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

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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:

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. 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,
Dan
PS, check out John wail.

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Published on 05.16.11
  • rk

    Thank you for the encouragement…really appreciate it.

  • didgeridoug

    Hey Dan, I have been playing Acoustic(steel strings) for a couple weeks now, totally stoked and loving learning the guitar. Here is my challenge, I have been practicing going back and forth G-D-G-D, and every time I leave the G chord, I can’t seem to avoid twanging my low E string. I have tried muting it with my strumming hand, releasing slowly etc, and it just seems too impractical. How to not twang coming off the “G”???

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    when you transition to D your thumb should lightly lay across the top of your low E muting it.

    if the twang you are talking about is the result of a pull-off, its probably happening because you aren’t fretting the note straight down into the fret board so it has some tortion when you release. there are a bunch of feel elements like this that will work their way into the intelligence of your fingers as long as you are conscious of it and keep going.

    also it’s never a problem to stop by your local guitar store and have a chat with an expert.

  • Jal

    Wow. Can’t believe this can be done so easily. I have been researching on youtube but somehow couldn’t grasp it and had given up completely. Now I will start practicing using your techniques. Thanks for the motivation.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    sweeet!

  • Sammy

    dude, I have been DYING for a post like this. I have wanted to be able to play guitar (especially electric) since I was little but I have always been discouraged. This has helped me out a bunch and this works. I was wondering, I only have an old Valencia Classical but where can you get cheap acoustic amplified or electric? What would you recommend?

  • Nicky

    You’re a genius making guitar so simple to learn

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    I’m happy to take it! :P

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    thank you Nicky! hope you enjoy rocking out

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    cheers Sammy thanks for that! i’ve seen so many people use this method to learn now. why not just order a guitar from musician’s friend? they’ve got a great selection and good prices.

  • Beth

    Hi! I was wonder which frets and strings I would place my fingers on for B minor. Thank you(:

  • Nic Bolt

    Thanks for this page, exactly what I was looking for. Collecting my cheap acoustic today, but suspect I will get something better pretty soon :)

  • Nic Bolt

    Incidentally im 39 years old, been a dj most of my life. Its time to stop being a waiter, and become a chef.

  • steve

    Be careful buying a ‘cheap’ guitar however. They generally sound quite poor and can lead to demoralization when you practice, as you think it’s you that sounds bad. Well, you do to begin with, of course, but you will quickly exceed the quality of a bad guitar with regular practice and then need to buy a better quality guitar anyway. Not saying you need to spend a great deal of money either – check for guitars in pawn-shop and music stores, for example. I have no idea about the quality of the Jay Turser guitar though. Maybe it’s superb?

  • Aldo Ksatria

    aaaaaaa , why so hard to move faster?? actually i just practiced it two days haha but do you have any advice for moving fingers faster?

  • Marissa

    Oh my god it was so hard to learn even a few chords. I’m only 13 and I wanted to learn how to play guitar but I wasn’t sure where to put my silly fingers, but not only did you give me visuals to work with but also the directions on where to put your fingers on the guitar, I’m not fluent yet but I’m learning!! Thank you so much Dan! It’s been my dream to be a lead singer in a rock band and learning guitar will not only help sky rocket that but it will also help me relax. Again, thanks!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    very cool to hear that Marissa! Wish you the best and rock on

  • Dino

    Hi Dan. Your article spoke directly to me. I have purchased a guitar years ago and attempted a guitar school as well. It never really worked for me. I have been wanting to try and attempt to play after 5 years. I just need to find an easy way of making sure my guitar is always in tune. Any advice. Im looking forward to my 2nd chance

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    thank you Dino that’s wonderful to hear that!!! Wish you the best. Regarding staying in tune no particular advice there… as long as your guitar is decent and relatively new and you aren’t brining it through temperature or humidity changes all the time you should be fine

  • Kelsey B

    When you strum do you just do it all the way across. Or on specific strings?

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

    when you start all across the strings is fine.

  • addie

    Thank you. This is so awesome. Ive been wanting to play since I was little but ive always had something holding me back. You just inspired me and gave me the tools to learn this craft. Thanks again.

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

    cheers I hope you have a great time, it can be a life-changer :)

  • Anne

    I’ve bought an acoustic guitar and I’m 12…. But some people around me are telling me that I’m ‘too young’ to learn, while some are saying that its ‘too late’ to start learning a guitar now…. Tell me what should I do!!??

  • Carel

    Just listen to your own voice…what do you wanna do? …play guitar? then go for it. Im 37 and thanks to this webpage Ive jus bought a semi acoustic tanglewood and starting this weekend…do you think “Im” too old to start? ;) Think of it this way, by time youre leaving school you will be very good at playing guitar….dont listen to others, its not their life. Peeps dont always mean to hold you back, but they do….if you let them. :)

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

    if you want to rock, rock on!

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

    SWEEeet!!! agreed , you are the only one responsible for what you do in this world.

  • foohungdoowar

    I’ve been practicing for 3.days now and I can’t play anything. Am I completely screwed lol?

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

    no that’s normal keep going.

  • Chris Ware

    Found an Ion acoustic and this post
    Time to make 2 and 2 equal 4! :)

  • seanbernardino

    Thanks so much for this post. I bought a guitar 3 days ago and have been wondering whether it’s too late to learn now (I’m in my early thirties) but your post makes me feel a lot better. I’ve been practicing about an hour a day for the last three days and already I can feel my fingers beginning to remember the few chords that I’ve learnt so far — G, C, D, E, Em, A. I’m planning to not moving on to more chords until I get more comfortable with these and when I can switch between them more easily without having to break the rhythm. Do you think that’s a good idea? Or should I start learning more chords first? Only yesterday I tried doing the Metallica version of the Bob Seger song ‘Turn the Page’ and after about 20 mins of repetition, i found this quite easy and feel confident I’ll get better with more practice. Oh yeah, my fingers hurt like hell. :-)

  • babz

    i need some explanation on how to play guiter or complete not on it

  • Davis

    I want to learn guitar but I’m not sure about the chords. Are there more than the ones above or am I just not getting how to play the guitar in general?

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

    there are technically 1000′s but these 5 are the ones I believe are easiest / most productive to start with

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