What To Learn on Guitar in Order: Full Guitar Learning Roadmap

What to learn on guitar in order

The guitar is one of the most versatile and enjoyable instruments to learn. If you have an interest and enough time and willpower, try learning how to play the guitar. However, learning how to play the guitar requires some time to get accustomed to your instrument, but if you follow a good order, you should be able to play your favorite songs or even write your own using your instrument. 

To learn how to play guitar, you should start with basic exercises to get acquainted with every part of your guitar and how your fingers should move. Afterward, you can start learning chords, riffing, and strumming. If you want to learn more skills, you should study scales and music theory.

In this article, I will cover every step you need to know to learn the basics of guitar playing in the most suitable order. I will also include essential tips that can make a difference in how you approach learning how to play the guitar. Let’s get started!

The Best Order To Learn Guitar

The guitar may not look like an easy instrument to learn, but if you study the basics in a certain order, you can pick it up in no time. There is no exact order of learning basics since different people have different priorities. However, I believe there is a specific order that can be more helpful than others.

Before Starting To Learn

Before explaining the most suitable order to learn the guitar, I’ll include some basic steps a beginner needs to take before even thinking about learning any exercises or chords. 

Decide on the Type of Guitar You Want To Play

If you already have a guitar, you may want to start learning about it before you make any other purchases. There are many different types and subtypes of guitars, including:

  • An acoustic guitar is what many people imagine when the word guitar is mentioned. Acoustic guitars have a wooden body and steel strings and don’t need any enhancers or pedals. 
  • The electric guitar is another popular type of instrument that is used in various genres of music. Electric guitars create a unique sound and include an amplifier to play at full volume.
  • Acoustic-electric guitar, as the name suggests, is a hybrid between the two previous types. It’s an acoustic guitar that can be plugged into an amp.
  • Classical guitar is very similar to acoustic guitars, but it has nylon strings. They are great for beginners because the nylon strings are easier on the fingers than other alternatives.

Although I am listing only four types of guitars, there are plenty of other subtypes that are different in many ways from one another. However, as a beginner, you will probably have to deal with one of the above types. If you have to choose, you should go with the classical guitar, for the reason mentioned above. 

Decide on a Style

You need to understand different guitar styles and then choose one before learning how to play your guitar. Various styles may require different orders of learning. You can choose between:

  • Rhythm guitar is the most popular type of guitar playing for amateurs. Basically, it’s the style that you need to accompany singing.
  • Lead guitar is a style that requires more than accompanying singing. A lead guitarist should be able to do solos, riffs, and clear melody lines.
  • Fingerpicking is a style that requires you to pick one or two notes at a time. It’s quite a challenging style.

Learn How To Hold the Guitar

It’s important to learn the correct way to hold and handle your guitar in different positions. Once you have your guitar in your hands, practice holding it while sitting or standing to have an idea of the positioning of your hands and your whole body. 

The positioning should be ideal for playing the guitar as easily as possible. At the same time, it should not strain your wrists or any other part of your body. In general, keeping the guitar high up your body while standing is recommended to keep your wrists relaxed.

Find Someone or Something To Help You

Ideally, you should contact someone to teach you the guitar in person. It is entirely possible to learn how to play the guitar by yourself, but a teacher can make a tremendous difference if they have the skills.

If you don’t have a teacher, a book or website can also help clear up any questions you may have while learning to play the guitar by yourself. As long as you have something to help you go through the basics, you should be fine, even if you don’t have a teacher.

Learn How To Read Music

Reading music is not necessary since you can learn how to play the guitar very well by just memorizing the placement of your fingers. However, being able to read music can make it easier for you to do exercises and write your own music.

You can learn how to read music by reading music books, but you can also find great interactive websites online that will make it easier for you. Reading music can be very useful if you want to learn another instrument.

1. Finger Exercises

Now that we got through the basics, it’s time to understand the proper order you need to follow to learn how to play the guitar. As mentioned above, there is no officially correct order, but most guitar teachers agree on some basic exercises.

First of all, you need to get familiar with your fretboard, the thin strip of wood attached to the body of your guitar. Press your fingers on the strings close to different frets and notice how the sound changes; get familiar with moving your hand from one fret to another.

If you know how to read music, you can find some basic finger exercises online that can help you get comfortable playing a melodic line by going from one note to another. This way, you will learn to move your hand through different frets.

2. Chords

Chords are the most basic thing you can learn to play the guitar. If you don’t know anything else about playing the guitar but a few chords, you can still play some tunes. So, even if you don’t have time to learn everything else, learning chords first will give you some basic knowledge you can use to play this instrument.

A chord means playing several notes simultaneously to create a melody. On a guitar, this means using multiple fingers on different frets to achieve the desired sounds. To learn chords, you can simply check out a few online tutorials, which show you where to place your fingers to produce the right sound. Of course, you should make sure your guitar is tuned first.

Power Chords

The first chords you should learn are the power chords. These chords are only made of two notes, a root and a fifth, and have no minor or major qualities. Optionally, you can also include a third note by adding an octave above the root.

Practice these chords by playing them and moving from one to the other. Try them with or without the third note and see the effect they have. Technically, power chords are not supposed to be called chords when they are made of only two notes, but this doesn’t really matter as long as you know how to play them.

Open Chords

Open chords are the second easiest ones to perfect as a beginner. To play an open chord, you typically use a few, typically two or three fretted strings, while the rest of the strings remain open. All you need to do is to learn the placement of your fingers in the right frets. It’s pretty easy once you memorize a few chords.

You can play a few simple tunes using just open chords, so you can try figuring out some melodies with the basic knowledge you have. Once you perfect different types of open chords, you can move on to some more complicated ones.

Barre Chords

The next logical step is to learn barre chords. The difference between these chords and the open ones is that bar chords may not leave any open strings. They require you to use most of your fingers to fret certain strings and to use your index finger to barre other strings simultaneously.

Barre chords require a little more effort and dexterity because you need to memorize the placement of the fingers while making sure your index finger is placed strategically to barre the rest of the strings.

Some barre chords can be pretty difficult to master, while others are technically less complicated than open chords. Once you practice the bar chords, you will have a good foundation to help you play different songs, even without looking at a music sheet or a guitar tab.

3. Strumming Patterns

At first glance, strumming should be the easy part. While one of your hands needs to memorize different fret placements to create different chords, your other hand can simply strum the strings by moving your thumb or your pick up and down the strings.

A simple up-and-down movement doesn’t seem like a challenge, but it requires skill and practice to perfect. The hardest part is maintaining a consistent rhythm the whole time. To help you with the rhythm, you can practice with a metronome, which will always keep you in line.

However, you need to be able to follow the rhythm at any time, even when there’s no metronome around. A good tip for strumming in a consistent rhythm is to keep your hand moving, even when you’re not supposed to be strumming; as a result, you will keep your strumming consistent.

If you have some chords and strumming down, you can generally play most songs and tunes in the rhythm guitar style; this is where many people may stop learning since it’s all they need for casual guitar playing in social settings. However, you may need to take a few more steps to become more proficient.

4. Riffing

A riff or a hook is a repeated short sequence of notes played in succession to create a catchy melody pattern repeated throughout a song. Riffing is quite important in various music genres, including rock and jazz

As a beginner, you can try practicing different riffs online, starting with the easiest ones. Many websites can teach you simple riffs, which you can practice and perfect on your guitar. There are several riffs of famous songs that are pretty easy to learn, like the ones from the songs below:

  • “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes
  • “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple
  • “Back in Black” by AC/DC
  • “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie
  • “When I Come Around” by Green Day
  • “Come As You Are” by Nirvana
  • “One” by Metallica
  • “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet
  • “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘N’ Roses
  • “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley

Playing famous and familiar riffs can help you learn them faster. All you need is a basic knowledge of the frets and the notes you need to hit. Continue practicing different types of riffs until you get to more complicated ones. 

5. Fingerpicking/ Plucking

Plucking is an alternative to strumming, so you do it with your (typically) right hand. While strumming involves sweeping your finger or guitar pick through the strings simultaneously, plucking involves picking individual strings with your fingers.

Understandably, plucking requires much more concentration and precision, so it’s more advanced than strumming. You need to be familiar enough with the notes and strings on your guitar so that you can concentrate more on how you do the plucking. 

However, plucking is not something to be afraid of as a beginner. If you have a good knowledge of the notes and the chords you can play, you can easily learn plucking. Start with simpler and shorter melodies and then continue to more complicated ones. It might be easier to use your fingers first and then continue with a pick.

6. Playing Songs

As mentioned above, you may be able to do some basic rhythm guitar playing using only a basic knowledge of chords and strumming, but you need a bit more time to learn to play full songs. Having practiced and preferably gained some skills with a guitar, you can start playing different songs.

For an easier introduction, you can start playing rhythm guitar, using a few chords, and then you can continue to plucking for a bigger challenge. If you have the natural abilities, you can try guessing the tabs of a specific song by yourself; it’s a nice exercise to help you hone your skills.

Alternatively, you can find tabs online. There are so many sources online that can help you with different versions of your favorite songs at various levels, from beginner to expert. Try to learn and memorize a few melodies well enough, so you can play them whenever you want. 

7. Studying Scales

Scales are fundamental if you want to learn about music theory or want to concentrate on lead-style guitar. Some guitar teachers may start with scales, wanting to create a strong foundation for your guitar playing; this is a more theoretical approach.

If you’re more focused on the practical aspect of guitar playing, scales and music theory may not be your priority. Nevertheless, if you have the basics down and want to go deeper, you can learn more about guitar scales.

A scale is a series of notes played in succession. Every series has a set ascending or descending order and can contain between five and eight notes. Different scales have their unique sounds, which are suitable for particular types of music.

As a beginner, you should start by learning the pentatonic scale, a pretty common scale used in pop, rock, and country music. Most importantly, it only contains five notes, so it’s much easier to memorize than others. All you need is to have an idea of your finger placements and practice the scale.

Once you’re more experienced with basic scales, you can start learning modes. These are more for advanced players, but open up the doors to infinite possibilities when it comes to song writing, improvising, and overall understanding of music theory. Once you learn the seven guitar modes, you’ll essentially understand how most songs work from a technical standpoint and be able to extrapolate them. 

8. Music Theory

You may need to go beyond the scale to understand a bit more about music theory. Music theory is vast and complicated, but you don’t need to learn everything. As a beginner, you only need to remember some basic concepts to help you learn and understand your instrument better.

The most important thing to remember is to learn little by little. Most concepts may seem alien to you without prior knowledge, and that’s only natural. 

Study one concept at a time and see how it applies in practice. If you don’t want to learn more about the theoretical aspect of music and are not planning on writing music professionally, you can skip this step.

9. Techniques

To become an advanced guitar player, you should develop more skills than just strumming and plucking. While these skills are essential, they may not be enough if you want to move to a more advanced level. For instance, you may be able to play most of a rock song, but you won’t be able to do the solo, at least not correctly. 

To learn solos, especially the most complex ones, you need to know some additional techniques that will help you with the process. Here are some advanced techniques that can take your playing to the next level:

  • Bend is a technique that involves bending a string while playing a note to increase the pitch. You need to keep applying pressure while bending the string and then release it when you want to return to the original note.
  • Vibrato means creating an effect similar to the ones that the human voice creates. To achieve this, you should wiggle your finger while applying pressure to a particular note. Alternatively, you can use the same effect that you use for bending, just much more quickly and repeatedly.
  • Pull Offs add character to your guitar sounds, creating a pleasant effect. To achieve it, you should pull the string just as you’re removing pressure to facilitate the transition to the next note.
  • Hammer-On is similar to pull-offs because it allows you to sound a note without actually picking it. This technique involves pushing on a note right after you have played the previous one; you should apply enough force to make it sound.
  • The slide is one of the easiest techniques to perfect, but it makes a difference in the sound that it creates. This technique requires you to slide your finger from the previous fret to the next one while the string is still making a sound. 

There are several other techniques that you may study to be able to play solos of various difficulties. You can learn all of them by doing different exercises you can easily find online or in guitar books.

10. Playing Solos

Once you have a good practical and theoretical foundation, you can move on to solos. It is possible to learn solos even without a theoretical background, especially if you have a natural talent; however, it’s best to know the theory behind music progressions and scales.

Solos are typically played on electric guitars. You can do a solo on an acoustic one too, but it’s harder since the strings are more rigid. If your goal is to become a lead guitarist, you need to know how to play solos.

You need to be prepared to spend considerable time learning and perfecting a solo, even after acquiring other guitar skills. Even a simple solo can include many difficult techniques in succession, which can be difficult to grasp, especially for a novice at techniques. However, practice makes perfect so you can learn your solo in no time.

Always start with a simple solo and then work your way up. The first one will be pretty hard to learn, but then you’ll get used to the process and pick up things more easily. Soon enough, you’ll be able to learn more difficult solos quickly. Here are some easy solos to learn as a beginner:

  • “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
  • “Holiday” by Green Day
  • “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
  • “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
  • “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns n’ Roses
  • “Take It Easy” by The Eagles
  • “Angels” by Robbie Williams
  • “Fix You” by Coldplay
  • “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi
  • “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day

11. Improvising

Improvisation is a sign of a great guitar player, but it can be quite difficult. It requires a lot of practice and a great knowledge of scales and other aspects of music theory. Understandably, most people who learn as amateurs may have a hard time learning and perfecting it, but it is possible. Once you understand how to do it, you can express your creativity and skills through improvisation.

It’s important to emphasize that improvisation requires creativity but also a lot of hard work and practice. When you improvise, you’re not making it up as you go; you need to study techniques, melodies, and phrases and then find a creative way of combining them to put your own spin on them.

The only way to learn improvisation is through practice, patience, and more practice. Go over everything you’ve learned and challenge yourself to study more complex pieces of guitar music. Try to create something of your own based on everything you know and then perfect it.

Extra Tips for Learning How To Play Guitar

Now that you’ve seen all the different steps of learning how to play guitar, you can go back to the beginning to learn some more useful tips. Establishing an order of things to study on your guitar is essential, but there are some additional tips you need to keep in mind:

  • Learn arpeggios to improve your plucking skills. Arpeggio is similar to a chord, but it involves you playing the notes in succession rather than simultaneously.
  • While playing the guitar, you can practice singing too. Your voice is an instrument, so it can only improve the more you use it. Singing can also help you concentrate and get more comfortable with your guitar. 
  • Learn to tune your guitar by ear. You must ensure you tune your guitar before playing, and some instruments can help you. However, as you may discover, the most reliable instrument you have is your ear. 
  • Follow your interests and goals. As you’re starting to learn, you may have a specific goal in mind, like knowing how to play a specific song or perfecting a solo. Remember these goals while learning so that you don’t focus on aspects that won’t help you with what you want to achieve. 
  • Don’t give up. Learning an instrument can be frustrating, especially if you don’t have a teacher to explain things as you go. However, you can teach yourself anything as long as you stay focused and practice as much as possible. 

Final Thoughts

If you want to learn how to play the guitar, you need to know everything you need to achieve and how to get there; this can be pretty tough to figure out, especially if you don’t have a teacher to help you.

However, you can learn step by step, starting from the basics, such as fretboard and finger exercises, to get acquainted with your instrument. Afterward, study different types of chords, strumming, riffing, and plucking. If you want to be more advanced, you can learn about scales, techniques, and music theory. 

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