3 Tricks to Learn How To Play the Guitar


Imagine that you have your guitar strapped around your body, guitar pick in hand, and you’re to become the next Boyce Avenue cover artist.

You start strumming away, you sound terrible and you know it. Then, that’s when the question hits you:

What are some easy songs to learn how to play?

I’m a self-taught guitarist, and I learned how to play in 2003 when I was 16 years old and Yahoo music was the ‘YouTube’ at the time. So, this isn’t going to be the same advice you read elsewhere. I’m going to tell you below, the 3 tricks I taught myself in order to learn how to play the guitar.

Put the Guitar Down

Yes, that’s right. You can put the guitar down, because you don’t need it, yet.

Before I ever touched a guitar and learned how to physically play the guitar, I studied the guitar. How did I do that?

In order to study the guitar, I read about the basics, which were the following:

  • Types of guitars
    • Acoustic vs Electric
    • Steel string guitars
    • Nylon string guitars
    • Guitar body/parts
  • How to play music on the guitar
    • Guitar notes
      • Fretboard understanding
      • String names
    • Guitar chords
      • Memorized shapes of D, G, A, C, and E
      • Drew diagrams on paper of chords and finger placements

Before I received my first guitar, I spent about 2 weeks reading everything I could about guitars. I also practiced chords by mimicking the shapes on paper diagrams.

Now, remember, when I learned how to play the guitar, Google was in its infancy. So, I had to resort to asking Jeeves, who I’m still convinced was more confused to receive questions than those of us asking the questions.

Luckily, it’s 2016 and we all have ze Google and can find anything we want in seconds.

So, if you’re just learning how to play the guitar, put it away. Yes, put it away, and instead spend an hour everyday reading about guitars, to grow your guitar knowledge.

Learn to Read Guitar Tabs

There are a few different ways to read music online to help you learn how to play the guitar and they are:

  • Guitar tabs
  • Standard sheet music
  • Guitar chords

I learned to read guitar tabs for a couple different reasons. First, I already knew how to read standard sheet music, because I was a band kid growing up. So, my thinking was that unless it was absolutely necessary, it wasn’t practical to apply that knowledge to guitar, because I didn’t want to play notes individually to create a melody as a beginner.

Second, with sheet music ruled out and already mimicking guitar chords, I wanted to add a new trick to my guitar magic box. There was only one option left, and that was learning to read guitar tabs.

When I learned to read tabs, I learned from ultimate-guitar.com. Here’s a good lesson from them here, and it even has videos.

Pick a Song to Learn

Actually, pick 1-2 songs that you want to learn first. When I started, I was obsessed with Jason Mraz and inspired by the fact he was self-taught. So, I went to ultimate-guitar.com and found the tabs for an open chord version of Rainbow Connection. Jason Mraz’s skills were too advanced for me as a beginner. Check out his original video.

The second song and guitar tabs I learned was More Than Words by Extreme.

If I don’t have my phone or an electric tuner on hand, this is the song I use for those times I need to tune my guitar by ear.

It’s your turn. Pick 1 or 2 songs you would like to learn, study the guitar tabs, and then try to play them.

Once you know how to play 1-2 songs, you can do what I still do today, which is use those songs as a method to tune your guitar by ear.


With resources like YouTube, you can pick up guitar pretty easily today. I was able to learn the basics to playing guitar, learn 2 songs, and guitar terminology in less than 30 days. So, if you’re having a hard time, give these 3 tricks a try.

What is the first song you are going to learn to play on guitar? If you already know how to play guitar, what was your first song? Share your story with me in the comments.