Your First Guitar Lesson

Welcome to your first guitar lesson! In this guide, we're going to cover everything you need to know as a beginner guitarist. We'll discuss essential techniques, such as fretting and strumming, and introduce some basic chords that you can start playing right away. We'll also share tips on how to practice effectively, so you can make rapid progress and build a strong foundation for your guitar playing journey. So let's dive in!

Here's an outline of where we're going, with timestamps for the video:

  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 04:00 Parts of the Guitar
  • 06:33 Picks vs Fingers
  • 08:48 Holding the Pick
  • 10:10 Finger Pain ?
  • 12:01 Holding The Guitar
  • 14:06 Practice Tips
  • 15:45 Your First Chords (E minor, A minor, and Asus9)
  • 27:11 Strumming

Choosing Your Guitar

Before we begin your first guitar lesson, it's essential to choose the right guitar. There are three main types of guitars: acoustic, electric, and classical. Acoustic guitars are excellent for beginners because they're versatile and don't require additional equipment like an amplifier. Electric guitars are suitable for those who want to play rock or metal music, while classical guitars are great for fingerpicking and playing classical or Spanish music.

When selecting your guitar, make sure it's comfortable to hold and play. Opt for a guitar with a thinner neck and lower action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard) to make it easier to fret notes. Lastly, don't forget to get a guitar tuner to help you stay in tune! (Here's a handy lesson on how to use a guitar tuner)

The Parts of a Guitar

Understanding the different parts of your guitar will make learning much more manageable. Here's a quick rundown of the guitar anatomy:

  • Headstock: The top part of the guitar, where the tuning pegs are located.
  • Tuning Pegs: Used to adjust the tension of the strings and tune the guitar.
  • Nut: A small strip that holds the strings in place at the headstock.
  • Fretboard: The long, flat surface of the neck where you press down on the strings to create notes.
  • Frets: Metal bars on the fretboard that divide it into segments.
  • Neck: The long, narrow part of the guitar that connects the headstock to the body.
  • Body: The large, hollow part of an acoustic guitar or the solid part of an electric guitar, where the sound is produced.
  • Soundhole: The hole on the top of an acoustic guitar that allows sound to resonate.
  • Bridge: The part of the guitar where the strings are anchored to the body.
  •  Pickguard: A protective plate near the soundhole to prevent scratches from strumming. 

Holding the Guitar

To begin your first guitar lesson, you need to know how to hold the guitar properly. Sit down with your guitar, placing the curve of the body on your right leg (for right-handed players) or left leg (for left-handed players). Hold the neck with your fretting hand (left hand for right-handed players, right hand for left-handed players) and use your strumming hand (right hand for right-handed players, left hand for left-handed players) to strum or pick the strings.

Keep your back straight, and don't slouch. Make sure your fretting hand's thumb rests on the back of the neck, and your fingers are curved, ready to press down on the strings.

Fretting Technique

Fretting is the act of pressing down on the strings with your fingers to create notes. To do this correctly, place your fingertips just behind the frets (not on top of them), applying enough pressure to create a clear, ringing sound. Remember to use the tips of your fingers, not the pads. This will prevent you from accidentally muting adjacent strings.

When first starting, you may experience some discomfort in your fingers. Don't worry – this is normal, and your fingers will develop calluses over time, making it more comfortable to play.

Introduction to Chords

Chords are groups of notes played simultaneously, creating harmony. In this first guitar lesson, we'll learn two basic chords: E minor and A minor. These chords are beginner-friendly and will help you start making music right away.

Whenever you see an X on a chord diagram, that means don't play that string, and when you see an open circle, that means to let that open string ring out as part of the chord. 

E Minor Chord

E minor is one of the first chords any guitar player should learn. To play an E minor chord, place your second finger on the second fret of the fifth string and your third finger on the second fret of the fourth string. Strum all six strings, making sure each one rings clearly. There's an alternate fingering for this chord, which involves using your first and second fingers instead. This alternative fingering will come in handy when transitioning to other chords.

A Minor Chord

For the A minor chord, move your second finger to the second fret of the fourth string and your third finger to the second fret of the third string. Then, place your first (index) finger on the first fret of the second string. Strum from the fifth string (A string) down to the first string. Make sure all the strings ring clearly. 

A Suspended 9 Chord (Asus9)

The Asus9 chord is exactly like the A minor chord we just learned, except that you remove your first finger off the 2nd string. This creates a lovely contrast with the Am chord, and you can experiment with playing these three chords in different combinations.

Practicing Chord Transitions

Now that you know the E minor and A minor chords, practice switching between them. Start slow and focus on accuracy, ensuring each chord sounds clean and clear. As you become more comfortable, gradually increase your speed.

Strumming Basics

When it comes to strumming, start simple. Focus on producing a clean, even sound with your strumming hand. Try strumming each chord four times in a row, maintaining a steady tempo. Once you're comfortable with downstrokes, you can incorporate upstrokes to create more interesting patterns. However, it's crucial not to get ahead of yourself – mastering the basics will set you up for success in the long run.

Tips for Effective Practice

Consistent practice is key to progress. Commit to playing your guitar for just a few minutes every day, and you'll be amazed at how quickly you improve. As you practice, remember to:

  • Play with clean, distortion-free sound to ensure accuracy.
  • Focus on fretting and strumming techniques to build a strong foundation
  • Break through initial barriers with patience and persistence
  • Celebrate your progress and enjoy the process!


In this first guitar lesson, we've covered the fundamentals of playing guitar, including holding the guitar, fretting technique, basic chords, and strumming. By practicing these techniques consistently, you'll quickly build a strong foundation for your guitar playing journey. If you have any questions or need additional guidance, feel free to reach out in the comments below. Stay tuned for more lessons, and remember to enjoy the process of learning and making music!

The Next Step

What? You're still hungry for more guitar lessons? No problem my friend, I've got your back. You'll find the very next lesson in my series on beginner guitar lessons right here: (20+) 3-Chord Songs Using G, C and D

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    1. Hi Dave, all the lessons in the email series are posted on the website here, so if you poke around a little you’ll find them, just not in the same order or anything. A good starting place is the very bottom right of this website, there you’ll find different categories and from there you can find individual lessons on topic.

  1. Thanks will work on this for awhile. Nice to find something that will work for me. Most of my family play some musical instrument but the gene skipped me

  2. That was lesson 1. Like diet programs I have been playing or learning to play for 11 years. At 50 I lied to myself and said I'd learn to play. Well, I've learned much but I have no rhythm. Strumming is a struggle and that's when I lose interest, or fun.
    I'm starting over at 61.

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