Best Way To Learn Guitar (3-Step Method)

Looking for the best way to learn guitar? In this super-practical guide we’ll share a proven 3-step programme that delivers results.

best way to learn guitar

In this free guide you will learn:

  • The 3-step framework that allows all guitar learners to progress quickly.
  • The #1 most effective secret for learning chords at lightning speed.
  • The universal strumming pattern that turbo-charges your rhythm & musicality.
  • How to make rapid progress during your practice time.

Does that sound useful? If so, let’s dive in!

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best way to learn guitar

Searching for the best way to learn guitar…

I founded the National Guitar Academy because I wanted to share the gift of music with as many people as possible.

There’s so much confusing information out there in the guitar world and I wanted to create something simple; something people could use to learn easily and also something they could enjoy.

Our company motto is “Make Things Easy & Fun” and that principle is at the core of everything that we do.

This 3-step programme has that core principle at its heart: “Make things easy & fun”

This programme will help you a lot, but you should try and find a good local guitar teacher.

Having a good guitar teacher who can sit with you face-to-face and guide, encourage and inspire you is transformative for your chances of successfully learning the instrument.

Finding a good guitar teacher can be difficult and you should expect to try four or five teachers before you find one that truly ‘clicks’.

You can learn more about how to hire a great guitar teacher (along with TONS of other useful guitar tips) in our article:
11 Essential Steps For Guitar Beginners

The Best Way To Learn Guitar In 3 Steps

The best way to learn guitar is to make things easy and fun. So how do we do this?

At its most basic level, playing the guitar consists of two things:

  1. You make chord shapes with your left hand.
  2. You strike the strings with your right hand.

Your aim should be to make both of these things easy and fun and then use these skills to play music you love.

The best way to learn guitar, the teaching method the National Guitar Academy is built on, has just 3 steps:

  1. Make the left hand skill easy and fun. We do this by learning ‘stepping-stone’ chords.
  2. Make the right hand skill easy and fun. We do this by learning the ‘universal strumming pattern’.
  3. Exclusively play music you love. (Songs that you personally adore and have chosen to learn.)

So that’s the overview. Now let’s get into the specifics! 🙂

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best way to learn guitar

Step 1) Learn ‘stepping-stone’ chords

Here’s something most beginners don’t know: There is an easy version of every chord.

Beginner guitarists often waste a lot of time trying to master chords that are unsuitable for beginners.

I’ve learned during tens of thousands of hours of teaching guitar that the biggest threat to a beginner’s chances of successfully learning guitar is lack of progress.

If progress isn’t clear and satisfying, frustration creeps in and that leads to guitar practice being perceived as a chore. You need to watch out for this.

Learning guitar can be tough, but if we see that we’re making progress then we’re more likely to continue playing. Practice becomes something we enjoy more and we get a positive momentum behind us.

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National Guitar Academy

What are stepping-stone chords?

Stepping-stone chords are a fundamental part of my teaching philosophy. They are chords that are easy to play, sound good and mean you can make music a lot more quickly than if you stick with standard chords.

Perhaps the best thing about stepping-stone chords is they make it easier for you to concentrate more on your strumming.

Because the chords are easier to assemble you can focus more attention on developing your musicality and rhythm in your strumming hand. This is huge!

Isn’t it better to ‘learn the hard way’?

I know guitar teachers who think the best way to learn guitar is for beginner to simply ‘push through the pain barrier’ and master difficult chords. No pain no gain, that type of thing. But for me, this ‘sink or swim’ approach is not only careless but actually deeply flawed.

Learning easy chords develops your finger dexterity, control and accuracy and that allows you to graduate on and up to playing full chords in a smoother way.

In a nutshell: Using stepping-stone chords is easier and you’ll have more fun along the way.

Some stepping-stone chord examples

Let’s look at some stepping-stone chord shapes to make this concept clearer:

best way to learn guitar

[If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!]

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Can you see that the stepping-stone versions are simply different voicings of the standard chords?

Please don’t perceive these chords as ‘baby chords’. These chords are used by advanced guitarist use all the time because they sound cool.

Mostly, all we are doing here is choosing to play a different VOICING of the same chord.

Please don’t think that it’s cheating to use these chord voicings, it’s just plain old common sense. You can choose to learn in a hard way or an easy way. It really is that simple! 🙂

Remember, the best way to learn guitar is to make things easy and fun. Stepping-stone chords embody that principle.

This concept is so important to your progress as a beginner guitarist, that there’s an entire section of this site that will teach you more stepping-stone chords.

Check out our easy chords area by clicking here. (It’s free to access.)

Download a free beginner chord guide and learn easy versions of every chord

 Say goodbye to frustration and twisted fingers. Say hello to MAKING MUSIC.

  Learn beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

  This is one of our most popular guides and will improve your chord ability quickly. Click here to download the guide.

The Best Way To Learn Guitar Step 2: Learn The Universal Strumming Pattern

One of the most damaging guitar-learning myths of all is the idea that there are ‘strumming patterns’ that guitarists should aim to replicate.

So let me assure you now that you don’t need to learn, rote, a series of fixed strumming patterns. I want you to develop a sense of rhythmic expression, creativity and musicality in your strumming. In your own style.

I want you to be able to strum any song AND be able to interpret that song in multiple ways. How does learning a set strumming pattern, for a specific song, help you with a million other songs?

As you can probably tell, this is something I feel passionate about! 🙂

Forget about strumming patterns and all of that “down up up up up down down” stuff. (It won’t develop you as a musician and this is a classic case of people who are guitarists trying to be guitar teachers, when in truth they are two very different things.)

Learn the universal strumming pattern and you will have a foundation that you can use for ANY song.

Watch this video so you can see this concept in action:

You can learn tons more about this and see exactly how to identify the beat of a song (& the other steps) by reading our Ultimate Guide: How To Strum A Guitar Properly: A Guide For Beginners

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

QuickTip: I often see beginners trying to learn with a guitar that is awful for beginners. (And/or badly suited to their body size & shape.)

There are dozens of different types of guitar. Some are easy to learn with and some are difficult to learn with.

If you’re a beginner guitarist who’s looking for the best way to learn guitar then you better choose to learn with a guitar that’s easy to play. 🙂

You can learn a lot more about this by reading my article
How To Choose The Perfect Beginner Guitar

The Best Way To Learn Guitar Step 3: Only Play Music You Love

I’ve mentioned several times that the best way to learn guitar is to make things easy & fun.

Putting this philosophy into practice requires just 3 steps:

  1. Left hand = Stepping-stone chords
  2. Right hand = Universal strumming pattern
  3. And now we move onto the last step…

So far, we’ve covered the left hand and right hand elements and now we’re going to move onto the third element.

It’s crucial that you only learn songs that you personally adore.

I want you to enjoy every moment of learning the guitar and playing songs that you love is an important part of making things fun.

So forget ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ and ‘happy birthday’ and any other generic guitar ‘exercises’ that you find!

  • Just learn songs dude.
  • Just learn to play songs that YOU love.

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best way to learn guitar

A few tips on this crucial concept

Write a list of 15-20 tracks that you absolutely love & would like to learn on guitar.

Almost certainly, if you Google the chords or tab for those particular songs, they will be too difficult for you if you’re a beginner.

Give them a try, sure, but in their standard form they will probably be too hard to play. So you have to adapt them and this where those stepping-stone chords come in handy.

When you see a tough chord like F, substitute it for the stepping-stone F chord: Try an Fmaj7 instead.

F

best way to learn guitar for beginners

Fmaj7

best way to learn acoustic guitar

…and when you see a difficult barre chord like Bm, substitute it for a cool stepping-stone chord like Bm11.

Bm

best way to learn guitar

Bm11

best way to learn guitar fast

Get the idea? Swap the hard chord for an easier voicing.

Some songs can be played in a much easier way if you use a capo.

A capo raises the key of your guitar and allows you to use chord shapes to create OTHER chords.

For example if you put a capo on the second fret and strum an ‘A’ chord shape, the sound that actually comes out of your guitar will be ‘B’. (By putting the capo on the second fret you have raised the key of the guitar by two steps.) So A is now B.

best way to learn guitar

And this holds true for all other chords. With a capo on the 2nd fret C becomes D. You can strum a C shape but you’ll HEAR a D chord.

If you strummed a D shape with a capo on the 2nd fret, what chord would you hear? (Yes, that’s right, an E chord.)

Capos can be powerful game-changers for beginners because they allow you to play songs that would usually be too hard for your current ability level.

So what’s next?

We’ve covered three fundamental steps which, cumulatively, are the best way to learn guitar.

  • The best way to learn guitar step 1: Use stepping stone chords
  • The best way to learn guitar step 2: Learn the universal strumming pattern
  • The best way to learn guitar step 3: Play songs that you love

With these 3 things under your belt you are free to simply make music and enjoy yourself.

Don’t feel any pressure to ‘get better’ and don’t set unrealistic expectations. Your ‘goal’ is simply to enjoy making music.

Through doing this you will get better; your accuracy, dexterity and control in your fingers will improve and you’ll notice that your rhythmic ability and chord accuracy improves quickly when you play songs you love using stepping stone chords.

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again. Click here to download your copy.

Moving From ‘Beginner’ To ‘Intermediate’ Guitarist

Now of course, we don’t want you to stay in this stepping-stone phase forever.

There’s no rush of course, but your eventual goal should be to reach a point where you can play all standard open chords. You can then progress on to playing barre chords.

So a full roadmap you can follow looks like this:

  1. Learn stepping stone chords & the universal strumming pattern.
  2. Progress from stepping-stone chords to standard open chords.
  3. Learn the major and minor scales.
  4. Learn the abridged form of those two scales: the major pentatonic scale and the minor pentatonic scale.
  5. Then tackle barre chords. (This is tough, but the reward for your efforts is enormous.)
  6. Then you should explore the CAGED system and learn about keys.

That’s all in the future of course, don’t worry about it now. (I just wanted you to see a complete roadmap for your guitar journey…)

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best way to learn guitar

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A closing summary of the best way to learn guitar.

  • Step 1: Use stepping stone chords.
  • Step 2: Learn the universal strumming pattern.
  • Step 3: Play songs that you love.

I’ve taught over 20,000 hours of guitar lessons and this is the best way to learn guitar. It’s a simple 3-step formula that gets results.

Objectively, it’s a method that works. (It’s successfully taught thousands of people just like you, and it will teach thousands more.)

So you don’t need to keep searching YouTube for the best way to learn guitar, you’ve just found it. Now it’s over to you. (Finding the best way to learn guitar is pointless if you then don’t put into practice!)

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

I made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. I hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

Popular Lessons

How To Learn Guitar: An 11-Step Programme For Beginners

10 Easy Songs For Beginners

How To Strum A Guitar

How To Choose The Perfect Beginner Guitar

Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

How To Play Lead Guitar

3 Easy Ways To Play Bm

 

More Cool Stuff

Learn about me & the National Guitar Academy on the About Us page.

Check out some of our free chord lessons.

We'll be launching a new Podcast soon, exciting!

I will love you forever if you 'like' our new Facebook page.

Thanks for stopping by, speak soon! 🙂

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Mike Kennedy - National Guitar Academy Director

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