Learn how to read tabs. Tabs will have six lines that represent your strings, along with numbers that designate where you should be placing your fingers. The numbers represent the fret in which you need to hold the string down. A 1 means the first fret, a 2 means the second fret, and so on. Numbers in a progression mean that you hold down the first individual fret and pick the note, then move to the next one, and so on in succession. Numbers on the same vertical line are meant to be played together simultaneously as a chord.
Acoustic: I recommend a Yamaha solid top acoustic guitar. This guitar plays just as good as some that are many hundreds of dollars more expensive. It can be difficult to manufacture quality acoustics at low prices due to the importance of a solid top finish. When I was in college I scratched together the cash to buy a handmade acoustic guitar that was over $1,000 (I won’t mention the brand) but that guitar was nowhere near as good as this Yamaha.
You do not need long fingernails to play guitar. In fact, it's best to keep your fingernails short! As for the callouses, these may be unavoidable. If you would like to avoid them as much as possible, ask your guitar instructor about lowering the action of your guitar (the action is the distance between your strings and your frets) so that the frets are easier to press down on.
I've seen so many guitar lessons where the instructor simply dives right in and begins teaching chords. Unfortunately, that assumes that the student's guitar is already in tune! Guitars are made out of wood, and wood reacts to our environment, be it hot, cold, dry or humid. As such, guitars frequently go out of tune, and they must be tuned to make them sound good. If you begin learning to play guitar on an out of tune guitar, it will not sound good to the ear no matter how hard you try, and as such, it will become discouraging pretty quickly.
I tried several times over the course of 20 years to learn guitar. I purchased guitars, amps, books, private lessons. Nothing ever stuck, until I found justinguitar.com. The only reason I can play guitar today is because of Justin. His courses are well thought out, easy to understand, easy to follow, and easy to make progress on. I can't think of a single product or service that I've ever used in my life that I could recommend more highly than justinguitar.com.
Strum your guitar with a pick or your fingers. Hold down the strings with your fingers in the appropriate shape and try to strum with your other hand. Acoustic guitar strings often have higher actions than electric guitars, so you may have to press down very hard to get a good sound. If the chord comes out muted, try holding down the strings with more force. If your string is buzzing, move your finger further away from the metal fret on your neck.
Electric guitar: Well the world of electric guitars is in some ways more complex, as there are all kinds of different looks and technologies. And it’s not good enough to just have a guitar, you need to buy an amplifier as well. I will just recommend mid-level stuff that’s worked for me based on my preferences, but if you like “stuff” and collecting gear, you’ll find playing the guitar to be a deeply satisfying hobby :)
Wow! This post really seems to have helped a lot of folks get started with the guitar. It has been read by – I kid you not – millions of aspiring guitarists. Thank you! As many of you have noted in the comments below, no, I’m not selling anything here related to playing the guitar. My motivation to write this post was that musicians, and especially guitar teachers, can often make learning the guitar sound way too hard. It’s actually easy.
String$: When you're done playing, wipe your strings with a cotton cloth or old T-shirt that's been treated with a small amount of light household oil such as WD-40. This cleans the strings and displaces moisture that can shorten string life. This simple process will extend string life 3 to 4 times compared to untreated strings, saving you money, and giving you more time to spend playing your guitar instead of changing strings.