Beginning Guitar Guide: Top 3 Ways to Learn Guitar

  • June 6, 2012
  • 5 

Updated: February 25, 2021

Beginning guitar is a process. For some it is a seemingly quick process. For most, the process takes lots time and dedication. Today I’m going to cut that time in half for you, maybe more. This lesson will take the guess work out of your first few months of learning guitar and outline a proven effective plan for getting the fundamentals of guitar down, and fast. Additionally, it will outline the most common learning methods for beginning guitar, and the pros/cons of each.

Take the time to read it through carefully, examine the diagrams and please, ask questions if you have them. There’s a comment box at the end of every post here. Don’t worry, I won’t bite you. Truth is, I love the feedback. No question will ever be a “bad” question. Alright, so let’s begin…

Part I: Chords & Rhythm

beginning guitar

The first thing you want to focus on learning are the good ol’ “Cowboy Chords”, or open chords. The reason behind the name is simply that they are the easiest chords to play, kind of a play on old country songs. They are also called campfire chords (Kumbaya, anyone?), among many others so don’t be taking offense. On top of that, there are literally of hundreds of rock songs out there that can in the end be broken down into just these few chords. The open chords you’ll be learning are C-A-G-E and D. You want to be able to effortlessly string these chords together just strumming away. This will take a little time to accomplish so don’t get discouraged with it. This will likely also be your first real songwriting experience as well, so hang in there.

Beginning Guitar Chord Diagram: The CAGED System

caged guitar chords
Beginning Guitar Chord diagram courtesy of

However, if you are going to learn chords, you need to know how to strum and different strumming patterns. Strumming in its simplest form is just running the pick down the strings. However, it should be and IS much, much more. Once you’ve learned the different chord shapes you’ll want to start learning different strumming patterns. Now, how many you learn is entirely dependent on the style of music you wish to play later. However, in most cases, I’d say 3 is a good number. All downs, alternate down-up and maybe down, down, up. There are a million combinations but what makes it a pattern is the repetition. If your just randomly goin up, then down, then up, then up, then down it will just sound like a big mess. Find a pattern, stick with it for a few bars to see how you like the sound, then try another.

Exclusive Bonus Video: Learning Your First Open Chords taches you your first guitar chords. These are known as “open chords” and are the easiest guitar chords for a beginning guitar player to learn. Check it out.

Part II: Beginning Lead Techniques and Guitar Scales

The next most important thing you should learn at this point is the Minor Pentatonic scale. This scale is one of the easiest scales to not only play AND memorize, but also to improvise on-making it one of the most versatile scales around.

Much like the cowboy chords, the minor pentatonic scale is used as the foundation for hundreds of rock songs out there. Which, again, means you could potentially teach yourself how to play many, many different songs by learning this scale in multiple keys.

TIP: want to learn these scales at lightening speed? Check out my lesson on How to Learn Guitar Scales and see for yourself!

After you have learned the minor pentatonic the next item on your list should be the major scale. Why? Because the major scale is the FOUNDATION of all music. Remember singin’ Do-Re-Me-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do? That’s the major scale, amigo. And you gotta know it. When learning this scale I recommend starting with the G Major scale first, which starts on the 3rd fret on the Low E string. It is the most comfortable for your fingers and the easiest place to learn and memorize the shape.

Play the first note of the scale with your middle, or second, finger, the second note with your pinky… Now, you want to keep your hand in the same position all the way through this scale. Meaning, your index finger should always play the second fret, middle finger should always play the 3rd fret, etc. All the way down from Low E to High. Get it? If not, let me know.

The G Major Guitar Scale

beginning guitar scale
G Major Scale Diagram courtesy of

There you have it! Remember, this is meant to be a STARTING point for the beginning guitar player. You should never stop learning new chords, new scales, songs, techniques-you name it. Master what I’ve outlined in this article then BUILD on all of it. If you do so, this should be enough to keep you busy for at least a month.

Part III: Beginning Guitar – Which Road to Travel

beginning guitar

So, what to do after that month is up? Need more to chew on? No problem. There are many ways to learn to play guitar. However, there are 3 main methods used to teach the beginning guitar player how to play. These are private guitar lessons, online guitar lessons and DVD guitar lessons.

Each has their own pros and cons, the cost varies from method to method and some will work better for one person than it would for the next guy. This next section of our lesson will break down each to help you decide which way is best for you.

1. Beginning Guitar with Private Lessons

I probably shouldn’t start with this one because it’ll make the others seem pretty inadequate. I’m a pretty firm believer in that there is no method as effective as private lessons for the beginning guitar player. You are in a one-on-one atmosphere for these lessons. This allows for very personal support which is vital for the learning process.

What private lessons one-up, however, is just how personal. On the other hand, while you will certainly see the fastest progression this way, the cost is the highest. If you are dedicated and going frequently, you could find yourself spending hundreds of dollars a month on guitar lessons.

2. Beginning Guitar with Online Lessons

Next we have online lessons. Now, depending on the type of person you are, these could be all you need. I recommend online guitar lessons to visual learners. Those who love using different color highlighters, or color coding their study guides, the people that sang that song to remember the bones in the human body (I never remembered it..). This option may very well be for you. You need to choose the right website, though. That’s your most important task as a beginning guitar player.

You don’t want your money going to a crappy website. Some higher quality membership sites feature all sorts of awesome visual aids such as arcade style games for fretboard mastery. Others may feature chord libraries, song lessons, metronomes or other various tools. Do some shopping around, ask us our opinion, ask your friends, check out some forums. Do your homework.

3. Beginning Guitar with DVD Lessons

Finally we have DVD lessons. Again, shopping around is advised. I’ve bought several different types of DVD lessons and very few are reputable and companies I’d put my name behind. A key to finding a good DVD lesson program is making sure it has a Table of Contents and then checking that ToC. Make sure you’ll be getting your money’s worth. If there is no ToC, don’t even trust it.

The next thing to look for is if they come with TABs or some kind of sheet music. This will help you out a lot in the end, trust me. The downside to DVD lessons is what you buy is what you’ve got. Typically no more, no less. However, DVDs are also hyper-focused. So while you may not be able to find anything about a certain artist on a membership site. Let’s say, Pantera for example. However, you could easily find 5 DVDs with the sole purpose of teaching Pantera songs or styled songs.

In the end, there is only one method that’s proven most effective. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the best. private lessons are pretty expensive and many beginning guitar players may be able to excel just as well with a membership for a couple DVDs and some TABs. The ball really could roll either way in the end. What do you think? Are there other ways I left out that are as effective? Agree/Disagree? Leave any questions or comments below and I’ll get back to you pretty quick.

To your playing,


posted June 6, 2012

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