Learning How To Play Electric Guitar

May 11, 2024
min read

Learning how to play the electric guitar can be scary for some, considering the numerous guitar chords and scales you must learn about. But that is exactly why learning guitar is so rewarding: it is not an easy goal to achieve, but when you do achieve it, nothing can account for that feeling of accomplishment.

Regardless, to assist all our passionate electric guitar learners, we bring you a guide primarily addressing any concerns and questions that you may have regarding where to begin, what to do, and how to navigate through the learning experience.

We will provide insight, systematically detailing how you should progress in your electric guitar learning at your own pace by beginning with the basics and doable steps so that you can learn easily and not lose motivation along the way.

 

 

Knowing The Electric Guitar

How can one learn to play guitar, knowing what its different components do or how its accompanying gear works?

The first and foremost thing you do when you learn guitar is familiarize yourself with its anatomy and the function of each piece of the gear. The best way to learn about your gear, such as the guitar, cables, pedals, and amplifier, is by referring to the owner’s manual.

Knowing how the gear works is important because then you can solve any problems and simultaneously exercise more control over the sound produced, and going forth without this imperative knowledge is simply choosing to act to your own detriment!

 

guitar components diagram

Fortunately, all electric guitars have the same components, such as frets, a neck, pickups, strings, nuts, a bridge, tuning pegs, and a set of switches and knobs, so familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of your guitar is not difficult.

If you haven’t figured out how to setup your guitar, check our detailed guitar setup walkthrough here.

However, here the aim is to learn: know what the different switches and knobs do so you can then create the ideal tone with the electric guitar. Some of the guitar basics are:

Body

Main bulk of the guitar

Neck

Slender, long, metal rod extending from the body to the fretboard, containing the truss rod, which is used to adjust the neck’s curvature

Fretboard

Flat surface on the neck against which the player presses the strings to change the pitch of the notes

Frets

Embedded metal strips against the fretboard

Headstock

Has the tuning pegs used to adjust string tension

Strings

There are six strings in total, and they range from the thickest to the thinnest in the following order: E A D G B E

diagram showing string numbers and chords of a guitar

Learn Electric Guitar Toggle Switching 

Toggle switching is crucial because it essentially assists you in choosing which pickup or combination of pickups will be on the guitar when you play it.

Different guitars like Les Paul, Stratocaster, or SG-type will have different pickups. For example, a Stratocaster has three single coil pickups, and the five-way toggle switch on this guitar will let you select between the varying pickups, which could be a neck or a bridge pickup, depending on your preference.

Stratocaster Guitar

Want to master the art of learning guitar? Learn how long it takes to learn guitar, along with many tips and tricks to improve your play.

Whereas the SG type or the Les Paul typically has two pickups, which can be set in three general positions: neck, bridge, or both.

To create different tones and textures, you can always experiment with the volume knobs that will blend your two chosen pickups for you. For example, if you have the middle position engaged, you can set the neck pickup volume to 100% and the bridge pickup’s volume to 50% or vice versa.

When learning how to play guitar, there is no harm in having some fun, playing around with different tonal possibilities as it is out of these mixing and matching that you will have the most creative and exciting learning experiences, which will provide you insight into creating new and more tones.

man tuning a guitars strings

 

String Changing 

Another basic that is a “must know” for anyone who wants to learn how to play electric guitar is mastering string changing. Especially if you are a beginner learner, you will consistently play guitar, and the guitar strings will wear out or get damaged sooner rather than later.

Changing these strings is of utmost importance because if not then they will be hard to play, and the produced sound will also be rough. Strings are available in different styles and gauges, where the gauge size refers to the thickness of strings.

Again, it is ideal for beginners to use lighter strings because they can be played, moved around, and bent easily. But as you progress and become proficient at playing, you can feel free to choose heavier strings that will produce a more stable intonation and a thick sound.

Remember, in this initial stage of learning- experimenting is the key. You can never know which string gauge is right for you until you have tried out all or at least most of them.

 

Purchasing Electric Guitar Essentials

Learning and playing guitar with the right equipment by your side can make all the difference in your guitar’s tone and your playing technique. Some of the things that you should purchase, and which are the guitar essentials, are:

Before that, want to check out some of the best brands in the guitar industry? Do visit here to see who’s ruling the market these days.

Guitar Strap 

Stability when playing guitar is crucial because if the guitar is not held in place with support, you will keep losing control of it. A strap provides the guitar with stability and support so you can enjoy playing.

The strap is available and can be bought in a wide variety of materials, designs, and colors, and the decision to choose the strap based on aesthetics is left to your discretion. However, our advice for all our beginners is that when purchasing the guitar strap right now, you should prioritize its comfort.

Learning guitar can be a rigorous procedure; surely, you would not want to tire yourself out. Therefore, buy a strap with additional padding that is at least 2 inches in width to stay clear of any potential neck and shoulder pain.

The X Pick: a revolutionary new invention, or pseudoscience?

Picks 

A confusing decision for early learners has to be that of choosing the most vibrant guitar pick for themselves. Upon entering a music store, you will encounter picks in a sheer volume of sizes, shapes, materials, and thicknesses, but pick is something you cannot get right for the first time.

Expecting to enter a guitar store and immediately finding the right pick is an unreal expectation you must not have because it is only by trying out several picks that you will know which one best accommodates and suits your guitar technique.

While shopping for a pick, remember to choose the one that does not have an overwhelming thickness. Instead, try to maintain the pick’s thickness level between 0.73-0.88mm, as this thickness range ensures a solid grip and will not let you lose your hold over the pick.

Nevertheless, if you are still lost in the world of picks and unable to decide, buy a plastic pick renowned for its grip and flexibility.

Tuner

The most viable option for a tuner that accurately and quickly tunes your electric guitar is an electronic tuner. With the use of chromatic tuners, any key can be properly tuned. However, a beginner-friendly option will be that of a clip-on tuner because they are visible, portable, and very easy to use.

Instrumental Cable 

An instrumental cable is a game changer as it can efficiently break or make the tone. So, go for a cable that is less than 18.6 feet and has feature-reinforced for minimal signal loss and noise handling.

Best Clip-on Tuners - The Ultimate Guide – Northwest Guitars

Tuning The Guitar Strings

The first thing that you should do when you pick up your guitar to learn how to play it is that you tune it. No matter how well you play the guitar, if the string’s action and height are not adjusted, whatever sound is produced will just be muffled.

Although people often prefer to tune their guitar with their ear, since this method lacks a visual reference, we recommend that you tune the guitar to the basic standard tuning with a tuner.

Tuning your guitar with a clip-on tuner is straightforward, but if you use a tuner with an LED display, make sure the needle is properly centered before you start taking readings.

Then, you select the standard tuning, EADGBE, signifying that you will have to begin tuning with the lowest E string, which is the thickest. Meanwhile, the display will demonstrate whether the string’s pitch is too low, high, or perfectly in tune.

Next, loosen the tuning peg to lower the pitch if the tuner indicates that the string is sharp or too high. Alternatively, if the tuner signals that the string’s tone is flat or too low, tighten the tuning peg to raise the pitch.

This procedure has to be repeated for each string, moving on to A, then D, G, B, and finally E, which is the thinnest string. To get each string perfectly in tune and ensure accuracy, fine-tune if necessary by making slight adjustments.

 

Learn Chords And Tabs

The easiest and most effective way to push forward your learning of how to play an electric guitar is by learning songs through reading chord charts and tablature. Reading the chart and the table is a prerequisite for playing the guitar as it you get to learn the basic chords, and without this learning, no matter how much knowledge of the guitar you have, it will be of no use to you.

Chord Charts

Chord charts are a visual or rather a diagram representation of the different chords that aid in learning how to play different songs by identifying all the chords required to be played.

You could say that these diagrams display the chord’s shape on the guitar’s fretboard, and once you get the hang of the diagram’s layout, chord charts are not difficult to read.

A typical chord diagram will look like a grid with six vertical lines corresponding to the six electric guitar strings. To further simplify the diagram, whenever you look at a chord chart, just visualize your guitar from the fretboard to the bridge and to the headstock, making it more convenient for you to understand and learn basic chords.

The high E string is always going to be on the right side of the diagram, contrary to the low E string, which will be found on the left side. Vertical lines represented the strings; however, the horizontal lines, which are between three and six, never more or less, stand for frets.

If you look at the chord diagram we have inserted as an example, it is for an E major chord in the open position. There is a dot on the first fret of the G string, a dot on the A string’s second fret, and a dot on the second fret of the D string. Following the dots on the chord diagram, strum with your pick hand while holding down on the frets, and hear the sound produced.

chord diagram shiwing an E chord with frets

Familiarization with the chord diagram and reading it without struggling will only come to you with practice and more exposure to chord diagrams.

Even if you are initially having a tough time remembering the lines and what they imply, don’t worry because rest assured, with time, you will eventually overcome this obstacle.

Guitar Tablature

Another effective, quick, and short-hand method to notate music is learning to read guitar tablature. A guitar tablature usually consists of six lines, each on behalf of the six strings on your electric guitar.

A guitar tab is always to be read from the bottom and then to be progressed upwards. Therefore, the highest horizontal line is for the high E string or the first string on your guitar, while the lowest horizontal line is for the low E string or the last, the sixth guitar string.

The numbers that are placed on these lines are in correspondence with the guitar frets. So, for example, the number 2 on the lowest line means you play the second fret on the lowest E string.

guitar tablature diagram

Choosing Instruction

Commonly, people learning to play electric guitar try to self-teach themselves by watching online videos. Although this option is used by many, the progress of self-teaching your guitar can be slow. It is not because you are not giving your best to your practice sessions or are not focusing on learning the techniques but because the online resources you are opting for to learn from, they lack structure and order.

For example, there is no order in which you learn as a beginner, and the video only focuses on teaching you a specific skill while ignoring the bigger picture. If you want to take your guitar journey to the next level, you need to consider the cost of guitar lessons.

Free Twins Playing Guitar Together Stock Photo

On the other hand, the alternative option is taking lessons that are private and could be in-person or online, per your preference and convenience. Generally, in-person lessons are more expensive than online lessons because the guitar instructor will charge you according to what they think their time is worth.

Contrary to this, online lessons are more budget-friendly as the videos are all pre-recorded and edited, which allows the instructor to spread their costs over a larger student body.

Whatever mode of instruction you choose, just make sure that the guitar teacher has experience and expertise. A good guitar teacher who knows how to deliver the skill to their students in person can help you progress more quickly than a teacher who may only be good at playing the guitar but not teaching you.

Similarly, with online lessons, go for an instructor with prior experience teaching guitar to in-person students.

courses available at guitar gps method

 

Guitar GPS Method

If you want to learn electric guitar online at your own pace and comfortably from your home but do not want the procedure to be monotonous but rather want to have fun along the journey- check out the Guitar GPS Method.

Guitar GPS Method is an online academy that has made learning electric guitar convenient and gamified, where you earn points at achieving every milestone, ensuring that no matter what happens, you remain consistent with your motivation and do not get frustrated.

The instructor has 15+ years of experience, and the gamified method was only designed after getting proven results from teaching in-person students. This means the learning will be more entertaining and fruitful because your progress will not stagnate, but you will be bound to succeed effortlessly.

So what’re you waiting for, join the waitlist now.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

Can I teach myself electric guitar?

Yes, you can teach yourself electric guitar through the online lessons that are available as assistance to guide you. Finding reliable online instruction is a bit difficult, but once you do, self-teaching yourself the guitar is no longer hard.

Why is tuning the guitar important?

Tuning the guitar is important to enhance sound quality and musical accuracy and to maintain the instrument. It is also an integral part of learning the basics of the guitar because if you do not know how to tune the strings then you will never know how to get the sound right.

How do I start learning electric guitar?

To begin with, learning the electric guitar, you have to first know the instrument’s autonomy, purchase the essentials, and get yourself accustomed to the basics before you can progress to learning guitar patterns.

How often should I change electric guitar strings?

There is no hard and fast rule mandating how often you should change guitar strings but it highly depends on the frequency of your guitar use. If you practice regularly, then changing the strings every two weeks is ideal.

 

Conclusion

Learning to play electric guitar is all about learning in an order. Especially for people who are new to the instrument and are still in the phase of experimenting, it is crucial that you do not directly go to playing the guitar but take your time to familiarize yourself with the gear, maintenance procedure, and reading of the chord charts and tablature.

Once you think you have sufficient knowledge of the guitar, then it is the best time for you to practice your finger muscles and varying hand movements on the guitar, learning different and simple songs!

About the Author

Preston has been a professional guitar instructor since 2010 and is the founder of SLC Guitar and the Guitar GPS Method. His holistic method helps players learn quickly and understand what they are doing musically, while his gamified learning platform make practice fun and effective. 

Subscribe to learn more.

By clicking “Subscribe” you agree to Guitar GPS Method Privacy Policy and consent receiving emails in regards to the Guitar GPS Method. Your information is 100% secure and will never be shared or sold.

Related Posts