How to…Play Guitar

Krista Tschetter

Krista Tschetter

A little Juice “how to” isn’t going to make you Jimi Hendrix. Hey, I’ve been playing guitar for five years and I still sort of, well, suck. But this is a start …

1. Assuming you have a guitar (if not, borrow one or hit the pawn shops), you will need it to be in tune. Standard tuning for an acoustic guitar is (starting from the lowest sounding, top string) is E, A, D, G, B, E. You can tune your guitar by ear, which is hard, or be lazy and buy an electronic tuner from any music store for about $20. There are also online guitar tuners ( Just play the note on the tuner, and turn the peg for the corresponding string until it matches the sound. On an electronic tuner, tweak the peg until the light goes from red to green.

2. Now learn some chords. You’ll need a chord chart (try Some easy ones are C, G, D, Am and E. Each time you change the fingerings, you play a different chord. There are tons of easy songs that consist of only five or six different chords.

Now pick a chord and play it (try the C-chord in the diagram). The neck of a guitar is divided horizontally into frets and vertically by the strings. Put the fingers of your left hand where the dots on the chord chart are and push down REALLY HARD (don’t worry, it’ll get easier).

Make sure you apply enough pressure to get the strings to touch the wood.

3. Strum. Now drag your right-hand thumb or a pick held between your right hand thumb and forefinger down and up across the strings. This is called strumming.

4. Practice, practice, practice! With time (and practice) your rhythm will get smoother, you’ll learn more chords and your fingertips will get calloused.

Find chords to some of your favorite songs online (, then listen to how the artist plays them (and play along). Just copy the strum pattern.

5. Now find some friends. There are about a zillion people (you’ve got to know at least a few of them) who like to get together and “jam.”

This usually involves sitting around in someone’s basement and trading ideas. Be each other’s teachers.

It’s like having free lessons, and it’ll get you used to playing in front of people.