Guitar hints and tips for beginners

The three attributes patience, perseverance and practice are a good place to start when looking to provide guitar hints and tips for beginners. In fact, these relate to all guitar player levels (or even, to all levels of everything).

The three attributes patience, perseverance and practice are a good place to start when looking to provide guitar hints and tips for beginners. In fact, these relate to all guitar player levels (or even, to all levels of everything).

Here I’m specifically discussing a beginner guitarist but this category can cover a wide range; for our purposes let’s assume it’s a player who has either only just started or has been playing for less than a year.


This is a wonderful gift to have but it’s often a rare thing. We want instant success without having to do the work; short-cuts don’t really exist! Accept where you, aspire to where you want to be and put a realistic plan in place to get there. This last point has to take into consideration the time you have available to work at it but also the right direction to follow – going down wrong alleyways seriously affects the destination. I’m talking about lessons! Most importantly, as part of a patient approach to learning and achieving, enjoy the journey.

Don’t get frustrated when you can’t ‘get’ things. Everyone suffers from this at the start – all the greats did! We all learn in different ways and at different paces –so it’s a case of finding yours. If you have a tutor who works for you then this is gold dust; have patience with them as well!


It’s easy to say ‘don’t give up’ but the guitar can be an awkward friend at time. There’s no doubt that the guitar is lifelong buddy but it takes a lifetime to get to know it. You’ll have periods of fantastic progress and then you’ll hit a brick wall with technique, an inability to play something you really like, general frustration with the sound your making, etc. and you’ll become disheartened. Some people just give up – ‘please don’t’.

There are people with undoubted natural abilities but anyone with the right attitude and aptitude (and reasonable physical facilities) can learn to play guitar. You can be taught how to play chords and strum them with a groove, or how to pick notes, perform songs, etc. We’ll all attain different levels on our journeys; some go up the learning curve quickly, others are steps, some oscillate up and down, others give up and then return later once they’ve learned to take it easy on themselves.

If you’re struggling, have a break and take some lessons to get you back on track; there’ll be a reason why it’s not clicking into place. This is all about practice and applying yourself properly – we’re moving onto the last P, practice.


We often get asked to give guitar hints and tips for beginners and planning is a massive subject and a blog all of its own. Let’s kick off with a simple but hard-hitting definition: proper practice is work! It has two components: planning and then doing. It’s a constant cycle of these two activities because we can always get better and try new things. We should practise those things that we can’t yet play or understand. It’s an old adage – no pain, no gain. But as each issue is resolved, your improvement will get faster. Don’t go off and just play what you already know – you’re not practising.

Planning your practice

What should you practise? These can break down into two areas: fundamentals and as-you-go. Your friends for this planning activity (and monitoring) are simply a highlighter pen and a note pad.

The highlighter pen is to catch those troublesome bits in the moment. The notepad is for adding them to the practice schedule. There are things that you inherently should just crack on with and start learning/practising asap. There are also problems or issues that you come across when trying to play a song (the in-the-moment ones!).

Planning is a combination of the two. The fundamentals to just start learning include the following: set-up, holding a plectrum, understanding rhythm, being able to read TAB, navigate a song sheet, know your basic open chords and strategies for changing between them. Guitar hints and tips for beginners are all covered in our Beginners course plus lots more – check it out on our website’s What’s On page.

Important – when planning be realistic about the time you have available and set reasonable targets e.g. be fluent in changing between a C and Am chords once every second.

Actually practising

Your friend here might just be your Smartphone (assuming it has a recorder, stopwatch, metronome, and tuner apps on it). Otherwise you’ll need individual machines.

Best advice – little but often. 10 mins a day of focused proper practice is far better than sticking at it all of Saturday morning and getting bored every few minutes.

Play everything as slowly as needed for you to understand it and play it cleanly. Speed is of absolutely no use if it’s not clean; this means using good technique and generally doing everything properly against the annoying tick tock of a metronome. The other thing is not to ignore using a plectrum – mix it in along with just fingers but do both.

Moving on we’ll quickly cover play time, set up and the dreaded barre chord (we’ll cover these again as they are all blogs in their own right).


This is the enjoyable bit – get your guitar in tune and then play to your heart’s content (record yourself to hear what you actually sound like – a recording doesn’t lie). Focus on a nice sound and staying in time. By the way, you can make practice more enjoyable by finding songs, riffs, licks, rhythms that you can use as exercises. You’ll need help from a tutor to do this. When you think you need to get to another level, seek out lessons for professional tutors to help – preferably 1-on-1 at first and then maybe a group course later on.

Get your guitar set up correctly

As a beginner, you’ll find it’s troublesome enough building up the calluses on your fingertips as well as the muscles in your hand and arm. The guitar should be set up so that it:

  • is as easy as possible to press down the strings (i.e., fret the notes). When eventually moving to barre chords this is invaluable. This is called the action and it’s about each string being the optimal distance from the fretboard. If it’s not correct, then your notes will be out of tune and the guitar will feel like a cheese cutter!
  • has no dead spots or buzzy frets on the neck.
  • Is in tune along the length of neck (this is known as intonation) i.e., if you play an open string then the 12th fret should be its octave. This becomes important once you get confident enough to move away from the headstock end of the guitar.
  • has properly wound-on new(ish) strings at the machine heads, a snug fitting nut for each string and idea saddle set-up for the strings and correctly secured at the bridge (with pins or tied on). Dirty strings are also a big problem with pitch and playability.

Take your guitar to a Luthier or a guitar shop that has a qualified technician. Or even consider our Maintenance Set-up mini break course, check out the details on our What’s On page as we have one coming up soon.

We recently ran a free Facebook Live event where our professional tutor Andy Moore explained the ‘3 Ps. You can watch a reply on our YouTube channel and you’ll also find lots more guitar hints and tips for beginners.

Last thought, if you’ve been playing for a while as a beginner, don’t shy away from barre chords just because they’re difficult to play right now. Being able to play basic E shape major, minor and dom7 barre chords is the one defining things that takes you into the realm of intermediate level. Never stop learning new chords!!