The Beginners Guide to Playing the Acoustic Guitar

Learning acoustic guitar is an extremely broad topic. One that would no doubt fill many books. The following guide focuses on some of the most important aspects of playing guitar providing you with an excellent starting point. This guide was written for the right handed, absolute beginner using a steel string guitar. My apologies to all of you left handed guitarists in advance.


The steel string guitar is a masterpiece of musical instrument engineering. Before the steel string, the acoustic guitar was very limited. The guitars of old were very quiet when played, so much so, that a guitarist was not able to play along with other musicians as the sound produced was simply too low. In order to overcome this shortcoming, the steel string guitar was born. The steel string produced a louder sound, but also caused too much stress on the instrument because of the added weight. The body construction therefore needed to be altered to accommodate the heavier strings. These changes not only made the guitar stronger, but they also increased the life of the guitar.


Guitars are available in a variety of different styles and sizes and it really depends on what is most comfortable and enjoyable for you. Popular guitar styles include the Dreadnought, Nex, Artist, Classic and Jumbo. Each guitar has its own unique look, feel and sound. The larger styles like the Jumbo and Dreadnought produce more bass and are more difficult to hold and play. The smaller models like the Nex and Artist favor the midranges and treble and are much easier to hold and play. The Classic guitar is a whole different animal. It can only be played using nylon strings and produces a sound that is noticeably different than steel string guitars. So if you aren’t sure what guitar style is right for you, then head over to your nearest music center and give them all a test drive.


Holding your acoustic guitar is not an exact science.  Everyone has different body types, finger lengths and there are a variety of different sizes and shapes of guitars.  There are many points to keep in mind and it really comes down to how comfortable you are when holding and playing your guitar.

I posted an excellent video on this topic not too long ago that demonstrates and explains how to hold your guitar in detail.

Follow this link to view this video on how to hold your acoustic guitar.


How to position your hands, fingers and thumbs may seem obvious to some, but there is a right and wrong way to do this.  It would be very difficult for you to visualize how to position your hands when playing guitar if I were to explain it here.  A video would do a much better job, so I included a link below to an excellent video.

Guitar Lesson – Hands, Fingers & Thumb Positioning


Make certain that you spend time learning how to tune a guitar. Purchase a guitar tuner at any local music store and practice tuning your guitar with the guitar tuner. Or if you do not own a guitar tuner, there are plenty of lessons and tools online that will guide you.  I have posted several videos on this topic that I recommend you watch:

How to keep your electric or acoustic guitar in tune

Get Your Guitar In Tune


Learn how to change your strings and change them often. I know the idea of changing your strings on your own is intimidating, but it really isn’t that difficult and eventually it will become second nature. I put together a post not too long ago that includes video instructions on how to change strings on both an acoustic and electric guitar.

Click here to reach that post on changing your guitar strings.


Guitar music theory is where all of your scales, chords, progressions, notes and more come into play. It is such a huge topic and would fill many books all on its own. Music theory is extremely important to your growth as a musician and should not be overlooked. Many beginners frown upon guitar theory and completely ignore it. They would much rather take the short route and learn tablature and start playing their favorite songs. There is nothing wrong with learning tablature and playing your favorite songs, but don’t make that your only form of study.

There are a plethora of free sites online that teach guitar music theory, but not all are created equal. One of the best sites I have found on this topic is: TheoryLessons.Com. I highly recommend you start there. The owner of that site starts at the very beginning and covers all the major bases. Your guitar is like a challenging puzzle and guitar music theory is a key that will open up many new doors for you.


Learning on your own

With the right home study course, teaching yourself how to play is quite possible, assuming you are dedicated to working hard and practicing. Teaching yourself how to play will save you a ton of money in the long run and allow you to learn at your own pace. You also have the option to access the same information whenever you want and for as many times as you want. There are several excellent home study courses available that can be just as effective as hiring a a good teacher. Courses can cost anywhere from $30 to as much as a few hundred dollars, depending on the quality and content of the home study course.

Here are our picks for the best Home Study Courses For Guitar:

Learn & Master Guitar – Our #1 Pick!

Jamorama Acoustic Guitar

Next Level Guitar

Hiring an Instructor

First and foremost, this option is expensive. Private guitar lessons, on average, can cost about $15 – $30 for a half hour lesson, and $20 to as much as $75 for an hour lesson, depending on the teachers experience and reputation.

Finding a good teacher can be a difficult task and you should choose one carefully if you decide to go that route. Even the most talented guitarists, that have been playing for decades, can make terrible instructors, so your criteria for choosing a teacher should not be based on experience alone.

One of the most common problems a beginner faces is developing bad playing habits. A good instructor will help you recognize your bad playing habits and help you correct them.

The choice is yours. Only you can determine which options is best for you. Some of us simply cannot afford to hire a teacher, so the choice is rather simple. Others are simply unable to learn on their own and need the guidance and encouragement that a teacher can provide.


Whoever coined the phrase: “Practice Makes Perfect”, knew what they were talking about. Practice as many days out of the week as you can for at least twenty to thirty minutes, more if possible. The more often you play the faster you will learn. Be careful not to overdo it though and take breaks of course. Your brain can only absorb so much information before it needs a break and your hands and the rest of your body need time to recuperate as well. When you practice guitar do not rush through any of your exercises. Twenty minutes of quality focused practice is much more effective than an hour of sloppy practice.

Be sure to visit our section on acoustic guitar practice for more great tips on how to practice your guitar.


As I explained earlier in this guide, there is nothing wrong with learning how to play your favorite songs.  In fact, it is an excellent and fun way to familiarize yourself with the guitar as long as your are not making this your only form of practice.

That being said, I put together a post that includes 20 easy guitar songs that you can start playing right away. This post includes free video lesson as well as links to chords, lyrics and tablature.

Follow this link to view this post on easy guitar songs for the beginner.