Assuming you’re brand new to guitar, this article covers the absolute basics. We’re talking things like holding the guitar, the pick, and basic strumming. Some of this stuff may seem obvious or rudimentary, and that’s fine. If you don’t need this advice, don’t take. For others, they may find this advice useful.

This article doesn’t cover tuning the guitar or beginner guitar chords, those are different articles. I’m really only covering picking up the guitar for the very first time.

How To Hold And Play A Guitar When Sitting

While there are preferred/suggested ways to hold and play a guitar while sitting, ultimately you should do what’s comfortable. That being said, the “proper” way of sitting with a guitar makes it easier to play the guitar and keep you comfortable for longer. My general suggestions for sitting and playing are as follows.

Sitting cross legged:

  • Assuming you’re using your right hand to strum and your left hand is on the fret board, cross your right leg over your left leg.
  • Rest the curve of the guitar’s body on your right leg.
  • Sit up straight.

 

Sitting with your legs apart:

  • Have your legs a comfortable width apart.
  • Resting the curve of the guitar on either your left of right leg is fine. Do what’s comfortable.
  • If you’re resting the guitar on your left leg (assuming you’re playing right handed), rest the butt of the guitar on your right leg to keep everything steady.

 

Regardless of how you prefer to sit, have the guitar at a slight angle upwards. You may see some classical guitarists angle their guitar about 45 degrees; if you’re comfortable like that, do it, otherwise with an electric or steel string acoustic, a much lower angle (10-15 degrees) is fine.

The guitar should balance relatively naturally like this. The neck may want to drift downwards, but should be easily steadied with your fretting hand.

How To Hold And Play A Guitar While Standing

If you prefer to play standing up, that’s fine as well. Getting comfortable playing standing up is a good skill to have. There’s not much to say other than the strap should be adjusted so that the middle of the guitar should be approximately at your belly button. This may look and feel a little high, especially for electric, but it’s a good starting point. It’s a cooler look to have your guitar hanging really low, yeah, but you’ll find it easier to play when it’s higher. Get good at guitar first, then get some style.

How TO Hold A Guitar Pick

Holding a guitar pick correctly is actually pretty important. After seeing how to hold a guitar pick the right way, you’ll probably note that a lot of your favourite guitarist hold their pick the “wrong way” and assume it’s OK to hold it any way you want. Two points on this… firstly, many of these guitarists are self taught and now it’s just an ingrained habit. Secondly, and more importantly, they probably would have learned the fundamentals a lot faster if they just started holding the pick correctly to begin with. Seriously, they’ve learned the way they’ve learned, yeah, but probably would have learned faster if they did it the right way.

So, to hold a guitar pick the right way, hold it on the last knuckle of your index finger, securing it with your thumb. You should make a D-like shape with your thumb and index finger. Keep your other fingers away from it, keep them loose.

Your grip shouldn’t be extremally tight. Just tight enough to not drop the pick while strumming.

I like to rest my pinky finger below the strings to act as a bit of a guide. Some players will curl their fingers in slightly, but I think it’s a good idea to get used to having them out and available because, as you get better, those fingers will come in handy for plucking strings.

How To Strum A Guitar

Now that you’re holding your guitar pick, it’s time to start strumming. Don’t worry about chords just yet, just get used to strumming the guitar.

The key here is to continue to support the body of the guitar with the crook of your elbow on your strumming hand. There will be a little bit of elbow movement but it’s more in your wrist.

Stay relaxed and slowly strum from the thickest string to the thinnest string, then let your hand stop naturally after you finish the strum. Repeat this going up. Keep going with up and down strokes until you can do this at speed.

And That’s About It…

You’re now finished with the first step of your guitar journey. This article is part of my introductory getting started with guitar series. There are a lot of guitar resources on this site and it can be hard to know which lesson or resource to tackles next. That’s why I made the getting started series. It’s only eight lessons, but it should give you the foundation to start learning guitar and figure out which direction to go from there.

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