Learning the electric guitar as a complete beginner can make you feel like you’re drowning. So how do you jump onto a life raft? You do yourself one better, and you build yourself a boat.
Learning the ins and outs of the electric guitar can go a long way in terms of boosting your music playing abilities. Regardless of your style of music choice, there are some pretty universal things that every electric guitar must learn.
This article is going to cover all the basic top tips for entering the world of electric guitar for beginners.
Top Tips for Electric Guitar Beginners
Your whole experience of the electric guitar will be enhanced with the correct equipment in your bag. Electric guitars come with lots of kit that you need to learn how to navigate.
These are things like amps, which you will get to know over the course of your electric guitar career.
Picking the right electric guitar is a crucial decision. You should spend some time going through reviews and research out there to come to the perfect choice when the day comes to purchase your first electric guitar.
Master the Basics
There are certain things that you need to know when you pick up the guitar. These are things like guitar notes and simple chords. It will help a long way when it comes to wanting to play songs.
Lessons might not be your cup of tea. They might be the first thing you considered when you thought about learning the electric guitar.
Whatever your personal preference, there is value in investing in yourself through professional lessons. These can be in person or online.
Listen to Music
The whole reason that you’re getting into the electric guitar is probably because of the music. Right? You have a favorite song that has a killer electric guitar riff. Everyone does.
It is the most compelling reason to pick up an electric guitar and learn to play. You want to know that song. Listening to music is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in your learning experience.
Make Practice Time
Practicing is the most tried and tested method to building up your skill set. This is also true of the electric guitar. If you don’t make time to practice, you won’t ever improve. It’s simple math.
Find Fellow Musicians
A good way to practice is through playing with other people. There are other beginners out there looking to build on their skills and learn their way through to becoming a great electric guitar player.
Playing with other people can really fine tune your electric guitar skills in a way that you can’t do on your own.
Master the Theory
You might not want to accept it, but the theory behind the practical is an integral part of playing the electric guitar.
You want to play songs, you can probably get by through knowing the basics. Time signatures, rhythms, notes and more. These are all components of your playing journey.
Top Tip Number One: Equipment
First up, the equipment side of things.
Amps are one of the key players with regard to electric guitar playing. With the right amp by your side, you can go a hell of a lot further than without.
You shouldn’t have to break the bank. There are top of the range, expensive big money amps out there. There are also cheap amps that might do the trick for a little while.
But, if you want to pick the right amp, you are probably going to have to look mid-range. Expect to spend, on a new amp, upwards of $100.
You can, of course, find a cheaper, more than sufficient second hand amp as well. There are hundreds out there.
With an amp, you will be able to tap into the electric guitar’s full potential. An amp, literally amplifies your sound. It takes your practice sessions to the next level, and it really unleashes your abilities.
Here is a link to the top ten guitar amps that you can buy as a beginner. Any one of these amps can be sourced second hand as well, if you’re worried about draining your financial resources.
The cable is the thing that connects your electric guitar up to your amp. It is a pretty integral part of your guitar playing, and you need a reliable one.
Again, you don’t need to break the bank here. There are plenty of options to pick from if you know what you’re looking for. A decent electric guitar cable should be the right thickness, the right voltage and the right length.
Here is a link for the best cables you can buy currently. They are pretty well suited to lots of different types of guitar, but our focus is the electric.
Electric Guitar Tuner
An electric guitar tuner is a really handy tool.
Your guitar is no good to you if it’s not in tune. What is being in tune? Well, being in tune is making sure that the notes that are supposed to be there, are there. Sometimes, your strings slip.
This means that they become looser than they’re supposed to be on the fretboard, and they drop in notes.
When this happens, the whole vibe of the music that you’re trying to play will be off. You won’t be able to hit the chords that you want to hit, and your song just won’t work.
Now, not all of us are blessed with perfect pitch. So the majority of people need a helping hand when it comes to tuning our strings. This is where electric guitar tuners come in to play.
With regard to tuners, there are different types. Let’s run through the most popular ones.
Chromatic tuners can tune every single note in any selected octave. You have to know what note you want.
With a polyphonic tuner, all six strings can be tuned at once.
Strobe tuners use lights that match up to sound frequencies.
The microphone method uses a mic to match guitar note frequencies.
Electric Guitar Strap
An electric guitar strap is the thing that holds your electric guitar up so that your arms don’t have to. Again, with electric guitar straps, there is a big price range and there are a range of different materials.
The upside to this is that they are also fully customizable to personal taste and preference.
Top tips for picking the perfect guitar strap include
- Think about the way it fits your shoulder. If it is even a bit too small, it can become incredibly uncomfortable after a prolonged period of use.
- Think about the material. Some materials are harsher than others, and some will provide more comfort than others.
- Think about the strength. Your strap needs to be strong enough to hold your guitar for as long as you are playing it. It needs to move with you, and it needs to be able to take the weight of that movement.
Electric Guitar Picks
Electric guitar picks are the little god sends that protect your fingers from all that strumming. They give you a different sound, and they save you blisters and aches.
You can learn all sorts of tricks and shifts with an electric guitar pick. This will be a skill that you pick up along the way. For starters, you need a pick you can trust and one that feels comfortable.
Go with a thickness between 0.6 and 0.7.
Here is a link to the top electric guitar picks for beginners currently available.
Electric Guitar Capo
A capo is a tool for electric guitars, and other types of guitars, that changes the key that you’re playing in. They are more essential a bit further down the line, not so much as a very beginner.
But, they are good fun to play around with, and you should invest in one after you’ve decided that the electric guitar is the one for you.
Here is a link to the best electric guitar capos that you can buy currently.
Top Tip Number Two: The Guitar
Picking your perfect electric guitar is an important task. You have to know what you want. But how do you know what you want?
Well, only you can answer that. Do you want a guitar that looks good? Do you want something that has the best sound?
Do you want a lightweight instrument that isn’t going to hold you back? There are so many questions that you might not even know the answer to yet.
The truth is, until you have tried some, you won’t know what you want. When you find it, you’ll know.
The first consideration is your budget. How much money do you have to spend on this electric guitar? As a beginner, it could be wise to not invest too much of your hard-earned cash on something that you might not commit your life to.
The top range electric guitars can cost millions of dollars. Don’t panic, you won’t have to spend anywhere near this much to get a decent instrument that can hold its own.
So, what do you have to spend? Well, if we’re being completely honest, it probably will be in the hundreds of dollars remit.
Over time, after you have honed your skills, you may want to invest more money into a more decent instrument. However, for a beginner, a cheaper range electric guitar will do the job just fine.
The main thing is to bond with your instrument. If you don’t feel comfortable with the electric guitar that you have chosen, you aren’t going to want to play it.
There’s no arguing the fact. You need to feel happy and at ease with the electric guitar. It needs to fit with your hand and your body and your mind. This might sound corny, but it’s true.
Now, you can’t bond with an instrument if you haven’t touched it. So, it’s time to shop around. You can look online, and you can read reviews, and you can listen to what other people to say. All of these things, you can do.
However, the only way that you’re going to know if you want the instrument or not is if you actually hold it in your hands.
So get yourself down to some music shops and pick up some of those electric guitars. Strum away and see how you feel, trust us the shop owner will be used to it.
This is a small point, but a valid one.
When you buy any instrument, it has to suit your personality. The color, the shape, the sound. It’s all important.
It’s a fact that you are going to feel more motivated by an instrument that is aesthetically pleasing to you. If you feel happy when you look at it, if it looks nice and is in your favorite color, you are going to be more motivated to play the instrument too.
Every bit of research that you do towards your electric guitar purchase counts. There are a couple of things that you need to think about.
There are different types of electric guitar body.
The solid body of the electric guitar is in the shape of a V.
- Single Cutaway
The single cutaway solid body guitar has the traditional electric guitar curve in the body.
- Double Cutaway
The double cutaway solid body guitar has two curves in the body.
The explorer shape is a lesser known guitar body. It is only used on a handful of specific guitars.
Hollow Body and Semi-Hollow Bodies
This type of bodied guitar is more suited to jazz music. Their bodies are more like acoustic guitars, in that they are hollow.
Most beginners tend to stay away from hollow bodies or semi hollow bodied guitars. But, that isn’t to say that they don’t have their place for beginner electric guitarists.
The most popular type of body for beginners in the electric guitar field is probably the solid body with a double cutaway.
Top Tip Number Three: Master The Basics
When we say basics, we are talking about a scope of things.
First up: The Notes
The notes of the electric guitar are the first things you’re going to want to learn. It’s a small group of people who can pick up an instrument and just naturally play it. The majority are going to need to learn, at least, what the notes are.
The notes of the guitar are: E A D G B E.
You can remember these by simply memorizing them. You can also implement a method known as a mnemonic device. This is a memory trick that you can use to help you store things in your brain.
You can make your own up, or you can use some popular ones already kicking around.
It’s up to you. But, the point that sticks is you have to learn the notes. These are going to be your sounding board for jumping into the world of electric guitar playing.
Second up: Basic Chords
Chords are the be all and end all the electric guitar players. At some point in your learning journey, you are going to be playing chords.
Chords are at least three notes that are played together to make a sequence of sound.
They are the things that make up the song. You can play singular notes and play a nice melody. But, the meatier, more interesting stuff is in the chords.
You can learn a number of basic chords pretty easily. You can teach yourself, you can use online lessons, you can even find a professional guitar tutor to help you along your way.
However you chose to do it, chords are a good thing to know. But you also need to know that you have to build your strength as a player as well.
And when we say strength, we mean literal strength. Playing the guitar and navigating chords can take its toll on your fingers. In order to get past this, you have to build on your core strength and your muscle memory.
If you don’t do this, you won’t be strong enough to push through the basics and build your skill set as an electric guitar player.
Third up: Your Amp
You know that your amp is important.
What you might not know is that they are complex things. The amp is something to get your head around.
There are different buttons and dials that you should familiarize yourself with. But, that all depends on what amp you actually go for.
The basic thing that you need to know about amps is that they work on channels.
There are different channels that create different types of sound.
Most amps, even the most basic that you might be accessing, will have a clean sound channel. This channel literally creates a clear sound.
It is the channel that takes your guitar sound and amplifies to a louder level in a non tampered way. That’s all you need to know.
In order to get to know your sound, and before you start playing around with it when you reach a more advanced level, you need to fine tune your amp to configure with your beginner level electric guitar.
This means that you need to know how to configure the EQ settings. EQ settings include the bass level, mid-level and treble levels of your electric guitar.
When you are first finding your sound, you want to make sure that it is your sound being amplified through your amp speaker. So, adjust your EQ settings accordingly. This means, so that there is as little as possible interference to what you are putting out there.
The better you get, i.e., the more you build your skill set, the more you can play around and experiment with your amp settings and therefore, your sound. You will find the perfect settings, it will just take time and practice.
Fourth up: Know Your Guitar
This might seem like a really simple thing to say, but it is the most important tip that we are able to give you.
If you don’t know your guitar, you won’t be able to play it. The end.
Play around with the strings, find where your fingers fit on the fretboard, really take the electric guitar for a spin.
Top Tip Number Four: Consider Lessons
Onto top tip number four. Lessons. We have touched on this a bit, but lessons are an unavoidable part of learning the guitar. There is a lot that you can teach yourself.
But, there may be junctions that you’re not sure how to figure out. This is where the help of a professional can really come in handy.
You could go with a professional tutor. There are hundreds of professional electric guitar teachers available and waiting for your beginner brain.
There is a lot of benefit in professional guidance. You might not even know that you’re doing things wrong. Their guidance can help you with even the most basic of skills, such as, how to hold your guitar.
It might also be useful to get professional guidance on how to set up your amp and how to set up your guitar correctly with your amp.
Alongside this, a proper teacher can be an electric guitar companion. They are a ready-made bandmate, if you will. Your lessons can be a talent boosting exercise. There’s something special about playing with someone. It can boost your skills in a way that you can’t reach when you play by yourself.
These will cost money, it’s true. If you don’t have it to spend, you can look at alternative options.
Thanks to the modern world and the internet, there are thousands and thousands of online tutorials that you can access for no money at all.
There are lots of resources available after a quick search. There are video tutorials, and step-by-step video guides that you can watch to hone your skills.
Here is a link to some of the best electric guitar lessons for beginners that we can find.
Top Tip Number Five: Listen to Music
Top tip number five is that you listen to music. Not just any music, of course. The music has to feature at least one electric guitar.
Through listening to electric guitar music, you can hear riffs chords and melodies to inspire your mind and your playing.
It’s not a big leap to assume that you are picking up an electric guitar because you feel inspired by your favorite music. Music connects with us on many levels.
There are lots of benefits to listening to your top electric guitar influencers. If you are feeling demotivated by your lack of progress, your favorite musician can inspire you to keep trying.
You can also come to terms with the various techniques that different amazing guitarists use to get where they have arrived with their instrument.
You can hear all the different ways that people play their electric guitars, and that may spark something in your mind that you have not thought of before.
Top Tip Number Six: Make Practice Time
This top tip is about practice making perfect.
It might seem like a really basic instruction, but without practicing you can’t move forward.
So, even if it just for five minutes a day. Even if you only pick up your electric guitar to strum a chord that’s been floating around your head.
Every single time that you pick up that instrument and play something, anything, you are practicing. And, that counts. Even if you don’t feel like it does, it counts.
Make the time to practice for longer sessions when you can. There’s not always time in the day, and we appreciate that. But, there is always time for the things that you love if you want to make it.
And, you don’t get anywhere with an instrument without making the time for it.
Practice with your fingers and your frets. Practice with your amp. Practice with your strap. Practice with your technique. Practice with your ears by listening to music.
Any step that you take that relates to your electric guitar counts as practice, and everything you do in that active choice remit will make you a better player overall.
The best piece of practice equipment that you may ever buy is something called a metronome.
A metronome is a simple music device that is used to help you keep time. It can teach you discipline and control. It can teach you how to keep to a beat and how to navigate different time signatures and therefore different rhythms.
Metronomes are easy enough to come by. You can even download various apps that are perfect stand-ins for a physical device.
A metronome will help you perfect your electric guitar timing. This is a vital skill for playing in an ensemble and for solo playing pieces of complicated music.
Here is a link to the top metronomes you can buy currently.
Here is a link to the top metronome apps you can download currently.
Top Tip Number Seven: Find Fellow Musicians
We touched on this briefly with the point about find a professional teacher.
If you chose not to go down that road, there are still other ways that you can find to play with other people.
Playing in sync with people, whether that is in a band setting or otherwise, can really help you fine tune and learn things that you didn’t know you needed to learn.
It doesn’t even have to be fellow guitarists.
You can play with pianists, drummers, acoustic guitarists, saxophone players. It doesn’t matter. The key point is playing with other musicians.
Music comes together whether you like it or not. When you play in a group, you will pick up things that you just can’t pick up when you play by yourself.
Top Tip Number Eight: Master the Theory
Last but not least, we are going to talk about the theory.
There is a wide world to dive into with regard to music theory. There are certain basics that you need to know for the electric guitar, such as music notes and eventually time signatures.
If you want to succeed and become an expert in the field of electric guitar playing, then learning the theory is unavoidable.
You have to know the basic language of music in order to truly connect with a piece.
Lots of people have natural abilities with regard to rhythm and pitch, but how are you going to harness those skills and apply them further without knowing the intricate details? The answer is, you’re not.
There are lots of different way that you can learn music theory. Some of it you will pick up naturally as you move along your journey.
Other things you can teach yourself through books, and online lessons. If you want, you can even reach out to those professional tutors we mentioned earlier in the article, and they can help you too.
Whichever way that you decide, it’s definitely worth doing at the end of the day. Your identity as a musician is multifaceted. Theory is just one side to it, and it complements all of your practical abilities.
Teaching Yourself The Electric Guitar
We might have pushed the point about branching out and finding a tutor to help you learn the electric guitar.
However, with that point still standing, it is possible to learn the skills for yourself. With the right motivation and the right mindset, there are no reasons why you can’t do it.
You will need to make sure that you have the following, basic things at your disposal in order to succeed.
1. The Correct Electric Guitar
What is right for one person in terms of a physical instrument, is completely wrong for another. So, do your research. Take your time in your decision before jumping in and making a purchase.
Try out different models and makes and find the one that zings with your musical soul. Trust us, we know it sounds cheesy, but it’s a point that needs making.
With the wrong instrument, you will fall before you’ve even tried to stand.
2. Learn How You Learn
Okay, again. This may sound somewhat cliché. But, stick with us.
Learning how you learn is a fundamental skill that you can give yourself.
You will have sat an exam at this point in your life. How did you study for that test? Everyone learns differently. And, musicians are no exception to that. Some people learn perfectly fine off their own backs, while others need external input. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know how you need to proceed.
If you know how you learn best, then you can use that to your advantage. There’s nothing stopping you but yourself. Find what works for you and lean into it.
If you crack these two points, then you are well on your way to becoming the best damn electric guitar player that you are able to be.
Electric Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar : Which is Best for a Beginner?
There is an age-old question here.
Can you learn the electric guitar, or should you choose the acoustic as a beginner?
There is no reason at all why you cannot pick up the electric guitar as a novice.
Of course, acoustic guitars are renowned for being easier to learn and to master. However, the electric doesn’t need to be an insurmountable object.
They are trickier because they are more sophisticated. Once you get your head around all the extra features and the way the electric guitar works, there’s no stopping you.
The basic principles between the two types, electric and acoustic, are consistent. So if you find yourself coming to the electric guitar after having tried the acoustic, then you already have a knowledge base that is easily transferable.
The notes are the same, the strings are the same (different materials), the music is the same to read. It’s all consistent across the board.
The main benefit that an electric guitar has over an acoustic guitar is the size of its strings. An acoustic guitar is more demanding at first on your fingers. When we say demanding, we are talking about the physical toll that learning the guitar can take on your hands and your arms.
Guitars are heavy when held over a prolonged period. The strings are tough, and they can even cause blisters and painful sores that can be hard to rally from. You can find yourself demotivated pretty easily.
This is where the electric holds the advantage. The strings of the electric guitar are pretty thing. The strings of the acoustic guitar are pretty thick.
Therefore, the electric guitar is significantly easier on your fingers than the acoustic guitar.
The Difficulty Level of Electric Guitar for Beginners
We won’t beat around the bush here.
Learning the electric guitar as a complete beginner is hard. There’s no point saying otherwise. It is hard and it takes a certain determination.
That being said, there is no reason at all why a beginner can’t learn the electric guitar and learn it well. Our best advice is as follows.
Learn at Your Own Pace
Don’t feel pressured to succeed immediately. This is completely unrealistic. You may have a natural ability, and that is all well and good.
But, everyone learns at their own pace. What works for you is what you need to do. So, hold yourself up to your own standards and not other peoples.
Mix Up Your Practice Sessions
That’s right, mix it up. Don’t do the same thing over and over. This method has a big potential to create misery and resentment and a lack of progress.
Further down the line, when you are an electric guitar goddess or god, you will be playing your instrument in a variety of scenarios.
These include standing on stage, sitting on stage, moving around, jamming in a group. Whatever the picture, you need to prepare for it.
Mix up your practice methods, i.e., sometimes you could sit on a stool, sometimes you could lean up against a wall, sometimes you could stand in the middle of the room and see how long your arms will last.
By doing this, you are teaching yourself to be versatile in your learning. You are also showing yourself that the core skills that you’re learning can be transferred regardless of where you are or how you’re positioning yourself with your instrument.
The thing that we will really drive home from this article is that you have to practice.
Learning the electric guitar takes time, and it takes commitment. Without putting in these two things, you will come up short.
The electric guitar requires a basic skill and research into the world of the instrument you’re trying to play.
If you follow our top tips, you’ll be on your way in no time at all.
My name is Howard Matthews and I have been playing the guitar since I was knee-high. My parents like to joke that I was pulling the strings even before I was born. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my dad’s guitar, wreaking havoc on the chords.
Now, 40 years later, I can attest that I play them much better than I did back then. I have followed in the footsteps of both my parents – much to their delight – and have been the main guitarist in my band for the best part of three decades.
Music has always been my passion, and until recently my life has been so consumed with it that I haven’t had a moment to have a breath (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)!