21 Tips to Learn Guitars Quickly
1. Hire a guitar teacher
In-person guitar lessons are great, because you can have 1-on-1 feedback from a great player 2 feet away from you! Private lessons are great for: (a) setting a roadmap of how you can learn, moving forward, (b) accountability, since your teacher will see you next week, and (c) being able to watch and get real-time tips from an experienced guitarist.
Online guitar lessons
With online guitar lessons, you're still technically hiring a teacher. Plus, the pros of online guitar lessons might outweight the cons (for your living situation); the pros include that: (a) online guitar lessons are usually a fraction of the per hour cost, (b) they're highly convenient, since you can watch them on your own time, and (c) you get tons of choice with the 1,000s of online guitar courses available.
2. Meetup with your musically minded-friends
As the old saying goes, you're the average of the 5 people you hang out with. In other words, try letting "learning guitar via osmosis" do its thing!
Have your musically minded pals over, put on a record and have a good time! Always nice to know what your friends like and don't like when it comes to music; great way to find new guitarists to check out on Youtube.
3. Explore the world of music
Keep diving into band documentaries of your favorite artists, explore biographies, try listening to new stuff — mainly, just keep your ears peeled for interesting new sounds!
This is more "learning via osmosis"; repeatedly watching how your favorite guitarist carries her or himself, handles the guitar, and so on is super helpful to fast-track your learning.
4. Learn with a new perspective
There's a decent chance you've (until this point) spent most of your life, not learning guitar! That means introducing a brand new, daily habit will take some getting used to. One productivity hack that may resonate with you is pairing the new daily ritual of guitar, with other new things (to help it stick); this can include going on a trip, cutting ties with bad habits, or getting a new job.
5. Jam to your favorite recordings
Don't worry, you can still jam to recordings without knowing how to play guitar! Just throw on a video of your favorite music, and keep your ear out for the guitarist!
You can start to learn the "formulas" behind music. AKA you can push that transition from being a music cook to a music chef; using chords and scales, you can start to invent your own strumming patterns and notes to fit into your favorite guitarist's recordings. By hearing your idol playing, then calling-and-responding with your own playing, it's a great way to start meshing with their style!
6. Jam with friends
Feel free to invite your guitar playing friends over. Go ahead, don't be shy, and ask them how the guitar works, see if you can learn a chord or a tune from them!
Your guitar playing friends are like private teachers, but instead of paying them money, you pay them with social bribes (whether it's some cheesecake, or spotting them a round of golf once summer starts!)
7. Start playing guitar in listening view of others
One of the toughest things (time and time again) as you start learning guitar is performance in front of others. It's like getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time; it can bring out nerves inside you that you didn't know you had!
But, playing in front of others (and especially failing in front of others!) is undoubtedly one of the fastest ways to get better; in fact, it's probably one of the fastest ways to learn guitar on this unordered list! If you can reach a point where you actually enjoy getting your butt kicked by public performance, you'll get better faster. It's that fighter idea of getting knocked down but rising back up. In fact, you could probably measure your learning speed based on the number of ass whoopings you get per unit of time!
Part of why private lessons are so great is because every week you've got to show your guitar teacher (a form of public performance) what you've learned. And really that game situation is the great equalizer! But use it to your advantage and you'll be off to the races.
8. Consistency is key
It's going to be easy to play guitar when you're really feeling that nice bug! But also picking the darn thing up at times when you don't feel like playing guitar — that's what separates the sigmas from the alphas! /s
The great musician Miles Davis put it like this, "all you have to do is touch your instrument, every day."
Julius Irving put it like this, "Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them."
The guitar's calling your name, so keep answering that call with the energy with which you started!
9. Heed what the greats had to say about the instrument
Get the opinions of as many badass guitar players as you can find (on Youtube, in-person, reading books, watching movies), and apply the most-often mentioned principles you hear (some classic examples are: playing with feel, playing with restraint, no such thing as talent, etc)
Here are a couple fun facts! While on the topic of the greats...
- Dikembe Mutombo first touched a basketball when he was 16
- Wes Montgomery began learning guitar at 20
- Johnny Ramone started learning guitar at 24
- Elizabeth Cotten recorded her first album at the age of 65
- Wayne Shorter premiered his latest orchestral piece at age 89
10. Toss yourself into the deep-end
Your dream with the guitar may be to crowd-surf while shredding Eruption by Eddie Van Halen, with new ideas on those riffs. Well, you can do it!
Start by cracking the door open as you practice (so your family can hear you), then practicing in the kitchen, then playing song for a friend, then playing at a get-together, then 4 get-togethers, jamming with friends, jamming with friends and an audience, going to an open mic, joining a band, rehearsing with the band, playing with your band to friends, booking a show, and so on.
Playing guitar for people, live, is one of those classic ways of throwing yourself in the deep end, and trying to see if you sink or swim! As the old-timers say, it's a fast way of learning, and you can figure out ways of tossing yourself in the deep end when it comes to the guitar! Get your skin in the game and you'll light a fire underneath yourself!
11. Listen for "breakthroughs"
What you really want on the guitar are those "breakthroughs"; irregular leaps of understanding and ability, which fast-forwards your knowing of guitar. For example, that can be when you suddenly "get" how you can transition between fretting chords (say, by using a metronome, if that works for you). Or, it can be when you're jamming to a B.B. King video, and (after hours of trying to imitate his vibrato technique) suddenly you look down and find yourself mirroring the technique to-a-tee.
If you can cultivate those "breakthroughs" more often, then of course you'd learn faster. No one knows exactly how to cultivate breakthroughs on-demand, but you can cultivate the "conditions" for breakthroughs to potentially happen. For starters, that can mean just spending more time with the guitar; if you're playing twice as frequently, you may be twice as likely (or more) to unlock an inner breakthrough.
12. Record yourself and listen back to the recording
One great tactic for scrutinizing your own playing is by recording and listening to it! You can do it with your smartphone app, no doubt.
It's sobering to listen to yourself; it's like looking into the mirror and seeing your freckles and wrinkles. But your job is to note them, and focus on them in your practice. Unlike freckles and wrinkles on your face, imperfections in your guitar playing can be fixed by simply budgeting more time to your guitar practice and spending that time efficiently and enjoyably.
13. Be your own coach
If you decide to join an online course, hire a private teacher, or teach yourself, no matter what, if you take charge of your own learning, then you'll be in for a fruitful journey with the guitar!
Even Tiger Woods has a golf coach, but he's still the boss who's hiring the coach, as a helper to achieve his swing vision. So whether you're solo-learning or have private lessons, it certainly won't hurt to cultivate your inner drive!
14. Integrate the guitar into your daily life
If you're able to fit the guitar into a daily ritual of yours, that'll substantially increase the chances of you being a great guitar player! Doing a little bit over a long time is slow — but also the fastest way to be good lol.
You can do all sorts of things to make yourself enjoy your practice session more. Here are some ideas:
- Decorate your practice area with things you love (movie posters, autographed memorabilia, mementos)
- Indulge in a snack after your practice session (reward)
- Promise gifts from you, to you (if you hit your practice milestones). For example, if you finish working through a guitar method book, then you'll upgrade your guitar from a starter guitar to a more mid-range-priced model
- Keep a tally of practice to-dos, as prescribed by your private teacher, online course, or friendly advice, and work through that routine each time. This is "extra credit" work, but can pay off handsomely. Careful logging of your practice sessions helps you gain an extra "umph" out of your practice, since you can remind yourself where you left off, notate what you should practice while it's fresh, and track your progress.
15. Tone is in your fingers
While you're doing your online learning, or private guitar learning, don't rely on gear to sound good. Own the cahones of your $100 pawn-shop guitar — make that thing wail!
Being really into gear is great, but as they say, "the tone's in your fingers". As a guitar player, my headspace is, "can you wield the money's-worth of your guitar, multiplied by 10?" If the answer's yes, then by all means spend your cash — you've worked hard and earned it! If not, keep grinding it and using your guitar upgrade as motivation to get better.
16. Start with an acoustic guitar
Trust me, if you want to be a great electric guitar player, then start on an acoustic guitar! (And, you want to be a great acoustic player, start on acoustic too!)
Here are some of the key benefits of starting on an acoustic guitar, rather than an electric:
- Tone: you learn to own your tone, rather than relying on electronics and effects
- Strength: acoustic strings are almost always thicker-gauged than electrics (for more volume), so you'll build your hand-strength much faster. And it'll make electric guitars easier to play.
- Affordability: acoustic guitars have at minimum $75 savings of gear involved ($60 amp and $10 cable) — and of course the setup is easier
- Portability: with less gear, it's easier to hop around with your guitar, practice in different parts of the house, and bring it in the car
These are some of the guitar greats who began playing on acoustic guitar:
- Ace Frehley
- Yngwie Malmsteen
- Derek Trucks
- Chuck Berry
- Robert Johnson
- Eric Clapton
- Steve Vai
- Jeff Beck
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Randy Rhoads
- Tony Iommi
...you get the point right!
17. Keep your "ears open"
In regards to different music genres, as the old adage goes, "don't knock it 'till you try it!"
One cool thing about learning guitar is that you appreciate — at minimum on a technical level — guitarists of all genres. For example,
- A metalhead who's amazed by Django
- A bebopper who likes Lead Belly
- A rocker who adores Segovia
As Duke Ellington said, the only 2 kinds of music are good music and bad music!
18. Try to keep the feel happening
We all think about notes, scales, fretting notes, learning new chords, but don't always match that with learning about rhythms, keeping good time, having a groove. It's really important to have both the notes and the groove!
In fact, Dizzy Gillespie said groove and rhythm is more important than the note: “some people think of a note, then think of its rhythm; I start with the rhythm, then think of the note.”
19. Play soft and loud
Experimenting with dynamics, you can sometimes reach a new dimension of your guitar playing, just by being more mindful of delicacy versus force. It's an aural palette that is among the easiest to incorporate, and most impactful, yet often neglected; as you're learning guitar, hopefully by being cognizant of dynamics you'll reach a playing stage faster!
20. Take chances and be brave
This section is that obligatory speech about taking risks, and doing things that are uncommon. What you want are uncommon results. And that'll mean making uncommon choices. So dig deep!
Being a guitar player might force you out of your comfort-zone, since it's not just about playing guitar. It's a cool lifestyle, where you've got a direct outlet to express creative ideas, live-out Buddhist-type practices of always improving and accepting imperfections. And it may clash with your current ways of life, and their manifestations. If you want to learn guitar, you'll have to let the guitar win.
And there you have it, some bite-sized information to help you on your way to learning guitar quickly!
Just channel that love you've got, have a vision, and go for it! You're supported and welcome into the legion of guitarists!
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