talent-boostThis question gets asked a lot, learning an instrument is not an easy task and requires a lot of dedication. The main hurdle is feeling like you’re not learning fast enough and wanting to quit thinking “it’s not for me”. Stick with it and don’t get discouraged. Anyone that says this is easy is either lying or forgot how hard it was at first. Don’t set yourself up for failure by having extravagant and unrealistic goals like “I’m buying a guitar on Wednesday and by Saturday, I’ll know how to play “Little Wing” note for note”. Take it slow and yes, again, it won’t be easy, it will require some good dedication. Nothing is going to replace good old fashion practice! Forget games, or looking for shortcuts. Pickup the guitar and start learning! 

So how do you build a lesson plan for learning guitar if you can’t afford a professional instructor?

Before starting any song though, try and get accustomed to making the major open chord shapes, namely A B C D E F and G. The trick is to try and press on the right notes without muting or accidentally pressing others. This takes some getting used to as there’s several things going on such as building callouses on your fingertips (going to hurt), stretching your fingers, memorizing new things and getting used to both hands working together. The “B” may be the most pain in the butt to get used to, the open chord is difficult to produce but it’s not impossible with a lot of practice. You can always learn the barre chord version of B but what’s the fun in that?

Lesson Plan? Work out the boring stuff first!

There’s no “one size fits all” lesson plan for beginners, what I’m writing here is purely opinion and I should remind you I’m NOT a professional nor a teacher. Huge warning though, this will be boring and hard but once you get it out of the way… learning songs will be less frustrating than just “jumping in”.

Also this is crucial “habit forming” period for you! It’s very easy to awkwardly make barre chords or using your thumb too much to make the shapes and straining your hands. If you can’t get an instructor, check out justinguitar.com as this guy has a natural God-given talent at instructing. If you’re still in high school, see if there’s any programs. At my school we had some sort of music club for people to practice and learn during lunch break. Otherwise you must know someone, a friend of a friend that can play decent that can spend a few minutes here and there showing you how to hold the guitar, adjust the shoulder strap, positioning your hands, etc…

Before Starting

0) Get in the habit of “warming up” before practicing. You don’t want to eventually cause an injury from practicing guitar. Also only your fingertips should hurt, your wrists shouldn’t feel any pain. Maybe some discomfort at first but never agonizing pain. I suggest doing a series of stretches and shaking your hands before starting any practicing. Eventually your warm-up exercises will get a little more “technical”.

Major Chords

1) Start getting used to making chord shapes: A, D, E, G and C. Eventually without referencing chord cheat sheets. Here are the majors, the capital E represents the largest string on the guitar. The numbers in the circles represent which finger is recommended to make the shape.


2) Now work on the dreaded B and F chords.

3) You should start to feel comfortable (ish) with the open chord shapes, at least making them sound right. Speedy chord changes happens with practice. Practice very slowly at first then gradually build speed. Precision is much more important than speed when we first start.

Minor Chords

4) Minor chords. If you’re comfortable with the majors, some minors will be a breeze. Check out the chords below. Some I’ve made as barre chords just to keep things a little more “doable”.


Learn the Fretboard a little

5) Let’s start memorizing some notes on the fretboard. I feel doing this early on will make “leveling up easier” and such. Start with memorizing the chromatic scale which is: E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#. Note that I excluded the flats since they are the same, for example: F# is Gb, and A# is also Bb. There’s no E# or B# because E and F didn’t need an “in-between note” nor did B and C. Knowing this scale, you can easily find what notes are on the fretboard. Start with the E string, for example. Play it open (don’t touch the fretboard) and you make an “E”. Now press it on the first fret and you’re making an F, 2nd fret and you’d be making an F#/Gb. Do you see the pattern? It all repeats itself on the 12th fret, pretend the 12th fret is “open” and the 13th fret is #1 all over again.

How you memorize it is up to you but repeating the notes (singing along) will also help you with ear training early on. I’d work on the E and A strings at first.

Barre chord fun

6) Barre chords! They aren’t mysterious but the shapes can be hard to make when we first start out. Which is why I’d recommend practicing the major and minor shapes at the 5th or 7th fret and work your way to the 1st fret.

Here are the 4 basic shapes. Notice the root notes, some are on the 6th (E string) and some are on the 5th (A string). So if you move these shapes (as is) along the fretboard, wherever these “root notes” are, makes your chord. For example to make a Major A, make the Major shape with its root on the 6th string starting on the 5th fret.


Practice all four shapes, feel comfortable doing them. At first it may sound terrible as your probably lacking in strength and technique. (more on barre chords here).

Learning Songs!

7) First start with a basic song you’d like to learn. Let’s pick something that’s not terribly difficult (but won’t be super easy either with the dreaded “B chord”) to learn such as 500 miles from the Proclaimers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM0sTNtWDiI) This version has the chords E, A and B. I suggest trying to figure songs out by ear but here’s a cheat sheet with the right chords (http://www.e-chords.com/chords/the-proclaimers/im-gonna-be-(500-miles)).

You want to try and find songs that aren’t terribly quick to start and have little chords such as the example I provided (although it has the B chord in it). Otherwise there are good resources out there such as this: http://www.guitarnoise.com/topics/easy-guitar-songs/ When searching for your “next song” be sure to keep in mind that chord sheets and tabs could be wrong (chances are they’re wrong or in a different key from your video or MP3 file).