Rotate phone horizonatally for best view
So you want to learn to play guitar but don’t know what to expect or what’s expected of you?
This Beginner’s Roadmap for Guitar Players explains all you need to know and in the correct order!
1. Define Your Guitar-Playing Goals
Everybody’s goals are different and may change over time. You might be thinking, “I just want to learn the basics to play for myself and perhaps for family and friends around the campfire.” Maybe you’ll want to perform at local open mics, become a busker, start a little band, or become a rockstar! Writing and recording your own songs could be another direction.
Consider whether you want to focus on learning to play complete songs, licks & riffs, solos, scales, exercises, theory, different music genres, improvisation etc. It’s good to learn at least a little bit of all of these and then continue in whatever direction you wish. A well-rounded musician is a confident musician.
Like most beginners you may not have any serious goals or expectations and just want to give it a try and learn a few ‘campfire’ songs and then take it from there. That’s cool too! This is only a beginner’s roadmap. An overview. You can always learn scales, exercises and music theory later.
And in case you’re wondering, over 90% of guitar players do not know how to read music. It’s not necessary for playing guitar.
2. Get a Guitar
If you don’t already have one, you can always borrow from someone, rent, or buy a new or used instrument. Folks buy and sell guitars privately all the time and there are plenty out there in music stores and advertised privately online.
There are many different styles of guitars so before you rent or buy, you should decide what type of guitar is right for you. Consider, for example, the type of music you wish to play. If it’s hard rock or metal, you’re looking at an electric guitar. If it’s folk or softer rock, you might prefer an acoustic guitar. Generally speaking all guitars are played the same way. So if you start with an acoustic, transitioning to an electric guitar won’t be an issue, and vice versa.
Some acoustic guitars come equipped with electronic pickups so that you can plug your guitar directly into an amplifier designed for acoustic guitars. Also take into consideration that guitars come in all shapes and sizes.
An adequate beginner guitar (new) should cost no less than $150 and will suffice for your first year. After a year of playing you’ll be ready to step to a better quality instrument in the $300-$600 range. These guitars can serve you relatively well for many years. Professional level guitars can start at $600 and go into the thousands. Simply put: the better your instrument, the easier and more enjoyable it will be to play and progress. If things don’t work out, you can always sell it.
Beginner’s Roadmap: Electric or Acoustic Guitar?
If you’re going with an electric guitar, you’ll also need an amplifier which can cost at least an additional $100. There are good beginner packages available starting at around $250 and include an electric guitar, small amp and accessories.
Some advantages of starting with an acoustic guitar is that you can carry it around easily and all you can do is play it. An electric guitar and amplifier, on the other hand, include cables, knobs and switches, and a lot of time can be spent adjusting these features when you could otherwise be playing music. Guitar players often have more than one guitar and many love collecting them as much as playing them. You can start with an acoustic and get an electric guitar later, or vice versa.
Renting is a good option because you can probably exchange the guitar for another type if you wish, depending on the store of course.
Popular guitar brands include Taylor, Martin, Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Ibanez, Gretsch, Takamine, Guild, Epiphone, and more.
Guitars are often sold with either a soft case (gig bag) which start at around $70 or hard case starting at $100. A soft case is fine for local needs but if you’re planning on flying… a hard case is recommended.
The only other accessories you’ll really need are some guitar picks, a capo which start at around $15 and a strap if you want to play while standing.
For more info on guitars and gear click here.
Beginner’s Roadmap: One-On-One Lessons
3. Take Guitar Lessons
There are many ways to learn how to play guitar. For example:
– One-On-One In-Person Lessons with a professional teacher either in your own home or at a local music school or studio.
– Private Lessons taught by a friend or relative (with plenty of patience.)
– Group Guitar Lessons
– Online Interactive Lessons with a live teacher via Zoom or Skype etc.
– Pre-Produced Online Course Modules, Videos & Apps.
– Online Video Tutorials Teaching Specific Guitar Lessons & Songs, a la carte, if you will.
Private in-person lessons will help you progress fastest and best ensure your guitar-playing success. One great advantage of one-on-one in-person lessons is that you, the student, will receive immediate feedback on what you’re doing right or wrong. These lessons are naturally more expensive. However, depending on the music school or teacher, you may be able to arrange lessons on a weekly, biweekly or random basis. If you want to progress quickly, weekly lessons are best because:
a) A rhythm is created
b) You’ll have less time to put off practicing
c) Your instructor will have their pulse on your development and be able to plan and teach each lesson more effectively.
Lessons typically range between 30-60 minutes in length.
Some people prefer to learn on their own via the internet or books. This can certainly save you some money but may frustrate you to the point of just giving up on playing guitar entirely. Few people can actually progress well without an instructor. An estimated 90% of new guitar players give up within their first year. So your success will depend on your receiving proper instruction and plenty of motivation.
4. Your First Lesson
Whether you take lessons online or in person, most beginners start with learning the parts of the guitar and how to tune it.
How To Hold Your Guitar
You’ll also want to know how to hold your instrument properly including maintaining a healthy posture. Some guitar players like to sit, some prefer to stand, and some enjoy both.
Tuning Your Guitar
Before you can play anything on your guitar you must learn how to tune each string. To do this, you’ll need a tuner of which there are many options including purchasing an electronic tuner for around $20 which clips on to your guitar, other electronic tuners, or downloading any one of the many free guitar tuning apps available for your phone, tablet or computer. Some acoustic guitars come already equipped with built in tuners.
Once you have a tuner, you can begin to learn the names of all six strings and tune each one as required. Learning how to tune is easy and should only take about 20 minutes to learn. A good practice will be to check your tuning each time you pick up your guitar as the strings can go out of tune by accidentally knocking your instrument against furniture for example, or change in room temperature and humidity. Once tuned, your strings will maintain their tuning very well.
Rhythm vs Lead Guitar
Strumming song chords is what we call playing ‘rhythm’ guitar. Playing individual notes is generally referred to as ‘lead’ guitar. Some guitar players are more interested in just learning to play licks, riffs and solos. Exploring both rhythm guitar (chord strumming) and lead guitar (single notes) is the best approach. Fingerpicking is another technique you may wish to explore.
5. Learn Your First Song – Starting Your Beginner’s Roadmap Journey
Only after your guitar is properly tuned can you begin to play anything.
Most people want to learn to play their favorite songs and this is the best approach because you’ll have more fun and be more motivated to play, in other words: practice. And how quickly you progress all comes down to practice. So you must do everything you can to always keep your guitar-playing fun, fresh and inspiring to avoid settling into a rut.
Some guitar teachers prefer to teach the songs they know and like and not what necessarily interests you. So be sure to go with lessons geared more to your musical tastes and interests.
Most guitar players first learn the 4 chords G D C and Em minor. Also known as “cowboy chords,” with these chords you can play literally hundreds of songs including many of those you know and love. So start with one of those. An online search for “4 chord songs” will provide you with lots to choose from.
Once you’ve decided on a song, you’ll need to learn how to play all the chords required for that song. At first, playing chords will feel foreign to you, but will get easier and easier everytime you play that chord again. It’s all about repetition. I repeat, repetition. And with repetition comes better muscle memory, to the point where your fingers learn where to go almost automatically. In fact, you’ll be able to change chords without even looking in no time! Did I mention repetition?
At first you’ll probably be wondering to yourself whether or not you can do this? You can. Anybody can.
Depending on which songs you choose to learn going forward, you will need to learn some new chords. Most songs require between 3-8 different chords. When you can play the most common 20 chords, you’ll be able to play almost any song, at least in a basic way. Music is a language and chords are your vocabulary. So the more chords you learn, the more songs you can play, and at a higher level. There are many chords and many ways to play them, but you only need to learn the basic 20 to get started, and that should take you about 3-6 months.
6. Change Chords Quickly
After you’ve learned how to form the chords required for the song you chose, you’ll want to memorize and be able to change from one chord to the next as quickly as necessary. The importance of this cannot be understated in the beginner’s roadmap. So yeah, you may want to start with a slow song. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your own muscle memory in your fingers will develop so that you can change chords fast enough.
And only when you can change chords quickly for any particular song can you learn to strum beyond a basic downward stroke. So again, the name of the game for beginners is: Being able to change from one chord to the next quickly.
Although there are many different ways to strum a guitar, most songs require one of the 10 common strumming patterns. In this example, for each chord a down-up-down-up strumming pattern is played.
The more you play guitar the better you get. It’s that simple. How much you should practice is, of course, entirely up to you. Don’t even think of it as “practice.” Just play the songs you love and keep it fun. Afterall, we don’t work music, we play music. What’s important is that you always progress, even a little bit at a time. Playing guitar for as little as 15-20 minutes a day, 5 days a week will certainly help you progess along your beginner’s roadmap.
8. How Long It Takes To Play Some Songs
How long it will take you to play some songs of course depends on how much you play.
During their first one-hour lesson an average beginner should be able to tune their guitar and learn the 2, 3 or 4 chords required to play their first song with a simple strum. After practicing that song for 15-20 minutes each day for 5 days, within a week you should be ready to learn a second song, learn perhaps 2, 3 or 4 new chords and a more advanced strumming pattern.
With one-hour in-person lessons each week, within 3 to 6 months you should be able to play the 20 basic chords, started learning the more advanced ‘bar’ chords and know about 10 basic strumming patterns.
Within 6-12 months you should be able to advance from Beginner to Intermediate, and possibly begin performing for others. [busking photos]
If you’re still playing your guitar after the first year, you can be playing forever.
9. Pain & Gain
Your fingertips will feel sore at first, which is normal. But the skin on your fingertips will harden into calluses within a week or two and you’ll be able to play for longer periods.
With this Beginner’s Roadmap you now have a good overview of what you can expect when it comes to learning how to play guitar. You’re never too old to learn and do not have to become an expert to enjoy the lifelong pleasures of playing guitar and feeling like a rockstar, even at the beginner level.
If you decide not to have in-person lessons and want to try to teach yourself, click here for the best free guitar lessons for beginners.