New to the Acoustic Guitar? Here Are a Few Basics to Know

FSD Staff

Considering how many people you probably know that play guitar, learning how may not sound like a difficult task. Pick up a few basic chords and you’re ready to play, right?

But aside from learning where to place your fingers along the fretboard, there are a few other basics you’ll have to absorb. These will include such guitar fundamentals as how to: properly strum, hold the guitar, handle a pick, and put on a guitar strap correctly.

How to Wear a Guitar Strap

A guitar strap holds the instrument close to your body while you play. It’s especially handy if you wish to play while standing.

Most guitars have two pegs that allow you to attach a guitar strap. Some guitars have only one, so you might have to install a secondary peg. Once that’s attached, place the strap over your head to rest it on your left shoulder (if you’re playing a standard right-handed guitar).

Adjust the straps to ensure you can play every note without having to overbend your wrist. You want it to be comfortable but not too low.

Some players love to have the guitar hang low. This is usually for people who are learning to play the bass rather than a regular guitar.

In the end, it comes down to your personal preference. Try different positions while you play and see what suits your body the best.

How to Hold a Guitar Pick

There are many different kinds of guitar picks. What yours is made of will largely determine its flexibility and how it feels in your hand. The size and shape will affect how it plucks the strings, and thereby influence your strumming patterns.

To grip a guitar pick properly, keep your hand loose while holding it between your thumb and index finger. Rest your thumb on the middle of your index finger.

Strumming Techniques

Strumming refers to how you brush the pick against the strings. Of course there are various ways to strum, but the most basic is down, down, up, up, down.

Starting with this basic strumming technique while keeping rhythm with a metronome or playing along with a song you know will help you learn about timing. While you’re strumming, try pressing with different levels of strength against the strings.

This will help you to “feel” the music. A hard stroke can add emphasis to a song, whereas a soft stroke will change the mood to something more mellow.

As you start to develop a knack for strumming, you’ll be able to try differing techniques, such as picking, which is when you pluck an individual string with the pick rather than a smooth down or upward motion across all or most of them.

Basic Chords

There are eight essential notes, or keys, when a person plays the guitar. Each of these eight has twelve different chords within them.

Four basic chords enable you to play many different songs. These are C, G, D, and A minor.

C major is probably the first chord you’ll learn. The C chord is rooted in the note of C, which is the key many popular songs are composed and played in.

To play the C chord, place your first finger on the second string at the first fret. Your second finger will be placed on the fourth string along the second fret. Your third finger will be on the fifth string at the third fret.

Next, try the G major chord. You’ll get this one when you place your first finger on the second fret along the fourth string, your second finger on the third fret at the fifth string, and your third finger along the third fret on the fifth string.

In truth, there are multiple variations of the G major chord, but this one by far is the easiest. Start with the C and G chords and practice transitioning your fingers from one to the other, and back to the first.

Once you’ve learned this pair of chords, add your basic strumming technique.


Learning to play the guitar is a great skill to have. It will help to improve your hand-eye coordination and your memory, and it’s a fun ability to share when you’re hanging out with friends.

Whatever your reason to learn the guitar, it will take some patience as well as repetition when you’re a beginner. You might hope to rock out to some of your favorite songs on an acoustic guitar right away, but you’ll have to practice the basics first.

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