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

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:


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,
PS, check out John wail.

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Published on 05.16.11
  • Amare G.

    Thank You so much for making this recipe to Joy ! I love you more than you know for putting in the effort to share these simple welcoming steps ! Thank You! Thank You ! It’s kind, giving and sweet, I’m so happy learning because of this ^__^!

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

    haha recipe for joy I love that! :) it certainly was for me hope it will be for you too

  • Frank Braun

    The chord progression that we will be using in this lesson is E, A, B, and E. Start off by putting your index finger on the 7th fret of the second thickest string. Now put your 3rd finger on the 9th fret of the 4th string and your pink on the 9th fret of the 3rd string. If you have a pick, hold it between your right index finger and your thumb, if you don’t have a pick just use your fingers. Strum all six strings. That is an E chord.


  • Raghav Ahuja

    Hi, Can you suggest me how to choose a right guitar?

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

    How about squier strat copy or yamaha acoustic

  • Raghav Ahuja

    Have checked few options . Can you suggest which ones better of the two – Epiphone Pro1 or Yamaha F310.

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

    they look comparable i’d go yamaha which generally speaking makes better acoustics imo (ps, i’m no expert and at the end of the day it only matters what you like)

  • martin kilgallen

    Thanks for this. I’ve been learning blindly just from reading tabs and figuring my own way, this has really helped knowing I’ve been over complicating it.

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

    my pleasure Martin

  • Milan

    can any body help me how to move from chord to chord faster

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

    the only useful trick i know is repetition, eventually it’ll feel natural. there’s ways of fingering the G chord (with your smallest three fingers instead of your biggest three) that allow you to switch G to C faster

  • Tamara Jacobs

    I’m 49 and very interested in learning to play the guitar. I was watching youtube video clips of the GoGo’s and those girls make it look so early. And they look really sexing playing their guitars, too.

    What sort of guitar should a novice start with? Acoustic or electric?

  • Arko Prabho Deb

    I just bought my first guitar… It’s a cheap Indian guitar named Givson (not Gibson) Crown Special… (BTW Its an f holed spanish guitar)… So… Can I use the above instructions for the same guitar???

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

    yep 100% as long as it has 6 strings you should be good

  • Taffy Calynn

    Did anyone else notice that the descriptions below the pictures don’t match what the pictures show. It’s really confusing and not at all helpful…

  • DJ

    Many many thanks Dan for sharing the info with video….

  • Sagar Dahal

    i just got acoustic guitar and this site is helping me learn playing

  • Dave

    Not sure this will ever get read BUT…. I build guitars and have taken lessons and own the Learn and Master Guitar program and others. This is one of the most honest teachers I have seen. Nothing but perseverance needed to learn guitar. As an Engineer I mastered things with my mind but learning to play is just as said here, patience and practice. Bar chords became my stumbling block due to cramps etc. Yep G,C,D works for a grunch of songs. Now about guitars. I am a large person with large hands. Gibson necks and many clasical guitars accommodate large hands. Fender and many others are a little smaller but as stated herin after a while you adapt. Electric guitars are easier on the fingers in the beginning due to lower actions than acoustic. I have taken inexpensive guitars and made some mnor tweeks and made them play just fine. People with astute “musical ears” can tell subtle differences and then it becomes a matter of prteference. SOme electric gutars (solid body) are a little heavy for people. All about the wood used and commercial factories use what they can get a lot of. Hope this helps others. If considering a Yard Sale guitar just sight down the neck from the head stock and if it twist two directions forget it. If a little bow in it, the truss rod likley can remove it. Old electrics can have corroded components but if a quality instrument (Fender, Gibson, Epiphone ) they can be replaced and you have a great axe.

  • http://drunkturtle.com/ Shidima

    Kind of had to laugh a bit about this. “Its a poor artist who blames his tools”. If you have ever heard Seasick Steve play one of his “Guitars” you will see that its not the guitar that is important, but the player.

  • ThatGirl

    I’m at barre chords for over 3 weeks and I’m about to die. :(

  • osum

    I am a 24 year old newbie currently learning to play guitar solely using your suggestions and a couple of apps. Thanks a lot Dan. you’re doing great work!

  • Daniel

    Hello, I just wanted to ask if an acoustic guitar will work for these lessons? I am a teenager that was really inspired by your “simple” lessons lol. Anyways, thanks!!

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

    thanks yep acoustic guitar would work great

  • Poyzinsting

    I’m just starting out and getting my fingers to go where I want them to on the fret board is so frustrating. Ive been trying to get the D chord right for two days (about 2 and a half hrs.) and I keep muting the bottom e string. How long does it usually take for my fingers to start obeying my brain? Right now it seems like it’s impossible to get em right and it hurts after awhile. Any advice on how to train my fingers other than to just keep trying would be greatly appreciated, Are there any finger exercises I could do to make them more flexible? I bought a used gio ibanez elec. Guitar for 120 bucks and got it “set-up”. Is Ibanez a good guitar for beginners? Thank you for this treasure trove of free information.

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

    10 hours! :) just keep playing I wouldn’t over-complicate it, it just takes a long time these are odd movements… go for 10 hours then you should be good. Ibanez beginner should be great, rock on.

  • Harry Potter

    I just saw a website with many videos guitar lessons.
    It’s not working all the time, but I think it may help with learning how to play guitar.


    Hi Dan, I would start my own discussion but I have 0 clue how to. My guitar skills are about as good as my Disqus skills. Anyway, I have figured out the first 5 shapes…for the most part…but I am at a loss when it comes to moving between the cords. Any advice for me? Thank you kindly.

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

    it’s all muscle memory so you just keep plugging away and eventually you can do it.

  • Ivy

    Thank you Dan! You inspired me to learn and play guitar! Will buy my first guitar tomorrow and will practice the “shapes” you posted above. =)

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

    rock on dooooo it!

  • Angie Soliman

    So, I made a leap of faith and bought an electric guitar for beginners yesterday…a Squier…the black and white Stratocaster…was the best affordable one with good quality at the shop…is it any good or should I get a refund?

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

    now way! rocked the same exact guitar even as an intermediate player, it’s not the guitar it’s the player.. have fun and rock out :D

  • Tanmay

    I don’t know if you read all the comments or not but awesome article buddy.
    Even the ones less interested in playing a guitar would think twice after reading the article…..

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

    Thanks I appreciate it !

  • Anthony LaFlamme

    Can anyone here recommend a good beginner acoustic guitar? I love the sound of acoustic and prefer it way more to a electric gutair.

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

    any solid top Yamaha is a great value for money

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

    thank you :D

  • Kashish Sevak

    hey DAN loved this post ,
    i really want to learn how to play the guitar but choosing one is such a pain,especially for someone like me who knows nothing about guitars. Can you or anyone for that matter of fact suggest a good affordable guitar for an ultra novice beginner like me :p
    thanks :D

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

    honestly it doesn’t really matter that much, but my suggestions would be 1) for electric, fender stratocaster squier for 2) acoustic solid top yamaha.

  • Melinda D Lange

    Thank you :)

  • Natasha

    Thanks for the tips and the information on learning how to play the guitar. Ive been using your tips for about a month or so in conjunction with this program http://5886d8swwdy3x0ejycxt04zg5m.hop.clickbank.net/ . Check it out!

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