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There’s no standard user manual for learning guitar. How you want to approach the instrument, how you want to play it, where you want to go with it, that’s all up to you. Here are a few goals to work for to get you read to make those decisions.

1. Learn Your Notes

Strangely enough notes and tab are not the same thing, and I’m not disparaging tablature! It’s a great way to learn songs fast, but you’re doing yourself no favor. If you want to learn theory, how to write songs, and how to read music, you gotta learn your notes.

The good news is there are only 12 notes. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet and we learned all of those easily enough in pre-school. Here are some tips that can help fast track learning your notes:

  • Get started learning certain notes
  • Memorize all the notes at the dotted frets first
  • Practice the circle of fourths on each string while saying the notes out loud

Need some help? Learn how to find every note on the Fretboard.

2. Learn the G, C, and D Major Chords

I struggle to think of a song that doesn’t include at least one of these chords. These three chords are responsible for much of the music we enjoy today and, if you want to get “capo crazy,” these three chord “shapes” can be used to play a wide variety of songs.
First let’s get a better understanding about the difference between chords and chord shapes. Being able to tell the patterns (shapes) we use from the actual music itself is extremely important in order to gain a deeper understanding of your instrument and the artform as a whole.

Now with that understanding, check out JamPlay Chord Shapes and Sizes, Part 1 lesson and Chord Shapes and Sizes, Part 2 lesson to learn how you can create different sounds using chord shapes.

Mastered that and ready to take it to the next level?

JamPlay offers in-depth lessons across every genre to help you power up your guitar technique. Become a member to continue your learning.

3. Know How To Tune Your Guitar

It took me nearly an hour to tune my guitar the first time I tried it. I was absolutely terrified that I would break the instrument. But you won’t break your guitar just by tuning it… usually. Tuning is absolutely vital to becoming a good musician. If your instrument isn’t in tune, you aren’t in tune, and if that’s the case why bother playing in the first place? Learn from an expert. A Guide to Relative Tuning by Nick Kellie.

4. Know How To Hold Your Pick

The pick was one of the most vexing aspects about guitar for me. It was part of the reason why I switched to the bass for a couple years before coming back. Picks come in many different varieties but generally they’re all held in the same manner: point down. I know this might sound self evident, but for weeks I held my pick upside down and couldn’t figure out why I was having trouble.

Check out JamPlay’s lesson on knowing how to hold your pick to make sure you’re ready to rock. Visit to become a member. 

5. Know How To Restring Your Guitar

This is undoubtedly the most daunting task that a beginner has to come up against. But restringing your guitar can become a fun and somewhat intimate experience for guitarists.

Unless you’re really looking to reset your neck tension (something much, much harder) I’d recommend changing your strings two at a time, usually going lowest to highest. Experiment with different string gauges and see what feels best to you.

Now, with these five goals in mind you should find guitar to be a little less daunting by the end of your first month or so of practicing. Real progress though, is made in the mind, and to get deeper into that we need to talk about the beginner mentality.

Join the more than 500,000 guitarists who have experienced JamPlay. Guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Become a member today at

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