The pandemic and its lockdowns have kick-started people all over the world to learn new things and find new hobbies. Many of them are of musical nature. Being cooped up at home is a great opportunity to try new things. They keep you occupied, and you might just gain a new skill in the meantime. But that also means you have to rely on yourself to learn the right lessons and choose the right methods. Here’s a quick guide on the first steps toward learning how to play the guitar by yourself.

Am I Too Old to Even Try?
Never. The predominant opinion might be that you learn stuff more efficiently when you are a child, but it's not quite as simple as that. For kids, the prefrontal cortex is not as stuffed with working memory, which makes them fast adapters. But when it comes to learning how to play the guitar, they also have a much harder time with the coordination and dexterity that is necessary to play chords efficiently.

We, as adults, can also benefit from our working memory. We have lived longer and experienced more, and we can build on this knowledge. Our real-life experience will tell us, which chords sound good together and how they are used in specific music styles, for example.

So no, it is never too late to learn. What is harder for us, however, is finding the free time and motivation for the necessary practice. Which is why the pandemic has been the perfect time to learn a new thing for so many.

Where to begin?
The first step would be to buy a guitar. Sure, you can learn the theory, but without putting it in practice it won’t be of much help.

The Right Guitar for Beginners
The best guitar for a beginner is one that is simple. It does not necessarily have to be an acoustic guitar, but it’s certainly easiest to just pick up and play. An electric guitar, however, requires an amp to be loud enough to enjoy.

There are nylon and steel strings. Which you pick is not important yet, but thinner strings are the easiest to play. That is the same reason why you should avoid classical or flamenco guitars in the beginning. Their necks are thicker, and therefore it’s harder to form chord shapes.

Avoid any novelties such as special guitar shapes or number of strings. The best beginner shape is the Dreadnought, Parlour or Auditorium. They are variations of the regular acoustic guitar’s pear shape. Women often prefer the Parlour because it is easier to hold and reach over.

You don’t have to go for the highest quality and price right off the bat. But as a beginner you also don’t have the knowledge to keep the guitar in tune easily, so it should not be the cheapest guitar either. Try to see if a friend might lend you their guitar if it’s not in use at the time. Or go and buy a used guitar.

You don’t technically need this gear, but it will help immensely. Buy:

A Tuner – Electrical guitar tuners are little boxes that pick up the note you are playing and help you to get it where it’s supposed to be by tuning the strings. A guitar that is not properly tuned will sound wrong, which can be disheartening for beginners. You can try a smartphone app in the beginning.

A Capo – A capodastro is a kind of clamp you put over the neck of your guitar to shorten the playable length of the strings, meaning it raises the pitch of the notes you will be playing below the clamp. They allow you to play the same chords in a different pitch. Some songs require them, and they will be noted in the charts.

A Strap – The strap holds the guitar in place and makes it more comfortable to play.

Picks – A thickness between 0.65 and 0.73 is the best for beginners.

Learn, Learn, Learn…
Chances are you’ll want to learn to play tablatures in the beginning. Before you can start learning how to read those, you’ll have to know where the corresponding string is.

➔ Note that the strings are numbered thinnest to thickest and not thickest to thinnest, as you would expect them to be.

Each string is tuned to a note. This refers to the ‘standard’ tuning. There are other kinds of tuning later on in your lessons. With the guitar in your hands and the thickest string facing to you, they are named E (low), A, D, G, B, E (high) and numbered 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. If you are asked to play the B string, you should know it’s the second from the bottom.

➔ A mnemonic to remember these by is: Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears.

The next part of your curriculum will be learning the individual notes and their positions on the fretboard, as well as the chords you will form out of combining them.

Trying to learn every note on the fretboard is a bit too excessive for beginners. Instead, try to learn easy chords first. It helps to find easy chords to a song you enjoy and to slowly familiarize yourself with the fretboard this way.

With the right equipment and mindset, you can start to learn the most basic building blocks for playing a song. Learn the strings, their notes, and a selection of easy chords. These beginner steps should be the content of your curriculum for a while. You will need some time to familiarize yourself and build up some muscle memory for playing and switching chords. Trying them out with the chords of a song you love will help you gain a sense of achievement to build up your motivation.