A complete guide for beginner guitar players to learn how to play guitar while having TONS of fun.
The Ultimate Guide to Learning the Guitar will give you video lessons for beginning guitar players as well as experienced guitar players to learn how to play guitar.
Don’t get bogged down by boring “guitar learning systems” or “A to Z Beginner Guitar Courses”. Instead, have fun immediately by learning these 5 guitar skills that your friends and family will easily recognize!
Don’t wait to master the guitar until you have fun. Instead, have fun immediately and get hooked on the guitar.
But first, let me tell you a little story.
Originally published on July 3rd, 2019, this article was republished on June 24th, 2023.
It starts with a vision or a dream. Maybe even a memory.
You’re surrounded by people. It’s your high school buddies — maybe it’s your children or grandchildren.
You’re holding a guitar, and it’s the most beautiful guitar you’ve seen — because it’s yours and you know how to play it.
Every song you sing, every chord you play, brings joy to you and those around you as they join you. Some sing harmony, others have guitars, too.
Dig deeper, and soon that vision becomes a memory.
You see your parents, singing lullabies to you on a soft summer night. It reminds you of the purity of that music, that wholesome purity that comes from an acoustic guitar.
Some of us hang onto these dreams or visions. We store them safely in our subconscious.
Things come up over the years, and the dream waxes and wanes. Jobs. Marriage. Children. Your life becomes filled with other priorities.
But in the quiet moments, you wander around the memories, visions, and dreams of the music you want to play.
It’s that music that is made whole by your hands, that music that unites people in song, dance, and feeling.
It is your destiny to make those musical desires a reality.
Why Do YOU Want to Learn to Play Guitar?
Just like superheroes, everyone has their own origin story.
Some folks, like myself, had a compulsive need to play the guitar. When I wasn’t, it felt like I was missing something in my life.
There’s also a special group of guitarists who play because they want to give back to humanity.
For others, playing the guitar started with learning the guitar. It was a simple way to have some fun…and then, they fell in LOVE with it.
Everyone has their own story as to why they want to play guitar. Here’s what’s important:
Find out why you want to play the guitar.
I’ve taught thousands of students throughout my life. I’ve met some incredible guitarists and acoustic guitar icons like Tommy Emmanuel, Taylor Guitars CEO Bob Taylor, Chris Martin from Martin Guitars, and Paul Reed Smith.
What I’ve learned is that focusing on the why — rather than the how — will yield the greatest satisfaction in your acoustic guitar journey.
While I can’t help you figure out the why, I’m here to help you learn to play guitar.
I created this awesome guide to help beginning guitar players learn the guitar…but I also found that experienced players can benefit from this guide, too.
There’s lots of good stuff below, but if you want to skip right to the bottom and start having fun while playing guitar, then check out the Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar.
What Are the Benefits of Playing Guitar?
If you’ve discovered your “why,” I’m sure you already know the benefits of learning to play guitar. But just in case, here’s some more:
- Have fun with a new hobby.
- Take time out of a busy schedule to practice a new craft.
- Join a community of musicians and artists.
- Make your dreams of playing guitar a reality.
How to Learn the Guitar the Right Way
As you might know, there are hundreds of ways to learn the guitar.
There are videos, private lessons, group lessons, books, magazines, and a TON of online guitar lessons.
I’m sure you have tried one, if not all, of these options. There are upsides and downsides to each one.
Now, of course, everyone is different, so some people may get more or fewer benefits from any particular course than others.
I want you to find a way of learning guitar that resonates with you. And so to help you get there, I’m going to break down each method in detail.
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1. Find a Guitar Teacher
On the surface, finding a live tutor seems like one of the best ways to really boost your guitar-playing skills. After all, you have a skilled teacher who can give you close attention and personal feedback, and show you precisely how to improve.
And this is great – if you have access to a tutor every day. But this isn’t feasible for most people. Tutors are expensive, and most people who use tutors usually only see them once a week for an hour.
Realistically, how much can you learn in that time?
The unfortunate answer is not much.
Because you’re only seeing your tutor once a week, it’s extremely difficult to work through any sort of comprehensive program. And this type of sporadic approach doesn’t lead to consistent progress.
Trust me, I know – I was a one-on-one tutor teaching 60 students a week before I started Tony’s Acoustic Challenge. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I started TAC in the first place, to provide better, consistent, and more affordable tutoring to my students.
2. Watch YouTube Videos
If eating three square meals a day is important to you, then luckily you have another route to take to guitar herodom that won’t break the bank. In fact, it won’t cost you a cent.
YouTube gives you access to an incredibly broad range of videos for all guitar players of all levels.
And the great thing about these videos is that they allow you to go completely at your own pace.
The downside, however, is that you’re not going to become a guitar god simply by cycling through YouTube playlists. They’re great for beginners, but they don’t give you the consistent, fully-comprehensive content that you need in order to see real progress.
That being said, you can still learn some things.
If you’re looking for an excellent place to start then check out my YouTube channel and see if you can find some content that works for you.
3. Sign Up for an Online Course
If YouTube videos are a little too impersonal for you, then online courses might interest you more.
Because they’re generally designed to make it feel like your teacher is talking directly to you – they feel intimate. But unlike the live tutor, they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, the best online guitar lessons bring the benefits of both of the above methods with few drawbacks.
Like a YouTube video, you’ll get a library of videos that you can watch and re-watch at your own pace. You’ll also get access to an online community that you can get involved with.
And like a tutor, online courses give you access to the expertise and knowledge of a teacher with years of experience, but at a fraction of the cost.
Trust me, I know.
I have helped over 18,837 acoustic guitar enthusiasts learn to play guitar online. Each one of those guitarists has their own origin story and their own motives.
But what do they all have in common?
They learned through Tony’s Acoustic Challenge, which is my original online guitar lesson program.
Learning to Play the Guitar on Your Own
There are of course some people who love to go it alone. This is one of the most difficult ways to learn the guitar, but it is possible.
One of the things I hear from a lot of self-taught guitar players is that they missed the community aspect – someone to tell you you’ve improved, respond to your silly questions, comment on your technique, or guide you through the endless practice material.
The key thing about learning guitar on your own is to follow the right resources in the right order.
If you go too deep too quickly, you might fight it too difficult, get frustrated, and give up on the whole guitar-playing thing altogether – which is obviously the worst possible outcome.
If you are trying to learn guitar by yourself, here are a couple of pointers to keep you on the right track.
1. Tune Your Guitar
First things first, your guitar needs to be tuned correctly so that you’re hearing the right notes and sounds.
While it might sound straightforward (and it is, for the most part), there are many ways to tune your guitar.
There’s actually a whole body of theory behind tuning a guitar that will help you understand exactly what you’re doing. Before you start, I recommend going through my guitar-tuning guide so that you’re thoroughly up to speed.
Once you know your theory, you have two methods for tuning your guitar: by ear or tuner.
Both have pros and cons, but as a beginner, I’d recommend getting a tuner so you can more precisely get your guitar to the correct tuning.
2. Understand How to Read Guitar Notes
Learning the guitar notes is the first step to understanding what’s really going on along that fretboard.
I always recommend getting familiar with the basics by understanding what notes, naturals, flats, and sharps are.
This will allow you to start exploring the fretboard. This is a key skill – knowing the fretboard in detail will really help you when it comes to switching chords, improvising, and writing songs.
3. Learn the Basic Chords
Once you understand the individual notes of the guitar, the logical progression is to learn chords.
Chords, at their most basic, are simply groups of notes played in unison.
I like to divide the chords into three main categories – basic, advanced, and power chords. I recommend starting with basic chords and then working your way up to advanced and power chords.
Advanced chords, like the C minor chord, are a bit trickier. They demand a lot from your fingers, but what they lack in simplicity, they make up for in-depth and tonal quality.
Power chords are the final group to explore. Playing them requires slightly different dexterity than the other chord groups I just mentioned, but they’re fun, versatile, and rewarding to master.
4. Strumming Technique
Another core pillar of learning guitar is the strumming technique.
This refers to the rhythm your strumming hand – as opposed to your fretting hand – makes when playing guitar. As you progress, you’ll discover countless different ways of strumming in order to tease out unique sounds from your guitar.
While it’s easy to get stuck in the same old strumming pattern, learning different strumming patterns is one of the best ways to continually progress and improve your practice.
Not only that but learning different strumming patterns is fun. To get started, check out some of my favorite strumming patterns to spice up your playing.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
The final piece of the learning guitar by yourself puzzle is to practice – over and over.
Many of the techniques and tricks I’ve outlined in the article require a lot of time to master. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around that. However, the satisfaction that comes from truly nailing a song, scale, chord, or strumming pattern is worth the effort.
It’s important to remember that practice isn’t simply about the number of hours that you dedicate to a specific technique – it’s about consistency. Even if you can only practice for 10 minutes daily, make sure that you do it every day.
Small efforts over time lead to huge results. Practicing for five hours one day and then letting your guitar gather dust for two weeks is so much less productive than dedicating yourself to jamming every day during your lunch break.
About The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar
Being able to play the guitar isn’t a gift you’re born with, nor is it something that only “creative” people can do. Playing the guitar is for everyone, which is part of why I made this guide.
If you have a desire to play the guitar — if you have dreams of playing the guitar — this guide will teach you the fundamental basics of playing the guitar.
The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar doesn’t give you silver-bullet solutions for the guitar. Instead, this guide offers step-by-step instructions.
From holding the guitar properly to playing your first blues solo, I cover basic guitar skills that will start you out on the right foot.
The foundational skills you learn from this guide will help you continue your guitar journey. Whether you want to play for your kids, at an open mic night, or start playing guitar with your friends.
What You’ll Learn
We’ll cover specific topics and exercises in each chapter. Every chapter is designed to give you a solid foundation in a specific concept.
Each lesson is accompanied by a video lesson. I’ll explain to you why this concept is important for learning how to play guitar. I’ll include a couple of exercises to help you solidify your knowledge as well.
I’ve organized this guide in a logical progression to help you learn effectively while having fun.
If you feel comfortable with a certain topic, feel free to skip it or revisit it later. This guide won’t disappear, so feel free to bookmark it, share it, and return to it when you need to.
Be sure to take your time as you go through each lesson.
Remember: Learning the guitar isn’t a race.
Spending a day on just one part of a chapter is perfectly acceptable. I highly recommend that you pause and make sure you understand a concept.
Once you’ve gone through some of the chapters and concepts, you’ll be surprised at the progress you’ve made. Don’t be afraid to keep playing if you’re enjoying yourself.
Remember: It’s about having fun and making your guitar dreams a reality.
Are you ready to start having fun and learning the guitar?
Then click on a chapter to get started!
Chapter 1 – Guitar Essentials Primer
This chapter covers essential concepts all guitar players should know. This is the starting point for anyone who is new to guitar.
The skills taught in this chapter will give you the tools to understand the rest of The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar.
I’ll cover the following skills:
- How to tune a guitar
- 4 Essential guitar technique check-ins
- How to read tablature
- How to read chord diagrams
Each one of these lessons will give you a rock-solid foundation in moving forward. Be sure you understand the concepts in this chapter before moving on to other chapters!
Chapter 2 – How to Play the Blues
Myth: You have to wait to play the fun stuff until you learn all the basics.
Fact: You CAN play the fun stuff immediately!
You might think you’re not ready, but I’m positive you can start playing the blues. This will give you the first song you can play on the guitar!
I’ll walk you through how to play the blues on guitar. In addition, I’ll touch on key techniques and finger strength exercises that will help you play better.
This chapter will cover:
- How to play blues guitar
- How to play the blues shuffle, an essential blues rhythm pattern
- Guitar bass lines for the blues
- How to play guitar boogie and the boogie shuffle
By the end of this chapter, you’ll be able to play with a blues backing track and even others!
Chapter 3 – Beginner Guitar Chords
In addition to learning the chords, I’ll teach you how to make smooth chord transitions with a variety of exercises.
Also, I’ll show you how to create power chords on the guitar.
Once you have these concepts under your belt, you’ll be able to play a ton of songs and have fun jamming out!
Chapter 4 – Guitar Strumming Patterns
Until now, we’ve been focusing on your fretting hand — the hand that puts the fingers on the fretboard. This chapter is all about showing you a variety of different strumming patterns with your strumming hand.
It’s important to understand guitar strumming patterns. Without your strumming patterns, it can be difficult to develop consistent rhythm and timing in your playing.
This chapter will cover the following concepts:
While these strumming patterns are geared toward country, folk, and bluegrass playing, they are used universally in music.
Chapter 5 – How to Solo on Guitar
I want you to take a deep breath and repeat after me: beginners can solo, too!
I’ll guide you through learning how to solo on the guitar. And trust me, it’s not as scary as you think.
I’ll show you how to play pentatonic scales on guitar, which will allow you to solo over the blues that you learned in chapter two.
In addition, I’ll go over different techniques for soloing like using dynamics. All of these techniques and topics covered in this chapter will help you start soloing and have even more fun on the guitar.
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