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Want To Learn To Play Guitar Fast?

Updated on February 15, 2011

Many people want to learn to play guitar fast. There are even books and websites that promise that you can become a guitar whizz in just a few weeks (or even a few days, in some cases!). These claims should be regarded with scepticism – learning the guitar is a complex skill, and it takes time and effort for even the most naturally talented person to get to a good standard.

Having said that, the approach you take to learning guitar will determine how fast you progress, and  it’s possible for most people to get to a reasonable standard fairly quickly – ‘reasonable’ meaning you can play music that’s recognisable, complex enough to be musically satisfying, and doesn’t sound painful to everyone in earshot.

Here are some tips to bear in mind if you want to learn to play guitar fast, and enjoy the process too.

1. Practice makes perfect – if done correctly

If you want to improve quickly, you need to practice regularly. But just putting the time in isn’t enough – you need to practice properly. This means playing as well as you can when you’re practising – because sloppy practice won’t lead to great results.

This doesn’t mean you have to stress out about making mistakes – mistakes are inevitable, and aren’t a problem if you learn from them, rather than mindlessly repeating them. But you can minimise the number of mistakes you make by practising extremely slowly. It’s ironic in a way, but the slower you practice, the faster you’ll progress, because playing slowly means you can get things – rhythm, fingering etc – right. So you’ll learn to play the right way from the beginning – thus fixing the correct technique in your brain and muscle memory right away - and won’t have to waste time later on correcting mistakes that have become ingrained because you were practicing too quickly and sloppily.

It can be challenging to practice slowly – after all, playing quickly is fun! But it’s important to only speed up once you’ve mastered the music you’re playing at a slower tempo. Trying to go too fast too soon will just mean you don’t make much real progress – you may be able to play quickly, and advance through your guitar course to the difficult techniques more rapidly, but you’ll be unlikely to have a really solid grasp of what you’re learning, and your playing will lack polish.

‘Practice very slowly, progress very fast’ – Stephen Heller

2. Stay focused as you practice

You can also learn guitar more quickly by staying very focused as you practice. This is related to the above point, in that when you slow down, it becomes easier to really think about how you’re playing at each stage.

Rather than letting your mind wander, really pay attention to what you’re doing with your body, and on the sounds you’re making. Make sure you’re fretting the notes using the correct hand position, and with an appropriate amount of finger pressure. Pay attention to how you are strumming/picking/plucking the strings. Notice how you’re holding your arms and the rest of your body, and be aware of any tension creeping in. Listen closely to the sounds you’re producing with each note or chord.

When you’re a complete beginner, you normally have your attention fully absorbed by learning the very fundamentals of the instrument. Just forming your first chord takes great concentration. But once you’ve got those basics down, it’s easy to start playing on autopilot. This is fine if you just want to coast along, but if you want to continue to improve your guitar skills – and especially if you want to improve quickly – it’s vital to stay focused and avoid letting your mind drift as you practice.

Give all your attention to the learning process, and those new skills will sink in much more quickly and easily.

3. Follow a structured learning plan

Next, if you’re just beginning the guitar, you’ll make the fastest progress if you follow a professionally designed guitar lesson plan. This will teach you all the fundamental skills that are needed to play guitar well, and will teach them in the appropriate sequence, so you can maximise your progress by building on what you’ve learned. People who are taking lessons with a teacher will (or should) be doing this anyway, but if you’re teaching yourself to play guitar, it’s something you’ll need to do for yourself.

A lot of people who try to learn to play guitar at home do so by approaching it in a piecemeal kind of way – they learn a few chords, some scales, a riff or two, maybe some complete songs. But they don’t follow a structured plan that really helps them make sense of what they’re learning. It’s hard to progress efficiently if you don’t really understand what you’re learning, and why, and if you’re trying to pick up bits and pieces of knowledge from lots of different places. So if you want to progress as fast as you can, and avoid wasting time and making things more difficult than they need to be, make sure you follow a good guitar course (read my Jamorama review for more details about my experience with one of these).

Bearing these tips in mind should help you to get the most out of your guitar practice time, and progress at a good pace. But remember that no matter how skilled you become there’ll always be room for improvement as a guitarist, so it’s important to enjoy the journey along the way, and not be too impatient to ‘get there’, wherever ‘there’ is for you.


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    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Great hub. I just started playing guitar and according to your article I am doing things right. I have been concentrating really hard on the small details, such as finger placement, strumming technique. Thanks for the information.