Last Updated on May 15, 2019 by Klaus Crow
Photo by Bigstock photo
So you want to learn to play guitar huh? Or maybe you’re having trouble finding which way to go next.
Well, this beginners path to learning guitar shows you where to start and how to continue on your journey.
The learning path to guitar playing will not be the same for everyone. It depends on what style or genre you want to learn and your ultimate goal.
Do you want to become a shredding guitar virtuoso or are you more a singer songwriter type? Do you want to become a solid blues guitar lead player or work your way to an acoustic fingerstyle wizz or a hybrid picking country cowboy?
Whatever your choice is, if you want to start learning popular music, folk music and work your way towards blues, rock, alternative, metal, country or jazz this beginners path is a good starting point.
You don’t necessarily have to stick to the order of this list, there is more than one way to skin a cat. There are always side roads and other things you can learn besides this list. But this beginners path is a good indication to create the solid building blocks you need to becoming a pretty decent guitar player.
Somewhere down to road you got to choose which way to go next, but you’ll figure out when the time is right.
– If you want to learn to play classical guitar this is probably not the beginners path you want to follow.
– Take your time. Learn each aspect thoroughly. Even though learning basic chords and an easy song can be mastered in days, this path is not a plan for days or weeks but more for months, years and even a lifetime.
Don’t forget: “It’s about the journey, not about the destination.”
To be able to play songs you need to learn to play chords and read chord diagrams. These are the most important basic open chords: C, A, G, E, D, Dm, Am, Em. You’ll use them for the rest of your guitar playing life. It takes time, effort and patience to play these chords clear and clean, but don’t worry you’ll get there. With just these few chords you can already play many songs even with three chords you can go a long way, so it’s a good place to start with. If you got these down, then here are the next 8 most important chords you want to learn.
If you’re eager for more then check out the free “150 Essential Chord Ebook”.
– Strumming Patterns
The next thing you want to do is add some rhythm guitar playing to your chords. There are many different strumming patterns from really basic to advanced, so start practicing a couple of easy strumming patterns in 4/4 time (this is most common time signature in music) and work your way towards playing songs. Later you can try common time signatures like 2/4 and 6/8 time.
Playing rhythm is an essential part of becoming a good guitar player. Because of the internet a lot of aspiring guitar players tend to skip this part and head their way straight towards “Tablature”. No problem having fun learning your favorites songs with Tabs, but at the same time learn to play solid rhythm guitar or you’re going to miss the boat.
– Playing Songs
Once you got three or four chords down and one or two strumming patterns you can learn how to play some songs. The challenge here is playing chords and strumming simultaneously.
There are a lot of easy guitar songs to start with like “A horse with no name” – America, Knocking on heavens door – Bob Dylan and Stand by me – Ben E King.
– Expanding Your Chord Vocabulary
Now that you can play a couple of tunes, start expanding your vocabulary and learn more chords like dom7, minor7, maj7, sus2, sus4, add9 chords and barre chords.
Learn to play songs with these chords as well.
TAB or Tablature is a way to read and write music for guitar. It’s an alternative to standard notation and is easier to learn. Once you know how to read TABS you can easily find sheet music to learn some fingerstyle songs, cool riffs or easy solos.
Now you can play a couple of songs it’s also nice to add some fingerpicking tunes. Here you can learn
16 legendary fingerpicking patterns to the most common known fingerstyle tunes. Popular fingerstyle tunes are “Everybody hurts” – REM, “House of the rising sun” – The Animals, “Dust in the wind” by Kansas and Blackbird by Paul McCartney.
– Basic Riffs
A riff is a brief, recognizable musical phrase often played at the beginning of a song and often repeated throughout the song. Some nice basic riffs to learn are “Smoke on the water” by Deep Purple, “Seven nation army” by the White Stripes and “Heart of gold” by Neil Young. You can also check out the Top 25 easy guitar riffs and intros (Tabs included).
– Power Chords
If you’re into rock, metal and alternative learning power chords is a must and it’s fairly easy once you know how to play barre chords.
– 12 Bar Blues and Blues Shuffle
This is your introduction to the blues, starting with strumming a 12 bar blues chord progression and learning the famous 12 bar blues shuffle.
– Music Theory
Music theory is all about knowing what you’re doing. And once you know what you’re doing things go faster… a lot faster.
Learn music theory in small chunks. There’s a lot to learn so take it easy. Learn a couple of things at a time with each practice session. Just enjoy the music and learn the music theory as you go. A lot of musicians are ignorant to music theory, but don’t underestimate it. It will take you to the next level.
The first scale to learn would probably be the pentatonic / blues scale. This scale is the most used scale in pop, blues, rock and country music.
The second scale you want to learn is the mother of all scales: The major scale. All scales are derived from the major scale and it’s where all knowledge of music theory is based upon.
Check out The Two Most Important Scales in Western Music
– Lead Guitar
Now it’s time to learn to play solos. You might want to consider buying an electric guitar for lead playing if you haven’t already done so, because of all the finger bending, playing higher up the neck and adding distortion to your solos.
Soloing can be a bit challenging in the beginning, because of all the bending, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, etc, but be patient, soon you’ll get the hang of it. All it takes is regular practice. Easy guitar solos to begin with are “wonderful tonight” by Eric Clapton and Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Soloing is the next step to becoming a complete guitar player.
Once you’re able to play a couple of basic solos and you want to move on to more advanced solos it’s a good idea to improve your technique and dexterity. With each practice session start with warm up exercises to develop dexterity, build speed, accuracy and improve your left and right hand technique.
Learn to transcribe easy guitar songs. Train your ears and try to figure out the chords or solo to a song. It takes time to learn this skill properly, but it’s one of the most valuable tools you can acquire as a guitar player.
If you got some guitar solos under your belt and you know how to play your scales decently you can start learning how to improvise using the pentatonic/blues scale. Improvisation is creating melody on the spot using notes from a particular scale or scales. You can improvise your melody over a song or chord progression.
To improve your improvisation skills expand your vocabulary by learning licks, sequences, intervals, etc.
The next step to pentatonic / blues scale improvising is learning how to improvise using the major scale and it’s modes. By then you’ll be heading toward intermediate and advanced.
– Sight reading
If your goal is to become a serious jazz player, a session player or you just want to learn as much as you can then sight reading is the next step. If you’re goal is becoming a blues, rock, metal, country, folk player sight reading is not necessarily a requirement. But everything you learn will add value to your musicianship.
Once you’re a this stage the possibilities are infinite. It’s time to explore what is out there. There are so many styles you can learn like jazz, country, flamenco, different blues styles, slide guitar, rockabilly, advanced fingerstyle, neo-classical, etc. and so many techniques to master like alternate picking, sweep picking, tapping, advanced rhythm and so on.
You might want to attain some songwriting skills. Start a band and learn to play with other musicians. Build a repertoire and perform at your local coffee house, organize your own gigs and seek for band opportunities.
The sky is the limit and guitar playing is a never ending process that you will love more and more.
Practice regularly and reap the rewards!
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