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 finger, 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. 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. I love the way Marty teachers…
  3. One of the most popular online training sites is Justin Guitar

I’m going to be the next John Mayer. Where should I go next???

  1. 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.
  2. 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']
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  • magnumpi

    10 hours eh????

    I began 8 months ago and it has only been in the past month where I felt I’ve made noticeable improvements. Now I can look at videos and it clicks n my head and hands

    I can see I’ll probably have a sloppy but good style like jimmy page who I think is the best, zeppelin is my favorite.

  • magnumpi

    Takes a few months

    Began 8 month’s ago and its only now that a feel a bit of a swagger

  • magnumpi

    Finger exercises help alot

  • kgramazio

    Have you ever heard of The ChordBuddy? I found it much easier and faster for me to learn to play the guitar using that as I was able to play a real song in only 5 minutes! Within 2 months of using it I was able to remove it and play guitar all on my own! Check it out @ http://chordbuddy.com/ I first saw it on Shark Tank and it works like a charm!!

  • nicholas

    Hi Dan, Only one question. Do you hit all the strings when you strum?

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

    You got it! Yes hit all the strings with the exception of the biggest string when you are strumming the D Chord.

  • DisqusFan

    Great Read. Anyone recommend learning how to read tabs or chords for a beginner?
    http://www.frankholdermusic.com I have been told that learning tabs before chords could really stunt your growth as a musician… Any thoughts?

  • Carlo

    Paul Reed Smith…*sneeze*

  • GuitarHeroMadeItLookEasy

    Thank for this!!!! i’m 14 and have recently decided i wanted to play an instrument. my parents want nothing to do with lessons so i turned to internet which has been a let down, until i found you. i will definitely try this and hopefully will learn guitar in 10 days!

  • Hi-C

    Dan, the coolest thing about this site is as you say, you still need work, and yet you took the time to lay out a great and encouraging method for people to start from, which I have yet to see anywhere else. Great site! Thanks!

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

    THanks for the kind words best of luck on your musical journey!


    hey Dan!!!!
    I am only 12 and i just wanted to know that if i can learn how to play guitar with this method?????????

    p.s= i don’t even know the ABC of the guitar

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

    of course!!!

  • VTMAN7

    There are definitely 2 schools of thought. Cheap guitar for a beginner is one of them. I did that and found I couldn’t trust the sound (or the equipment) and it always made me wonder if I was learning correctly (only perfect practice makes perfect).

    I switched to a high end expensive guitar and wished I’d started that way. Aristides O1O… A bit pricey, but the only guitar you will need.

    Sound quality is my preeminent consideration… But you’ll have to decide.

    Grata article!

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

    thank you!!

    My general opinion is that generally 100$ on a guitar nowadays easily clears you from the sound quality issues (it could be relevant when you learned, 10 years ago decent guitars were much more expensive).

    my thought in general over seeing a lot of people learn, as long as you aren’t on a total POS the quality of the guitar is not an important factor in ones ability to learn.

    i actually learned on a POS but that is merely anecdotal!

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

    haha agreed if you’ve got some funny money ! :D

  • Shaizy

    Wow !! Nice to find its free.. No one gives free advice.. Nice !!

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

    thanks, advice is cheap to give! the hard part is keeping your fingers on the guitar day after day! good luck…

  • JohnD

    Great article Dan. My first gee-tar arrives tomorrow. Total beginner here. Loved your article. Question: Do you think it’s mandatory to learn how to read music or is playing by Tabs sufficient?

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

    Nice ! Tabs are most certainly sufficient, I’d be willing to bet that the large majority of guitarists on Rolling Stones top 100 guitarists of all time lists couldn’t read music … It’s a great thing to do, but not necessary to be a rock god :)

  • PJustine

    I’ve been trying to learn how to play guitar off and on for about 3 years now. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play, but it’s been really difficult trying to teach myself. I’ve bought different books and tried to follow how they teach, but I just felt like I wasn’t really getting anywhere and learning anything really important with them. When I came across this website, I thought it was almost too good too be true. I thought I might as well give it a shot since I didn’t have anything to lose. I don’t think I’ve quite completed 10 hours yet, but I have already made significant progress. I’ve just learned how to play my first song. Although I know it doesn’t sound good, I’ve managed to memorize all the chords and what order to play them all. The only problem I seem to have is that, I feel my guitar is kind of out of tune or something. I’ve looked up how to tune it, and it seems to be fine after I tune it, but when I start to play something just sounds a little off to me. Anyways, I would just like to thank you for this website! It’s taught me so much these last few days, and I’m finally learning how to actually play songs like I’ve wanted to the last few years. Thank you so much!

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

    HELL YEAH!!!! congrats and keep rocking!

  • Cozi

    Hey Dan……I have been playing since November 13 (well trying to play) and just getting by. Until now! I found your website tonight and I have managed to comfortably play the 5 cords. G D C Am and Em without looking at your instructions.

    Your a champ…..thanks mate!

  • Oscar

    I just got my first guitar it an acoustic and a Fender. Will this site work for me?

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


  • Tanner

    Excited to try this out!

  • John

    I can’t move my fingers into those positions without muting other strings. No matter how hard i try I can’t bend my fingers like that

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

    just takes longer than you think….do it for 10 hours straight and come back and comment. time it!!!

  • Apoorva

    Well explained thank you.
    Friends for more information and lessons you can try, http://www.torrins.com/

  • Sean

    Well explained and thank you,
    I would like suggest what I found recently, please visit http://www.torrins.com. Here you can find 4500+ video lesson for guitar. As well as good collection of guitar song video lessons for each level, please check guitar songs lessons at http://www.torrins.com/guitar-lessons/song-lessons.html

  • http://www.rickstjohnphotography.com/ Rick St. John

    Hey Dan, I am happy to come across your website today. I have a guitar that I bought 2 years ago, but have been afraid to try it, thinking that I am to old to learn it at 50. However 2 years ago I wrote a song called “Boracay Go”, the lyrics and all are here, http://www.boracaygo.com/boracay/boracay-go/, anyhow I am just sick that I cannot play my own song, and it’s really embarrassing, and somehow lessens my credibility as a songwriter. I love to write songs, and must have nearly 100 all written down, doing nothing, I just sing them to myself throughout the day, sad I know.

    I did take about 3 months of vocal lessons before I recorded my song, so I do know when I am in the tune, that’s a plus for me. But when I listen to my own song, I have no idea what cord is being played, and so it’s quite confusing to me.

    Dan, than you for this, I will give it a try today.

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

    absolutely you should be able to do it!!!!! go for it Rick

  • Reynaldi Rumetor

    Thank you so much Dan!!
    Your post motivates me to learn to play guitar, im still practicing the “Country Roads” song but i can feel and hear muself improving each day :D

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

    hell yeah!!! congrats keep rocking

  • Reynaldi Rumetor

    “Hurt” by Johnny Cah is good for trainin ur fingers to unfamiliar position too :D
    Im learnin “halo” by beyonce now lol
    Thanks again bro

  • Alex

    Preciate it, took me 11 days to learn how to play Electric Church Red house by Jimi Hendrix.. people always told me blues was the hardest but learning these basic notes has opened a whole smorgasborg of guitar playing. I never thought I would be able to play Jimi Hendrix because of complexity.. 3 hours a day in the week, 6 hours a day on the weekends.. Sometimes I’ll stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning just jamming. Always open to learning more songs. Learned on a Fender Sratocaster, of course only because of Black Beauty did I want a stratocaster but it was worth it.

  • http://guitar-wizard.com Geoff Hibbert

    the chord shapes here can be used on any guitar and are the basis of many of the most popular songs, great advice for begginers I have some more info at guitar-wizard.com

  • thejadedfox

    Thanks Dan, I’m now self teaching, Got myself a little Yamaha GL1, and am working through the chords now it’s amazing how easy it is with this. Thank you again for an amazing blog post.

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

    cheers rock on!!!!!

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