Playing acoustic guitar is quite a lot of fun, especially if you play alone or consider yourself a singer-songwriter type. Acoustic guitar is an excellent choice for accompanying a singer, whether it’s you or someone else.
Most of the time, when you’re playing acoustic guitar, you’ll be strumming chords. This means you’ll need a solid knowledge of the various types of chords, their shapes and where you can play them on the neck.
Know your Chords
Some guitarists stick with the basic open guitar chords (“cowboy chords” as some call them). It’s easier that way, but it takes away a lot of options. Playing chords in different places up and down the neck add some variety in terms of sound as well as making it easier to play certain progressions.
This is where it really helps to know barre chords, which allow you move different open chord shapes to different places on the neck. Transitioning from an F major chord to a G major chord is much easier if you play them both as “E” shaped barre chords and simply move the chord shape from the first to the third frets.
The other thing that’s important when playing acoustic guitar is having rock solid strumming patterns. Most often, you’ll be playing downstrokes during the on beats and up strokes on the off beats. This is the most common way of playing but there are times when you’ll break this rule.
You’ll need to have a good sense of timing as well. The best way to learn this is to practice with a metronome, or as I prefer, a drum machine. I have a really basic drum machine that’s not good for much other than laying down a steady beat. By playing all of my songs and exercises with the drum machine, I’ve developed a good sense of timing and this carries over to times when it’s just me and the guitar.
Another consideration is choosing your strings. Acoustic guitar strings are labelled according to the gauge of the lightest string, such as 9s, 10s or 11s. This refers to the thickness of the string in 1,000ths of an inch. You might also see them marked as lights, ultra lights, medium etc. Lighter strings are easier to play and I recommend getting the lightest strings possible when you’re a beginner. Heavier strings have a slightly different tone and are less likely to break, but it’s usually more advantageous to go with lighter strings.
Finally, it’s important to choose the right pick for the way you play. In most cases, acoustic players will be strumming chords and accompanying a singer, rather than playing solos. You’ll probably want a relatively light, flexible pick that gives you a softer tone and blends the notes together well. Heavier picks are fine for playing loudly and allowing individual notes to stand out, but this is not what you’re looking for on acoustic guitar most of the time.