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. Try to consider the amount of finesse you are hitting the strings 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 “muting” 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
  • 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


  • 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


    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



  • Jim

    what is a good beginner acoustic guitar?

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

    nice axe! congrats and good luck with your pursuit of the guitar, your previous musical experience will help you.

    my sense is that the technique would depend on the particular limitation, but i’ve seen many with radical disabilities make it work to their advantage with the guitar, enough time with the instrument and you’ll likely find that it’s very versatile and your limitation could help you find a unique voice with the guitar. the key would be to give it quite a bit of time, so noodle for many hours over weeks before you even consider giving up. good luck!

  • Obi-T Rice

    Picking up a guitar this weekend, thanks for the boost. add me to the list of the dan-fluenced. GET IT ON!!!

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


  • amal

    I recommend you to take a look at this link http://bit.ly/1YuMW2r it may help you a lot

  • Ronald Folding

    Hi I am interested in learning how to play guitar quickly. I have been trying to learn on my own for many years.I know basic chords . I sing quite well. I know some cords for rock and roll.

  • Libby Marie III

    i got a brand new acoustic today and found this site
    (i have never played an instrument before) and i can already play all the chords!

  • jim mcdonough

    Read this article about a year ago.I now own 9 electric and 2 acoustic guitars!! Lol!!! Learning theory now, just wanted to say thank you, you just might of saved a life.God Bliss

  • jim mcdonough

    That was God Bless

  • m@ko

    I am a total noob who just stumbled upon this site. Never held an instrument in my life. I just found out the one I have lying around is an old 3/4 size classical guitar. I’m wondering if I can apply your method with this guitar? I also noticed there’s this 4 white dots taped on the side. Anybody know what it means? Thanks! xoxo

  • coralpink

    How did your 10 hours practice go? I have never done this in my life! Lol

  • coralpink

    Oooh looks like I have hope! Lol

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

    wow thanks for sharing Jim! :) sounds like you caught the bug. have fun and rock on.

  • Fataty

    Can I just say something
    Do u know that song ( knockin on heavens door) yeah well um…… yeah I tried to learn that in the 1 hour but it took me two days u might think maybe it’s just me but I asked ed sheeran cuz he’s my cousin and it took him a week and I asked all friends and I’m pretty popular so
    Everyone knows ME and my best friend who is ace st guitar ( Patrick) it took him one month’s so seriously come on

  • coralpink

    “Please do sing along. Eventually try to keep up with tempo of the changes in the actual song.” < What song? Is this a particular song? I was thinking it's just 5 chords. The one in the video seems a little fast for me. Btw, I'm trying for 3 days now. :)

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

    cool! no… just thinking any song, in particular the ones located at the end of the post.

  • coralpink

    thanks! and haha, you were right about G-C, my fingers are so uncooperative.

  • Leela Krishna

    hey hello all……………Iam really very much interested to join with you,I want to learn guitar.Upto now i dont know about guitar.So guys please help me in this.I want to buy a guitar now please help me with good one…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

  • coralpink

    Man, I am developing callouses on my fingers. Still slow changing chords. I can’t wait to finally play my fave songs and sing along. Guitar really made me a little happy and less lonely inside. Getting impatieeeeent.

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


  • Online Guitar Training

    Great post! I really enjoyed it! Check out my guitar website if you ever get a sec ;)

  • Michael

    What if you have really big fingers? Any suggestions?

  • Everson Zingano

    I was in a local pub last year and enjoying a band with a great guitar player on stage. It took me about 1 hour to notice that he had a malformed right hand, with only a few stubs instead of normal fingers. And he was shredding, playing licks and riffs like it was no big deal.

    Bottom line is that knowing your limitations is the first step on circumventing them.

    I ended up here when looking for easy lessons for a beginner. Will buy me a guitar and get working. The testimonials are great incentive.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.atees.in/ Ann Rose

    All of this advice is useful, as long as it’s possible to get a work permit in the country an expat has chosen. The best thing to do is “browse the official governments’ websites of your preferred country and look for information about work visas.” Another tool to include in a creative expat search strategy.
    best IELTS coaching center in Kerala

  • Kev Startin

    Found a good easy-ish is Def Leppard’s 2 steps behind.

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

    cheers good luck!

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

    absolutely played one for years

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