So much to learn (so little time!)

(Or what to learn first on guitar?)




When you're learning guitar for the first time, it can seem overwhelming. You know that the guitar in your hands is capable of sounding like the guitar on the tracks you like, but what is the fastest way to get it  sounding like, well, a guitar? Here are my top five points:


1. Learn the main chords


By learning the following chords, you can probably play the majority of popular songs from the past fifty years, or at least simplified versions of them:


E Major

E Minor

A Major

A Minor

D Major

D Minor

C Major 

G Major


That's only eight chords... how easy is that?


2. Learn a scale


The one thing that terrifies, or at least confuses new students, are scales. I get asked often, whats the point of them, as they are just notes, and don't actually sound like a tune or a melody.


The point of scales, at least when you start playing, are just to get your fingers comfortable on the fretboard, so you can play the guitar evenly and eventually they will form the basis of guitar solos and riffs.


So stick with it and eventually you will be able to do a lot with scales.


3. Feel the beat


In the past I have taken on students who have been playing for a while, and whilst they have some pretty flashy tricks in their bag, they're sense of timing hasn't been developed so they struggle when they first start playing with others.


Playing with along with a metronome can be a little (or a lot) dull when you first start, but the metronome will not hide your timing mistakes and there is not better way to get you to play in time.


Playing with a metronome need not be boring though. As Mary Poppins says "a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down". Try and make playing with a metronome fun. Try and focus on playing each note on time, and make a game out of it with yourself.


That may not have convinced you that playing with a metronome is fun, but I can assure you that it will be your friend in the end!


4. Listen and learn


This is not a tip about playing guitar per-se, but try and listen to all your favourite guitarists and work out what they're doing that make you enjoy their playing.


As you develop your own abilities, you will become more aware of what each guitarist is doing, and you can start stealing from them!


5. Don't forget to have fun!


There have been times over the last 20 years, that I have been so focused on getting everything sounding exact and perfect that I actually started to not enjoy playing as much, and what is the point of playing if you're not enjoying it?


So, read the four points above, but don't forget why you picked up a guitar in the first place. Turn your amp up, annoy your family, annoy your neighbours and enjoy the uniquiness of the music that you're creating.


Tom