how to play the Electric Guitar

So you want to find out about the electric guitar for beginners?

Hopefully, by this stage, you’ve purchased an electric guitar. The next step will be to actually work out how to play the electric guitar! And luckily for you, this particular part of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The Electric Guitar’ will assist you to get going.

How To Play The Electric Guitar

Using A Guitar Strap

First of all, You’ll need a guitar strap attached to your instrument. Try and have it set so that the guitar is at the same height whether you’re standing with your instrument or sitting down.

Put your right arm and head through the strap and put the instrument on your right leg, and tuck the guitar in close to your body. Try and point the strings straight out at the wall of the room you’re in rather than at the ceiling. It might be easier to see where your fretting hand is on the fingerboard with the strings pointing up, but you’ll have to bend your wrist too much to hold the notes down comfortably.

How to play the electric guitar

Techniques For Playing Electric Guitar

When playing electric guitar, you can either use a pick or your fingers. Most people choose to play with a pick (plectrum) but some professional and famous players only use their fingers. 

Ideally, you should aim to be completely comfortable with both, as you never know when you won’t be able to find your pick of choice!

This is where a good teacher will be worth their weight in gold!

Playing Guitar With A Pick

How to play the electric guitar

Hold the pick between your index finger and thumb, making a circle between your index and thumb. Try not to use the tip of the finger to hold the pick, instead, use the tip of the thumb to hold the pick against the side of the index finger’s entire tip joint.

The pick is V-shaped at the end so that it can cut through the strings at an angle. Place the pointed tip of the pick flat against the string, but then angle it so that one side travels through the strings before the other – releasing the string at the tip.

Once you’ve done that, try strumming through all of the strings at once. You can either strum down through the strings (downstroke) or upwards (upstroke). Both are used by guitarists who play all styles of music. This technique of strumming all the strings will come in handy when you learn to play chords.

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Fingerstyle

To play with fingerstyle technique put your plucking hand index finger on the first string – the one closest to the floor and pluck it with an upwards motion.

As you release the string, the finger should come underneath the rest of the hand, try this again with your middle finger, then your ring finger. Put them on the 3 top strings – the 3 strings closest to the floor and then try them in different patterns. Spend a long time doing this and it will really pay off.

Keep your fingers resting on those 3 strings. Now it’s time to try using your thumb. The thumb should come off the string, straight out from the body and slightly downwards towards the floor.

With the thumb and fingers, try not to hook underneath the string and pull the strings, unless you really mean and want that sound!

Fretting Hand

Now we can incorporate the fretting hand. 

Using the tip of your finger and keeping it arched, press the string down on the fret but don’t let your finger collapse. Then pluck the string with your plucking hand. 

If you’re using enough pressure and close enough to the fret, a note should sound cleanly. If it’s buzzing, you may be too far away from the fret, not applying quite enough pressure, or you’re not using your fingertip.

Remaining on the first string, repeat this process with the 2nd finger on the 2nd fret, 3rd finger on the 3rd fret and 4th finger on the 4th fret. Following that. Try it on all of the different strings – they all feel slightly different to one another. Then try and reverse the order, go backwards – 4321, change the order of the notes – e.g. 1324, 4123, 3124 etc.

This is a great exercise to build up finger strength which will help you play with more confidence and control.

How To Play the Electric Guitar - Summary

By now, you should be able to:

  • Use a guitar strap 
  • Know different techniques for playing the electric guitar 
  • Play guitar with a pick 
  • Know the correct fingerstyle 
  • Know the right positioning of the fretting hand. 

Now it’s time to improve your technique…

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