Learn how to play electric guitar - beginner guitar lessons

Learning how to play the electric guitar can be both the same yet different from an acoustic guitar

To start off with, let's look at what makes playing the electric guitar pretty much the same as learning to play on an acoustic guitar.

The first solid body electric guitar was invented by Les Paul in the early 1940s. It was basically an acoustic guitar, with the center replaced by a solid piece of wood, on which were mounted two pickups. So you see, it's got the same fretboard and tuning as an acoustic guitar, so you play it the same - well almost.

All the chords on an acoustic guitar are exactly the same as an electric guitar, and all the scales.... I'm sure you get the picture. There is a difference though in the styles that get played. It's a different approach, but not one that should cause too much concern for a beginner learning how to play electric guitar.

What's great about learning how to play on an electric guitar?

The first and most important thing about learning on an electric guitar, is that it's much easier on the fingers. This is mostly because you can use lighter gauge strings, and the string height is easily adjustable at the bridge. I personally recommend that anyone learning how to play guitar, whether they want to play acoustic or electric, should learn to play on electric guitar.

Later on, when your fingertips have hardened a bit, then move on to acoustic if you want. Whether you learn to play electric guitar or acoustic, it's always nice to eventually have one of each.

Beginner guitar lessons suited to both acoustic and electric guitar.

For starters, no matter which type of guitar you play, the first set of chords you'll learn are called open chords. These are the easiest guitar chords to play. A little later, when your fingers get used to the guitar, you should move on to some of the more difficult chords, and then barre chords.

You can find most of the information you need on beginner guitar chords at play-electric-guitar.net/beginner-guitar-chords.html

Which electric guitar lessons are people having success with?

Easy rock guitar chords

Here's something I think will make it easy to start having fun on the electric guitar, without too much practice or stressed out fingers.

It's an easy way of playing power chords, and you only need one finger on the fretboard to play them.

The first thing you'll have to do is tune your 6th string (The thickest one) down from E to D. This makes it possible to play power chords using the 4th, 5th and 6th string.

Basically, you must detune your 6th string so it sounds like the same note as the open 4th string, only an octave lower. If you're not sure what an octave should sound like, play any open string on the guitar, and just afterwards play the same string again but press behind the 12th fret when you do.

The note at the 12th fret is an octave higher than the open string, and similarly the open string is an octave lower than the 12th fret. It's the same note name, either twice or half the frequency.

Here are the guitar chords in Dropped D tuning

Electric guitar power chords in dropped D video

Guitar tablature basics

I would like to show you something that will make learning how to play guitar a whole lot easier. It's called guitar tablature, or guitar tab for short. Guitar Tabs are a simplified way of reading guitar music.

There are a few major differences between guitar tablature and conventional sheet music, the first one being that no time signature or note length is displayed, so you'll need to have a recording of the guitar piece to understand exactly how it's supposed to sound.

The second major difference is more a matter of appearance than function, and that's because guitar tabs have six lines - one for each string, as opposed to the five lines in regular music notation.

So how will understanding Tab help you to learn how to play electric guitar?


Well, Guitar tabs are very popular on the internet, and a lot of guitarists like posting useful tablature of their favorite songs on various websites. Because tabs are so easy to understand, and very descriptive of what's actually happening on the fretboard, it's easier to give guitar lessons with - so just about everyone uses it.

Here's how to read guitar tabs.


The picture below should give you a good basic understanding of how to read guitar tablature. Guitar tabs are read left to right, and even though there is no time signature, you can sometimes get a good idea of the time interval between notes based on how far apart the notes are.

It's not entirely accurate, but very often people who write tabs try to give as good an indication as possible of how it should be played.

I've kept this quite basic. There are more advanced guitar tab characters to learn, but as a beginner guitarist, this will get you a fair distance.

Basic guitar tab

Basic guitar tablature
Basic guitar tablature

The guitar lesson that saved me

The C major scale.

A long time ago, when I went for my first classical guitar lesson, I was given a finger exercise in the key of C major. This wasn't even the first lesson, but just something I was told would help develop the dexterity in my fingers, and that I could work on in my own time. Little did I realise that this simple exercise would be the foundation on which I later taught myself how to play lead guitar.

The C major scale is all the white notes on a piano, in other words there are no sharps or flats. The scale of C is the basis of all western music. Even though there are other keys to play in, they're all named after the notes in the C major scale.

A scale is named major or minor or whatever else, like harmonic minor or melodic minor because of the intervals between the notes, and its key is determined by the starting point. In the C major scale, the first note is C, and the rest of the notes are D, E, F, G, A, B, and then C again. The scale repeats itself and each succeeding progression is an octave higher.

The note intervals of the major scale are described as tones. A tone is equal to 2 frets, and a semitone is one fret distance. In the C major scale the intervals go like this;

Tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. So basically what that means is between E and F is a semitone, and between B and C is a semitone. All the rest are a tone apart, or two frets apart. A tone is also known as a whole tone.

which fingers to use

Left hand finger numbers
Left hand finger numbers

C major 1st position notes

Which fingers to use
Which fingers to use
The C major scale notes in the first position of the guitar
The C major scale notes in the first position of the guitar

Playing the scale pattern

When pressing the notes of this scale pattern, the idea is to have your fingers as perpendicular to the fretboard as possible. This is to make the notes sound clearly. The best place to press down is about a third to midway between the frets.

This picture shows which fingers correspond to those indicated in the first diagram below.

If you need a little help on how to hold the plectrum - here's How to hold a plectrum

How to pick these notes

To get the most out of this exercise it's important to consider the picking hand as well. The best way is to pick the first note with a down stroke, the second with an upstroke, the third with a down and so on.

Ideally you should start on the 6th string - That's the thickest one, and play from the open E, progressing up until the G note on the first string, and then back down again until the open E 6th string.

In the video below, please excuse me if I get a bit carried away at the end. Sometimes I just can't stop myself from playing guitar a bit longer.

Guitar lesson video of C major scale in the first position

Tablature for C major

Guitar tab for C major, played in the first three frets of the guitar
Guitar tab for C major, played in the first three frets of the guitar

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Comments 34 comments

angelica 8 years ago

this is really hard can u do an easier one plz


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 8 years ago Author

Thanks for the comment Angelica. Now I know exactly what to do for my next Hubpage.

It may be a couple of days though - Hang in there.


AJ 8 years ago

Can u do a video that explains how to read and how to play sheet music please i really need help im playing an electric guitar and im just starting PLEASE HELP


Nessa 8 years ago

I absolutely loved this article! Thanks to you, and all your good explainations, I can play c major scale! Wooo! Haha. I want you to be my guitar teacher, there's something about the way you teach that actually gets through my head, hah :P

If you have anything else you could share, I'd really love that. I'm just starting to get back into knowing my electric guitar, and I need all the help through basics and whatever else that you have to offer!

Could you possibly e-mail me with updates if you ever get the time? It would be so greatly appreciated. recipe_for_catastrophes@hotmail.com Thanks!! :)


Digi Short 8 years ago

It moves really fast! It would help if you could post the tabs for the riffs, so I could try it apart from the video-I keep having to move it backward so I can figure out what's happening.


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 8 years ago Author

The video is there to illustrate what I've written about. It helps if you read everything and understand it first, really. You shouldn't actually need the video, and the tablature is right underneath the video. If you don't understand the tablature, then scroll up because I've given an explanation on how to read guitar tab.

Also, a note for Angelica. learning how to play guitar well is not something that happens overnight, and even though you may get frustrated with your fingers not doing what you want them to do, just keep pushing ahead and eventually they'll do what you want them to.

Expect blisters on your fingertips at first, which will become hard little caps on your fingers so it doesn't hurt anymore.


Bob Walker 8 years ago

Andrew, this is a terrific Hub. Yo'e got a lot of great info here. I just got back into guitars after digging up some of my old band pictures. I had a '69 Gibson EB-1 bass and '64 Thunderbird IV. Right now, I'm interested in Les Pauls. If you get a chance, please check out my Les Paul blog http://www.gibsonlespaulelectricguitar.com


Learn Guitar DVD profile image

Learn Guitar DVD 8 years ago from Brunei & US

Andrew,

This is one of the best hubs I've seen on guitar. Thanks for providing users with content. Most hubs on guitars lack what you're doing.

If you guys are having trouble with tabs visit http://www.learnguitartabs.com which may help to complement this hub.

If you're interested you can also check out my blog at http://www.learn-guitar-dvd.com .

Keep up the good work Andrew. I'll be looking out for your other hubs. This one gets an up rating from me. Thanks.


michelle 7 years ago

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

u suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 7 years ago Author

Michelle, Yes, I do suck at certain things on the guitar, like finger tapping for instance. My sweep arpegios are also a little shaky sometimes. At least my attitude doesn't suck. Playing guitar is all about attitude, so I guess this page will have little value to you.

Thanks for stopping by


scotty smith profile image

scotty smith 7 years ago from Worldwide

As a guitar player, i can see that you know your stuff and enjoy playing...great work and thanks for the article, well done. I am sure that a lot of people who want to play the guitar will benefit greatly from this.


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 7 years ago Author

Thanks Scotty.

I needed that. One doesn't always know if a beginner will manage to learn something, or if I've put too much info into one post. Been playing guitar since 1978 so it's really all second nature to me.


Michael 7 years ago

I need to know how to play the basic's of the guitar.I don't really get this video.You don't know really go into depth on how to play the electric guitar.Please get back to me asap at my email.shitypickles123@hotmail.comShow me the basics.


BANGAGONG 7 years ago

HEY BUDDY,

MORE POWER TO YOU. I KNOW BLOGS CAN BE DEPRESSING AT TIMES BECAUSE SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS , SOME PRODUCTIVE - AND SOME NOT! I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW I APPRECIATE IT ESPECIALLY AS A BEGINING GUITAR PLAYER WHO DOESN'T KNOW SHIT ABOUT MUCH OF ANYTHING. I CAN'T AFFORD LESSONS RIGHT NOW SO I HAVE BEEN COMBING THE INTERNET AND WRITING EMAILS THAT NEVER GET ANSWERED TO GUYS WITH FANCY GUITAR WEBSITES AND SO FORTH. SO I REALLY APPRECIATE EVERY LITTLE THING YOU COULD POST ON HERE. WOULD LOVE TO KNOW ANY POINTERS YOU COULD GIVE ME AS RIGHT NOW I AM JUST TRYING TO DEVELOP MY GUITAR CHOPS AND AT THIS POINT AM JUST DICKIN AROUND WITH SOME SONGS THAT I LIKE TO HEAR AND I JUST PLAY ALONG WITH THEM BUT AS FAR AS PLAYING CHORDS AND SO FORTH I DON'T KNOW MUCH. I TRIED LESSONS YEARS BACK BUT THE TEACHER SEEMED TO JADED AND DRUNK TO REALLY GET A GOOD VIBE FROM. SO YEA PLEASE KEEP POSTIN BUDDY.


michelle 7 years ago

this has really helped me i can now play my first scale i thought i would never ever be able to find something about learning to play the electric guitar but i did thank you.

Sincerely,

Michelle


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 7 years ago Author

http://hubpages.com/hub/Simple-guitar-chords-for-b... may help a bit with getting some of the basics down as well.

I've been a bit preoccupied with something called work lately, but I have a good few hubs I want to write on guitar lessons. Hmmm, perhaps this weekend would be good.


chrislakeguitar profile image

chrislakeguitar 7 years ago from UK

Hey, cool page, really great information on here. One of the best guitar hubs i've seen. I've written an article on my website all about why video lessons are such a great way to learn how to play the guitar. Thought you might want to check it out: http://www.guitarskills.net/video-guitar-lessons.h...


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 7 years ago Author

Hey Chrislakeguitar, have you seen this in the footer of the comments? "Comments are not for promoting your hubs or other sites"

I do agree with you though about video lessons, but more important than that is clarity. I'd rather have a good book on guitar before I go appetite over tin cup just because a guitar course has video.

The combination of both is a surefire winner though.


Guitar For Beginners 7 years ago

excellent article. explains eveything very nicely. It is a great video you have included too. This is a great start to anyone starting to play the electric guitar


learningguitar 7 years ago

It's my pleasure that I went through your hub. Information above is very interesting and looks natural. I would like to tell you that i really liked your learning electric guitar techniques and your awareness about the guitars.


lakedeni 7 years ago

Keep up the good work Andrew. I'm about 30 yrs too late and my fingers are not supple anymore. My children will love this though. Thanks.


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 7 years ago Author

Thanks for the positive comments everyone. Lakedeni, it's never too late to learn guitar, but sometimes air guitar can still be fun, and the crowd always enjoys your flawless performance.


dj 7 years ago

can you help me im 14 and just got got my electric guitar i am a dummy when it comes to guitars can you give me more simple instructions?


errobertseric82 7 years ago

I had recently bought an electric guitar, found your steps to learn easy to follow. Do post more.


connelly73 profile image

connelly73 7 years ago from Motherwell, Scotland

Just read your hub and comments. As a guitar player myself I found it brill along with your playing. I would like to do some video lessons myself and have recorded my own songs and put them on myspace just because I love music. When you see comments like michelle saying you suck makes me sad and angry.


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 7 years ago Author

Thanks Connelly,

I've had a few comments worse than the "You suck" by Michelle, but decided to delete them cos I don't want profane language in the comments.

There are still a heck of a lot more good people in the world than meanies (polite way of putting it).

Listening to your songs now. You're Scottish - you'll make it. Not bad at all. Keep rocking.


Trish 6 years ago

After read the article and viewing the video this will clearly explains that you are a real Guitarist and you has learn lot about the guitar.


greenguitar 6 years ago

I was searching for the some great tips for learning guitar and I find your hub full of info I was looking for. Keep up the good work.


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 6 years ago Author

Thanks green guitar


William 5 years ago

Didn't understand one bit of this !


Andrew Webber profile image

Andrew Webber 5 years ago Author

Sorry to hear that


http://thebestlifequotes.com 5 years ago

great guidelines man, you have saved form the agony of learning the guitar lessons.


seo experts academy review 5 years ago

very nice tips!


Thena 21 months ago

That's a wise answer to a tricky qusoiten

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