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

    hey Dean that’s great to hear!!!! you should find power chords just as easy and you can start playing rhythm along to some of your favorite big rock bands as well… have fun!

  • Blade

    When you are ready, http://dragonguitar.com has an awesome virtual guitar to help learn to play guitar guitar scales and chords.

  • Sandy

    I am right handed. My left ring finger is damaged, in that it has about 10% feeling and feels weird when touching things. Can I play with the old fashioned sewing thimble ?

  • Niga Xalid

    Thanx Dan this post realy made me to start learning to play guitar ,, i have always liked it but i know nothing about guitars and stuff withwhich kind i should start classic or electronic guitars?

  • julia

    Thank you, this really worked for me! However I just broke a string, which is the reason why I stopped playing a year ago, so I’m feeling really down because I just learned how to play Ring of Fire, and I won’t be able to play again for a week.

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

    no worries! buy extra strings as well, also if you keep breaking one string ( i often break the skinny one) just buy multiple ones of that instead of a full pack

  • emma h

    Wow this website is amazing i just mastered the g and c chords in a matter of minutes this help a lot thanks!

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

    you got it!

  • Artman

    You DO have to cut your nails short. If you do not, you will not be able to correctly fret the notes with your fingertips, you will experience dead notes, and all manner of string buzz, and the frustration might be enough to discourage you from continuing.
    Cut the nails on your fretting fingers as short as you can get them, then file them down smooth and flush.
    Your fingertips will become tender and sore the first week or so, then they will begin to toughen, and clean notes will come much more easily to you.
    Cut and file them down. You’ll be glad you did.

  • Panos

    Hey Dan, I’m 15 years old and just started playing guitar based on your tutorial!! :)
    Already learnt the G and C keys and can switch between them in like, 2 seconds, I’ll learn the rest tomorrow! I’ll let you know on my progress! Thanks, you are great!

  • Andrew

    Does this work for left handed people too?

  • NIyel

    hey dan how bout the switching of chords? does it need to be accurate on the first time or slowly but surely? yeah i’m just a newbie in playing guitar.

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

    just keep going eventually it’ll fall into place. go slow enough to get it right and gradually (over days and weeks) speed up.

  • Janis

    Is it easier to learn how to play a dulcimer or a harpolute than a guitar? I am not fast enough to change cords. I saw a harpolute at an antique store that had 10 strings.

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

    not sure never played those

  • Anand V

    You can learn how to play chords , use this site

  • murat

    Video Guitar Lessons 1 -month billing $ 10 per month for 6 months $ 60 12 months ISE full $ 60
    60 day money back guarantee

  • Gabrielle Blades

    Very useful! Thanks a ton!!

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


  • Cranky

    Hey Dan, How can I make my fingers faster to get to the right cords? I knew nothing About guitar until I found your website. I started just tester and thanks to you i am enjoying it much much more! So please tell me how to make my fingers faster.

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

    it’s just time! you have to re-program your brain it just takes time

  • Dior

    Hey Dan! Thanks for the info! I’m finally looking into buying a guitar to start with. What do you think about the Indiana Elite Scout? The really pretty ones? Thanks!

  • http://www.poop.com hipnotyq

    DUDE! I’ve had a gibson acoustic epiphone sitting in my closet since 2008 and haven’t touched it. In one hour I was able to memorize all 5 basic chords! Thank you so much for making it easy and encouraging!

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

    you got it man, glad you are rockin!

  • Alicia

    I just put new strings on my dads old guitar and learned the chords. Awesome lesson btw :)

  • Ghazi Tahir

    Okay, first off, this has been a great help! thank you!

    Now, I’ve gotten a good hold of the shapes, I’ve got more pain in my pointer finger than I have in the rest. In fact, the others are getting used to it pretty good. but the (thinnest/and second thinnest) strings really hurt when you fret them with the pointer finger. Any tips on that?

    And, I need you to elaborate on what exactly do you mean by jamming out on john denver after my first hour. I went to the chord page and the names are different so they are confusing. and they have more chords like d7 and a couple which I have no idea about. So I need to get a hold of those too then?

  • Ghazi Tahir

    And, I think I need a capo II for the country roads song. cause thats the alternative given at the bottom.

  • Fabian

    Dan, do you know a good Website to learn how to Play a guitalele

  • Jay

    Hi Dan.

    Greetings ! Im Jay and im thinking if im not too late to learn guitar. I love music and i want to learn some instrumental. Before this i got an uke but i got stuck with remembering the chords and so on..am i will be able to learn guitar NOW ? Hurm…

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

    Why not!!? Personally I don’t think Ukes are as much fun.

  • acs

    Dan I have an acoustic guitar I would love to know how to play but I am a small girl with weak fingers! Do you have a suggestion for strings that are easier on the fingers?

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

    you could use nylon strings like they are on classical guitar, but i can’t think of a better way to build your strength than rocking out!

  • Bindu Kumar

    I’m going to bookmark this page!

  • mj

    Like the post from a fella a couple years back, I also took lessons as a kid but didn’t stick with it. Now that I’m in my 60’s and realizing I need to do what I want to do as opposed to what I’m supposed to do I’ve just bought a guitar and some accessories because of your listing those 4 false assumptions. You must have been reading my mind!

    Thanks, man…I’ve barely gotten started but already sense that this is something I should have stuck with if for no other reason than focussing on playing and blocking all the other stuff out, making a personal investment.

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

    Cheers that’s lovely to hear!!! good luck and rock on

  • Taichi Haven

    I found an good guitar… what do you think?

  • Taichi Haven

    I play flute… wanna play guitar too, so I want an opinion first… plus I’m still in middle school…

  • halifaxguy

    You are the first website I stumbled upon after typing in “learn guitar”. Anyway I’m ALL IN! Bought a guitar tonight and going to see how the 10 hours go. Thought I was too old, thought I had no talent, now…fuck it!! I’m going to play something. Thanks

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

    that’s wonderful to hear!!!

  • Ellie

    Can I play an electric and acoustic using this technique?

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

    yes :)

  • suprasport

    im 47 now and its took 30 years to go for it. Ive decided on an aria strat for christmas and I cant remember last time I was so excited for my presents on christmas morning haha. Cant even practice until then. feel excited and nervous that i wont be able to get the hang of it.

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

    rock on good luck you’ll do fine!

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