How To Play Acoustic Guitar – Beginner Guide

How to play acoustic guitar – 4 easy beginner chords

Let’s look at some cool beginner chords that make it easier to learn how to play acoustic guitar.

This is a G6 chord. You can use it as a substitute for any G chord.

G6

how to play acoustic guitar

To play this chord you:

  • Place your second finger on the third fret of the Low E String.
  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the A String.
  • Strum all 6 strings.

Your chord should sound something like this…

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G Chords are great and there’s so many different ways to play them. Here’s article which explains a whole bunch of G Chords: 4 Easy Ways To Play The G Chord On Guitar

C Major 7

This is such a cool chord. It sounds awesome and is easy to play. You can use it a as substitute for any C chord.

Cmaj7

C major chord for acoustic

To play a this chord you:

  • Place your second finger on the third fret of the A string.
  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the D string.
  • Strum from the A string.

Learning how to play acoustic guitar requires you to learn some important chords. There are no chords more important than G and C, which is why these two chords are so useful. This Cmaj7 chord should sound like this:

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Check out this article for more cool C chords: 4 Easy Ways To Play The C Guitar Chord

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how to play acoustic guitar

The E Minor Chord

This is another fundamental guitar chord. If you want to learn how to play acoustic guitar this is a brilliant chord to get under your belt. It sounds really full-bodied on an acoustic.

Em

Em Chord for acoustic guitar

To play this chord you:

  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the A string.
  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the D string.
  • Strum all 6 strings.

It should sound like this:

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You can learn more E minor chords here: Em Guitar Chord – 4 Easy Ways To Play This Essential Chord

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how to play acoustic guitar

The Dsus2 chord

The final one of our fundamental chords is Dsus2. You can play this as a substitute for any D chord:

Dsus2

D chord for acoustic

To play this chord you:

  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the G string.
  • Place your third finger on the third fret of the B string.
  • Strum from the D string. (Avoid strumming the 5th and 6th strings.)

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D is a great chord and there are loads of different ways we can play it. Read this article to learn more: 3 Easy Ways to Play the D Chord on Guitar

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how to play acoustic guitar for beginners

How to strum a guitar

Chords are important, but strumming is how we make music. This is where everything comes to life!

One of the key things in learning how to play acoustic guitar is developing a strong and rhythmic strum. Unlike electric guitarists, you can’t hide behind effects or a distorted amp. Your strumming has to be on point.

‘Should I use a pick to strum?’

Learning how to play acoustic guitar is easier with a pick. It feels weird to begin with, but that only last for a few hours.

After tens of thousands of hours of teaching guitar I learned that, overall, people learn guitar faster if they play with a pick.

  • Play with your fingers too, by all means, but don’t do it at the expense of using a pick.
  • Never, EVER, strum with your thumb. This is an incredibly limiting habit which will stunt your progress as a guitarist.

The correct way to hold a pick

1 – Do a thumbs up sign:

how to play acoustic guitar

2 – Place your pick on the top of your index finger, with the pointy edge facing you

how to play acoustic guitar for beginners

3 – Bring your thumb down

learn how to play acoustic guitar

That’s how you hold a pick. This takes EVERYONE a while to get used to, so don’t worry if it feels foreign or awkward to begin with.

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How to strum an acoustic guitar

Strumming can be difficult when we first start, but it’s essential you master it if you want to learn how to play acoustic guitar. This is how we bring music to life.

  • When you strum, you want to have a nice swinging motion from your elbow and just a little wrist movement. 90% of the strum comes from your elbow.
  • Make sure your wrist is nice and straight and not angled inwards like a swan neck.

How To Strum Acoustic Guitar

This is what it should look like from your perspective when you strum:

Check out this article to learn much more about strumming: How To Strum A Guitar

Timing Tips

If you don’t keep in time you will find it hard to play along to songs and with other people. This is important.

Most of the time when we strum chords, we want each strum to be even. So the gaps between each strum are the same.

You don’t want to have uneven gaps as this often causes you to go OUT of time.

Here I’ve strummed a chord four times.

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Can you hear how each one has the same amount of time between each one?

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learn how to play acoustic guitar

Feeling the tempo

When we listen to music we often hear a ‘pulse’, this is the beat.

We notice this when we tap along to a piece of music, we feel the music and instantly know whether it’s fast, slow or medium paced.

In this audio clip Jack talks about how to establish tempo:

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Once we’ve established the beat we can use it to help our strumming technique.

The vast majority of popular music is in 4/4 time. This means there are four beats per bar of music. Don’t worry too much about what this means – as a beginner all you need to know is that you should count 1, 2, 3, 4 repeatedly!

So because our beats go 1, 2, 3, 4…. We strum downwards on each beat.

That should sound like this..

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This sounds ok because it’s in time. But it doesn’t sound very fluid. This is where upstrokes arrive.

We need to add some upstrokes in too. We add these in-between the beats.

So instead of just strumming, 1, 2, 3, 4.

We strum: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, etc…

(On the “and” you should use an up stroke.)

If you want to learn how to play acoustic guitar this is a critical point, so forgive me for labouring it. This needs to be clear! 🙂

strumming an acoustic guitar

Here’s what the pattern should sound like.

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Can you hear the downstrokes ON the beat and the upstrokes IN-BETWEEN the beat?

Let’s take it to the next level…

The final strumming pattern we can do here is simply double the speed of our last one.

This is slightly harder to play but gives us a relentless fluidity which sounds great in acoustic & folk-based tracks. Check out this song by Amy McDonald and listen to the acoustic guitar to get a flavour of this:

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This style of strumming fun to play and sounds awesome. If we refer back to our ongoing example, it would sound something like this:

 3 Cool Acoustic Guitar Songs For Beginners

The easiest way to learn how to play acoustic guitar is simply to learn as many acoustic-based songs as possible. We learn best by playing songs we love.

Here’s 3 cool acoustic tracks you can try right now.

1 – ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley

An awesome tune by Bob Marley and it’s so great for beginner as it only uses 3 chords: G, C and D. (We can use G6, Cmaj7 and Dsus2 to make things easy.)

how to play acoustic guitar for beginnersPlay along to the track using the above chords, try and figure out the changes yourself, it’s great practice:

2 – ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King

This is a perfect beginner acoustic song, it uses just four chords and they repeat in the same order for the whole song.

The chords for this song are G, E Minor, C and D. However we’re going to use our stepping stone version chords which are G6, E Minor, Cmaj7 and Dsus2.

how to play acoustic guitar

Here’s a video from Jack explaining how to play this song:

3 – ‘Songbird’ by Oasis

‘Songbird’ is a sweet acoustic track that’s very easy to play.

Check it out. The video is terrible, so just focus on the music! (The music starts at 39 seconds.)

This song only has two chords and sounds great on acoustic guitar. To play ‘Songbird’ we only need G6 and Em:

G6

how to play acoustic guitar

Em

Em Chord for acoustic guitar

Here’s a video from Andy showing how to play this:

Download this lesson’s worksheet

Download this lesson’s worksheet & checklist by clicking here – You can print it off or save it for future reference and this will help you internalize the key points.

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