These beginner guitar tips will help you form a learning pattern and
suggest effective, logical ways to manage your guitar practice time. I
recommend printing this page out and finding a quiet spot to
Don't worry, it's a light read!
No matter what stage you are at with starting to learn guitar, the
below tips will hopefully get
you in the right
frame of mind and provide some structure to your guitar
learning, which you can then apply when learning any aspect of
Learn guitar at your own pace and focus
If you only take on board one of these beginner guitar tips, make it
Do not feel rushed. Learn at your own pace and
dedicate yourself to just one technique during a given practice
session at first. Don't overwhelm yourself with too many goals at the
or you'll just end up frustrated.
Keep focussed on one
a time. For example, you could spend a week or two really
know 5 chords (why 5? Just pick a realistic number for that window of
time and go with it!). Then, in the next week or two, practice changing
between those chords using different combinations. In the next week,
work on your strumming or picking, using the chords and chord change
combinations you've learned.
Build up your progress in layers
like that. Know what your specific focus is for the current week and
stick with it. Don't get sidetracked or distracted into a new
technique, causing you to abandon your current focus prematurely.
That's what causes problems.
As a beginner, you might think
using this method will take ages. Well, you'll be surprised at how
quick you progress if
you just focus your learning time and put those
The thing that seriously slows guitarists down, and causes
them to hit brick walls with their learning, is constantly switching
between learning different techniques and playing elements, taking any
bad habits or half-learned techniques with them.
Don't let that be you!
How often should I practice guitar, and for how
hour per day devoted to practicing guitar is, in my opinion, a good
benchmark. Perhaps you can practice more at the weekend if you have
free time? If so, great! If not, don't worry, just aim to get that hour
in on the days you can.
Remember that regular
practice is more important than the amount of time per session. For
example, 30-40 minutes every day is far more effective than four hours
at the weekend and nothing in between.
Be prepared for each practice session.
That means, know what you learned in your previous session and whether
you're satisfied you accomplished your goal for that session. If you
still need time on your previous session's goal, spend another session
on it. Don't move on until you have it nailed. So important. If you
feel like you're not making progress with a particular technique or
concept, I'm always here to help.
Spend time on both the practical and the
are two types of guitar learning - the mental/theory side and the
physical/application side. It's important to distinguish the two, as
find it easier, as a beginner, to focus your practice sessions on one
or the other, as
opposed to mixing them together.
- These sessions will be devoted to investigating how the fretboard
works, how strings and notes relate to each other, what chords are made
up of etc. A lot of theory time will be spent reading and analysing
diagrams and your guitar's fretboard. This aspect is for understanding
how music works on the guitar, to map out the fretboard in your mind so
you can later apply the physical
techniques with confidence. If you're serious about getting good on
guitar, you need time devoted to theory.
- These sessions will involve exercising your fingers. For example,
fingering chords would fall under this category, as the focus will be
on getting physically
comfortable with positioning and changing between
chords, or experimenting with new strumming patterns. With lead guitar,
the physical side covers techniques such as legato (you'll learn what
that means soon enough!),
string bends, speed drills and anything that involves the physical side
So, as you can probably see, the two do go hand
in hand, but I recommend you clearly separate these two aspects during
your practice time. Devote a separate session to each. Most often, the
theory will come before the physical. Below is an example...
1 - theory
- major 7th chords
how regular major chords you have learned in previous sessions can be
altered to create major 7th chords. What notes do you add? What unique
sound do maj7 chords have? How does adding this major 7th alter the
sound of the original major chord? Can you build a chord progression
that makes good use of a major 7th chord?
2 - physical
- chord changes and rhythms
on the new chords you have learned and get physically used to changing
between these and other chords you've learned in previous sessions.
This is where you can use metronomes and backing
drums to develop your
rhythm and timing around these chord fingerings. Try and strum a simple
using these chords. Create a simple 3-4 chord song. This is about
putting the theory you have learned into context.
So, theory time lays the foundations, physical time puts it into
Beats a Personalised Practice Schedule
Most guitarists find they make the most dramatic progress when they
have a practice schedule designed around their specific goals. This
simple piece of software does it all for you... Start Here
Practice time vs noodling time
is just a silly word I, and many guitarists use for "messing around".
It is far less regimented and focused than a typical practice session,
yet, in my opinion, just as important.
"Messing around" might
sound a bit chaotic and unproductive, but it's often the breathing
space you need to be at your most creative. Noodling often brings to
the surface ideas you've formed, consciously and sub-consciously,
during your practice sessions.
Let me just clarify though -
noodling time is NOT part of your practice time. During practice time,
you want that hour plus to be devoted to a specific technique or
theoretical element. Noodling time is extra, and should remain outside
your more focussed sessions.
Noodling is simply about having the
urge to pick up the guitar and experiment with some raw, freestyle
playing. No rules. No "right" or "wrong". Anything goes. This is time
for you to discover those more unusual chords around the guitar neck,
to improvise, to deconstruct and relax your playing. To truly be
yourself on guitar!
Of course, if you've not neglected solid practice time, your noodling
won't sound that spontaneous, but let's
just say that hitting a few bum notes during this sacred time, in the
name of experimentation, is not the end of the world!
It might also be useful to note down any weaknesses in your playing
discovered during this time so you can plan your future practice
sessions more constructively.
Make a loop out of your weakest parts
If you're playing through a piece of music and you keep stumbling at
the same place - maybe it's a chord change or something you're doing
with your picking hand - try creating a loop of that one section to
gradually iron out your mistakes.
This is much more effective than approaching it with that feeling of
dread every time you start the piece from the beginning.
Take a look at the video below for more on this "looping" tip...
Overcoming frustrations as a beginner guitarist
like me, you have a short fuse, you might find yourself cursing to
yourself when unable to nail something on guitar. Indeed, you might get
so frustrated that you feel like, literally, nailing something into the
guitar. If you do get to this point, it's because you're trying to move
too far, too quickly. Your mind and fingers will struggle to keep up
with your expectations if you're too ambitious or impatient.
When you hit that brick wall, take a small step back. Are you trying to
play too fast?
been using a metronome to start slow and gradually speed up?
Are you giving yourself enough time? Are you progressing in incremental
stages rather than trying to take huge leaps in an attempt to "short
The important thing is not to feel hopeless, that
you'll never accomplish what you're stuck on, because you will. Time
and persistence is all it takes. YOU set your deadlines, and even then,
you can move them.
As I mentioned earlier - know what you accomplished
in your previous sessions so you have that safe point of confidence to
step back to, take a deep breath, and begin your creeping progress from
that point once again. See my article 10
Reasons Why You're Not Making Progress on Guitar for more
Be inspired by different styles of
listen to a lot of internet radio, from soul to death metal. I think
it's good to listen to a wide variety of music, even if you're not
particularly into certain genres. Each genre has its own qualities when
it comes to guitar, so spend time just... listening. Listen to how
rhythms, chords and solos are used. You may not know how they're doing
it just from listening, but you might like the sound of something which
you'll then be inspired to go and investigate independently.
how I learned much of what I know about guitar - inspiration,
investigation, accomplishment. The benefit of this is, you'll learn far
more than what originally inspired you.
Don't forget to enjoy it!
Above all, enjoy playing guitar and enjoy the journey! Look forward to
5 years down the line where, if you've been persistent with your
practice time (and allowed plenty of time for noodling), you'll have
accomplished so much. This is all about freeing up your creativity, bit
by bit, so you can express yourself on guitar as naturally as you can
with speech. Doors will open all throughout your progress. Each new
door that opens is like a new outlet for your creativity.
The more of these doors you open over time, the more creative options
you'll have at your disposal and the more your music will have the
chance to be unique to you - and that is, in my opinion, the ultimate
purpose for learning guitar.
Tom Hess is a highly respected guitar teacher and mentor to some of the
world's most successful guitarists. For a small fee, you can get a
custom made lesson plan based on your personal goals from someone who
knows what it takes to create accomplished guitar players.