LEARN GUITAR STUFF Learn based on questions from guitarists 5

Learn Guitar Stuff is a new title for a semi ongoing series that’s been running for a little while here at Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. The concept is quite simple really. Basically, I take 10 or so guitar related questions asked by members of our beloved guitar community and answer them in one longish article. The idea of this is that hopefully, you’ll learn something. The earlier you are in your guitar journey, the more you’ll learn naturally and the more experienced guitarists out there will hopefully at the very least find it at least a somewhat interesting piece to read.

This is the fifth entry in this series. If you enjoy this article, be sure to go back and read the others.

They were initially called Guitar Tips. Here are the first 4.

Guitar Tips 1

Guitar Tips 2

Guitar Tips 3

Guitar Tips 4

Let’s get to the questions. One thing to remember with my answers is that I give very little thought to them. I just give whatever answer I think is best at the time based on my many years of experience as a guitar player / musician.

Let’s get on with it.

learn guitar stuff

Learn Guitar Stuff #1 What is something you learned on guitar that made you progress faster?

The short answer is music theory. The long answer is muuuussssiiccc theeerooorrryyy.

I know there are musicians / guitarists out there who say that music theory simply isn’t required but there’s no way I’d be able to do what I do with a guitar without that music theory knowledge.

I’m by Jo means a music theory expert. I know enough, and probably more than the average guitarist but I never went in truly deep but even a theory background at this level was enough to make me a dramatically better guitar player.

You can learn how to do something but I think knowing the “why” helps a great deal and even something as simple as how notes fit into the bars will make your life so much easier.

There’s no downside to learning music theory. It’s not as complicated as you may think and learning the “rules” well enough will help you learn how to nicely break them.

Learn Guitar Stuff #2 What is something you wished you knew sooner about playing guitar?

Music theory. I’m joking. Although I am going to go slightly out of the box with this one because my answer to this question has nothing to do with actual guitar playing.

Something I wished I knew sooner about guitar playing is that very few people actually give any resemblance of a **** about your guitar playing.

All those hours that guitarists spend chasing that perfect tone are wasted because nobody cares. You dropped a note playing live? Nobody noticed. 50 takes and hours of editing on that clip of you “improvising”. Yea…. Not time well spent.

You’re an amazing guitarist? Great. There’re thousands of other great guitarists and I bet you can’t even name 100 of them off the top of your head and that includes the ultra famous and acclaimed.

The fine details only really matter if you make it big or the rare times when you’re recording.

Learn Guitar Stuff #3 How do you play the blues? I don’t mean technically or melodically. I mean how to feel blues and play it cool.

This is a hard one to answer. I know what the poster is getting at but this isn’t something that can be taught easily. Teaching the technical stuff is easy but to take that and apply it to music is down to the student and typically, the student is green in the area they’re learning about.

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The P word is important here and I don’t mean **** or *****. If you’re putting in the effort, the improvements will come. Even with something like “feel”.

I used to use a phrase loop and record sets of 12 bars in different keys, styles and tempos and play over them sometimes for multiple hours. This was very effective. Don’t have a phrase loop? There’re plenty of other backing track options out there.

Locking into your rhythm is very important, as is actually listening to blues music to get a feel for what blues guitarists phrasing is like as well as their playing styles and even tones and other aspects of playing that guitarists sometimes neglect such as dynamics.

Another tip is to try and disconnect yourself. Don’t think too hard. Just let it come out. This will lead to mistakes but over time, you’ll gain an understanding of what works as well as why and where.

Also, here’s a lesson on the 8, 16 and 24 bar blues which may help you break out of the 12 bar structure now and then. Mix and match baby.

Cool blues playing isn’t just lead related. A lot of what you’ll be doing is rhythm based. Here’s a short lesson on 12 bar rhythm variations. 

Learn Guitar Stuff #4 What makes a great guitarist different from an average one?

The only problem with this question is that different people may have different ideas of what great means so rather than getting into that fairly boring discussion, I’ll come at this from a different angle.

What gets guitarists stuck in the average bracket? For me, it’s a guitarist that can play really good but does nothing else. Their technique is flawless and their speed is sensational. They can shred up a storm or they can create the illusion of emotional playing.

Remember what I said earlier. Thousands of guitarists can do this so therefore, they’re average.

Those that go beyond this are above average and those that go far beyond this are great.

To continue with this answer would mean venturing into the “what is great” debate and like I said, I aren’t going there today so you simply need to consider what going above simply playing amazingly looks like and then perhaps considering doing some of that.

One final point. A guitarist can be great without virtuoso playing ability too but on the flip side, I can’t name one great guitarist who can’t / couldn’t play well.

#5 What would be the three main guitar chords to learn for a beginner guitar player?

Good question for beginner guitarists and also for any guitar tutors out there (yes, I’ve seen that some of my content was “borrowed”).

So, I don’t have a “first 3 guitar chords”. I have a first 9. These are the most basic open chords that we use and they’re a great place to start. I would teach these 9 beginner guitar chords in the very first lesson. Here they are. I’m sure many will know where I’m going with this.

E major / A major / D major / E minor / A minor / D minor / G major / C major / F Major

learn guitar stuff first chords to learn

It’s that F major chord that will cause the most issues but may as well tackle it early as it naturally leads to bigger basic barre chords.

Here’s a lesson that may help with the F major. F major guitar chord lesson

By the way. The image above with the chords separates the chords into groups of three (right to left) The chords in each group work nicely together. 

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#6 What benefits would a seasoned guitarist derive from taking additional guitar lessons after many years of playing?

Interesting one but if I’m interpreting this correctly, the answer is quite simple if I’m honest.

So, your age, experience and skill level aren’t relevant if you’re taking a lesson on something you don’t already know about.

There’s always something to learn on guitar and there’s always more knowledge to be gained if the willingness is there. I still read and watch lessons all the time because I don’t know everything and never will.  

I’m happy with my skills at this point after many years of playing but learning something new now and then is always nice and continually learning will only make you a better musician.

I’m not saying you need to pay for one on one tuition when you’ve been playing for 20 years but there are plenty of other resources out there. Oh look, here’s a link to the guitar lessons right here at Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat.

#7 How do I know if I’m a decent guitarist?

I think this maybe the first time I’ve chosen a question that I had no intention on actually answering but I’ve done it for a reason. For this one, I’d like to refer you to a previous answer. Nobody cares. Neither should you.

Asking yourself questions like this is natural and it’s something all us guitarists go through but honestly, it’s a complete waste of energy.

All you need to focus on is practicing and getting better over time. Searching for the answers to questions like this is inefficient to say the least.

Don’t worry about it. Just

keep playing and practicing and you’ll exceed “decent” sooner than you think.

#8 I have been learning guitar for a year but still can’t shift between chords as quickly as it should be done. What do I do?

This is a very tough barrier to break through and to be honest, watching lesser experienced guitarists fumble their way through chord changes all clunky and out of time is actually quite painful so I’ll do my best to help in this admittedly short response.

I don’t know the poster so I can only really assume what the issue is. I can visualise the problem because I have seen it so many times but as for what’s causing it, I’m not sure. I can guess however that it comes down to practicing in the wrong way and/or a lack of understanding around rhythm and timing

Remember earlier where I said learning music theory, the basics at least would improve your playing? This is a great example. Understanding how your strumming fits into those bars may prove useful but the answers in this article are too short form to go theory deep.

What I’ll do instead is give you an exercise. You’ll need a metronome.

Let’s go right back to basics

Dial the metronome back to 60 beats per minute (you can increase the tempo incrementally when you’re comfortable)

Now. All I’d like you to do is play one downward strum on beat 1 of the bar (4 beats in total for a standard bar) and let the chord ring out for. Something like this.

learn guitar stuff chord changes 1

Ok so let’s build on this. Now, we will do the same thing only we will add a strum at best 3 too so 2 strums in total per bar.

learn guitar stuff chord changes 2
learn guitar stuff chord changes 3

The above will get you in the habit of playing in time. Get good at these exercises before even thinking about chord changes.

When you’re ready, we can use the above exercises to incorporate changes. Here’s what the first would look like

learn guitar stuff chord changes 4

It’s all about the timing. When you’ve cracked the above, you can move on to your strumming patterns and figuring out how they fit into bars but master the above exercises first. You can even apply them to chord progressions from actual songs

This advice was taken from a lesson I wrote ages ago. If you want more advice on this, follow the link below.

How to change from one chord to another on guitar

#9 How do you make old guitar strings sound new?

There’s only one way of answering this question and that’s with brutal honestly. Here goes. You can’t. There isn’t a way of making old guitar strings sound new. Sorry.

I know that it’s not easy for many people out there to frequently change guitar strings. Strings cost money and many of us simply don’t have a great deal of that. I know. I’ve been there.

Let’s face it. The majority of people out there know that if your guitar playing is simply a hobby (99.9 percent of us) other things take monetary priority so I can easily see where questions like this come from but sadly, there is no cheat code. If you want your strings to sound new, you need to put on new strings.

What I will say though is that you don’t need to listen to those people that say things along the lines of “you really need to be changing your guitar strings every 8 minutes to sound good”. That kind of thing is simply false.

It’s all relative. If you’re going into studio to record an album, investing in some strings is probably a good idea but if you’re just playing guitar at home, learning and practicing, you can leave them strings on a lot longer. Why? See my earlier information about nobody giving a dam about you or what you sound like.

#10 I want to learn guitar. Where should I start?

This is actually quite an easy one to answer because a lot of people mess it up as early as this stage and sadly never recover. It’s tragic really how something so simple and small can screw up so many people.

Here it is.

You want to learn guitar but you don’t know where to start.

You should start at step 1 and achieve this as soon as possible because without this, I can assure you that your guitar related ambitions will go unfulfilled.


The first step is to……


You’d be shocked at how many people ponder the prospect of guitar playing and ask these sort of questions but never actually bite the bullet.

I can tell you now that if you don’t buy a guitar or obtain one via some other method, you will get nowhere slowly.

Don’t let this be you. If you want to learn a guitar, go get a guitar. Do it now!

Learn the essential skills to play the guitar in your favorite music styles