So, you wanna play guitar? Okay, then. Go take lessons, already, and stop spending so much practice time loafing around on MLP. If lessons aren't an option, and they aren't for some folks, then you're in for a very rough, but very rewarding challenge. When I took up the guitar, the prevailing wisdom amongst the professional rock, blues, and jazz guitarists that I knew was: You have to teach yourself if you want to be any good. As much as I'd like to defer (and did, see above) to the professionals and experts who make their living teaching folks how to play and how to play better, I'm a DIY kinda guy by nature, and I DO see merit in teaching one's own self to play; guitar, especially rock and blues guitar, comes with a very small set of rules that everyone follows, and the rest is wide open, waiting for someone without any preconceptions of what should be done, to find his or her own way through the wilderness. You must get lost to truly find yourself. The history of rock, jazz, and blues shows us that the greatest innovators were all self-taught. That's not a coincidence, in my view. But even the most die-hard autodidactic players didn't learn in a complete vacuum; there's always an uncle, or a friend, or a patient pro, willing to offer insights, sometimes even explanations, and in that sense, all of us were and are, students of the instrument. So, where do ya start? I was told to start on acoustic, so I did. Great move; the added resistance of the heavier strings, and the responsiveness of the instrument were both factors in my later fun with electrics. I don't think it's any kind of incredible advantage, but it certainly worked for me, and for my son. What to do first? Learn to tune it, of course. Use a tuning fork, a pitch pipe, a piano key, an electronic tuner, whatever you like, but first thing you should be doing at the top of every practice "session", is tuning. Not only will you sound better when tuned, but it's a ritual that you'll be living with for the rest of your guitar playing days, and it's the most important habit you'll ever develop. Everything you need to know about tuning a guitar can be found right here on the MLP, and all over the internet, in books, what have you. Okay, you've tuned the guitar, now what? Time to play some music. My first day on the guitar was spent trying to learn Eagles songs from a book that had little pictures of the chords above the music staves, kinda like this: This is the first challenge, learning to play these chords. Here's how you do; pick up a songbook (one that includes chord charts) by your favorite oldschool rock or blues artist. CCR, Beatles, Eagles, Stones, what have you. You want the simple stuff. Pick a song you know, and look at the chords in it. Let's say you chose "Outlaw Man" by the Eagles; that's what I did. First chord in that song is Em; it's one of the easiest chords to play. Look at the picture of the chord on the chart, and put your fingers where it says to, and then strum the chord. You're going to hear all kinda funny noises; some of the strings will ring out loud and clear, others will be muffled, and one or two will either squeal or sound totally out of tune with the others. Keeping your fretting hand in place, pluck each string in the chord and adjust your fingering as needed until it rings true, then play the whole chord again. Repeat this process until the entire chord rings out every time. Time for the next chord. Repeat the process outlined above until you've got the 2nd chord down. Now, for the real challenge; playing one after the other. GO SLOW. Makes it easier to keep a rhythm when the time comes. Play that 1st chord for a few strums, then switch to the 2nd. You can also use the single string method to confirm that after you move your hand, you're fretting the new chord correctly. Practice that transition until you can do it smoothly. The entire trick consists of moving your fretting hand to the new chord in between the strums, so the slower you go...the easier that will be. Most songs have at least 3 chords, so on to that, just repeat the processes noted above until you can transition from one chord to the next without screwing up the chords. Again, GO SLOW. Enjoy the sound coming off of the guitar when you get the chord right. When you've learned all the chords in a given song, and you can transition cleanly between them, then, and only then, is it time to work on your speed, and rhythm. If you can play along with your chosen tune on the stereo, so much the better, but most folks will find that it's hard to keep up at first. No problem in that, turn the stereo off and just play the song by yourself as if you own it, at a speed that lets you make the changes smoothly, and within a few days, you should be up to, or nearly up to, the recorded speed. THEN you can play along with it every day if you like, and have some fun. Thought for the day: If you can sing, even poorly, by all means do so; this connection between voice and guitar can make learning much easier in the long run. It's certainly not necessary, but every lil bit helps, no? Next up: Basic picking technique, and the only 2 scales that every rock/jazz/blues guitarist MUST know. Good times, hope this helps the guys out there who can't/won't take lessons, and apologies to the professional teachers.