Best Way to Learn Guitar Quickly

The Definitive Guide

dickey betts of the allman brothers with a young derek trucks

This is the complete guide to learning guitar quickly in 2021.

If you’re looking for:

  • Step-by-step methods,
  • Motivational tactics, and
  • An easy-to-read guide,

…You’ll love the ideas in this new guide.

Let’s get started.

Overview

Looking for the best and fastest way to learn guitar? Well to start off, know that – if you’re on the right road – it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you travel, so long as you stay on that road.

Rather than lightly hopping around from Youtube instructor to Youtube instructor, make a concerted decision that you will learn the guitar. In this guide, you’ll discover the fundamental steps forward you can take to accomplish that once and for all.

Don’t fret about not having been on the right path in the past – you’ve got no control over that, but you’ve full control over your future efforts, and how much you squeeze the lemon juice out of those efforts.

Set aside some relaxed time to read the concise but rich guide below. Follow and stick to these steps diligently and you might become a great guitarist sooner than you imagined.

Sidenote: if you’d like to skip ahead and learn right away ➨ Click here for 11,000 lessons with 45 instructors

Contents

Tap the Chapters Below to Jump to a Section

CHAPTER 1:​

Get Inspired​

Chapter Summary:

Ever done something quickly (and well) without loving it? If so, it’s probably rare. The point being, like a small kindling flame, nurture your love for music, and grow that flame so it shines brightly. The more brilliantly it shines, the more rapidly you’ll learn guitar. A key way that you can do this is by finding inspiration in the greatest guitarists of all time. Great physicists love Einstein, great guitarists love.. well you tell me!

Action Items:

  • Familiarize yourself with the greatest guitarists ever
  • Choose 3 favorite guitarists from whom to take inspiration as you begin your guitar journey

“The minute I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show — and it’s true of thousands of guys — there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you’re a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun.” — Tom Petty

You're required to be inspired

The more inspired you are, the faster you’ll learn.

For example, The Beatles – arguably the greatest musical group ever – have inspired generations of otherwise normal people who stopped in their tracks and said: I want to be like those guys!

From Billy Joel, to Johnny Ramone, to Ozzy Osbourne, seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show awoke them from their everyday daze, so that they banded together with their friends and made music of their own. 

beatles ed sullivan show

As Pat Methany put it,

“From 1962 to 1965, the guitar became this icon of youth culture, thanks mostly to the Beatles.”

Your job is to engineer your own Ed Sullivan Show epiphany so that — whatever you do — you must play the guitar. Identify 3 guitar players that make you say, “please let me be more like that!”

In fact, Frank Zappa (one of the finest electric guitarists and composers of the 20th century) studied Jimi Hendrix’s style (who was himself perhaps even greater), and commented on how Jimi’s fans saw him. He noted that they seemed yield and say, “he’s got it, I ain’t got it, I don’t know if I’ll ever get it… but if I do, I wanna be just like him, because he’s really got it.”

Be in that state when you find your 3 favorite guitarists who you’d like to emulate — evoke your child-like excitement, don’t be ashamed of your enthusiasm, and let yourself visualize having the powers they have.

jimi hendrix

“You want to be what you see.” — Quincy Jones

In fact, turning back the clock and getting in touch with your child-like curiosity is key; as a child, you learned language by observing, listening to, and imitating your first role models — your parents. By keeping role models in your mind, you can visualize the end-goal of what you want to achieve — like a north star — and tune your compass to begin the adventure.

Once you find your 3 guitar playing role models, explore their music on Youtube, venture down Wikipedia rabbitholes of information, consume documentaries to learn about their lives. Allow your curiosity to lead you and open your mind to anything that comes your way.

Did You Know: in its famous list of top guitar players of all time, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Jimi Hendrix as the greatest guitarist ever?

rolling stone edition of 100 greatest guitarists of all time with hendrix

If you’re not sure which guitarists will inspire you the most, try checking out the Rolling Stone magazine’s full list of players: here. From there, set aside a nice evening to explore different players on Youtube and discover which players you’d like to emulate.

To help you get started even more, the Top 3 guitarists of all time chosen for this article are as follows:

636010744470460565-Django-Reinhardt-AP-Getty-Images-File-1945
2-fingered genius who played with phenomenal technique and humor

1. Django Reinhardt

andres segovia young
The maestro who had possibly the most control over the instrument

2. Andres Segovia

jimi-hendrix
The wielder of high-voltage power through guitar

3. Jimi Hendrix

*Rated based on: influence, melodic/harmonic invention, technical proficiency

Try listening to a sample recording of each individual, and probe yourself for how the music makes you feel.

Do you like it, is it not for you? There’s no wrong answer, and whichever you prefer most is like a clue to finding out who you are.

If you like the unwieldly, machine gun-like sounds of Hendrix, then seek out an audiobook of his life, watch one of the many documentaries available online, make a point to explore one of his albums.

If you like the virtuosic finesse of Andres Segovia, try doing the same thing; chances are it will lead you like a branch on a tree to other sub-branches of guitar players who you might want to emulate.

As some other recommended masters of the instrument, try exploring these artists — all of whom are no doubt among the greatest players who ever lived.

At this point, it’s about nurturing the kindling of inspiration you have to learn the guitar. As your curiosity leads you to explore these role models, let the flames of your motivation to learn guitar start to grow.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants” — Sir Isaac Newton

As you fan those flames of motivation, recognize that you’re also learning about the past, which is powerful.

Your understanding of the past will open up the possibility for innovation and new steps forward.

For example, as an Olympic athlete, if you aren’t aware of Usain Bolt’s 100m record of 9.58s, then you might think if you’ve broken it at 10.40s and hang up your shoes.

But, knowing that record of 9.58s, it allows you to calibrate your sights so you know exactly what you need to do to raise the bar to the next level.

On a musical note, one of the finest bottleneck slide guitarists ever, Derek Trucks (who is still very much alive), learned the past by first following in the footsteps of slide legends Elmore James and Duane Allman.

By knowing what came before him in that area of music, he was able to understand what they had achieved (thereby standing on the shoulders of those musical), and what they hadn’t achieved, which allowed him to venture down those unexplored paths and introduce innovations of his own.

Chapter 2:

Purchase a guitar

Chapter Summary:

Thinking of it backwards for a moment, what would be slowest way to learn guitar? One answer is: not owning a guitar! So if you’d like to learn quickly, find a guitar quickly. Better yet, make it an acoustic guitar. More on that below.

Action Items:

  • Warm yourself up to the idea of starting with an acoustic guitar
  • Research and purchase a guitar that’s right for you

When asked what advice he’d give to his younger self, Eric Schmidt — CEO of Google — said, “do things sooner and make fewer mistakes.”

Your next step is to get your hands on a guitar

The fact is you’ll learn the guitar faster the sooner you own one, so try and get one as soon as possible.

Could you guess when Jimi Hendrix got his first guitar? It’s counter-intuitive, but he didn’t get his first guitar until he was 15 (around mid-1958) — at that time for $5, which is the equivalent of about $50 today.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Proverb

Don’t worry about starting late; the great Wes Montgomery, who Frank Zappa touted as one of the greatest, only started guitar when he was 20 years old.

In fact, on a whole other topic, Colonol Sanders — the founder of KFC — didn’t open up his first restaurant until he was 62 years old.

Whether or not you’re starting early, decide to get started now, and do it soon. Start setting aside some money for a guitar and look around at your local shops or stores like Amazon or Zzound for your instrument.

Should I start with an acoustic or electric guitar?

From Jimi Hendrix, to Jeff Beck, to Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, to Yngwie Malmsteen, to Derek Trucks (and the list goes on), all their first guitars were acoustic — not electric.

Point-blank, start with an acoustic guitar — not an electric guitar; your learning will be richer and faster.

When you’re learning how to tell time, it probably did you better that you learned how to read an analog click (with hour and minute hands) instead of jumping right to a digital clock.

Yes the digital clock is easier, but it did you better to defer the gratification of easy clock reading by learning the analog clock, since you just got the tough stuff out of the way. Once you learned it, then no problem — digital clocks all the way.

analog vs. digital clock

The same goes for acoustic and electric guitars. Get the tough stuff out of the way; acoustic guitars tend to have thicker strings, and you’re much more responsible for the sound. If you’re playing to quiet, you have to learn how to pluck the guitar with more volume; if you’re too loud, you have to learn to lighten your touch. There’s no volume knob that enables you to “cheat”.

Once you learn how to do those basics, no problem — reward yourself for learning the basics by getting an electric guitar 6 months from now, but pay those dues now because you’ll thank yourself later.

If you’re still needing a bit of convincing, then consider the extra mental energy needed to get started on electric guitar; managing the amp, the cables, understanding how the pickups work, it’s time that’s better spent on getting through the initial learning curve. 

Plus you’ll save some money too!

Keep it simple, and accelerate your learning with an acoustic guitar, just like the greats.

Chapter 3:

Hire a teacher

Chapter Summary:

By getting a quality mentor to guide your learning experience, you’ll multiply your learning speed. Preferably, choose a private instructor with whom you can meet in-person, or join an online learning platform like Guitar Tricks with 1,000s of lesson videos.

Action Items:

  • Research and book a private teacher for your guitar learning
  • If it’s beyond your budget or your time availability to have private lessons, join a platform like Guitar Tricks

“Talent without training is nothing” — Luke Skywalker

The single greatest driver which will push you to learning guitar faster will be proper mentorship

The single greatest driver which will push you to learning guitar faster will be proper mentorship.

Owner of a three-Michelin star restaurant and regarded as one of the greatest sushi craftsman alive, Jiro Uno trains his apprentices for 10 years before they’re even allowed to attempt certain dishes.

But, once they’re allowed, those apprentices are among the best sushi chefs in the world. For example, Jiro’s son owns his own Michelin star restaurant.

master sushi chef jiro ono

For example, a 1979 Harvard Business Review survey of 1,250 business executives showed that employees who had been mentored had better education and quicker paths to achievement than those who did not. 

In fact, in the musical realm, quality mentorship and guidance is just as vital.

Back in the early 1930s, legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson was an above-average guitarist, but certainly not as good as he’d soon become.

Close friends of Johnson noted that it wasn’t until he got mentorship from his predecessors like Son House, Willie Brown, and Tommy Johnson that his learning truly accelerated.

guitarist robert johnson with an acoustic guitar

If you think about what you’re especially good at, whether it’s your profession, golfing, basketball, and so on, chances are you had a key mentor in your life who guided you in th

For a moment, think about something you’re especially good at; it could be your profession, golf, basketball, and so on. Chances are there was someone in your life who helped you on that path. Now imagine, you had never met that person. Would you have learned that skill as quickly (or at all)?

Now consider your journey with the guitar. If you don’t engineer your learning path so that you’ve got a mentor, will you learn as rapidly? Almost certainly the answer is no. 

Therefore, you must find mentorship if you’d like to learn the guitar quickly.

“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life.” — Denzel Washington

You'll get the fastest results by having an in-person teacher

There’s really no way around that, and you should find one. Barring that, online lessons are a second choice, but some mentorship is better than none.

In a 2005 US Military study, it was found that mentoring relationships decreased the odds of turnover by a whopping 38%.

us military study on mentoring relationships

Even to simply hold you accountable so that you don’t quit, having a teacher is vital.

Typically, guitar lessons cost anywhere between $40 to $60 per lesson.

For example, Guitar Center charges about $240 for four 1-hour long sessions (so $60 per one-hour lesson).

Though, through your local classifieds you can almost certainly find a teacher for less than $50 per hour.

young guy learning guitar online

If cost and convenience are real roadblocks for you, then online learning platforms are an okay replacement. You lose the 1-to-1 oversight, which is vital, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

With programs such as Guitar Tricks, you can access over 11,000 lessons (covering a plethora of popular songs) and watch over 45 instructors — all for free. Try it out and access 11,000 lessons for 14 Days completely free.

One way to think of these online learning platforms is that they’re a powerful learning supplement. It’s no replacement for true person-to-person interaction, but you gain convenience and large learning content volume quickly.

Whichever route you choose, ensure it’s one of the two. Don’t try to be your own teacher — it probably won’t work, and you won’t get any special reward if it does work.

Chapter 4:

Surround yourself with other learners

Chapter Summary:

Here’s a brain-hack — learn guitar alongside your friends (or make new friends); through organic discussions and peer accountability, you’re nearly guaranteed to be a better guitarist faster. Step outside your comfort zone and take advantage of collaborative learning.

Action Items:

  • Convince close friends or family to learn guitar alongside you
  • Also, interact with other guitar learners online to feed your growth

You’re the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with most

If you can find other friends to learn the guitar with, you'll learn faster.

A lot faster.

For example, it’s easier to make progress in the gym if you have a gym buddy. 

When you don’t feel like going to the gym, your buddy will talk some sense to you; when you think you’re at your last rep, your buddy will tell you to do four more!

It works because you’re pushed by someone you respect to stay accountable. Your friend is another cord in the rope who strengthens your commitment.

lennon and mccartney working together

According to a 1995 study by Western Illinois University, “collaborative learning fosters the development of critical thinking through discussion, clarification of ideas, and evaluation of others’ ideas.”

In fact, a quick Google Search of collaborative learning vs. individual learning shows 

The proof is in the thick pudding: a quick Google Search of collaborative vs. individual learning shows that collaborative learners are vastly ahead of the curve.

So there you have it. Try and find a friend with whom to learn guitar side-by-side — you’ll learn guitar much faster (and probably will have more fun).

Are online learning friends real friends?

According to a 2016 Murdoch University study, time spent with friends on social media and online forums was just as important as time spent with friends in person.

If you learn guitar alongside people online (on top of learning with friends in real life), you’ll learn faster.

Posing it in a different way, ever Youtube’d a problem you’re having with your computer or bathroom sink, and  — instead of the actual video helping you — a few user comments saved the day instead?

Or maybe you’ve thought of buying a new phone charger on Amazon and what really made you buy were the 5-star reviews.

The point is: take advantage of online platforms connecting you with thousands of people who want to learn guitar too — you’ll form stronger bonds, and learn lots more from their experiences.

subreddit to learn to play guitar

Let’s say you’re learning Let It Be on guitar, and you find an online forum where 7 other people have also tried to learn Let It Be, creating new topic threads. You can read through their questions about the song, avoid their mistakes, and reap the learnings.

Or, if you have a new question about Let It Be that hasn’t been covered, you can post on the forum with your question and almost surely get answers from multiple guitar players.

And it doesn’t have to be about Let It Be; it could be about how to switch chords faster, hold a pick, or devise a practice routine. If you’d like any recommendations, try joining a subreddit like r/LearnGuitar or r/GuitarLessons. Another option is Guitar Tricks. If you join, you get access to their big community of like-minded guitar learners. Try it out now.

Chapter 5:

Set Aside Time to Practice

Chapter Summary:

Consistency breeds genius. Your relentless consistency is the lever by which you’ll move the Earth. With that comes discipline and a deferring of gratification. Devote a set amount of time each day to practice the guitar; combined with proper guidance from Chapter 3, you’ll spearhead your way into being an excellent guitar player.

Action Items:

  • Believe in the power of positive habits
  • Optimize your life to make room for guitar – say no to bad habits which use up potential practice time

“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu

In 2 months, what path will teach you more guitar; twenty minutes of practice each day, or twenty hours of practice of practice a single time?

As you know, the tortoise beat the hare.

If you set aside 20 minutes of dedicated practice time each day, you’ll race past people who spontaneously indulge in marathon practice sessions once every 2 weeks.

terry fox marathon of hope

In 1977, an 18-year old from Winnipeg, Manitoba named Terry Fox was diagnosed with bone cancer, forcing his right leg to be amputated 6 inches above the knee.

Making a decision to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research, he began his Marathon of Hope in 1980, and — with a prosthetic leg — ran 26 miles per day (1 marathon per day) through Canada’s Atlantic provinces.

After 143 days, covering 3,339 miles (over 128-equivalent marathons), the cancer spread to Terry’s lungs, forcing him to cease his misson.

Small steps lead to vast distances over time. There’s no way Terry could have ran 3,339 miles in a single session (in fact it’s a testament to the human spirit that he could run a marathon per day on one leg), but with the magic of consistency he covered miraculous ground.

Think of where you can be with the guitar in not just 2 months, but 2 years — or 20 years — with consistent practice.

“Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else.”

To say yes to learning guitar quickly, you'll have to say no to other things in your life.

For example, to take a new breath of air, you have to exhale the old air from your lungs. In the area of health, to say “yes” to a healthy body, you’ve got to say “no” to bad food.

As one example of the opposite, notorious professional golfer, John Daly, claimed that — at his consumption peak — he’d drink 28 diet cokes and smoke 40 cigarettes per day.

john daly in a golf cart

For many of his bad habits, he never said “no”, and today he has a myriad of health problems and can’t walk a full round of golf on his own.

To introduce the new, you’ll have to make space. Use it as an opportunity to say “no” to aimless time spent on social media or other bad habits.

The more you say no to the old, the more the guitar will come rushing into your life. And the faster you’ll learn.

Chapter 6:

Play for the People

Chapter Summary:

Share what you’ve learned on the guitar with others. Putting yourself in a position of pressure, and better yet — falling down, only to stand up taller — your learning speed will go into overdrive. When you put your skin in the game, you’ll win the prize of faster learning.

Action Items:

  • Play for guests, social gatherings, open mics, or public jam sessions
  • If & when you fail (or fail to live up to your own expectations) pick yourself back up and do it more

“Pressure is what you live for. If you’re going to be successful in life, you’re going to have pressure.” — Jack Nicklaus

Show off what you've learned on the guitar

Don’t be shy! By facing the scrutiny of others, you’ll make a quantum leap towards becoming a better player.

Think of it this way. Imagine you’re learning how to cook Italian food, but you’ll only ever cook for yourself.

If some of your pasta gets overcooked, or the presentation is a bit off, who cares? It’s just you, and you don’t really mind.

nice italian lasagna food

But now imagine in 2 weeks you’ll be celebrating your new Italian food hobby by cooking a full dinner for your partner and his or her in-laws. 

By god, you’re going to make sure every ingredient is perfectly selected at the grocery store, the marinade is on point, and the timing of the meal is perfect so the warm meals arrive with nice wisps of steam.

Which experience will hyper-accelerate your growth as a cook — ten go’s at cooking for yourself, or a single go at cooking for your partner’s whole family?

Probably the latter. And why? Because you’re under pressure! 

Your skin is in the game, and you don’t want to get burnt.

Is it inherently bad to stress yourself by being under pressure? Actually, it can be great for you.

In fact, according to Dr. Daniela Kaufer, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, “your stress response is crucial for your survival. It elevates your performance, is super-important for alertness, and prepares you to adapt to the next thing that comes along.”

joe pass in a music shop

Thus, just like the pressure from cooking for your in-laws brings out your inner Gordon Ramsay, playing guitar for friends, family, or at an open mic brings out your inner John Frusciante.

And the more you risk failure (like getting on-stage at a local, public jam session) the more you’ll accelerate your growth on the guitar.

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery” — James Joyce

Fear failure when you play in front of others?

Give it some thought. Actually, if you don’t fear failure, try pushing yourself more.

Instead of just playing for your brother, play for your friends. Instead of just playing for your friends, play at an open mic.

Once upon a time...

There was a university competition between faculties: fine arts, English majors, business majors, engineers, and so on.

Whichever faculty built the tallest toothpic & marshmellow structure which could carry a 1 lb. weight would be the winner.

Of course, there was a time limit, and once the clock began, the students raced to build their structures.

hourglass

Within minutes, oddly enough the engineering team had the shortest structure. 

Why was that? Because they tested their structures. 

Doing a trial run of a design, they tested the 1 lb. weight on their early structure and it collapsed.

more marshmellow and toothpics

A failure right? Actually not so. The failure taught them what marshmellow & toothpic design didn’t work, and they tried something else.

A bit better this time, but again it failed. Six minutes into the race, the engineering team had nothing, and the other faculties seemed to have skyscrapers already.

Learning from this 2nd failure, they made a key fix and got to work, building their latest, improved marshmellow & toothpic structure.

1lb weight

Once the buzzer sounded, marking the time limit, a judge went around, placing the test 1lb. weight on the English majors’ impressive skyscraper.

Collapse.

It fell to pieces — they were disqualified.

Then, walking over to the business majors’ unique, tall structure, the judge rested the weight on their design.

After a moment of seeming to stand strong, it was just a facade — it too came crashing down.

And the same happened to each subsequent faculty, until the judge reached the engineers’ modest yet sturdy-looking structure.

Placing the weight on the design, it held fine.

In fact, the judge kept, added another 1lb. weight and it hardly budged.

Finally, at 3lbs. it collapsed. But by god did they ever crush their competition.

By systematically testing their structure, letting it collapse and rebuilding it, they sought out failure and used it to fuel their success.

Similarly, if you bravely seek out failure when performing on the guitar, you’ll have battle scars but will truly launch your learning into hyperspeed.

Bonus:

Don't Be Your Own Teacher

Chapter Summary:

By definition, it’s really hard (if not impossible) to teach yourself what you can’t already do. Give that work to someone else! If you can focus solely on being the student (and not the student plus the teacher), you’ll learn much faster. 

Action Items:

  • Persuade yourself not to try and self-teach
  • Hire a teacher or use structured learning content online

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” — Yogi Berra

Don't try and teach yourself guitar

If you do, your progress will move like molasses, if at all.

Being the student and the teacher is like having two full-time jobs.

With two-full time jobs, your performance would probably suffer at both jobs, and soon enough you might even want to quit outright.

Why give yourself twice the work? If you can focus on one job, you’ll do it much faster and better.

Plus, if you’re just starting guitar, you’re probably not quite ready (yet) to teach guitar — to yourself or others.

If you want to learn guitar quickly, fire yourself as a teacher and hire an expert; you’ll end up being much more “guitar-rich” for it.

Here’s a deal — hire 45 instructors, with over 11,000 lessons, for two weeks —free— and join Guitar Tricks. The link is here to get started