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How To Learn Guitar In A Weekend

Of course you cannot completely learn how to play guitar in a weekend, but it is feasible to discover a lot in a short amount of time. It is all about having a proper instrument and the approach you take. If you have some sensible goals and put forth the effort, it is reasonable to learn enough about the guitar to get you playing in the shortest period possible.

Make Sure the Guitar is Setup Correctly

Before you can start playing the guitar, you must first make sure that it is tuned and setup properly. If you have a guitar that has bad intonation or action then you will not succeed. The action is how high the strings are and the intonation is every fret sounding as it should. If you play an A string, than the next fret up should sound like an A# or Gb, if it is not intonated you cannot make chords correctly. If you don’t have a good guitar tuner, this should be your first move.

Even if you do not understand the notes or any music theory yet, it is important to start working towards that goal. If your guitar is setup right you will be able to check all the notes of each chord, which helps with studying the fretboard. And besides the guitar setup, your physical body also needs to have good posture and a proper hold on the guitar.

Make sure you are tuned in standard EADGBE, sit up straight, and your first goal is to learn some chords.

Learn 3 or 4 Chords

The guitar is a chordophone, which means its main purpose is to create backing chords. Of course we can play a lead melody like a wind or brass instrument, but our underlying playing is always going to revolve around chord progressions. There are two famous chord progressions that cover most songs and they are the 1-4-5 and 1-5-6m-4. We want to learn one of these groupings of guitar chords.

  • GCDEm
  • ADEF#m
  • CFGAm
  • DGABm

Now the easiest keys for the beginner are usually a G chord or a C chord, we will stick with a G now, but you can use another key that works better for you. If you want to play more complicated keys than you can use a capo! Just move the capo up and remember each fret raises the note by a semitone. Start practicing playing the chords in these orders G-C-D and G-D-Em-C. Go ahead and use a guitar chord chart if needed.

Make sure each chord sounds correctly and your fingers press down right before the frets, there should be no muted or buzzing sounds. You can try fingerstyle or use a pick, just make sure the plucked sound is clear and pleasant with no squeaks. If you really struggle with making the full chord you can use the low bass strings to play power chords like in rock, punk, and heavy metal.

Focus On The Strum and Rhythm

As you practice these chords and get better at fretting them, start playing them in order one measure at a time with different strums. Play G-C-D-G for one measure each, and very slowly with a metronome. Start with just downward strokes on each beat.

G 1-2-3-4
C 1-2-3-4
D 1-2-3-4
G 1-2-3-4

Now these changes will be hard at first so it is imperative to go slow. If those chords are too much then just switch from G-D back and forth. As you progress, start adding in an alternate up and down strum instead of just moving in one downward direction. Your goal is to start adding rhythm into the strumming with a simple pop, folk, or country kind of vibe. Do not advance in your strums until you have each one mastered.

You can also finger pick arpeggios, instead of a strict up or down strum you can pluck the notes to make it sound harp-like. Keep your tuner on when doing this so you can see what notes you are playing, this will help get to know the fretboard and prepare you for soloing and melody playing. Eventually we will want to add bass notes and riffs in as we move through our chords, but that takes time to build up to.

Play Your Few Chords Over Backing Tracks

Once you can successfully play at least three chords like G-C-D, find a backing track or drum machine app to play along with. Just turn the track on a loop and practice moving through those chords. As you get better add in the Em chord and play the sequence G-D-Em-C along with the backing music. This jamming and improvisation can be done slowly and helps you get a feel for strumming and chord movement.

As you improve you can start adding in scales that fit the chord progression, a G major scale will fit the progression of G-C-D. Or whatever key you pick, stick to the major or even a minor scale. Obviously some of this may be more than you can work up to in a weekend, but it is important to get to this jamming part. It will help creativity and give you confidence in being able to play the guitar.

The most successful way to improve at music is to accomplish a simple riff or chord progression, by riffing on these few chords over a rhythm you will make giant leaps in your guitar playing!

Start Playing Songs You Know

Now that you know some basic chord progressions and have a grasp on simple strumming it is time to start looking up songs! This is a process of trial and error to see what works. Start with finding the chords of some easy guitar songs like simple kid’s songs and famous folk tunes, or anything you have known for a long time. The more familiar you are with the song, the easier it is to play.

Look up chords, tablature, and any lessons you can of your favorite songs. If you find it is immediately too difficult to play as a beginner, then move onto another! Besides folk and kid’s songs it is also easy to play many punk, alternative, and grunge songs as they have lots of heavy power chords. If your guitar goal is to shred and play heavy metal, well that will take more than a weekend to build up to.

As you learn more songs you will recognize chord progressions and you will start finding more extended chords. For example rock songs are often G-C-D7-G, that extra 7th note is what gives it that bluesy and rocking feeling to the overall progression. And besides practicing the chords make sure to learn some solos so you can work on techniques like hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends, and more.

As a beginner certain techniques and music theory ideas will seem confusing, so when you hit a wall just look it up on social media or a search engine. You may just be starting the guitar, but you are lucky as there are more resources than you can imagine for advancing your skills.

You would be surprised how much guitar playing you can learn in just a weekend! If you start with a tuned and proper guitar, learn a few chords, and practice changing them, in no time at all you will start to get the hang of it. If trying to learn guitar in a short amount of time, don’t focus too much on a pentatonic scale, for scales have a broader application that require more time get down. Just remember it is normal for your fingers and hands to hurt a little, but don’t play through pain too much, take breaks! But if you play clean chords and focus on your strumming you will learn guitar in the shortest time possible!

By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer