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 Denver’s entire catalog. My roommates/family members 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. 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. 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, Lucinda Williams, John Mayer, stuff like that.
  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 show you where you want to be.

Have fun and let me know if you need more help.

*Update February 2nd, 2017*

Wow! This post really seems to have helped a lot of folks get started with the guitar. It has been read by – I kid you not – millions of aspiring guitarists. Thank you! As many of you have noted in the comments below, no, I’m not selling anything here related to playing the guitar. My motivation to write this post was that musicians, and especially guitar teachers, can often make learning the guitar sound way too hard. It’s actually easy.

Sometimes it’s easier for an outsider to say stuff like that. I know many people in my life have used this simple approach to play the guitar and now, because of this blog post, certainly many hundreds (maybe even thousands!?) more. That’s super cool.

A lot has changed for me since I first wrote this post well over five years ago, but not the guitar’s role in my life. That’s one of the cool things about this skill. It’s like riding a bike. Once you’ve got it, you have it for life.

I wanted to add a few comments regarding the most frequently asked questions I receive about playing the guitar. I’m also going to make a few product recommendations for those of you looking to purchase your first guitar. “What guitar should I buy” is the #1 question I receive from readers.

Question: “Hey Dan, my fingers are really hurting, is there anything I can do about this? 

Answer: Not really, except know that you’re sharing that pain with every guitarist who came before you! It’s like a right of passage. If you practice enough, the pain will go away, guaranteed!

Question: “My hands are small and I’m having a tough time making the chords, what can I do?”

There’s plenty of people with small hands who play the guitar. Nine times out of ten smaller people confuse the terrible awkwardness that comes with the first week of playing the guitar and mistakenly think it’s because their hands are small. Again, you’re teaching your hands to do really strange movements here. Imagine going to an advanced yoga class having never stretched before, that’s basically what you’re doing.

I’m a bigger guy and I still had a lot of trouble my first ten hours. All of that said, I do think there is a virtue in a 3/4 scale guitar.

A 3/4 scale guitar is basically a “baby” sized guitar, designed for kids or travelers. I actually have one myself. Why? Because I think they are fun to play and it’s convenient in the small apartment I live in. I also think they are slightly easier to play. So there you go. A complicated answer!

Question: “Is it better to start with an electric or acoustic guitar?”

It doesn’t really matter. What counts most is finding a guitar you’ll want to play. You could base the decision on the type of music you aspire to play. What I was starting out, my motivation was to play Dave Matthews songs, so an acoustic guitar was an obvious choice.

I do think playing an electric guitar is slightly easier but not so much that it’ll matter that much (basically, it’s easier to push the strings down). So the best answer is: the guitar you’ll play the most. Eventually you’ll have both :)

“What is the best guitar to start with?”

I get this question a lot, and the best answer is ‘whatever you got.’ But if you want to get something good I’ll make some recommendations. My first guitar cost less than $50. And that was just fine for me to learn on. Problem? It was a total piece of crap.

So what I’m going to do is recommend guitars that are mid-range and that you can grow with. Although these guitars aren’t that expensive, you could easily play with them in a band and in front of audiences. And as your skill progresses, you won’t be thinking “this thing sucks.”

Acoustic: I recommend a Yamaha solid top acoustic guitar. This guitar plays just as good as some that are many hundreds of dollars more expensive. It can be difficult to manufacture quality acoustics at low prices due to the importance of a solid top finish. When I was in college I scratched together the cash to buy a handmade acoustic guitar that was over $1,000 (I won’t mention the brand) but that guitar was nowhere near as good as this Yamaha.

I actually gave my original Yamaha to a friend and former bandmate, and a few years later when I settled into a new apartment in a new city, I went out and bought the same damn guitar. So yeah. That’s as good a recommendation as I can give. If you want an acoustic, go get the Yamaha.

3/4 Size Acoustic: I also have a 3/4 Scale Guitar in my apartment because they are awesome to sit beside your couch and just pick up easily and jam with. I bought the guitar a few months ago, and when I was playing it a concerned shopper came up to me and reminded me “that’s for kids you know.” I laughed. Fair enough, but I think little guitars are cool to have around the house, so if you do too (or if you have really small hands) perhaps this could be the guitar for you.

Electric guitar: Well the world of electric guitars is in some ways more complex, as there are all kinds of different looks and technologies. And it’s not good enough to just have a guitar, you need to buy an amplifier as well. I will just recommend mid-level stuff that’s worked for me based on my preferences, but if you like “stuff” and collecting gear, you’ll find playing the guitar to be a deeply satisfying hobby :)

So what’s the coolest electric guitar there is? Well, that’s for you to decide. But for me it’s the classic Fender Standard Telecaster (that’s what I’m playing in the video above) or the Fender Standard Stratocaster.

My heart rate just went up 10 beats a minute just looking at these things!

love love love these guitars. No gimmicks. They are pure class (but are capable of absolute fury!) :) Think a Telecaster can’t rock? Johnny Greenwood respectfully disagrees. Check out Bonnie Raitt using a Strat to lay down some nasty slide licks. SRV nearly tears the strings off his Strat. Would you prefer something a little funkier? Here’s Prince playing the greatest guitar solo of all time on a Telecaster.

One problem, particularly if you are just starting out. They are expensive! So perhaps just something for those of you who know you’re in this for the long haul. But these guitars are the type that you could have for your entire life!

And also remember: it’s not always true that a more expensive guitar is better. I had one “knockoff” brand Stratocaster in high school that to this day is one of the best guitars I’ve ever had. Sadly, it was stolen some years later :( Oh well.

If you like these guitars but don’t have that kind of money, Fender has an “entry” level brand called “Squire.” Now, when I was young Squire guitars were junk, but nowadays they are much much better. I think the entire guitar industry has upped their game. You can see Fender has created a simple “beginner’s” pack here.

Not bad! The only downside to a setup like this is that you’ll start to feel the “limit’s” of the rig, if you play a lot, within the first year. But it’s also affordable so you can’t argue with that!

Now many people are going to ask about other brands, like why don’t I suggest Gibson guitars? It really is a personal taste thing, and it’ll ultimately depend on yours. Perhaps by the style of music you play or the artists you admire. For me, Fender guitars represent the best in quality and feel. Many Gibson style guitars have fatter necks, bigger frets, are heavy, and feel and sound “muddy” to me, whereas the feel of a Stratocaster– light, slender, classic– feels, plays, and looks fast.  :)

Jimmy approves.

Jimi approves.


To rock, you need an amplifier. I personally enjoy anything “Line 6” or “Fender.”

On the high end, you can play gigs with the modern Line 6 Guitar Amplifier (offers many on-board effects), or for a more classic live performance oriented amp you cannot go wrong with the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe.  This is the amp I used to play to audiences in my rock and roll days. Your neighbors are going to hate you! :)

If you want something more for in-home use, I’d recommend a smaller amp with on-board effects. For that purpose Line 6’s amps work better than Fender’s in my opinion. This little amp, the Line 6 Spider Classic is killer! And really affordable. It’s great for beginners practicing John Mayer licks in their bedroom.

One other cool thing about electric guitars– you can plug them into your computer and use a program like Apple’s Garageband as an amplifier. You can basically have 100’s of classic sounds available virtually. You can “jam” virtually with your computer and create full-on recordings on your laptop. You’ll just need a “pre-amp,” which is a device that amplifies the signal from your guitar before it sends it to your computer. I’d recommend something like the Focusrite Scarlett

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 1.10.34 PM

Other stuff you might need:

Probably a guitar tuner. If you have an iPhone, this app is incredible! If you prefer to have a dedicated tuner the KLIQ “UberTuner” will work. As you scan tabs on the internet, you’ll notice a lot of songs require Capos, this one is my favorite. And you might want a guitar stand to show off your axe :)

Do you have other questions about learning to play the guitar? I continue to respond to readers in the comments and occassionally I’ll come back to update this post since, even so many years after I wrote it, it seems that many folks are finding value in it. It’s working! People are playing the guitar :)

Thanks for reading, and rock on.


PS, check out John wail.

PPS, a lot of the links to the product recommendations above will give us a small commission if you purchase through them. That does not influence the price or my recommendations. Here’s the disclosure policy: Tropical MBA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

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Published on 05.16.11
  • not at the beginning but it’s cheap to replace

  • Alexus

    ok i found out im getting the string sunday and thank you so much ive only been playing a few hours and i already hear myself getting better!

  • rock on!

  • Sammae

    I just recently started learning guitar, and of course my fingers hurt due to the strings. Well there is a way to help with that, they have these silicone finger protectors you can put on your fingers and they help protect!!! They are wonderful, brand I believe is Gorilla Tips.

  • Amanda Ackerley

    I’m lefty and have been struggling with B7 chord for a long time.Any suggestions.

  • cool, although since you need to develop callouses anyway i’m not sure this is the way i’d go. at some point you gotta face the pain! ;D

  • some struggle is part of the process! :) you can always play a simpler version of the chord.

  • Benabbou Noureddine Aissa

    how is your playing now ?

  • Ashley

    Hey! ….How can I get my chords to ring clearer? I followed all the tips but I can’t get the perfect chord sound, it keeps buzzing!

  • VriendP

    I bought a Fender Stratocaster, american standard. Spent months trying to understand music theory, going over that stuff many times. Spent at least 30 minutes a day practicing. Result: zilch. I still don’t understand the theory and I can’t play one decent song. So either I’m a complete moron without any talent or the guitar is really difficult to master.

  • Amanda Ackerley

    Hey Dan I’ve found an app for my iPad and solved B7 :) Thank you.

  • Andrei P

    Title: “Learn to Play the Guitar in 10 Hours”

    Middle of the article: “.. it’ll take longer than 10 hours”

    Conclusion: You are a fucking retard.

  • Otis Johnson

    Just got a new(old) guitar. Getting it repaired, tuned then I’ll be right back here to put this to the test.

  • Fred_g

    Nice article Dan but I think you don’t mention the impact of motivation.. It’s easy to lose it and shove back the guitar in the cellar when playing alone at home. On my side I discovered a small app (https://mymusicteacher.fr) that use the mic of my tablet to give me an instant feedback. It plays like a videogame and the urge to beat your own score is really motivating !


    I just wanna say thanks.
    I’ve made more progress on guitar with this article more than anything else ive tried.
    It really helps you see the results fast and gives you the confidence to carry on.
    Ive had my guitar for like 2 years now and ive tried to play it on and off with online guitar tutorials.
    Within just 3 days ive seen progress.Especially in the muscle memory department. Once your hands and your brain have the patterns programmed into them, it just flows out naturally and with way less effort than in the begining.
    I now believe i can get better because ive seen the results within just 3 days.

  • daddy_2010

    Thanks! Free time has been scarce. But summer should help.

  • Ethan

    I really want to learn the guitar but I keep having motivation problems… Do you have anything you could tell me to help me get a move on and learn the guitar! I already have a 400£ guitar that my dad gave me, lucky me! It’s a Farida C-35CENA. Is it any good? Sadly it has the E1 (I think that’s the name of the smallest string) that has been cut. They are nylon strings. Can I still learn without it until I get a new one?

  • Anonymou53

    Do you have any instructions on how to strum?

  • Jon hjbbhubhibih

    I’m not gay

  • Kavin Kartik

    wat to do if i have the craze to play songs like the one in pirates of the carr…..:):) acoustic or electric is best??? to start with

  • karthik pavan singh

    Tysm for the post. It motivated me to a new height. Respect to the blog writer :*) #from India :p

  • Gerry

    Hi! I’m a leftie. Would it be hard for me to learn how to play guitar?

  • not any harder than for a right hander, you just need to get a left-handed guitar.

  • Sgt. TrollzorR

    So i just got ‘my’ really old original nashville acoustic sent to me by my dad, and i must say thank you dan for making me able to make my dad proud of me. Im 18 y/o and all my life my fathers been disappointed that i didnt share the same passion for music he did (which was wrongly assumed btw).

    You gave me the confidence and ability to finally learn this instrument i was always too afraid to get into.

    Thanks Dan :D

  • Aaron

    I’ve been practicing for 45 minutes and I can’t even play 1 chord. This is a crock of sh*t to say you can play along with any song within 1 hour.

  • CareGiver

    Dan, First, Thanks for posting. I am a caregiver of a parent with Dementia. My spouse lives 2500 miles away. For two years I kept the house cleaned and care for my parent 24/7. I was told i need some “me” time. I bought a guitar a year ago and finally came across your post three days ago. I am on day two. G is getting easier. C is still a bit more concentration. D is ok. Thirty minutes a day while the parent is napping. After my thirty minutes its a half hour with the dog in the backyard. E and A minor will come tomorrow.

  • Anastazia Paula Schmitz

    Hello Dan, I love this blog!!! Thank you so much for posting it, you have inspired me to learn to play. Do you have any instructions on how to strum? I cannot tell from your video how you are strumming the guitar. I am scary new to this!!! LOL! Any help in this area would me appreciated so much! Thank you, Anastazia

  • dom

    thank you for this. I am just learning to play. I feel like I am changing as a person. And I will have to totally agree that it can seem cumbersome at first to pick up an instrument without having any experience. Your post makes my passion and dream to learn how to play the guitar seem reachable. Thank you. : )

  • Ola Kuzam

    I have a classic guitar…
    Can I play the songs u mentioned above ??

  • Brian Henricksen

    I’ll let U know how it works out, Thanks for the info, ☮️

  • That is useful information for music lover. If you are looking for more guitars visit this site.

  • Frank Carlton

    for a beginner, any difference in steel and nylon strings? Thanks, Frank

  • not really except that nylon strings are designed for fingerstyle play. they’ll be easier on your fingers but won’t sound as good (generally speaking) when you are strumming cowboy chords which essentially is what’s written about above. The main thing is just to play :D

  • tainted colours

    While I was learning the hand styles and playing the notes (I need to tune the guitar, I can tell rip), my dad walked in and stared at me trying not to break my left wrist……. again. But this is very helpful! I know it’ll be a while, but I can’t wait to be able to play my favorite Ed Sheeran and Plain White T’s songs!!

  • Greg Smith

    Nice post. I’m almost 50 and have wanted to learn guitar for a long time. I’m giving it a try this year.

    What do you think of the Ibanez S521 guitar? Would that be considered an easy to play and stay in tune guitar?

  • Greg Smith

    I think you have to want to learn how to play.
    But an option is to find something you can use as a reward for yourself. Maybe you want a certain PS4 game. Buy it and leave it in sight, but don’t let yourself play it until you meet a certain milestone.

  • very cool welcome to the music world! guitar looks great, although i’ve never personally played one.

  • Greg Smith

    My son just picked up a guitar in the last couple of months and is trying to learn. I’m hoping that we will be able to help each other learn when he’s home from college. Jamming together could become our thing.

    I’ll just have to figure out how to get the wife and daughter in on the fun.

  • very cool, it’s a life-changer that’s for sure. good luck!

  • Smacaveli The Don

    Great article. Looking to pick up a guitar for the first time at 34 years old. I found this article and all links helpful. Thanks for the time you put in to educate aspiring artists. Pure class.

  • you got it, you’ll likely learn a lot faster than somebody starting in their teens or 20’s (wisdom!) :) good luck and rock on

  • Synth Sizer

    Thanks for the great page. I’m thinking of buying another guitar to mix it with music production. Just as a hobby. I had a guitar when I was 14-15, knew like 2 or 3 chords. Lol, But I’m planning on seriously learning more this time around.

  • Randy Kaikula

    One of the best posts I’ve ever read. I’m restarting my journey to learning the guitar. This is the most informative post I’ve seen without asking to buy something. My question is what size pick should I buy and use?

  • thanks Randy. The only real answer is to try them all, most are really cheap anyway. You pick choice will change with your style of play as well. My favorites are these orange ones: https://www.jimdunlop.com/category/products/guitar+picks/tortex.do

  • Darlene Martino

    My husband passed away and I have his Electric Guitar and would love to learn how to play. I have zero experience and no music education, I am 55 and am chronically ill, I need something to help me adjust to this and he always wanted me to learn “red” . Is this going to help me? CAN ANYONE HELP ME, I have apprehension and need help finding he right program or lesson. OR Do you suggest finding a teacher. Not my preference but…

  • Pedro

    this instrucion is very good, i loved


  • Greg Smith

    Give the steps that are listed up in this blog post a try. A lot of very good guitarists are self taught.

  • Seth

    Ok so my fingers are really big so when I do the C chord my index finger is aways touching the first string and stopping the sound. What can I do?

  • Kate Wilson

    Thank you for this!! I’ve been struggling through lessons, a beginner book and some hard to understand chord sheets. This seems so simple and I can’t thank you enough. Have been wanting to improve and learn songs, love the Tab concept! Yay for people like you!!!!!!

  • Ramblin Man

    I’m really glad you put up a link to that amazing Prince solo! It blows my mind how people haven’t seen it. Also thanks for the tutorial, it’s very helpful.

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