10 Guitar Tips I Wish Someone Had Taught Me

Guitar tips can be quick and throwaway but I’m going to share 10 fundamental things that I wish someone had taught me. Let’s talk about some things that¬†really make a difference to how you play your guitar.

Guitar Tips

Guitar Tip 1: There is a simple way to work out any note on the fretboard

Want to be able to identify any note on the fretboard in less than a second? Now that’s a guitar tip worth knowing. ūüôā

There will be lots of times when you need to figure out or find a certain note on the fretboard, but it can be totally overwhelming to try and memorise every note on every string.

One of the best guitar tips I ever picked up (and I wish someone had told me this a long time ago), is that you only need to memorise the notes of fifth and sixth strings to begin with. As a beginner, you can forget about memorizing the notes of the other strings.

The fastest way to identify any note on the fretboard is to use springboards.

A springboard is a shortcut. It helps you move around the fretboard at high speed. I recorded a short video for you to expand on this useful guitar tip.

(Apologies for the not-so-great lighting. We’re moving house at the moment and my pro lights are packed up in a box.)

Guitar Tip 2: There is an easy version of EVERY chord

Chords are the foundation of everything we do on the guitar and any guitar tip that helps people learn chords faster is welcome.

You MUST know chords.¬†But it can be difficult for beginner guitarists to get comfortable making chord shapes. The chord shapes can feel so foreign and unusual, and contorting their fingers into such unfamiliar patterns can be very difficult for beginners. They simply haven’t developed the control and dexterity in their fingers yet.

I vividly remember struggling with chords and looking back, though I LOVED music, I think the main reason I stuck at it is probably just that I was young and had lots of free time to practice.

If I was trying to learn guitar now, as a husband, father of young children and small business owner, it would be much harder to find that time.

With that in mind, this guitar tip is a massive timesaver and frustration-preventer.

There are EASY versions of every chord; I call them ‘stepping-stone chords’.

For example:

guitar tips for beginners

This is such an important guitar tip for beginners that we dedicated an entire section of the site to it. Visit our ‘Easy Chords’ section to find easy ways to play every chord.

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

‚úď ¬†Say goodbye to frustration and twisted fingers.¬†Say hello to MAKING MUSIC.

‚úst Learn beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

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

Guitar Tip 3: There’s an easy way to know what lead guitar will sound good

When I first started learning guitar, I focused almost exclusively on chords. I wanted to learn to write songs, so this seemed like the right choice.

Then for years and years, I wanted to play lead guitar (solos & riffs etc), but I didn’t know how to and it just seemed like such a huge and fraught¬†game of experimentation.

I never knew what would sound good or bad until I played it so that made me not want to play.

I was afraid of sounding bad or playing an out-of-tune note. So I didn’t attempt it.

But the ‘secret’ to playing good lead guitar is actually very simple.

If you want to play something on lead guitar and KNOW that whatever you play will sound good, you simply play any note from a scale that matches the key of the song.

That’s it. That’s the ‘secret’.

  1. Figure out the key (it will be the first or last chord).
  2. Play notes from a scale that match the key.

For example, if the first chord of a song is Am, then you can play any note from the scale of A minor. (Or, to make things simpler, you could play the minor scale in its abridged form: the minor pentatonic scale.)

To learn a lot more about lead guitar, check out our article:

How To Play Lead Guitar: Step-By-Step

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.

Guitar Tip 4: There is a simple way to work out the chords of a key (and vice versa)

All songs have a key. If you know the key, you know the song’s DNA. This is a huge and empowering piece of music theory.

When you know a¬†song’s key…

  • You can work out the chords of any song in seconds.
  • You can improvise easily by playing ANYTHING in a matching scale/key.
  • You can sound like a guitar god when, really, all you’re doing is playing simple stuff¬†that aligns with the song’s ‘DNA’. (It’s a simple concept, but it’s game-changing for how you actually sound.)

So how do we figure it out?

There are no absolute rules in music, but 99% of the time the key of a song is either its first or last chord.

It’s a little more complex than this, but as a beginner¬†all you need to know is that there are 7 chords in a each key.

  • 3 major chords
  • 3 minor chords
  • 1 diminished chord

Forget about the diminished chord. The majors and minors are the ones we use most. I made a short video to explain this guitar tip properly, check it out.

Guitar Tip 5: Get A Teacher

For years I never had a guitar teacher. There were a couple of reasons for that, looking back.

  • I never had any money, and guitar lessons seemed very expensive.
  • I never felt like a needed lessons. (Which is ridiculous when I think about it now.)

I would look online for guitar tips and tutorials but they were all too disorganised.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been playing the guitar, or how bad or good a guitarist you are. Every guitarist should have a guitar teacher.

You never, ever stop learning. There is no end to the guitar journey.

Finding a good guitar teacher can take time, and you should expect to go through four or five teachers before you find one that feels like a great fit. There is always something new to learn. A good teacher shares the guitar tips you need to know at the right time and guides and inspires you.

The best thing about having a good guitar teacher is that they will point out blind spots in your knowledge.

(I’ve taught some people who have been playing the guitar for 40 years with a gaping hole in the knowledge that I pointed out to them in the first lesson. It’s not their fault, we don’t know what we don’t know.)

You can find some excellent tips on finding a teacher and how to clearly specify what you want to achieve in this article:

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

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Guitar Tip 6: Triads Rule. Learn Triads.

This is a valuable guitar tip that will help you sound better instantly.

We won’t get into the music theory here, just know that a triad is the distilled essence of a¬†chord. It’s a¬†chord in its purest possible form.

A Cmajor chord looks like this:

C guitar chord tips

But we can also play it like this:

triad guitar tips

Within this chord the triad is clear to see:

triad guitar tips

These three notes played in any way, and in any order, will sound awesome over a C chord, or ANY chord, at ANY time in a song in the key of C major.

Read that sentence again, it’s a very useful guitar tip! ūüôā

Let’s explore this a little more…

You don’t need to play any of the notes on the 3rd fret in the image above. Just those 3 notes on the 5th fret. Squish them down with one finger. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

I don’t want to make this article all about triads, we’ll move onto other guitar tips in a moment, but I’ll quickly show you two other C triads:

lead guitar tips

And this one, which sounds awesome:

lead guitar tips

Listen to ‘The Bucket’ by Kings of Leon to hear how awesome simple triads can sound.

Remember, you can use these triads for ANY chord, not just C major. They are all moveable shapes.

If you want to play D major, just move all these triads up 2 frets. Want to play E major? Move them up another two frets. And so on.

Triads sound amazing and are so easy to do. This is a really cool guitar tip so give it a try! (Start off with the A shape triad, the first one I showed you.)

guitar tips for beginners

Guitar Tip 7: Show Your Axe Some TLC

When I first started playing guitar I don’t think I changed my strings for the first two years.

I left my guitar lying around and whilst I never treated¬†it badly, I certainly never ‘looked after’ it.

Your guitar doesn’t need much maintenance, but it does need maintenance.

If you’re a complete beginner guitarist, then you don’t need to spend a long time tweaking your guitar for performance. But a must-know guitar tip is that you should put¬†new strings on it (and make sure those¬†strings are “extra light” gauge strings).

Bonus guitar tip: Extra light gauge strings are thinner which means it easier for you to play chords on them, and also gentler on your soft beginner fingertips.

But it isn’t just beginners that should change their strings. All guitarists should change their strings every 6 to 8 weeks as a minimum.

I change my guitar strings about once a fortnight now, but when I was gigging with the band I used to change them every day.

easy guitar tips

Avoid temperature swings

Your guitar is basically just a big ol’ piece of wood, so it’s important that you keep it away from sources of heat and cold like air conditioning units, cold/hot cars and draughty doors. Don’t leave it lying in the sun or resting on a radiator.

Bonus guitar tip: What’s your action like?

One of the things that can make a guitar very difficult to play is if the action of the guitar is too high.

This means that the strings are higher from the fretboard than we would ideally like them to be.

This is a very easy problem to solve. Take the guitar to your local guitar shop and ask them to “set it up” for you.

It will cost about $60 / £40 and is a shrewd investment. It will make your guitar easier to play and it will also make it sound better.

Your local guitar shop will re-string the guitar for you for around $15 / £10. The strings will be changed as part of the guitar setup, but you must specify extra light gauge strings.

Do this and hey presto, you have a guitar that sounds great, and is easier to learn. Win win.

best guitar tips for beginners

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Guitar Tip 8: Learn Major and Minor Arpeggios

This is a cool guitar tip to add to your collection.

“Arpeggio” is a fancy way of saying ‘pluck the notes from a chord individually’.¬†Here’s the major arpeggio pattern:

Major Arpeggio guitar tips

This is a moveable shape so you can slide it up and down the fretboard and it will work for any major chord/key.

The minor arpeggio looks like this:

Minor Arpeggio guitar tips

This is a moveable shape too. It will work for all minor chords/keys.

These are simple patterns, but you can get a LOT out of them. Much more than is apparent.

To give you an example of how/when you could use arpeggios, I made this recording for you:

.

There’s a lot more you can learn about arpeggios, but for now, I just wanted to flag these two patterns to you.

You need to have them on your radar, they’re useful guitar tips to know. ūüôā

National Guitar Academy

Guitar Tip 9 : Learn the CAGED system

I heard people talk about the CAGED system for years without really understanding it.

Some guitarists revel in making things sound complicated (I think they do this because it makes them seem clever), so I was surprised when I figured out that the CAGED system isn’t really a¬†‘system’ at all. It’s just an acronym that we used to remind us of a powerful fact:

All guitar chords can be played using 5 different chord shapes:

  • The C shape
  • The A shape
  • The G shape
  • The E shape
  • The D shape

We saw some of this earlier, when we spoke about triads and looked at the different voicings of a C chord, remember?

This is a big topic, with a very simple premise.

You can learn more about CAGED in our article:

How To Play Lead Guitar

10 best guitar tips

Guitar Tips 10: Learn music theory

When I was first learning guitar I never wanted to learn any theory. It just seemed too dry and boring.

I wanted to make MUSIC and I loved the creative expression of crafting songs. “Theory” seemed like the complete opposite of that, in my eyes.

But what happened to me next happens to everyone who shuns theory…. After a while, you plateau.

Understanding theory, in simple, bite-size chunks, is what helps us keep growing as guitarists. Guitar tip after guitar tip after guitar tip. They add up. Theory is what unlocks the next level for you.

You have to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew and in my experience, you need to learn a little, play a little.

It’s through APPLYING the theory that you internalise it. You can’t just hit the books for a weekend and think you know it all. You have to go and play and explore the concepts you’ve learned to really understand it.

When you feel a bit stuck in a rut, or that you’re not making progress, that’s a sign that it’s time to broaden yourself as a guitarist and learn some theory.

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you‚Äôre up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‚Äėshould‚Äô 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

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Thanks for stopping by, speak soon! ūüôā

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Mike Kennedy - National Guitar Academy Director

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