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Following the Rules

How to Learn Guitar Fast (In Less Than Two Weeks)

Warning: Long and detailed post alert. Bounce if you don’t want to actually learn something.

So you finally want to learn how to play guitar? That’s awesome. Here’s the method I used to learn guitar fast.

For a long time I didn’t know how to play any musical instrument at all. I played a little bit of trumpet in third grade but forgot it almost immediately.

louis-armstrong-color-trumpet

Pictured: Not Me.

About two years ago I was a party with a whole bunch of other people. We were having a great conversation, then this guy walks in with a guitar. He didn’t say a thing, just walked walked over to the corner of the room, sat down on the couch, put up his case, pulled out the guitar and started playing. I think it was a Beatles song.

jimi-hendrix

Jimi was guitar player, right?

As soon as he started, everyone slowly moved toward him until the whole room was in a semi circle around him; we were all tuned in to hear what he was playing.

Watching him move his fingers across the fretboard, I knew I wanted that power.

dio

The power of rock!

The next day I called up a guitar teacher from Craigslist, went to the teacher, paid for the first lesson, and told him “Alright, I want to play guitar.”

“Okay, let’s do it,” he said. “Buy this book, it’s $25 dollars, and it’ll have a bunch of finger exercises in there. Practice the finger exercises for a little while and then eventually you’ll be able to play!”

Then I asked him, “how long does it take to learn this kind of thing?”

And he told me, “you’ll be able to play songs within six months, but you won’t be any good for at least two years, maybe even longer.”

At that point I stopped listening, I thought, “screw that, if I’m going to learn guitar, I want to do it quick before all my song ideas go away.”

Instead, I took a list of every major guitar chord, separated them by key and used that list to learn guitar in two weeks.

What’s a key? We need a music lesson real quick:

Key is a musical term. All songs are played in keys. The easiest way to play a song is to strum a chord, a chord is a series of notes played at the same time. All songs are built up on a series of chords. The most used chords are the major chords which is what we’re going to be learning.

To make it easier for you, I took all the chords you’ll need to play in every key, found the overlapping chords, and, as it turns out, you only need to know 24 different chords to play every song on guitar.

Learn Guitar in The Next Two Weeks

Give this system two weeks, and after that you’ll be able to play millions of songs. You’ll also be able to write your own.

How It Works

This system is all memorization. Normally when people talk about memorization my mind shuts off, but the gamified nature of this system makes it easier to stay motivated.

You’re going to learn a series of new chords, three a day for the next five days, then, in the final nine days, you’ll be practicing those chords until you have them memorized.

You’ll be practicing five minutes on, five minutes off. That means you’ll be memorizing hardcore for five minutes, then you’ll take a five minute break and play some video games or whatever, then you’ll come back and do it for five minutes again.

Each day of practice will take about two hours of work. So set some time up after school or work to just sit down with the guitar and do it. If you work hard for the next two weeks, you can spend the rest of you life enjoying your own playing.

Tuning the Easy Way

Tuning the guitar isn’t as straightforward as it could be, but there’s an app for four bucks in the iPhone store that will help you. Download that, maybe check out this tuning guide, and that’s tuning.

Intro to the System

Below I listed out all the major keys, C D E F G A and B, and what they transpose into with a capo. A capo is a black piece of plastic that fits over the neck of the guitar, you can slide it up and down, and it will move you to different keys.

capo

The magic guitar playing machine.

chords-with-capo-transpositions

Every major key (click for larger image).

That’s the secret here, instead of having to learn hundreds of different chords over 14 keys, we’re only going to learn 12 chords over 4 keys.

Thanks to the capo, we can throw out all the keys we don’t need, and we’re left with C D G and A.

crossed-out-major-keys

Ignore the ones in red.

Now, let’s list out the chords needed to play guitar in each one of these.

chords-we-want-to-learn

The full list of learnable chords – notice the duplicates?

There are a lot of chords here, 28 in total. You probably don’t want to learn that many, so let’s hone this list down a bit. First, get rid of all the diminished chords. Nobody ever uses diminished chords and they aren’t in many songs. You can learn them if you want to, but I wouldn’t right now.

chords-we-want-to-learn-no-dim

No more diminished chords.

Take all the remaining chords and do an 80/20 analysis. Here I ranked them in order by how many times they were used in the four keys, and broke that down by the day you’re going to learn each one. Check out this diagram:

learn-chords-in-this-order

List of chords ranked by number of times repeated.

We’ll learn the chords in this order, three at a time, until you can play in every key.

What An MMO Can Teach You About Guitar

For a while I wasn’t motivated to do anything except play a video game called World of Warcraft. You make progress in that game by looking at an experience bar. The more characters you kill in the game, the more experience you get, and the more you play. It’s the best motivation system I’ve ever seen.

Using this system you can take the same experience bar setup, and use it to track your memorization progress.

guitar-experience-bar

The easiest way to memorize complicated things fast.

Each block on the bar is worth 4%. Every time you learn a new chord, check off all the boxes it appears in and fill out the experience bar with a pencil, one for each check box.

As soon as you get to 100% experience, you’ll be able to play in every key!

The Method: What to do every day

I’m not going to explain how chord diagrams work because you’re smart enough to figure it out or use Google, but here’s a diagram that explains which fingers go with which number:

guitar-finger-numbers

These are fingers. You use them to play guitar.

This will help make sure you have the right fingers in the right places later on. No need to memorize this chart now.

The Cycle: How To Effectively Memorize 14 Chords

Do this sequence every day for each chord to make sure they stick in your brain and stay in your muscle memory. Let’s use the first chord as an example of what to do.

Instructions:

1. Make sure your guitar is tuned, you should only have to tune it once this entire two week cycle, but check it as often as you feel like.

2. Pull out your phone and set the timer for five minutes.

3. Put your fingers into the shape of a D chord. Here’s what it looks like:

d-chord

The D Major Chord

Put your fingers on the neck in the above shape and say “D major” out loud. Make sure your fingers line up with the fingers in the picture. Strum down on the guitar at the same time using your pick. Listen to the recording, does it sound the same? Good.

4. Take your fingers off the neck of the guitar. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the timer goes off.

5. Set the timer for five minutes again, this time take a break and don’t think about the guitar. Go do literally anything else.

6. Repeat the entire sequence with the D chord three times in a row. Then move on to the next chord and do the same thing.

The Most Efficient Way to Learn Chords:

Day One:

Chords Learned: D, G, and Em

1. The D Chord:

d-chord

The D Major Chord

Recording of D (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

2. The G Chord:

The G Major Chord

The G Major Chord

Recording of G (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

3. The Em Chord:

Em-chord

The E minor Chord

 Recording of Em (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

Time Required: 1.5 hours
Experience Gained: 36%

New Concept: The Daily Review

After day one, you’ll start each practice session by going over everything you’ve learned so far. Here’s how The Daily Review will play out:

1. Pull out your guitar.
2. Play and say the name of the first chord: “D Major.” Strum the guitar.
3. Switch to the next chord in the sequence. Play and say it’s name “G Major.”
4. Do the same with the third chord and so on until you’ve covered all the chords you’ve learned so far.
5. Repeat the whole sequence five times. Aim for correctness rather than speed.

Eventually you’ll be able to play all the chords you’ve learned both by sequence and key. This repetition is the most important step because it builds muscle memory so you won’t have to think about each chord before you play it. This will make it easier for you to sing on top of your guitar playing later.

Day Two:

Chords Learned: C, Am, and Bm

1. Do The Daily Review for D, G, and Em

2. The C Chord

c-chord

The C Major Chord

 Recording of C (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

3. The Am Chord

Am-chord

The A minor Chord

Recording of Am (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

4. The Bm Chord

bm-chord

The B minor chord.

 Recording of Bm (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

Time Required: 2 hours
Experience Gained: 28%

Note: Bm is the first barre chord you’ll learn. This means you bar your index finger across the top of your other fingers. The barre chords are a little harder to get right, but do your best with these. Keep repositioning your fingers until they sound like the recordings.

Day Three:

Chords Learned: A, F#m, and C#m

1. Do The Daily Review for D, G, Em, C, Am and Bm

2. The A chord

A-Chord

The A major chord

Recording of A (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

3. The F#m Chord

f-sharp-minor

The F#m Chord

Recording of F#m (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

4. The C#m Chord

c#m-chord

A C# minor chord.

Recording of C#m (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

Time Required: 2 hours
Experience Gained: 20%

Day Four:

Chords Learned: Dm, E and F

Welcome to your last day of memorization! You’ve come a long way, but I promise it’s all about to pay off. Just three more to go!

1. Do The Daily Review for D, G, Em, C, Am, Bm, A, F#m, and C#m.

2. The Dm Chord

d-minor

A D minor chord

Recording of Dm (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

3. The E Chord

E-Chord

An E Major Chord

 Recording of E (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

4. The F Chord

f-chord

The F Major Chord

Recording of F (refresh page if widget didn’t load):

Time Required: 2 hours
Experience Gained: 12%

Day Five Through Fourteen:

Run over each chord in the sequence until you can play them without looking at the diagrams or thinking too much.

1. Do The Daily Review for D, G, Em, C, Am, Bm, A, F#m, C#m, Dm, E and F.

Time Required: 1 Hour Each Day

A Note on Strumming

Strum however you want on these chords. As you practice more and play along with songs you like, eventually your strumming and timing will get better and better, but learning the chords will get you 90% of the way to guitar greatness.

What You Need To Buy

I left this materials section until the end of the post so only serious people read it. Here’s what you need, you can get everything on Amazon:

1. Acoustic Guitar$90
2. Cheap Plastic Capo$15
3. A set of Medium Picks$4

Finding Songs to Play

My favorite site for guitar chords is Ultimate Guitar, you should be able to play 90% of the stuff on there now.

For writing your own songs, look into chord progressions. Here’s a good generator. Play the chords in that sequence and sing on top of them. Welcome to the world of songwriting.

Conclusion

Hopefully this helped you. If you have any videos to share of you playing, go ahead and post them, especially if you learned using this method! That would be awesome.

Thanks for reading! You’re the best.

-Alex

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