How to Play Songs on Guitar
Want to learn how to play songs on guitar? This article will walk you through the way I started out, and how to avoid some common mistakes many guitarists make!
So you want to learn some songs on the guitar, huh? Well, far too many people start off by trying to learn songs alone, without learning the basics. That said, it's still a great way to learn the fundamentals, if you do it right, and pick songs that will push you.
Whether you want to play for fun in your room, for your friends (or someone more than friends), at local coffee shops, or even in front of tons of people, it's fun to learn to play some songs, so let's get started.
Learning how to play songs on guitar is actually easier than you think. Practice and repetition is absolutely vital. It’s extremely important! I like to compare playing songs on the guitar to shooting a basketball.
Have you ever tried it? Well, if you’re anything like me, you're not so great at basketball. But my neighbor, he’s only 12 years old. And guess what? He can already shoot better than I can!
Is it because he has some natural talent for the game? Maybe a little bit, but the point is that it certainly helps that he’s outside day and night shooting that ball at his parent’s hoop! I like to think about playing songs on the guitar in much the same light. You’re only going to improve with consistent practice and repetition.
"How should I start learning to play guitar songs?"
Well, first, you need a guitar. If you don't already have one, a decent guitar will run you about $150 for a beginner’s set-up that also includes a practice amp, pick, strap, and extra set of strings. Trust me; this is the way to go. Don’t waste a lot of money on a fancy guitar. Save up for one of those when you’re a pro. For now, get a cheap guitar with a package that includes everything you need to start learning to play songs on guitar.
You also could borrow a guitar from a friend if you’re really strapped for cash. Who knows, you may even work out a deal where you’ll wash his car every week for a couple private lessons and an hour or two of use of the guitar. For me, I started on a $10 Delta Acoustic with nylon strings that I picked up at a neighborhood garage sale!
Anyway, once you get a guitar, chances are you’ll do exactly what I did. You’ll pick up that beautiful piece of wood and metal, and cry out, “What do I do next?” The guitar is filled with six strings that extend down a neck filled with several frets. How do you play guitar songs on an instrument that looks so complicated? Easy: you start out small.
Gain familiarity with all six strings by picking up your pick and striking each string individually. Start from the lowest string and work your way down to the highest string. Differentiate between the lowest string (E) and the highest string (e). Why did the guitar creator confuse us with two strings named “e?” I’m not really sure.
"What notes are the strings?"
Just know that the six strings are labeled “E” (lowest note, highest string) and continue with “A”, “D”, “G”, “B”, and all the way down to the second “e” string at the bottom of the guitar.
TIP: Eddie Van Halen made up a cool way to remember the strings..."Eddie Ate Dynamite. Good Bye Eddie! (EADGBE, starting from the thickest, lowest-pitch string at the top of the guitar, down to the highest-pitch string at the bottom)".
When you strike the string, focus on making an even flick of the wrist. You should hold the pick lightly, towards the tip, between the thumb and first finger. Practice playing the guitar’s open strings by starting out with the low “E” and working all the way down to the high “E”.
Once you master playing the open strings on the guitar, upgrade to playing particular notes. Your left hand will serve as your guide. Keep in mind that the guitar neck contains a wide range of frets. The first fret is the farthest away from your body. Vertical metal bars divide the frets.
This exercise is boring, but it's easy and a crucial way to learn to play songs on guitar, so don't skip it!
When you play a particular note, your finger should press down on the string as close to the vertical metal bar as possible without making contact with the bar.
Strike the string. You should hear a clear note without any vibration from the string. If the string does vibrate, your either not pressing down hard enough on the string or your finger is making contact with the vertical metal fret bar.
"So how do I play guitar songs if I can't read music?"
The easiest way is to use guitar tabs to learn specific songs instead.
Guitar tabs are the easiest way to learn to play songs on the guitar. A guitar tab will display the six strings and coexisting numbers on the strings. For example if the first number on tab is a “2” on the “A” (second string from top), you would place your finger on the second fret on the second string and strike the string.
Continue playing the riff in order of the guitar tab and you’re well on your way to playing a guitar song.
One last thing. If you see a guitar tab with multiple numbers stacked on top of each other, that means you are about to play a chord. A chord is when you strike more than one string at a time. For example if you see a “3,” “5,” and “3” stacked on top of each other on the “A,” “D,” and “G” strings, that means you should play the “A,” “D,” and “G” strings at the same time with the corresponding tab (in this case, the third fret for A, fifth fret for D, and third fret for G). A “0” label on the tabs means you play the string open (without pressing down on the string).
There are a lot of great resources on how to play guitar songs. Guitar Tricks, for example, is an outstanding resource. Guitar Tricks offers 24 FREE video lessons to help you learn even more guitar songs.
My best advice is to start small and work your way to the complicated. When you first pick up a guitar you’re not instantly going to turn into Eric Clapton.
Begin with simple riffs and simple guitar chords. Guitar Tricks once again is nice, because the lessons start out rather simple and easy and become much more complicated.
Once you maintain a consistent repetition the playing will become much more natural. You’re talents will expand and you will play much more complicated material.
Check out Guitar Tricks for over 3,000 video guitar lessons, including 100's to help you learn songs!