Learn To Play Guitar While Backpacking - First Steps

When was the last time you heard someone playing guitar while you were traveling? I bet it has not been that long ago. You were probably either super annoyed by it (most likely if the person was not too talented) or maybe you were totally mesmerized and it had the potential to inspire you to pick up the good old six string yourself and get started.

Was it the second scenario? Good! Well, if that was the case then this article will give you some tips on how to learn playing guitar while you are backpacking. Or maybe you already know the basics and you want to improve your skills a bit. Well then, keep reading.

This looks like a guitar
Traveling is a great opportunity to pick up some guitar skills (source: flickr, by Johnny Lai)

Backpacking is a great opportunity to learn something new. Imagine you find yourself working on a remote farm and want to learn to play a few tunes while watching the sunset. That is totally possible, so let’s get started.

Where to start learning how to play guitar

You might wonder how to go about learning how to play guitar while you travel? Maybe ask someone who knows how to play a few tunes if they could show you how to strum some basic simple chords? Why not? However, they might not have the time (and maybe also the patience) to stick around until you are a pro. So what then?

Learn some guitar basics by watching youtube videos? Definitely possible. One of the most popular channels to learn how to play guitar is Justin Guitar. I think it is probably the best one out there. He gets recommended by lots of famous guitarists like Mark Knopfler for example. Underneath you find one of his videos for complete rookies. I recommend to watch some of his beginners videos, get some first practice and then go from there.

So, after watching this first video (and hopefully many more) to improve your guitar skills there is one more thing that I would like to mention. Of course it is great to learn how to play guitar using all the resources that the internet has to offer. After all, it is for free. But be careful!

Learning online is not enough

Whatever it is you want to learn, just type it into good old Google and you’ll find the answer and lots of useful information.

However, there is no way around getting some proper guitar lessons at some point! Or at least you should have someone experienced watching you play. Why is that? Because you need someone to provide you with feedback. No youtube video will ever be able to give you that! And for that matter a few lessons at some point are totally worth it.

One of the worst things are bad habits. And it can be quite easy to adopt some ‘wrong’ guitar playing. Things like the way you hold your hand, doing too much strumming from your wrist, etc. The list goes on and on. And if you think to learn something new can be tedious at times. Try  to unlearn something you have been doing wrong for many years.

You see, I speak from experience. Still, I absolutely recommend to get started by watching some youtube videos. By the time you spend your first few hours, days and weeks trying to strum those chords you probably figured out if this is something you want to pursue. It is a great way to get started and practice some guitar playing while you travel.

first guitar chords
Just some basic chords and you might be able to play your favourite tunes after a month (credit: pixabay, author: StockSnap)

Your first chords

By now you should be able to play some of the most basic guitar chords. If not (and you haven’t been browsing through some of Justin’s videos) then here I will show you what to start with.

However, I strongly recommend to go through these videos to become familiar with the guitar anatomy, the names of the 6 different strings and much more.

Don’t worry! It is not too hard to play some of the most popular songs. You just need to be confident in playing the 8 most important open guitar chords and the 4 essential barre chords shapes.

Open chords and barre chords? What? If you don’t know what all that is, we’ll get there in a bit. So how long will it take then until you’ll be able to play your first songs?

Knowing how to play them can go a long way. I have seen people strumming some decent tunes a la camp fire vibe just about after a month of picking up a guitar for the first time. Of course, they were dedicated, but it is possible.

So then, no beating around the bush, let’s get started with your first chords.

The most important open chords

These very important chords are the backbone of your guitar playing at the beginning and they are C, A, G, E, D and Am, Dm, Em as well as F. In case you are not familiar with the chord names C, A stand for C major, A major and so on. And Am, Dm, means A minor and D minor and so on. What this means should not be too important for the moment. You can learn more about it when you get into some theory.

Underneath you will find the above mentioned chords. Getting used to them and changing from one chord to another will be the first thing you need to master to learn how to play guitar while you travel.

Important: If you are not familiar with chord diagrams, etc. I advise you to have a look at Justin’s guitar course.

I am going to present you the chords in the order Justin is teaching them in his course.

First we start off with D, A and E.

D Major chord

This is a A minor chord
This is a D Major chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

A Major chord

This is an A Major chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

E Major chord

This is a E Major chord
This is an E Major chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

Lessons on how to play these three chords and more can be found in

Moreover, he has a bit of a different approach on how to play the A Major chord which makes it easier to switch between them. I guess many people did not learn it this way, but it makes a lot of sense. You can still play an A the classic way when your fingers get used to switching between the chords.

Ok, so let’s keep going!

If you can play an E Major chord, you can also play Am. And also E Minor. So the next three chords should be fairly easy if you did your homework until this point.

A Minor chord

This is a A minor chord
This is an A Minor chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

E Minor chord

This is an E Minor chord
This is an E Minor chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

D Minor chord

This is a D minor chord
This is a D Minor chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

Lessons on those three chords can be found in

Take your time to practice the 6 chords you have so far! The next two chords are going to be a bit trickier again.

G Major chord

This is a G Major chord
This is a G Major chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

C Major chord

This is a C Major chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

Lessons on these two chords can be found in

So now there is one more chord missing, the F chord. This might be the hardest for you to learn and Justin introduces this chord in two steps.

F Major chord

This is a F Major chord (credit: wikimedia commons, author: Ashaio)

The bow across the chord diagram means you hold all these strings down with your index finger.

As I said before this is probably the trickiest of these 9 chords and Justin shows you an easier version of it (actually a different chord) on

Finally he teaches you how to play the F chord (as above) on

So, there you go, these are the 9 most important open chords you should know how to play. Take your time and practice them a lot and especially changing from one chord to another.

Yet knowing how to play these chords is not enough. Again I highly recommend to slowly go through Justin’s Beginner Guitar Course from Stage 1 to Stage 6. In my opinion Justin Guitar is probably the best tool if you want to learn how to play guitar while you travel. In fact, even though I am a mediocre guitarist I went through his whole Beginners Course and learned several new things and it was very helpful and entertaining at the same time. Great job Justin!

Ok, so now we come to your ultimate goal, playing all your favourite tunes.

How to play songs on a guitar

Of course, you don’t want to randomly strum chords and change from one chord to another, but you want to play songs. So there is one more thing that is missing. Rhythm! You need to practice your strumming patterns. Justin goes through this very important aspect of playing guitar in his Beginners Course. Check out his very first video on it.

Get some rhythm:

Of course this video is only an introduction to strumming patterns and rhythm. To get ready to play all your favourite tunes again you should slowly go through Justin’s Beginner Guitar Course from Stage 1 to Stage 6! I cannot stress this enough. Here you find the link to his Beginners Course.

Where to find songs:

You can check out Justin’s song page and look at the songs that are between Stage 1 and Stage 6 and of course you can browse the internet, there are countless options. Among the most popular guitar websites is Ultimate Guitar with a plethora of songs to choose from. Of course you should stick to songs that you can play without any fancy chords in there.

This is all you need to get started! These basics will help you and give you some direction if you want to learn how to play guitar while you travel. From here on you can advance. Next thing might be to learn how to play power chords and barre chords. So keep practicing and don’t forget to check out the rest of Justin’s Beginners Course.

Ah, and, yeah, please don’t play Wonderwall!

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