Learning How to Play the Guitar with Arpi


Jonathan Rho

Arpi Gharadaghian struggles to play the C Major Chord.

Arpi Gharadaghian, Staff Writer

The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world and is quite easy to learn through self-instruction compared to other classical instruments. I’ve always wanted to play some sort of instrument while I sing and my Grandpa’s guitar had always been lying around in my house. So, with the help of YouTube, I chronicled my guitar learning process for over one week.  

Day 1: I went over the basics: learning how to position myself properly and how to place my hand. Right off the bat, one sacrifice I realized I had to make was keeping my nails very short. The angle at which your fingers are positioned on the strings feels unnatural if you’re not familiar with the instrument. I learned one chord, the G major, which is one of the most popular chords in all of guitar. With some experimentation, I found that using a pick to strum was much harder than just using my hand. 

Day 2-3: After a failed attempt at playing “Ceilings” by Lizzy McAlpine, I learned a different song that involved a simple plucking pattern rather than strumming. This transition allowed me to focus more on my left hand playing the chords rather than coordination in my right. The one thing I never expected was for my fingers to be in as much pain as they were. I finally understood Taylor Swift’s lyric, “With every guitar string scar on my hand.” I worked on rhythm and tempo, and I got the chords down for “We’re Gonna Be Friends.” However, learning the C chord was an obstacle I couldn’t get over.

Day 3-5: Practice, practice, practice. The easiest way to get better is to practice. A large part of learning an instrument is muscle memory. I learned to remember where my fingers went for the different positions of the chords. It was a hard transition and moving between the chords was a challenge. To remedy this, I learned about different ways to move, such as anchoring. The idea is that you anchor one finger, preferably your pointer, which is the strongest, and then move the rest of your fingers. 

I’ve always admired artists who can play the guitar and sing live, however, after learning the guitar I couldn’t imagine having the ability to do both. Watching Lizzy McAlpine play “Ceilings” live at a recent concert, I felt like I knew the song better. I understood the work that goes into a seemingly easy performance but in reality, is difficult to pull off.

The best way to learn is to first find a song you want to learn so you can keep yourself motivated. Review how many chords there are and practice the placement of your fingers on each string. There are bars you will find going down the neck of the guitar, these are called frets. Depending on where your fingers are and which fret it is on, the sound will change. Most websites provide a guide to how finger placement on the chords should look like. Overall it’s a skill that is easy to learn but takes time. With commitment and developing skills, it can be accomplished and extremely gratifying.