Beginner Advice: Easiest Way to Learn Guitar in Under a Year
Is it possible to learn guitar without years and years of practice? The answer to this is yes of course, however it comes down to what exactly it is you want to get from playing guitar.
If you want to start playing guitar to simply be able to strum a few chords around over some of your favorite songs, then you can certainly achieve this is under a year if you dedicate a small amount of time regularly. However if you are aiming to be able to freely improvise over any piece of music, then this is a much greater goal, and a journey that will likely span many years.
One of the most confusing things for any guitarist starting out is the fact that there are so many ways to play the same thing, and around 120 notes to choose from. To make things even more confusing there are 6 open strings on top of the 120 notes under your fingers.
Where do you start?
As the timeless quote goes “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. This can be applied to guitar, but it is the journey where all the fun happens and where you grow with your instrument.
So if you want to be looking back at a year of learning guitar with a big smile on your face and a handful of goals on the horizon, you have to start with some basics which will set you up for a road less-frustrating.
The first thing to understand is that there are 8 chords which can form all of your musical vocabulary, if you decide you are happy with what they allow you to do. Of course, you can take guitar much further than this and learn chords for the rest of your life, but it comes down to what level of knowledge allows you to do what you want to do on your guitar.
The 8 Chords to Learn on the guitar
Modern guitarists are on the whole more than familiar with a life saving device known as a capo. Capos allow you to play one of your 8 shapes of chord from below, anywhere on the fretboard, meaning you can avoid having to learn more difficult chord shapes.
When you learn these 8 chords you will begin to notice that many of your favorite songs use the same set of chords in the same order, or a slight variation of the order. This means that if you learn a few different chord progressions (series of chords in a particular order), then you can play literally hundreds of songs with a little help from your capo.
If you take the ‘capo approach’ to learning guitar then the following chords will serve you well. There are two families of chords to learn, which will mean you can place a capo anywhere on the fretboard and replicate the song of your choice without the need to learn any challenging chord shapes.
In any one song you will only use one of the two chord families below, and your choice between the two families should be based on where it sounds best. Sometimes you may play the right chord progression but you are using the wrong chord family, so it sounds either too ‘jangly’ (played too high up the neck) or too low compared to the original song.
On rare occasions you may come across a song that bucks the trend and uses a chord not found in the C or G family, but this is not too common in most pop and contemporary music.
The Two Chord Families
C family: C – Dm – Em – F – G – Am
G family: G – Am – Bm – C – D – Em
Once you have learnt each chord from the two families, you need to look at moving between a couple of chords at a time and begin to remember the sound you get when go from C to F, for example. The challenge then becomes to learn to strum on the guitar, but yet again there are some common strumming patterns that will take you far.
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