Learn to Play the Guitar in 10 Hours – No Musical Talent Required

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Learn to Play the Guitar in 10 Hours – No Musical Talent Required post image

This post is for anyone who has thought about picking up the guitar but hasn’t yet. For those of you who aren’t musicians, becoming one is both more fun and easier than you imagine. I’m writing this post in the hopes that I can convince 1 or 2 of you to pick up a guitar and start making your own music. Below I describe a basic theory and method for getting started with the guitar that I’ve taught in real life to many friends with success.

Before I picked up the guitar, I was operating under a lot of false assumptions about how difficult it is to become a musician.

  1. I believed I was too old to start to learn music.
  2. I believed I had no musical talent and that I wasn’t a “musical” person.
  3. I thought you needed to learn to read music to play an instrument.
  4. I believed to overcome these barriers it would take too much time and effort.

I couldn’t have been more wrong on all these assumptions.

If you don’t have musical talent I’ve got good news for you– you don’t need it.

You just need time. Playing guitar is fundamentally about teaching your fingers to do weird things they aren’t used to doing. That’s it. It doesn’t take a genius. It takes some hours. Set aside 10 hours with the guitar and you’ll be playing some great songs. Promise.

I love playing the guitar. When I think of the decisions I’ve made that have changed my life the most, picking up the guitar was one of the most important and meaningful decisions I’ve ever made.

Learning how to play an instrument opens tons of doors:

  1. A quality and productive way to “unplug” and relax.
  2. You’ll enter in to a community of musicians who are looking to jam, sing, write, and take over the world– it’s like learning a new language and culture.
  3. No matter what your race, sex, creed or color you will increase your sexual attractiveness.
  4. Listening to music will become more enjoyable because you’ll start to pull apart the composition– you’ll begin to understand what is going on. (Eventually you’ll start to make your own).
  5. And as a bonus… once you learn your first instrument, the next ones get easier.

This post will teach you how to play songs on the guitar in less than 10 hours.

The information you need to play the guitar can be learned in 5-10 minutes. That information consists of 5 finger shapes you must remember. I’ve posted them below. The rest of your 10 hours will be spent teaching your finger muscles to play chord shapes.

For those of you who play guitar, you might have noticed that some of my tasty licks aren’t so tasty. I’m no Stevie Ray Vaughn. You don’t need to be superstar to have tons of fun with this stuff. Despite not being the best guitar player, I’ve played my songs in front of 1000’s of people in live venues, had songs I’ve written and recorded played on San Diego’s leading rock station, and played in some super cool seedy dive bars to drunken hipsters. That’s just a few among a countless other memorable experiences. You don’t need to be a genius– half the battle is just showing up.

Here’s what your 10 hours can look like.

  • Minutes 0-30. Read this blog post. All the info is here to get started.
  • Minutes 30-60. Practice making the basic 5 shapes. This is probably the hardest part. You gotta put your head down for 30 minutes and remember the chords that are demonstrated below. Once you start getting these shapes down, adding to your portfolio will be easy. You can even experiment with adding and removing fingers– you’ll find a lot of cool sounds here and you’ll continue to discover these for years to come.
  • Minutes 60-600. Pick up the guitar everyday for 20 days for 30 minutes or so. You can do this while you do other things like watch TV or chit chat. Get your fingers used to moving around on the fretboard. Start jamming out some John Denver baby. Please do sing along. Eventually try to keep up with tempo of the changes in the actual song. Once you can change your chords on time, focus on improving your “touch” with your right hand. Strum the chords in a way that it adds texture to the recording (if you are playing along with the man himself.)

The shapes you need to remember (the only information you need to get started):

G – pointer finger 2nd fret, 5th string, middle 3rd fret, 6th string, ring 3rd fret, 1st string

C – Ring finger 3rd fret 5th string, middle 2nd fret 4th string, pointer 1st fret 2nd string.

D – Ring finger 3rd fret 2nd string, middle finger 2nd fret 1st string, pointer 2nd fret 3rd string. (Don’t hit the big string)

E minor – Ring finger 2nd fret 4th string, middle 2nd fret 5th string

A minor – ring finger 2nd fret 3rd string, middle 2nd fret 4th string, pointer 1st fret 2nd string

Tips for playing:

  1. To get good touch in your strumming hand, it’ll take longer than 10 hours. It’s about reps baby. Try to consider the amout of finesse you are hitting the strongs with. Do a little research on palm mutting and other useful strumming techniques. If it sounds nasty at first, that’s cool. Your fingers and wrists will start to adjust. Focus on getting quality sounds out of the guitar.
  2. With your left hand, fret the strings as close to the frets as possible. This will reduce buzzing and the chords will ring clearer.
  3. You’ll need to press the strings down firmly to ensure they ring out well. One of the toughest parts for beginners is ensuring you aren’t “mutting” the strings that you aren’t fretting (credit natasha at www.dresshead.com). These small touches get programmed in to your fingers after hours of time, so don’t worry too much about it. Just focus on getting the best sound out of your guitar.
  4. Your fingers will hurt, don’t worry about it too much.
  5. It’ll feel weird for the first few days. This is normal. At the beginning a G chord feels like it was purpose designed to give you wrist cramps, after a month of playing the guitar it’ll feel like coming home.

Songs you can play along with within 1 hour:

Easy-ish:

A little faster, perhaps after a week or so of jamming out….

Ok, I did my 10 hours and I Can Play John Dever’s entire catalog. My roommates are going to kill me. What’s next?

  1. Search popular tablature sites for your favorite songs. Google “your song name + tab.” Tablature is basically easy notations of how to play chords and songs.
  2. Consider learning to play your favorite artist’s catalog by reviewing tablature sites for their songs and jamming along to youtube. Guitar driven artists are great to learn from. Think Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, stuff like that.
  3. If you want to learn how to strum along to a song Google [song name + ‘chords’], if you want to play the solos and riffs as well, Google [song name + ‘tab’]
  4. I believe if you focus on learning via things you enjoy, like playing some great songs from your favorite artists, you’ll eventually seek to push your knowledge deeper and go for the crazy stuff like learning scales and all that jazz.
  5. The guitar is a remarkably hackable instrument for a million reasons that will be revealed to you as you spend more time with it. As you go along in your journey you’ll find a million shortcuts and fun ways to learn fast. I’ve rarely heard any of this stuff from guitar teaches, so beware, trust your instincts, and learn from people who can you where you want to be.

Have fun and let me know if you need more help.

Cheers from Bali,
Dan
PS, check out John wail.

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Published on 05.16.11
  • Bob

    Do you strum each string when you play the first five chords you show at the beginning of this writing and what are tabs. As you can see I am new at all this . I need a a book like GUITAR FOR DUMMIES.

  • Ahmet Hakan Özdemir

    Can we use these for classical guitar too?

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    yes

  • Timo

    Hey, great tutorial!

    Also very good that you are showing that you don’t necessarily have to be young to start learning to play the guitar.

    But I have one little tip. Try finding a way to make more clear where to put the fingers. The way you do now:

    ring finger 2nd fret 3rd string, middle 2nd fret 4th string, pointer 1st fret 2nd string

    is pretty confusing because you really have to concentrate on what’s written. What could do a lot is putting it like this:

    ring finger: 2nd fret, 3rd string

    middle finger: 2nd fret, 4th string

    pointer: 1st fret, 2nd string

    or try putting it in a table, like

    finger fret string

    ring__ 2 __ 3

    etc.

    because this way is a bit confusing

    Maybe you could say some things on how you sit too :)
    Great job though!!

  • bradlee

    i need help buying a cheap guitar

  • Jonathan Rector

    is a fender squire good

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    yep that’ll do, i much prefer them to les paul body styles b/c they are lighter and have a thinner neck.

  • denise oliver

    I know the 5 chords and want to try to play a song,something slow with 3 chords maybe and a country song lol,what do u suggest is a good site to tech me this ?

  • Odd Magne Granli

    I love this site. On Monday I’ll get my first guitar and I’m ready to start all over again. I know some basic stuff and have played some guitar when I was a kid but I feel motivated by this site to learn it properly again, and play it confidently enough to play and write my own stuff, and maybe even play together with others once I’m good enough. I can’t wait.

  • Thom

    This isn’t teaching people to play the guitar. This is teaching people to play 5 chords and it doesn’t even include F in any variation which is very commonly used. To actually play guitar properly you need to know scales as a base. Knowing these can help you identify the key a song is in far easier. My biggest regret is not learning my scales before I learned chords. Knowing your scales allows you to improvise around a known chord structure, change key in a fluid and ear friendly manner, helps with finder dexterity and helps you learn to move fluidly up and down the neck of the guitar. Also what kind o muppet tries to sell the guitar by saying it increases how sexually attractive you are. My advice to anyone wanting to learn how to play the guitar is actually take some lessons first, and not online lessons or a training DVD, I mean actual lessons with a real person. They will pick up on bad habits and point them out before you get set in your ways.
    Sorry if this rains on your parade but this will save you the heart ache when you buy your guitar, put in your ’10 hours’ and realise you can’t actually play the guitar.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    calling real people muppets is nice man, thanks.

    this post is really a response to many music teachers who start with complex information for their students to learn how to play “properly” and then many (most) basically stall out because that approach can be daunting and wins can take a long time. the perspective of this post is that playing the guitar is a lot of fun, and can be enjoyed only if you know 5 chords… you can make real, fun, music faster than almost any other instrument. I’ve noticed that once people get that initial win and sense of love for the instrument they then have the motivation to learn things like scales F chords etc etc etc.

  • Pussy slayer

    there is no cd …

  • natalie

    if it will take me a month how many hours should i practice in one day??…!

  • Nicole Constantin

    This is the most encouraging thing I’ve ever read about learning guitar! I’very wanted to try for so many years and now I finally will! Thank you!!!

  • SB

    I never understood strumming patterns, do I just simply go up and down with the strokes?

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    that’s fine to start, as you go on you’ll get feel and be able to do more

  • http://martindiaz.org Martin Diaz Alvarez

    Great posting – Anyone tried it? Thanks

  • One handed menace

    Dan I have some limited use in my right hand, but I did learn to play the tenor sax and when I was in highschool sat first chair and also accomplished receiving 3 state medals in the advanced category. I have not played in years. I was always intrigued by the guitar and have wanted to learn for some time. I’m now in my later 30’s and decided to order a guitar. I got a PRS custom 24 not to be flashy but I wanted something that has proven sound quality. I appreciate your posts and was. Wondering if you had any tips for me being that I am somewhat limited. I can hold a pick but I know the strumming and picking will be a challenge. I really miss playing music and guitar has been on my mind most of my life. Thanks for any input

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