How To Teach Yourself Guitar – 5 Easy Steps

How to Teach Yourself Guitar!

This can be a daunting and very frustrating task that requires a lot of patience and perseverance, make no mistake about it. For a lot of people they want to start learning to play the guitar but might not know where to start or what to start working on. This post highlights 5 key areas to enable you to teach yourself guitar. It is designed to tackle one area at a time, so don’t move on until you are confident in each area.

Once all 5 areas are achieved then you will be fully equipped to move in a number of directions with the guitar. Whichever style of the guitar you intend learning. you still need to teach yourself these basics, they are the foundation for everything you will do going forward.

Teach youself guitar

 1. Learn The Guitar String Names

The guitar string names can seem like a pretty boring thing to learn at first, you want to start playing some songs right? Well do yourself a favour and spend 5 minutes learning the guitar string names and this will save you hours of time further down the line.

This is an essential thing to learn! Learning the guitar string names will benefit your playing and assist you understanding chords and how to play songs on the guitar.

Watch this video for a clear understanding and explanation from Justin Sandercoe on the string names

A common problem with people who start to learn the guitar is that they choose to ignore this step when starting out. Trust me, it hinders their progress and slows them down, eventually they have to learn it!

Don’t make that mistake, learn it now – its easy. Furthermore, accomplishing this step will give you a confidence boost in your quest to learn the guitar.

2. How To Tune a guitar

Tuning a guitar is vital! Without doing this all your hardwork will be wasted. Without the guitar being tuned you have no idea whether what you are playing is correct. This is another key part of teaching yourself the guitar and really doesn’t take too long to get the hang of.

When I started playing the guitar I used to get my dad to drive me 5 miles to my friends house, his dad would tune my guitar every day until he got sick of me asking and recorded it all down for me on a cassette tape. Thats how I learnt to tune the guitar by ear!

Fortunately nowadays we have YouTube and iPhone apps for this. Below are a list of app’s for both iPhone and Android for tuning your guitar. These are free apps and a great place to start.

This is a great video on how to tune your guitar without a tuner. This video by Marty Schwarz explains how it is done and why:

Tuning your guitar takes a little bit of practice, but if you have an electric guitar tuner then all the work is done for you and this can done in 5 minutes. They aren’t expensive so do yourself a favour and don’t waste any of your time. Buy a guitar tuner and tune your guitar before proceeding!


3. Learn The Caged Chords

The caged chords are a set of 5 chords C-A-G-E-D , do you see how they get their name?

These are your basic chords, they are the foundation of everything that you will learn on the guitar. They teach you chord changing, strumming, fingerpicking and any other style of guitar. When you teach yourself guitar this is an ideal starting point.

The beauty of the Caged chords are that you can play thousands of songs – and I’m not exaggerating. Artists like Bob Dylan have built careers on using only these chords so that should give you an idea of how versatile they are, he has been going for over half a century!

The mistake a lot of people make is that they try to learn too much guitar, you will appear a far better guitarist by being able to play these 6 guitar chords well than by learning 20 chords and only being average at them. So don’t be persuaded by learning any other chords other than these chords – yet!

The key to using these chords is being able to change between them effectively, cleanly and quickly. Try plucking each string and ensure that you are getting a note out, if you are then great you are doing it right! Then once you can do that the idea is to be versatile in a number of strumming patterns using these chords. Thats it! Thats all you need.

In point 5 of this post I will provide you with a song to play which will enable you to practice putting these chords into practice. Playing a handful of songs will give you a huge confidence boost and from there you will find it easier to learn songs going forward.

4. Learn To Strum The Caged Chords

The idea for the minute is to teach you to strum and change between these chords, for now just concentrate on downstrums. Strum in sets of 4 and then change to another of the caged chords. For example:

  • Do four down strums of the G chord then change to the D chord for four strums. Repeat this
  • Repeat the above exercise but this time from the C chord to the D chord for example.
  • Now do four down strums on the G, change the D for four strums, the A for four strums and now the C for four and repeat.
  • When you feel confident with the above repeat but mix up the chords. This is very basic but effective practice technique when learning the guitar.

Now when performing the above exercise notice what sounds good and what doesn’t. Notice what chords go well together and what don’t. If you followed step 3 correctly and your chords are being played cleanly then you should now begin to hear how songs are very easily structured. For now we are only focusing on the down strums of playing the guitar, once we have these basics then we can start to evolve what we currently have.

The idea of changing between these chords is to be able to change as quickly as you can do it correctly. Don’t do this too fast but aim to do it correctly, once you can, then try to change a little quicker, always look to improve the speed you are changing at. By this I mean to change between the chords smoothly and cleanly, always look to do it faster but never faster than you can without it sounding badly.

5. Learn a Caged Chord Guitar Song

Right now for the fun bit! Lets learn a song

The song we are going to use as an example is Knocking on Heavens Door by Bob Dylan, this was also famously covered by Guns and Roses. This is a very simple song that uses the G, D and C chords.

The approach to take when learning this is to strum the G four times, the D four times and the C eight times. As before, strum in down strums. Your approach here is to slowly play through the song, making sure your chords are clean. Play through this a few times, notice how this begins to sound like the song. When you begin to feel comfortable with this then try speeding it up a little, but do it only as quick as you can do it correctly!

Learning The Guitar – So What Now?

These five simple steps are the foundation and basics of learning the guitar and is key place to start if you intend to teach yourself guitar. Regardless of what style of guitar you intend to learn these basics are a must! Learn them now, practice them and continue to practice them.

From here on you slowly learn more chords, more strumming patterns  and as such – more songs! Congratulations on the beginning of your guitar playing journey. From now on it only gets better. Teach yourself guitar well and teach yourself properly, you won’t be disappointed!


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