to learn how to play acoustic guitar it’s a prerequisite that the instrument is secure.

how to play acoustic guitar for beginners

4) So what’s the best ‘Thing To Sit On’?

Sit on anything you want, provided these two things are in place:

  • Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle or angled slightly towards you.
  • Both arms should be totally free from obstruction.

With these two things in place you can learn how to play acoustic guitar quicker and with less frustration.

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.

How to Play Acoustic Guitar – Important Guitar Anatomy

You don’t need to know much about your guitar’s anatomy, but you do need to know a little. Here are the parts of the guitar that are ‘essential knowledge’:

 The ‘Fretboard’

how to play acoustic guitar

This is where you press your fingers to play different chords or notes. Learning how to play acoustic guitar is simpler than electric guitar because we don’t need to worry about amplification. We can focus purely on your right hand and left hand technique.

The ‘Bridge’

how to play acoustic guitar

This is where the strings are held in place. On an acoustic guitar the strings are usually fixed into the bridge using small pegs.

The ‘Machine Heads’

how to play acoustic guitar

Inside the red box above you will see the guitar’s ‘headstock’. You’ll also see some keys that can be turned. We call these ‘machine heads’ and they raise and lower the pitch of each string. Adjusting these is how you keep your guitar in tune.

If you want to learn how to play acoustic guitar you must know how to keep the instrument in tune, so the machine heads are a vital piece of your guitar’s anatomy.

Learn more in this article: How To Tune A Guitar Correctly: A Guide For Beginners

What are the note of the guitar strings?

how to play acoustic guitar for beginners

You’ll find it almost impossible to learn how to play acoustic guitar if you don’t know the notes of the strings. In standard tuning the strings have a name AND a number.

  • The thickest string is called the 6th string. In standard guitar tuning, this is tuned to E. We often refer to this as the ‘low E string‘. This is the deepest/lowest guitar note you can play.
  • The 5th string is tuned to A, so it’s usually referred to as the A string.
  • The 4th string is tuned to D, so it’s usually referred to as the D string.
  • The 3rd string is tuned to G, so it’s usually referred to as the G string.
  • The 2nd string is tuned to B, so it’s usually referred to as the B string.
  • The 1st string is tuned to E. This is the thinnest of all the strings. We often refer to this as the ‘high E string’.

how to play acoustic guitar

How to remember the string names/notes

The easiest way to remember the string names is by using a mnemonic.

Try this one:

  • Elephants
  • And
  • Donkeys
  • Grow
  • Big
  • Ears

This next one is my favourite:

  • Eddie
  • Ate
  • Dynaminte
  • Good
  • Bye
  • Eddie

What’s the difference between chords and notes?

  • A note is a solitary pitch. It’s what you hear when you pluck one string.
  • chord is a group of notes played together at the same time.

Think of it like this: Notes are like letters. Chords are like words.

For example, here is a G Chord…

G_major

Do you understand this chordbox image? If not, here’s an article which will help you: How To Read Guitar Chordboxes

…And here is a G Note…

learn how to play acoustic guitar

There are a lot of guitar notes on the fretboard and it can be really overwhelming for a beginner. All beginners should focus solely on CHORDS. Don’t try and understand all the notes of the fretboard as a beginner – that’s a frustrating and unhelpful path to take.

When you’re ready to learn more about the note of the fretboard, this article with help you: Guitar Notes Explained – A Guide For Beginners

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What are ‘chords’?

If you want to learn how to play acoustic guitar you must understand chords. A chord is a group of notes played together at the same time. 

For example, if you strum the G, B and E string, you play a chord. (Because you’re strumming a ‘group’ of notes at the same time.)

Em-guitar-chord

‘Should I focus on notes or chords?’

They’re both awesome. But chords are more suitable for beginners. If you want to learn how to play acoustic guitar easily then definitely start with chords.

How to fret chords correctly

Make sure you use the very TIPS of your fingers. You don’t want to use the fleshy part, where your fingerprints are.

Using the tips of your fingers allows the maximum space in between each string. This mean notes can ring clearly without being muffled or deadened by unwanted fingers.

Try playing some simple chords with your finger tips vs your fingerprints. You will quickly see which one sounds best!

how to play acoustic guitar

  • Each note needs to be clear and clean.
  • Make sure to place your finger in the middle of the frets, not ON the frets. Your finger needs to go in the gap. This helps stop deadened notes and is a crucial part of learning how to play acoustic guitar in a clean and articulate way.

how to play acoustic guitar

  • For the vast majority of chords your thumb should be in the middle of the neck and pointing to the ceiling.

how to play acoustic guitar

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