Andreas Guitar Universe Logo

When starting out on your journey as a guitar player it can feel frustrating trying to learn songs by ear because of a lack of aural training, therefore learning how to read Tabs is essential to ensure you learn the songs you want as fast as possible.

In this article, we are going to learn how to read Tabs so grab your guitar and let’s have fun.

What Are Tabs?

Tablature or Tabs for short is a method of notating music specifically created for stringed instruments like the guitar and bass. Unlike sheet music that all elements of a musical composition such as melody, rhythm, and harmony are present, tabs represent a simplified version of the composition by usually only containing information like where to put your fingers and which strings to play.

Tabs vs Sheet Music

Tablature is specific for the guitar and it requires no prior knowledge of music theory making it ideal for beginners to learn. Sheet music is universal and written for several instruments such as Cello, Piano, and Violin to name a few.

Reading sheet music is similar to reading English, there is an immense vocabulary that needs to be mastered prior to achieving your desired goal of reading music.


The top line is the 1st string of the guitar or high E and the bottom line is your 6th string or low E. So the line above that is the 5th string and so on, so from top to bottom we have E, B, G, D, A, and E.


The above diagram represents the six strings on the guitar so now we can play some open strings like shown on the diagram below.


The number zero represents open strings and every other number above zero represents a fret on the fretboard. So the number one on the 4th string says we should put our finger on the first fret and on the 2nd fret on the B string for example.

Playing Chords

As you could see on the examples above singles notes appear using number and spaces. What are about chords you ask? Chords are easy to read on tabs and look like several notes stacked together like written below.



The first example shows how notes stacked together to form certain chords, in this case, is the classic G chord that musicians used it on thousands of pop songs like No Woman No Cry and Knocking On Heaven’s Door to name a few. The second diagram shows the D chord also in open position, the X represents that we should mute the A and E strings.

Reading chords from tabs can challenge you at first especially when trying to position your fingers on the fretboard, focus on practicing changing from one chord to another and make sure you are getting a clean sound.

A couple of tips for making sure your chords sound clean:


There are a lot of techniques that guitarists can use to express themselves on the guitar, things like vibrato, bends, hammer-ons and pull-offs so when reading tabs you should know when to play a specific technique.

How do you know when to play a bend for example? Similar to sheet music there are special symbols that represent each technique so when you see a certain symbol you need to know what the heck does that means.


Hammer-ons are an expressive technique used to create riffs or to embellish certain notes in a lick or solo, to execute a hammer-on you attack the target note in a motion similar to of a hammer slamming a random object.



Pull-offs are like a hammer-on but in reverse and both techniques go well together. Usually, you pull off from the highest to the lowest note as shown in the diagram below. If you are a beginner you need to practice it very slowly so you can develop finger strength and dexterity.


The slide is a technique for adding emotion and expression to your playing and you achieve that by sliding your finger to the desired note. A forward-slash represents a slide going higher in pitch and a backslash represents going down in pitch.


There are many techniques we can use to express our feelings on the guitar but no other is more effective than bending usually represented in guitar tabs as something like this: 7-B-9
To effective bend you should play a note and push it up until you reach the next note of the scale, a technique known as a whole note bend, for a half note bend you only go a half step up instead of a whole step and it is not uncommon for guitar players to come back from the bend to the note of origin.


Vibrato is a wonderful way to add dynamics and expression to note, you achieve that by rapidly bending and releasing the note vibrating your finger between the string and the fret. We write a vibrato in tablature with the following symbol: ~


Eddie Van Halen made this technique famous worldwide when Eruption became a guitar anthem, it works by hammering your index finger on the fretboard instead of single-note picking or strumming. People commonly use it in heavy metal music but gained popularity within other styles like Jazz.


In the example above you should tap with your right hand on the 12th fret and then play on the 8th and 5th fret with your left hand.
There are other less common techniques that don’t have a specific notation for guitar tabs and that’s why we recommend learning how to read sheet music if you are serious about becoming an awesome musician. Learning tabs are very beneficial if you are at the beginning of your guitar journey but because it usually lacks information regarding time signature and rhythmic patterns, it is a somewhat limited way for learning new musical material.
Another benefit of learning sheet music is that you are learning the real language of music, a way to communicate your musical thoughts in written form so musicians, composers, and music supervisors will understand and not only by guitar players.



One downside to using Tabs is the lack of information regarding rhythm so hear the song first and use your ear to establish the correct timing of a specific part. When learning licks and solos it’s crucial to apply the knowledge you just gained to make sure you play the correct techniques and dynamics.

Some Tabs might have additional information like the tempo and sometimes the time signature (people write most pop and rock songs in 4/4 which means there are 4 beats in every measure). This is not necessarily a bad thing though since this will help you develop your musicianship and with time will strengthen your ability to play things on the fly.

Here are a few tips for reading and playing guitar tabs.

Just like anything related to the guitar, practice makes perfect so don’t get frustrated in the beginning, it will take a while until you can blaze through tabs with ease but with constant practice, you will get there in no time. One thing to focus on when starting out is to make sure you can make every note sound clean and crispy, remember to practice with a drum machine starting at very slow tempos.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

Learning how to read tabs can be fun and rewarding and it’s definitely a must-have skill to have as a beginner guitar player as is the first step into learning the language of music.

Just like anything related to learning the guitar don’t forget that consistency is key for achieving real results and optimize your practice time, as a beginner even something simple as learning how to read Tabs will require constant practice until you get the basics down.
Interesting facts about Tabs you should know:

Learning to play guitar is a great challenge. Doing it correctly means learning techniques and music theory topics that will take your playing from the beginner level to rock-star-stadium level!

But what should you work on?

That’s a question that many beginners struggle with.

Fear not! We have taken a look at some of the best topics and exercises that any beginner will benefit from.

Just a little side note...practice makes perfect!

Chord Exercises

Chords are typically one of the first things that beginning guitarists will learn. They are simply three or more notes played at the same time with one stroke of your picking hand.

There are several different types of chords. Learning and using the different types to increase your playing vocabulary will greatly enhance your playing skills.

Open chords

With open chords, you play only one note per finger. In addition, there typically are strings that are played “open”. Open strings are simply ones that are played without your finger anywhere on the string.

The four chords below are the best ones to start out with:

Chord charts are pretty simple to read. The vertical lines represent the six strings on your guitar, with the one on the far right being the high ‘E’ string that is farthest away from you as you hold your guitar.

The horizontal lines refer to the frets on your guitar, and the thick black line on the top represents the nut (the piece that the strings go over before they go into the tuning pegs on the headstock.

The numbers at the bottom tell you which fingers you are supposed to use. The ‘O’s at the top are open strings, and the ‘X’s are strings that you do not play as they are not part of the chord.

Work on getting comfortable and memorizing these chord fingerings. Once you can play them with confidence then a great exercise is to switch between them.

Barre chords

With barre chords, the notes are the same as those in open chords. The difference is that with a barre chord you use one or more of your fingers to press down (or “barre”) more than one string at a time.

Barre chords are pretty standard fare for guitar players, especially for those that play some good ol’ rock & roll.

Take a look at the diagrams below for a C barre chord and see how they relate to their open chord cousin:

What’s really cool is that barre chord fingerings are movable up and down the neck. Take the C barre chord example that is on the 8th fret above. Take that same fingering and move it up two frets to the 10th fret. You now have a D chord! Take it down from the 8th fret to the 5th fret and you’ll get an A chord.

Practice the different barre chord forms and move them all around the neck. That’s how a good portion of rock songs are played so turn it up and rock it out!

Power chords

Power chords - yet another staple of rock guitar - are similar to barre chords in that the same fingering patterns will give you different chords based on where you play them on the neck.

They are really simple to play because they are typically just two notes - the root note and the 5th.

For example:

See the similarities?

Take a power chord...add some knowledge of the notes on the fretboard...and throw in a little distortion for good measure. You’ll be rockin’ the house in no time!


Playing chords with all downstrokes will get pretty boring, and it honestly won’t sound very good.

A great exercise (particularly for acoustic guitar players) is to practice strumming patterns. That’s where you alternate downstrokes and upstrokes while playing different chords.

Here’s a good pattern to work on, using the same open G chord that we discussed earlier:


An arpeggio is when you take a chord and play each note in succession to each other, either going up or coming down.

A great example is the “la la la” section of Crocodile Rock by Elton John, or Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley. In both songs, you’ll hear the guitar in the background playing staccato notes that ascend and descend in rapid order.

Arpeggios can be played with letting the notes ring out as well.


Single Note Technique Exercises

Sure - you can get away with playing guitar just by learning all types of chords. That being said, you can take your playing to the next level by learning how to solo.

Soloing typically involves techniques that are applied to single notes. These techniques will allow you to add emotion, dynamics, and flair that you can’t get with just picking notes all by themselves.

Hammer-ons and pull-offs

To correctly play a hammer-on, take your index finger and play a note anywhere on the neck. Once the note is ringing out clearly, take your ring finger and “hammer” the neck two frets higher. Try doing this across the entire neck:

Pull-offs are basically polar opposites of hammer-ons.

With a pull-off, you fret and play a note, then you “pull off” with a slight downward motion to a note that you already have fretted on a lower fret. That keeps the note ringing similar to the hammer-on motion.

As a simple exercise you can use the same fingerings at the hammer on exercise:

These exercises are simple examples. Try your own exercises where you use hammer-ons and pull-offs one fret, two frets, or even three frets apart. Your only limit will be how far you can stretch your fingers!


Sliding up (or down to a note) is one of simplest techniques that you can learn.

To do a slide correctly, fret a note anywhere on the neck, and play it. Make sure it is ringing out as it should, then slide up to another fret on the neck without taking your finger off the string. That will keep it ringing throughout the whole technique.

Practice this across all strings at different frets. You may find it hard to keep the note sounding even during the slide at first but with practice, you’ll get the feel for how much finger pressure to use.

Legato phrasing

Have you ever heard a guitar solo where it seems so smooth and fluid, especially when it is a bunch of fast notes? That is called legato phrasing.

Legato is “pulled off” (no pun intended) by using a combination of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. It saves you from having to pick every note, which can be tricky to do with a little bit of speed.


Bending a note is a technique that will give your playing an almost vocal-like quality.

To properly bend a note does take some practice, though. It’s easiest to use your ring finger to fret a note, with your middle and index fingers right behind it. Fret the note, play it, and - here’s the trick - rotate your wrist to move your finger up. Don’t use your finger to “push” the string up.

This will give you much better leverage and make the bend an easier and smoother action.

Don’t try to bend too much, though - you might break a string!


Vibrato is a technique where the pitch of a note is raised and lowered by bending and releasing a string repeatedly after striking the note.

Approach it the same way as a bend, but just do not stop the string from vibrating as you bend it up and down across the neck. This is a very expressive technique as a slight bend will add color, and extreme bends can really make a statement.


Finger tapping is a flashy technique that was popularized by Eddie Van Halen. It can be used to play solo phrases and patterns that you can’t by using “traditional” playing methods.

As the name implies, to tap properly you first have to fret a note with your fretting hand. Then, taking a finger on your picking hand (typically your index finger), you then “tap” the neck at a fret higher up. It really is the same thing as a hammer on, but you can tap at any fret above the fretted note, which can open up a new vocabulary for your solos.

In the example below, make sure to have your fret hand index finger already on the 5th fret. Using the index finger of your picking hand, “tap” the neck at the 12th fret, then do a slight pull off motion. The tap will sound the note at the 12th fret, and the pull-off motion will let the 5th fret note ring out. Then you do a hammer on with your ring finger on the 7th fret.

While the note from the 7th fret is still ringing you can then tap at the 12th fret again. Repeating the pattern quickly will result in a very fast phrase that is sure to impress!

Natural Harmonics

Harmonics are bell-like chime tones that can add a lot of flair to a solo phrase.

Playing natural harmonics is pretty simple. Place one of your fingers over any string at either the 5th, 7th, or 12th fret. Make sure that you are directly over the fret instead of in between them - that’s very important! It won't work unless your finger is in the right place.

Apply just a small amount of pressure and then strike the note. If you do it correctly the harmonic will ring out clear and true.


Picking and Dexterity Exercises

Learning how to pick solo phrases with accuracy will keep you from sounding sloppy when you try to play faster lead lines.

Picking exercises are great for developing your fret hand dexterity as well. Wherever possible try to use all of the fingers on your fretting hand, particularly your pinky. Many players don’t develop their pinky strength as well as they could, and that can really limit your soloing options.

One trick when working on picking exercises is to take it slow and easy in the beginning. Make sure that every note is sounding clear before picking the next note. Once you can play a particular phrase perfectly when slow, that’s when it’s time to start speeding things up.

Faster solo phrases aren’t easy to play with all downstrokes of your pick. Alternating your pick strokes up and down not only makes it easier to play but with enough practice, you can get fast enough to make it sound like a playing card in your bicycle spokes!

This exercise is great because it lets you practice several techniques at once:


Visual and Mental Exercises

Learning how to play guitar efficiently and effectively is much more than just the physical act of striking the strings.

I have found that I can do some of the best guitar exercises - no matter the skill level - without even having a guitar in my hands. Many times the key to success is getting what you are trying to do burned into your brain.

Sounds weird, I know. But it really isn’t.

On countless occasions, I have done mental exercises. Try it! You’ll be surprised how well you can play once you have a firm grasp of what you are trying to do in your mind.

I won’t kid you - some of these exercises may seem a little extreme. Take them one step at a time and don’t try to overload your brain. Keep at it and one day you’ll realize that you’ve learned something new!

Learning notes on the fret-board

One of the biggest challenges of learning to play guitar is also one of the things that bring some of the biggest benefits.

Learning the notes on the fret-board can be made into a simple memorization exercise:

It looks intimidating but don’t let it scare you.

All you need to do is remember the musical alphabet. Starting on a C note:

C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A - A#/Bb - B - C

Once you memorize that pattern, you can start on any string and any fret and mentally figure out any note on the neck.

For example:

If you know that the note on the 3rd fret of the 5th string is a C, then what is the note that is two frets up? It’s a D - just like in the musical alphabet.

Make a point to play this “mental flash card” and you may be surprised as to how well you will learn the neck over time.

Learning notes in chords

The key to knowing what notes belong to a particular chord is to memorize its “chord spelling”. Basic chord spellings are:

How you apply it is to take the corresponding note number in a scale and plug them into the chord spelling. Voila! You’ll now know what notes go to what chords!

Let’s use the key of C for example:

C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8

It really is that simple. These chord spellings are the same no matter what key you are playing in. It's fun to play some mental games with yourself and try to figure out the chord notes for all different keys.

Visualize playing a song or a solo

I’ve often found myself in a situation where I have had to learn a new song quickly. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to sit down and physically practice as much as you would like.

This is where visualization comes in.

I have looked up sheet music, guitar tab, or chord charts for a song just to get an understanding of how a song is supposed to be played. Once I know that I then take those chords and picture myself actually playing it.

I have surprised myself many times over the years by using this technique. After visualizing making the chord changes it’s amazing how easy it is to do it once you actually lay your hands on your guitar.



Well, there you go.

We can give you all of the exercises in the world, but the most important piece of advice we can give you is to take your time and practice them properly. Take the time to get your techniques smooth, fluid and precise.

Learning the theory stuff can get a little boring too...but stick with it! Your playing will thank you for it in the long run. A trick here is to take some of the things you have learned and find songs that use those same topics or techniques.

That will keep you motivated to keep on keeping on.

Good luck, and rock on!

Best Places for Online Guitar Lessons

Technology has completely changed how we learn to play the guitar, in the past the only ways to learn was through in-person guitar lessons, books and VHS.

Nowadays is easier than ever with several excellent options available to you, the complete novice, the struggling intermediate, or the advanced player looking to achieve total mastery.

New year resolutions are a common thing all over the world. If learning how to play the guitar is something you have planned for 2019, now is the time for taking action and achieving your goal.

If you ever dreamed on learning how to play guitar and become the next Jimi Hendrix, there is no better time than now.

Here are the best places for you to learn how to play the guitar in 2019.


Founded in 1998, Guitar Tricks is one pioneer of online guitar tuition and they are always improving.

Through a variety of courses in several styles of music and you can watch over 11,000 lessons from the comfort of your home.

They designed the structure of the curriculum to help you improve fast. The core guitar curriculum is a clear path to take you from a beginner to a competent guitar player in a short amount of time.

Most lessons have accompanying tab and backing tracks to help you reinforce the concepts taught, GuitarTricks divided their lessons into smaller sections making it easier to learn advanced concepts.

They have a huge library of Song Lessons in several styles of music:

They split every song lesson into several smaller sections and contains tablature and additional tips and tricks.

The quality of the videos are excellent, the video player has a slow motion feature allowing you to slow down specific points of the video.




The frontrunner in online guitar learning, Truefire has been making stellar guitar instruction since 1991.

The site has over 33,000 thousand lessons covering several styles and techniques.

Their rooster of instructors it’s incredible, giving you the opportunity to learn from great players like Steve Vai, Pat Martino and Andy Timmons to name a few.

There are several paths to follow and most courses include transcriptions, exercises and backing tracks to enrich the learning experience.

Several tools like a tuner and metronome are available. Although a plethora of options for the beginner guitarist is available, intermediate and advanced players will benefit the most.

We definitely recommend TrueFire as the quality of instruction is spectacular. There are courses covering every little nuance of guitar playing like double stops, blues rhythm, funk guitar and their best-selling 50 licks you must know series.

It’s not the place to go if you are planning to learn songs as their library of songs is insufficient. Their own Instructors wrote most songs available so you won’t find Top 40 hits or timeless classics.

You can purchase every course separately or you can stream their full library for $19.99 a month.



Fender Play

Fender is famous for manufacturing the legendary Stratocaster electric guitar. Established in 2017 Fender Play offers a wide range of guitar lessons geared towards beginners.

The app has an extensive list of song lessons and features a slick user interface.

The curriculum features a great beginner's course plus several other lessons covering different skills such as

Every song lesson features additional tablatures so you can follow along with the instructor. It lacks famous teachers as some of its competitors but they can still deliver a valuable learning experience specially for novice guitarists.

After signing up you can choose between rocking like John Mayer on an electric or to jam with an acoustic like Neil Young.

There are 5 paths to choose from:

It’s a cheaper alternative to the other sites, but it lacks quality material for advanced guitarists.

If you sign up for the annual plan, you get a 14 day trial and a 10% discount on every product available at the Fender Online Store. (Deal not available for Custom Shop Instruments)



Masterclass Tom Morello

Unlike the other websites on this list there are specific to the guitar player, Masterclass offers a range of lectures from world-renowned personalities in several fields.

Tom Morello is an extraordinaire guitar player famous for his work with the band Rage Against the Machine.

On his first ever Masterclass, he shares his secrets and tricks applicable to the beginner and the advanced guitarist.

It spans a wealth of knowledge for you to absorb whichever level you are in your journey as a guitar player. He covers a lot of ground: teaching scales, riff construction and tips for getting a stellar tone out of the gear you already have.

There are also plenty of lessons covering the history of rock and roll and stylistic analysis of several famous tracks from Tom and other Rock Icons like Jimmy Page, Tommy Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore

It’s a journey inside the mind of a guitar player considered one of the greatest of all time by Rolling Stone.

The cost of admission is $100 but a $200 annual subscription is available which gives you access to all previously released master classes.




With Yousician, you have 3 different paths to learn guitar:

It has a cool library of song lessons to learn from. What sets Yousician apart from its competitor it is their feedback system making it a real interactive experience.

As a beginner you should be careful though as the app gives feedback based on your performance and not on technique so it can be harder to make serious improvement. One cool feature is that Yousician is an open platform allowing users to update content to the application, so you can learn from other Students and Guitar teacher alike.

Yousician works as a freemium business model. There are several bad reviews about their paid subscription services so you should test the free version first to get a feel if it will suit your learning style. Overall, it’s a nice way to learn if you are a real beginner but intermediate to advanced players should look further into other options.




Jamorama offers great value for beginners. With a couple of courses on offer as a free user, beginner guitar players can take advantage of the platform to start out with no upfront investment. If you upgrade to premium you have to pay $99.99 for lifetime access.

What makes Jamorama distinctive is their social approach to learning. The site works like a social network for guitar students allowing users to create avatars, receive notifications and chat privileges with like minded individuals.

One interesting thing about Jamorama is how they integrate gamification concepts to teach you guitar. This enriches the training experience by giving the learner extra motivation with a scoring system to support them to track their progress.

Another cool resource accessible for all Jamorama members is their Chord Book available as a pdf and is free. It consists of 76 pages full of chords and variations that could be helpful for beginners and intermediate players.



Andy Guitar

A prominent YouTube teacher Andy Crowley build a huge following with fun lessons aimed at novices. His videos get millions of plays a year so he expanded his success by building his own website.

At you can have access to many features of a premium website like Guitar Tricks at no cost. To support Andy, you can donate or purchase his premium courses.

Andy has a very captivating style of teaching and he can explain complex concepts into manageable pieces of information.

There are 6 levels of instruction:

He teaches many popular songs and provides many challenges throughout YouTube and his own website to keep his students motivated. He developed Learn Guitar in 10 days to teach complete beginners 10 songs, one a day.

As an android user, you can download his free app at the Google Play store. It extends the website to mobile devices, there is also a huge library of courses you can purchase through the app plus several free courses exclusive available through your phone.




If you want to learn the guitar online but fear of missing the feel of a personal guitar lesson, then Artistworks could work for you. Instead of choosing from a library of thousands guitar lessons, you enroll for a specific course with a selected teacher. Once enrolled you can access video lessons specific to the subject you selected.

One awesome feature is Video Exchange where you record yourself playing a specific technique or part of a song and upload it to the site for instructor response. The teacher will send you a video giving you feedback on what you can improve similar to an in-person guitar lesson. You also have access to all previously submitted exchanges from your fellow students so you can learn tips and tricks and avoid mistakes and bad habits.

Available guitar courses at Artistworks:




Guitarlessons offers free tuition from Nate Savage and Andrew Clark. Presented by Guitareo, it is an excellent resource to start on your guitar journey. There are hundreds of lessons tailored for beginners, splitted into quick start guides.

There are 4 paths:

Through these paths you find 12 step by step lessons on the chosen topic.

There are also several lessons covering topics like guitar theory, reading music and ear training. As a student in, you can attend live sessions on a weekly basis.

These sessions covers several topics and allows you to interact with Nate and Andrew through a live webchat. It lacks a library of songs to learn from but you can watch Guitareo youtube channel where they teach you several songs, unlike a normal video lesson they optimize your time by teaching you over one song per video.

If you decide that Nate Savage is a good teacher that suits your learning style, you can upgrade for a Guitareo membership to have access to a wealth of premium guitar courses and resources.




Guitareo is the premium offer from, teaching step-by-step guitar lessons through over 80 courses covering almost every style of music:

The fastest way to become a good guitar player is to optimize your practice time, through several lessons, Nate Savage will guide you in the right direction. Learning the guitar is about building a solid foundation, so the curriculum will move smoothly, slowly building on each concept step by step.

Unlike other sites, Guitareo has an annual membership that costs $97 a year so we recommend testing to see if you like their teaching style.




JamPlay has been in the forefront of guitar education for the past decade. When you sign up for a subscription, you get access to guitar instruction heaven. We think JamPlay is an excellent choice for learning guitar.

The curriculum is awesome, covers every aspect of guitar playing. There are around 700 beginner lessons alone.

As a member you get access to Masterclasses from world class artists like Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) the amazing Kaki King and Bumblefoot to name a few.

JamPlay offers 12 hours of daily live guitar instruction from several teachers through a webcam, providing a similar experience to a webinar. You can interact with the instructor and have access to interactive tabs and backing tracks.

The amount of song lessons is unparalleled, hundreds of songs in different styles like:



Tom Hess

World renowned teacher Tom Hess developed an amazing way to learn guitar online through one on one instruction.

You can start right away and delivers big results. To start, fill out a form with details about you, how long you’ve been playing and what styles of music do you enjoy.

Tom will evaluate your answers and will create a customized lesson plan based on your guitar playing goals. Through email communication, online forum and feedback on your playing Tom Hess can help you take your guitar playing to the next level.

After every lesson you receive a bonus based on your membership level. There also quarterly hangouts with Tom and other guitar players where you can ask questions and interact with other members.




If you are skeptical about learning the guitar through membership sites, offers the opportunity to choose from several guitar teachers around the world. After browsing and finding a teacher that suits you, you can book your first lesson in a matter of minutes. This mimics the experience of going to an in-person guitar lesson but from the comfort of your home.

There is no standard curriculum so the quality of instruction will vary based on your instructor experience. The bright side is that you can test the lessons of several teachers before finding one that can help you achieve your goals.

It costs on average 10 to 20 percent less than attending a live guitar lesson and prices vary from teacher to teacher.




Ubisoft is an award-winning video game company famous for games like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry. In 2013 they released Rocksmith, a new way to learn the guitar through playing a game.

Famous guitar games like Guitar Hero inspired it, but Ubisoft took it to a whole new level. Using a real tone cable, you can connect your guitar to your computer, PC, PS4 or Xbox. It’s the most interactive experience available, the game will help you play right from the get go.

The most interesting features are:

Riff Repeater

In Riff Repeater mode you can isolate different sections of a song and adjust several settings to help you master difficult parts like a guitar solo or the main riff.


Just like a regular arcade, Guitarcade has several minigames to help you improve your playing focusing on specific techniques.

Session Mode

For you to improve as a guitar player its fundamental to jam with other musicians, Session Mode in Rocksmith 2014 allows you to play with a virtual Band. What is cool about this game is that the software adapts to your playing if you play fast or slow the band will adjust following you.

You can play with several musicians like drummers, bassists and keyboardists.


With more than over 80 interactive lessons covering several techniques, Lessons will help you improve through hi-resolution multi camera video tuition.




At you can access a wealth of free guitar lessons customizable for your current level.

By responding to a short quiz, Jonathan Boettcher the teacher will send you one lesson a week through email.

You can browse through the website to find popular lessons covering these topics:

If you enjoy Jonathan’s teaching style and feels like the free lessons are not enough, you can purchase one of his 5 premium courses available at web shop.

In his most popular course Unlocking the I-V-V, Jonathan explains guitar theory in simple steps packed with examples. It shows you how the notes of fretboard connects in patterns of I-IV-V and how that relates to chord construction.

In Dynamic Rhythm Guitar, he breakdowns what it takes to master rhythm guitar playing, demystifying strumming patterns and the proper right-hand technique to groove like Leo Nocentelli.



Premier Guitar

Premier Guitar is a world famous magazine covering everything guitar related. They have an extensive library of guitar lessons aimed at the intermediate guitar player. You can learn several techniques from famous guitarists at their Riff Rundown section where they teach famous riffs step by step.

There is also an extensive guide on the CAGED System and several lessons covering Blues and Shredding techniques. Unfortunately, there is a lack of an structured curriculum that teaches you step by step. Overall, is a good free resource to stay up to date in the latest trends in the guitar world.

You should start on their how to lessons covering amps and guitar mods, gigging advice and recording tips. You can also read through their extensive reviews on guitar, amps and pedals that can educate you on the latest guitar gear.



Active Melody

Active melody has a very interesting method. Instead of having a core curriculum like other websites, they offer one lesson a week, Brian the founder of Active Melody teaches all lessons.

Every Friday a new lesson becomes available, at the moment there are over 250 lessons in their library. You can follow along through the on screen tablature and there are extra videos playing the same material at slower tempos making it easier to follow.

Brian has an unique teaching philosophy, he doesn't teach you to play songs from other people and focuses on transforming your ideas into your own songs.

He accomplishes that by teaching concepts like rhythm, playing through chord changes and percussive fingerstyle. Although there are no step by step curriculum you can find what you’re looking for by using the search box on the lessons page.

The legendary actor James Woods is a member, here is what he has to say about active melody.

“The guitar is God's way of saying carry on and live life to the fullest. You and have made it a lot easier and a lot more fun to do just that.” James Woods




Just like your local music school that offers weekly lessons with a structured curriculum, YourGuitarAcademy allows you to have private lessons with a qualified teacher all over the UK.

The good thing is they created an awesome free online school for students from around the world.

Here is how they teach:

Guitar Skills

Building fundamental guitar skills is the aim of this section, here you can expect to learn barre and power chords, scales, strumming, the CAGED system and lead guitar foundations.

Player Studies

In the player studies lessons you will learn the style and techniques of legendary guitarists like David Gilmour and Carlos Santana. They breakdown famous riffs and tone and provide insights on how you can incorporate these techniques into your own playing. For example, at their Stevie Ray Vaughan master class you will learn how to play slow texas blues and shuffle.

Guitar Gym

If you have troubles with your practice routine, Guitar Gym can help you develop stamina strength and accuracy. The lessons in this section covers several pentatonic workouts, building sequences from different shapes and speed building techniques.

Theory Lab

Many great guitarists are self taught and mostly play by ear but learning music theory is crucial to advance your musicianship. In the lab get ready to learn scale harmonization, triad construction and modes.

Song JukeBox

Learning songs is great fun, but is pointless if you don’t understand what you are playing. In Song Jukebox you can learn several songs and the theory underlying it. A lot of the songs reinforce concepts taught in previous lessons.



Infinite Guitar

Targeted for the serious guitar player looking to skyrocket his guitar playing, InfiniteGuitar is absolutely incredible. The site is the mecca of modern guitar instruction, offering guitar lessons

from mind blowing performers like Martin Miller, Tom Quayle and Al Joseph.

There is a wealth of tutorials covering modern techniques in several styles of music:

As a member you have access to downloadable backing tracks, detailed tabs and notation, lesson bookmarking, GuitarPro files and direct messaging between members. Besides over 2800 lessons available, there are guitar studies focused on teaching you specific concepts. You can learn to play through the changes, linking different modes, how to superimpose scales, alternate picking and techniques from great players like Guthrie Govan. One thing that makes Infinite Guitar to stand out, is the massive amount of master classes and tutorials about self recording. They cover everything from setting up pedals, re-amping, gain staging and how to get the best tone out of your gear. There are also extensive lessons in soldering, you will learn how to fix technical problems like changing pickups, fixing jacks and repairing cables. Another great feature is the ability to control the speed of the interactive tab making it a breeze to learn fast and complex sections. You can also filter your search query to select only lessons suitable for your current level. In the studies section you can learn topics that focus on teaching a specific technique or concept. It feels similar to a in-person guitar workshops with the added benefit of learning from several teachers at the same time.

Things you will learn:

Lesson Plans is where you can focus on learning tailored to your current level of guitar playing.

There are 3 paths to follow:


In this section they expect you to learn the name of the strings, basic strumming patterns and keeping a good posture.


After gaining a solid foundation in this section you will learn 16th notes displacements, harmonics, pedal tone legato, string bending and hybrid scales.


As an advanced player you should focus on playing through the changes, odd time signatures, blazing fast sweep picking and finger tapping techniques.



Emedia Guitar Method

Endorsed by the great Peter Frampton, Emedia Guitar Method is a learning guitar software developed to teach you the guitar. There are 175 lessons and 70 songs available, suits the novice guitar players. It teaches by enforcing repetition and introduces new concepts chronologically.

By following the method it expected that you learn the basics of music theory, how to construct chords, how to read tab and standard notation and how to use a metronome.

One downside to the method is the fact you can’t track your progress and there is a limited amount of video lessons.

Notable features are:




An interesting option for beginner guitarists. focus on teaching you the guitar by learning songs. You can learn Acoustic, Electric, Solos, Technique, Strumming and Chords. Through the lessons you will learn concepts like chord embellishments, strumming patterns, pentatonic licks and popular songs.

It features several tools to help you improve your playing:

Tony Fontana is a teacher with over 20 years of experience teaching guitar.

We recommend as one of the best resources out there for beginners. You can try the whole site for just $1. If you continue after the trial, the subscription costs $9 a month.




One of the best resources to learn the guitar, founded by Hal Leonard Corporation, one of the leading publishers of music education. There are lessons from over 100 teachers, including a stellar rooster of players like Chris Buono, Greg Koch, Joe Bonamassa and Jason Becker to name a few.

With a G-Pass you have access to over 1,000 guitar lessons, 550 song lessons, and over 1000 backing tracks. Every lesson has additional resources like the G-Plus file, a new format where you have complete control over playback speed, the ability to loop specific parts and an unique features developed to isolate guitar parts from the backing track. There are also several accurate tabs teaching you to play popular songs like Stairway to Heaven and Pride and Joy.

The site is mobile friendly and supports IOS and Android, there are also several excellent practice resources to help you get the most out of your practice time.

If you are just starting out, you can jump right in and learn right away. After choosing what type of Guitar you want to learn, Classical like Paco de Lucia or Electric like Eric Clapton you can option to follow Hal Leonard traditional method suited for beginners.

At you learn how to play guitar in these styles of music:




The ChordBook teaches guitar in a unique and entertaining way. It has several mini-apps built-in to help you visualize scales and chords. You can select the desired chord or scale you want to learn and with the help of a virtual guitar fretboard you can immediately apply what you learned.

There is also an awesome tuner for several tunings like:

In the learn guitar section there are videos that will teach you:

The ChordBook is a good website to keep as a reference but is not a complete solution for your guitar education.




ActionTab is an educational software mimicking a guitar fretboard, an effective way for complete beginners to start their guitar learning journey.

ActionTab features over 50 guitar lessons and several songs. They add new lessons and songs regularly but unlike other guitar softwares out there, ActionTab can’t buy and you need to sign-up for a monthly subscription that costs almost the same as in-person guitar lessons. Through animated graphics, videos and illustrations ActionTab provides an experience similar to watching someone plays in front of you.

If you would like to know more about a certain technique just click the question button available on the bottom right side of the interface. A new window pop-ups giving you extra resources and information to further your understanding of the chosen topic.

It lacks some interactive features and there is no way to track your progress. The lessons are also limited with no ear training and music theory lessons.



National Guitar Academy

If you are looking for easy digestible lessons, then look no further, National Guitar Academy could be the place for you.

You will learn the guitar from a seasoned musician that played all over the world and has over 18 years of experience, his name is Mike Kennedy and he will teach you how to express yourself on the guitar. His philosophy is clear, to make you improve fast, reach your musical goals and stop struggling.

There is a varied selection of guitar lessons covering scales, chords, rhythm and songwriting on the guitar. When you sign-up for the National Guitar Academy mailing list, you will receive free lessons straight to your inbox.

If you bought your first guitar and are eager to learn, start with their 11-step beginners guide, an excellent resource to get you up to speed and playing songs in no time.

Things you will learn in the National Guitar Academy beginners roadmap.

There is also a podcast where Mike explains several techniques, music theory and guitar gear.



What are the best places to learn the guitar in 2019?

Learning how to play the guitar has never been easier, there is a plethora of several options to choose from.

Weather is subscription sites, educational software or online private lessons, you can learn how to play the guitar tailored to your goals and motivations.

Get your guitar, grab a cup of coffee and start learning, playing guitar is a great joy and gives you skills you can apply to other areas of your life.


Starting out as a beginner can frustrate and overwhelm so choosing the right resources it’s paramount to keep you motivated. We think Andy Guitar, Fender Play, GuitarTricks and National Guitar Academy are excellent resources to keep you motivated and excited to keep improving.


Your main priority as an intermediate, is to avoid getting stuck on a rut and to keep developing your playing through proper guitar routine so you can keep evolving. The best resources are Guitareo, JamPlay and TrueFire.


As an advanced player it’s imperative to keep learning to further develop your technical skills and musicianship. You need to learn from the masters; we think InfiniteGuitar, TrueFire and GuitarInstructor offer amazing value for you.

Ready to start your journey and learn to play like the masters? We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive guide on the best places to learn guitar in 2019.

Be patient and remember to always have fun!

After seeing your favorite players, you decided you want to play the guitar.

Awesome - but how long it will take?

It depends on which level YOU want to reach.

In this article we will break down exactly what you need to know to reach each step, and the amount of time it will take.


Section 1: Choose a Guitar

There are several factors to consider when purchasing your first guitar.

First, consider what type of instrument you need. Would you prefer to play an acoustic style spanish guitar? Or would you prefer to rock on with an electric just like Jimi Hendrix?

As a novice you shouldn’t spend too much cash at first. There is an array of diverse options to choose from without unnecessary costs. As you grow as a player, your needs will evolve so should your budget.

You should also strongly consider buying some additional tools that will help you improve your playing and greatly speed up the time it takes to learn.

A metronome or drum machine can help wonders in improving your playing.

We recommend that you buy your first instrument at your local music shop, because some hands on assistance at first can really help set you up with the right guitar.At this stage is crucial to try several different models to get the best value for your money.

Or, if you don’t live close to a shop you should check out our extensive buying guides on exactly how to pick the right guitar.


Section 2: Practice Schedule

Manage your time for maximizing results.

A smart thing to do is to divide your practice sessions into 30 minutes slots. This method has a lot of benefits, it will certify that you tackle different areas, allowing you to get more done in less time.

You should base your practice schedule on 7 main elements

To learn to play the guitar as quickly as possible it is important to develop a daily practice routine.

Inspire yourself by the challenges of learning to play the guitar but don't forget to have fun and mix in some actual songs while you learn the “boring” stuff like scales.


Section 3: Your journey to Guitar Mastery

Your journey to guitar mastery will take time. How long it will take to learn the guitar and become a proficient guitar player?

As you develop the right habits and invest the time, achieving greatness will be in your reach.

You need to have a constant practice schedule. Be persistent and passionate, set goals and accomplish them.

The best guitar professionals in the business been through the same process. They all spent hours honoring their skills to become great. Once you can play a few songs, learn licks from your favorite players. Playing with other musicians is also paramount to develop your musicianship.

Can anyone play the guitar?

The answer is yes.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, previous experience or cultural background. What matter is commitment, perseverance and grit. If you own these qualities, you can learn to play the guitar.


Section 4: How to become a beginner level guitar player

As a beginner your path will revolve around learning the notes on the neck, playing easy chords like G, D and C. At this stage you should also be able to play easy songs. These skills will carry over as you develop your guitar playing.

Is learning how to play the guitar hard?

Like anything worth pursuing, you will face many challenges as a rookie guitar player. Moving around the neck and changing from chord to chord will be difficult. Keeping the rhythm is also important as your ability to play in time will affect how well you can groove.

Hold the guitar

Starting out, focus on establishing a good grip holding your instrument, this will ensure you don’t develop bad habits that can cause injuries down the road.


You should always practice with good posture.

It is important to relax, so you can release tension out of your back.

Bring the instrument close to you and lean your feet on a footstool or a similar object. A daily yoga routine can help in correcting bad posture and ensuring you can play for hours without hurting yourself.


How you hold the instrument will determine how comfortable you can play. A good grip will ensure you develop proper right and left hands technique.

Learn the notes on the neck

When you can see all the notes on the neck of your instrument, you will improvise and play with confidence. As a starting point, I will give you 1 method that will improve your fret board knowledge.

Chromatic Scales

It’s a series of 12 notes played a half step apart. So if you are starting at the 1st fret 6 string, the chromatic scale would be F, Gb, G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C, Db, D, Eb, E. This scale names every note of the neck one by one, making a useful resource to visualize the notes on the fret board.

Strumming and Rhythm

(to play good lead guitar you need to be a good rhythm player)

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is to strum using only their wrist. You should always strum using your whole arm.

Guitar playing is a 2 arm endeavor, so your strumming hand is the source of the sound, and the left hand decides how it will sound. This is an important concept to understand as your whole progression as a guitar player will depend on these simple mechanics.

3 basic chords

There are 3 basic chords you should learn right away. You can play a bunch of beginners songs with those. They are the G, D and C chords. Practice changing around them back and forth and try to keep your feet moving along. Use a metronome or a drum machine, keeping time is vital for playing with other musicians.

Learn your first 10 songs

When you can move with confidence between G, D and C you are ready to learn your first 10 songs. Start with the video below and remember to pay attention to the structure of each track. This is important as you jam with other musicians your ability to follow song form will help you stand out from your peers.

Power Chords and Barre Chords

Power chords are chords made of the root note and the 5th. So, for example, a G power chord would have the notes G and D on it. They are common in punk rock music, bands like The Ramones and Sex pistols wrote a lot of music using power chords.

Barre chords will challenge you as a beginner, it will be very hard to get a clean sound as your index finger will support all 6 strings. Once you can play these chords, it will be a breeze to move around neck and to discover additional chord voicing.

Learn 30 beginners song

On this step you should learn additional chords like F, E B and A.

Armed with this knowledge you are ready to expand your repertoire learning 30 songs. Artists like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Elton John have several easy songs suitable for beginners.

Basic Ear Training

As you evolve on your guitar journey, training your ear will help you communicate your ideas with other people. Start by recognizing the chord progressions of the songs you learned on the previous section. Try to find where every chord is and learn which function they represent in the underlying harmony.

Another good resource is to sing the notes of the chords you play. This will help in understanding the construction of chords and chord progressions. Music theory is an important part of playing any instrument. The building blocks of chord construction are intervals, the distance between 2 pitches. Sing when doing this exercise.

How long it will take to learn the guitar at a beginner level?

To get the most out of your time as a beginner focus on learning as many songs as possible as this will prepare you for the intermediate level of guitar playing. To achieve a level you can play beginner songs can take as little as 10 hours but to become a proficient beginner will take at least 100 hours of deliberate practice.


Section 5: How to become an intermediate level guitar player

After learning chords and 10 songs, focus on learning scales, expand your fret board knowledge and improve your rhythm playing.

CAGED System

They based the CAGED system on 5 open chord positions, you can practice playing around the neck. It uses the C, A, G, E and D open-chord forms founded in first position. You can apply it to further develop your fret board understanding. The awesome Paul Davis explains it on this video.


Triads are the smallest unit in the chord universe. They are a 3 note chord formed by root, 3rd and 5th. The root is the most important note as it defines the tonality of the chord. The 3rd defines the quality of the chord: major or minor.

Seventh Chords

They comprise the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. The main types are major, minor dominant.

Major seventh chords comprise the root, major 3rd, 5th and major 7th. They write it as Cmaj7. A Cmaj7 has the notes C, E, G and B. Minor chords have a minor 3rd and a minor 7th. Dominant are a major triad with a minor 7th, provides a dissonant quality.

Extended Chords

We use extended chords to bring a fresh and exciting approach to harmony. They are seventh chords with extended notes like the 9th or the 13th. Guitar player magazine has an excellent guide on extended chords for guitar.


When we rearrange the notes of a chord and shift the root note, the resulting chord it’s an inversion. First inversion means the 3rd is on the bass, second inversion is the 5th on the bass, the seventh on the bass is a third inversion chord. Taking a Cmaj7 as an example, we notate inversions as Cmaj7/E, Cmaj7/G, Cmaj7/B.


Scales are the building blocks of music, a set of notes grouped together to express musical ideas. As an intermediate guitar player, learn the pentatonic, major and, minor scales.

To play solos, guitarists practice scales as they provide a framework for exploring new ideas.

Lead guitar

After learning scales, it is smart to learn how to play lead guitar. Most of us pick up the guitar inspired by guitar solos.

Learn famous solos.

Once you can play scales around the neck, it’s time to learn famous guitar solos. To proper understand what sounds good, which scales to use over certain progressions and best way to learn songs on the guitar.

The biggest mistake most people make when they try to learn new songs is a lack of preparation. Start by breaking down the different sections of the tune into smaller chunks.

Once you mastered each section, practice playing the full song.

Here are 3 tips to speed up the time to learn a song


Section 6: How to become an advanced guitar player

As an advanced guitar player, it is best to specialize. There are several paths you can take to further improve your playing. Depending on your ambitions some paths are better than others. If you plan to study at a conservatory, learning classical guitar and jazz is a must. Rock and modern styles will prepare you to work as a sideman or as a recording artist.

Classical Guitar

On this path you should immerse yourself in learning classical pieces from composers like Mozart, Bach and Paganini. The technique and playing styles differ from steel string and electric guitar. Developing a proper right-hand technique will take time. Most players combine flesh and nails to achieve their desired sound. Experiment with both until you find a way that is comforting.

At this stage is smart to learn how to read music. Analysing structure and understanding dynamics is crucial. Listen to great classical guitarists like Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola and John Williams to absorb the nuances of the style.

One of the best ways to develop a solid technique in classical guitar is to practice etudes. They are musical exercises designed to expand the guitarist playing ability.

Key Concepts of Classical Guitar are:

How long does it take to learn acoustic guitar?

To achieve an elite level of classical guitar playing takes around 5000 hours of deliberate practice. Most classical musicians undertake 4 years of undergraduate study where they focus in repertoire, sight reading and advanced ear training.

Blues Guitar

Every modern music style has roots in the blues. It’s simple but sophisticated. The first step it’s understanding the 12-bar blues form. Every blues song revolves around this structure and its variations.

The most used chords are dominant 7th. To become a great blues guitarist you need to play several chord voicings around the neck and vary your rhythm playing. Concepts like shuffle, bending and the blues scales should be second nature at this point.

The vocabulary of the style revolves around timeless licks. You should learn all classic licks and study B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

They have influenced how the style sounds and have inspired 1000s of blues guitarists.

How long to get good in blues guitar

It depends on your goal. practice 30 minutes a day for 6 months and that will be 70 hours.

At this point you should be able to play most blues tunes without soloing. To become proficient in blues soloing will take at least 1000 hours.

Key Concepts of Blues Guitar:

Jazz Guitar

For you to become a proficient jazz guitarist, it takes serious dedication. A strong blues background is necessary since jazz evolved from the blues.

Matt Warnock has a great guide to get you started.

The real book is the bible of jazz. It contains the most famous jazz standards. You should spend a lot of time learning these tunes. The challenge of playing jazz comes to being able to improvise these songs in all 12 keys.

The most important improvisational concept in jazz, is to play through the changes. That means soloing through chord tones. When you construct solos, you need to connect these notes with the harmony of a tune. Arpeggios come in handy in achieving that. Practice scales, triads and arpeggios over the circle of 5ths. This way you will improvise through any set of chord changes.

Key Concepts of Jazz Guitar are:

How long it will take to learn Jazz guitar?

Jazz is a hard style to play and to mastery it should take a lifetime. With an efficient practice schedule, you can play jazz standards in around 500 hours.

Rock Guitar

Rock guitar playing is all about riffs, solos and creative comping.

It can be a demanding style to play. Requires precise technique, stellar tone and a lot of creativity.

Distortion defines the sound of rock guitar. A good tube amplifier is essential for getting this sound. GuitarRig5 emulates famous amplifiers for a fraction of the price.

Key Concepts of Rock Guitar are:

Funk Guitar

Learning funk guitar is an invaluable resource to advance your musicianship. Originated in the late 60s, rhythm and groove comprise the skeleton of the style.

Playing in the pocket and leaving space are crucial concepts in this style of guitar playing. You need to develop a solid palm muting technique and expand your chord vocabulary. Remember that playing funk guitar is about moving your right hand so you can emphasize 16th notes.

Study guitar players like Leo Nocentelli, Curtis Mayfield and Nile Rodgers. You can learn a lot just by listening to great Funk records by artists like The meters, Prince and Stevie Wonder.

Key Concepts of Funk Guitar are:

How long does it take to play funk guitar?

It will take at least 500 hours of serious playing to be proficient in Funk Guitar. How well you can play it will depend on your ability to lock in with the rhythm section.


Section 7: Summary

How long it takes to learn the guitar? As we examined, it depends on which level do you want to reach?

If your goal is to play songs, 100 hours should be enough

To improvise in more sophisticated styles like jazz and blues it should take around 2,000 hours.

To achieve mastery, it's safe to say it will take 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

How long does it take to play Guitar like Frank Gambale?

Frank once told me he practiced 12 hours a day for 7 years straight which is around 30000 hours.

There are many skills that you will need to learn well in order to become an awesome guitar player. Having an understanding of basic music theory and increasing the finger dexterity on your fretting hand are a few examples.

One area where many guitarists may struggle is with developing a solid picking technique. Let’s take a look at some of the different ways to pick the guitar, and also throw in some exercises for good measure.

But before we do, I’ve got some advice that you have to take to heart…


One last thing before we get going

We will be using standard guitar tablature for our exercises. Since we are going to be discussing picking in particular, there will be a lot of talk about “upstrokes” and “downstrokes” with your pick. The tab symbol for a downstroke is , and an upstroke is .

Got it? Great! Time to get pickin’!


Down Picking

As the name implies, here you will be doing nothing but downstrokes. This technique is used mostly to add an effect to a melody line. At the same time, it can be used with palm muted chords to give that heavy chunking sound that is a staple of a lot of rock music. You can take it to the extreme if your tastes more along the metal side of things.


Up Picking

Same thing as down picking…but in reverse!

Up picking is typically used more with chords than with single lines. The reason for this is that hitting the higher strings first (instead of the lower strings as you would with downstrokes) will give a different sound. The difference is subtle, but it’s there.

It also works best when you use mute all of the strings after each upstroke (you can slightly lift your fingers off the fretboard or use part of your picking hand) as it helps to give a staccato, percussive sound.

Here we will use an open A major chord (without playing the high E string):


Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is – by far – the best way to play a single line at any speed when you have to pick every note. It is exactly what the name refers to – you alternate downstrokes and upstrokes to create a fluid motion that is precise and smooth.

A few tips:

When playing single note lines, you have to make sure that your fretting hand is in the right place before you strike the string. If you don’t then there’s a really good chance that your notes will sound muffled and sloppy.

Always try to use your wrist to pivot for the up and down motions, not your whole forearm. Using this technique is much easier to control and won’t fatigue your arm so much.


Tremolo Picking

Tremolo picking is basically alternate picking on steroids. It is a technique that is mostly used in a different way than most alternate picking. With tremolo picking, you are simply using up and down strokes as fast as you can on a single note.

Eddie Van Halen used this technique quite a bit – a great example is the flurry of notes at the end of the “Beat It” solo. There isn’t a bunch of different notes, just a bunch of the pick strokes on the same note which changes every few beats (check it out and you’ll see what I mean).

With tremolo picking, it’s very difficult to do it any other way than to move your whole forearm up and down. That helps with control of the pick – which you’ll have to hold pretty tight.


String Skipping

Let’s face it – playing notes on the same string all the time gets pretty boring, and it’s not exactly the most musical thing in the world! At some point, you will have to get used to moving to other strings while you are playing a solo or a melody. This is called skipping strings, and it is an essential skill for great guitar playing.

Here’s an example using the A pentatonic minor scale:

Notice how that whenever you play an upstroke, your very next note is played as a downstroke. This works best with alternate picking as you can time your upstrokes and downstrokes when changing strings to keep your hand motions efficient.

One other thing to point out: when you have completed an upstroke and are then skipping a string to play your next downstroke, you have to make sure to lift your pick far enough away from the strings so you don’t hit a string by accident as your hand is moving.

String skipping isn’t just going from one string to the one immediately above or below it, though. You can get great musical effects by making large interval jumps and moving several strings away.

Let’s use the A pentatonic minor scale again and check it out:


Sweep Picking

Back in the 80’s when shred guitar ruled, the ultimate goal seemed to be able to play as fast as possible. A perfect example of that type of guitar player was Yngwie Malmsteen - the guy was just unbelievable with the picking control and phrasing that he used.

Yes, he used alternate picking quite a bit. One other technique that he often used was called “sweep”, or economy picking.

With sweep picking you get the benefit of playing multiple notes with one pick stroke. Typically, this is used when playing arpeggios, so your fretting hand is often held in a traditional chord shape. As each note is played you then slightly lift your fretting hand fingers off the string so the note doesn’t ring out.

It takes a little practice to get this technique down pat as it takes a fair amount of coordination between your two hands. But, as with anything with the guitar, practice makes perfect!

Here is an exercise in the key of G. Any time you see either a downstroke or an upstroke together that means that the same pick stroke is being used for those same notes:

Build this pattern up and you’ll be impressed by how fast it’ll sound like you’re playing!


Hybrid Picking

Hybrid picking is a form of finger picking in the sense that you use more than one finger on your picking hand to pluck the strings. It is particularly common in country guitar and – when done in the right way – can really add some style to your playing.

To start off, use your thumb and index finger to hold the pick – just like you typically would. The key here is to then use your middle finger (or whichever one you feel comfortable using; for our purposes here, we’ll use the middle) and pluck another string at the same time you use the pick.

While it’s true that you could just use your pick to hit both strings at the same time, there is a big difference with how hybrid picked lines sound. They tend to have more “snap”, are more percussive, and both notes will ring out clearly.

This exercise gets a little twang in your thang, with a nice bend higher up the neck at the end of the phrase:

To pull this one off, always use your pick for the notes on the 4th string in the first three measures, and on the 3rd string in the last one. Use the tip of your middle finger to pluck the 3rd string (again, in the first three measures) and the 2nd string on at the end.

Another aspect that makes hybrid picking so flexible is that you aren’t limited to playing strings that are right next to each other. In this exercise, you will be using your pick on the third string and your middle finger on the 1st string. Add a whole step slide at the end of each measure and you’ll have a tasty little lick:


Final tip - you have to start slow before you can go fast

It’s kind of like a sports car, right? You’d love to get in it and go up to 100 MPH in 0.5 seconds, but getting to that speed that fast can be dangerous. In fact, you’d probably lose control and crash it up pretty bad.

While I don’t think that anyone could ever consider playing guitar ”dangerous”, the same principle applies.

When you are trying to improve your skills, speed is a key factor. Nowhere is this more important than when you are working on your picking. It is a very mechanical skill and it’s super easy to try and go too fast too soon. Not only will you not sound like crap (sorry to be blunt…but yeah – it’s true) but you won’t develop the accuracy you need to be efficient.

I can’t overstate this. Always start out a new picking pattern slow so you can play every note cleanly. Only when you can play it properly should you work on picking up the pace. Trust me…someone like John Petrucci didn’t just pick up the guitar and blaze up the fretboard!


Wrapping it all up

Each of the techniques that we have gone over would be great skills for you to have in your playing vocabulary. While it’s true that these types of exercises can bore you to tears, you’ll be a LOT better off in the long run once you have the skills locked down.