How many open chords do you know right now?

From time to time it’s always worth checking your current level of knowledge related to guitar. Knowing how much (or how little) you know about a certain area helps you identify any strengths or weaknesses you can work on. So take five minutes now to work out how many chords you really know. Not how many you think you know, but how many you have memorized.

To do this properly you need to take a piece of paper (or open a program to type notes) and pick up your guitar.

  1. Without looking at any reference material start on A and play all the chords based on A you can think of.
  2. Once you play a chord, write down the chord name. If you don’t know the proper chord name, then you can’t write it down. Alternatively, if you know the chord name but can’t remember the finger positions, you can’t write it down because you haven’t properly memorized it.
  3. Once you have played all the chords you can think of based on A, move on to B.
  4. Continue this pattern all the way from A to G (don’t worry about any chords such as D# or F# as we are just focusing on standard open chords)

Once you have your list of chords, count the total for each note grouping. Add up the total open chords.

To give you an idea of the number of basic chords to compare your memory to, below is the total number of chords in the 50 Essential Chords Pack by note name.

Chords based on A: 8

Chords based on B: 4

Chords based on C: 7

Chords based on D: 9

Chords based on E: 9

Chords based on F: 5

Chords based on G: 8

Keep in mind that there are of course more possible chords than what is listed above. This will just give you an idea what areas you know well and which areas you need to work on.

For example: say you can think up of only 5 chords based on E and you know 6 chords based on B. Now you know you need to learn a few more chords on E and you also know you have a good understanding of chords based on B.

After you compare your results to the list above, make a note to learn a few more chords in the areas you fall short in.

Take five minutes to complete the steps above and you will gain insight to your current understanding of open chords. Repeat this simple test in a month and compare your results again.

Beginner guitarist buyer’s guide

If you want to learn guitar or have just decided to do so, this buyer’s guide will give you the basic information you need on the essential gear to get started. Missing out on some of these items can create a big hindrance to your development. Read through this post to get an overview on the basic gear you need to get started.


1. A guitar suitable for a beginner.

This may sound obvious but the truth is not all guitars are suitable for beginners. There are many guitars out there that are extremely hard for beginners to play. If you happen to buy one of these guitars without knowing it, you’re in for an extremely tough ride.

There are two basic guitars best suited for beginners. They are:

Basic nylon string acoustic, or
Basic ‘strat’ style electric.

For an indepth article on whether you should learn on an acoustic or electric guitar click here.

If you’re still unsure, the easy choice (and cheaper) is to use a nylon string acoustic guitar.


2. A guitar tuner

There are many different forms of tuners you can buy from electronic tuners to pitch pipes (don’t bother with the latter). You can even download tuner apps on your phone so there’s no excuse for not getting one. A decent electronic tuner will cost around $20 so stop by your local guitar shop (or ebay) and get yourself one.

The reason why a tuner is so important: nothing is more discouraging than hearing yourself play an out-of-tune guitar.

When you strum the strings thinking your fingers are in the right position for the chord and it sounds horrible, you’re going to feel like you’re doing it wrong. Even if your fingers are in the right position, you will still feel like you’re playing it wrong. It’s a horrible thought to think that many beginners have given up the guitar simply because they didn’t have a tuner to keep their guitar in proper tune.

As a side note: while it’s definitely worth learning to tune your guitar using only your ears, that’s not a reason not to buy a tuner. If you mention to a guitarist that you’re going to buy a tuner and they reply, ‘nah don’t bother, just use your ears’ – don’t listen to them. Remember that you’re a beginner and your ears need to develop. To develop your ears you need a guitar in tune.


3. A basic guitar instruction book

Even if you decide to learn from a guitar teacher, which is definitely a good decision if you can, buy a guitar instruction book. Even know sites like this one contain plenty of lessons and articles that would be included in the book you buy, it’s nice to have everything all in one place. Having diagrams and easy to read sheet music in a clearly printed book goes a long way. Most books include DVDs that demonstrate the techniques which is invaluable if you decide to teach yourself.

A basic guitar book doesn’t cost much so even if your guitar teacher gives you plenty of other resources it’s nice to have a book that explains things in a different way.


4. Guitar flash cards

This site wouldn’t exist if flash cards weren’t effective learning tools. We have worked very close with many guitar tutors and students when developing our guitar flash cards. They are extremely effective and we have plenty of resources available to help you use them. The best thing about guitar flash cards is that you can use them how you want – you can play memory games and choose how you want to learn the chords. You will find many chord dictionaries and charts in shops that look like a good buy, but in reality they aren’t effective. Learning from a dictionary is as boring as it sounds.

To get an idea why our guitar flash cards are so worthwhile, read this page.


5. Picks, strap, spare strings, etc.

Unfortunately, it won’t take you long until you lose a guitar pick, or break a string. If you only have one pick or don’t have spare strings, then you will find out how frustrating it can be. The easiest way to avoid this situation is to buy a heap of picks, spare sets of strings and all the other cheap accessories available. There’s nothing more frustrating then coming home looking forward to playing some guitar and you can’t find your guitar pick. Or when you strum that first chord and a string breaks.

Bottom line: if it can break or you can lose it, buy spares.


Although there are other items worth getting, these are crucial to start out with. Something like a capo can wait until later on after you learn a few chords. Start out with these basic items and you will have everything you need to take the first few steps to learning guitar.

7 Things You Can Do Today to Change Your Guitar Playing Forever

Most of the things you do when practicing or learning guitar will give your playing skills and knowledge a slight boost. Over time these slight boosts help you develop as a player. On the other hand there are things you can do that will dramatically change the way you play guitar forever. That’s a pretty bold statement but once you give these 7 actions a go you’ll see the big improvement in your playing.


Action 1: Play something you have never played before

I don’t mean a new song or learn a new solo, but to play something completely new. This is actually a lot harder then you may think. Just pick up your guitar now and spend twenty seconds improvising. Now think about what you just played. What position did you play in? Did you straight away play in a familiar position on the neck? Did you play licks that you normally play when you improvise? How much of what you just played was completely different to what you normally do?


The revealing truth is that when most of us improvise, what we normally do is recycle ideas we have heard from other players or ideas we have used ourselves over and over. This happens subconsciously so although we may think that we’re creating something completely fresh – we’re not. If you don’t believe that, try playing something again then analyze what you just played. If you’re honest with yourself you will realize that we do in fact play in a ‘safe zone’ where we reuse the same ideas and principles over and over. When you first pick up your guitar and play something, it’s a pretty good bet that you automatically follow a certain routine and loosely play the same thing every time. This action will help you break that automatic process that doesn’t help you improve.


So the challenge in our first action: really try to play something completely different. Throw everything you know about scales, rhythm, melody, phrasing, etc. out the window and try to create something completely different. This is an extremely tough job and it will take a few attempts before you start to break free of your own comfort zones. But once you create something that you truly know is something you have never done before, the ‘aha’ moment you have will open a new door to your playing.


What will this do for your playing?

It will help you learn to be truly creative. As crazy as that sounds it’s true.


Action 2: Use your guitar to mimic a singer

Choose a song where you love the vocals. Choose a song where you know the vocal parts so well you can hear them in your head without needing to listen to the song. Now take your guitar and try to replicate the vocal parts.


To do this you first need to find the right notes. Start off by focusing on a single line. Work out the notes you need to play and play along with the song. Then spend some time thinking about how you need to play each note to get as close to the vocal quality as you can. This is tough so take your time. Listen to the line in the song over and over and really focus on each nuance. Try to copy each nuance using your guitar and really push yourself to open up your playing and match the singer as close as possible.


What will this do for your playing?

It’s one thing to play the right notes. To make your guitar sing changes the game completely. When you learn to make your guitar sing as if it were alive, you will never look back. A guitarist like Santana (and countless others) can create a whole song around four notes if he can make those notes sing.


Action 3: Give somebody a guitar lesson

You may feel like you fully understand a certain concept or principle until you try to explain it to a beginner. Trying to explain proper vibrato technique to a beginner is quite a challenge and forces you to really think about your own technique habits. Teaching guitar forces you to really make sure you demonstrate everything perfect because you don’t want your student to pick up on any bad habits you may have formed. In other words it’s a great way to put the microscope on your own technique and habits and really make sure you do everything perfect.

It will also test how well you really know concepts such as music theory. How would you explain what C7 means to a beginner? Or how would you explain the Dorian mode? You may think you can explain it properly but what happens if you student doesn’t understand and you need to think up a different way to explain it?


To complete this task all you need to do is give anybody a lesson. For sure one of your friends would have mentioned in the past that they would love to play guitar. Well give them a free lesson on the basics. You might be surprised how challenging it can be to properly explain the techniques you do automatically.


What will this do for your playing?

Learning to explain tricky techniques and theory to somebody else reinforces your own skills and understanding. Teaching other people to use proper technique will ensure that you follow it too!


Action 4: Write an article or lesson and submit it as a guest post on a guitar blog

This may seem like a strange task at first. But writing about a certain aspect of guitar playing opens your mind to think about how you play guitar in new ways. Imagine for a moment you had to write an article about your practice habits, what would you write? Do you practice in an effective way or can you think of better ways to practice? As soon as you put down the guitar and ponder over a topic like this, you start to see outside the box.


Here’s a few topics you could write about to get you thinking about your playing in new ways:

  • How to start improvising
  • Learning to transcribe music by ear
  • How to discipline yourself to perfect your techniques
  • Being creative
  • Writing melodies on guitar
There are so many different things you could write about and each time you do so, your level of understanding increases. Pick a topic you feel confident in to start with then after you write up a lesson, try another one on something you’re lesson confident with.
Submit it to any guitar site offering it as a guest post. Ask for feedback on it and for them to let you know if they don’t want to use it. That way if they don’t want to use it (don’t take it personally) you can send it to a different site. Do this to hopefully get some constructive feedback from experienced guitar writers. They may find out that your understanding of the topic isn’t quite right. This challenge is a great way to learn something about your level of knowledge and try to find ways to improve it. If you send your article to a blogger and they like it, you may even decide to write regularly on guitar topics.


What will this do for your playing?

This challenge will help you get a clear view of your current level of knowledge. You may feel like you understand a certain aspect of theory properly (eg: modes) but until you write about them, you won’t know for sure. Once you start writing on a topic you will find out how well you truly know the subject. This will all help you improve as a guitarist as it will help you refine your understanding of guitar and the theory involved.


Action 5: Spend 30 minutes playing only two notes

When you jam with somebody or just improvise on your own, you probably play all over the neck or at least a fairly large section of the neck. Because you are so used to playing a wide range of choices, a challenge like this will feel incredibly difficult. The aim of this challenge is to get you used to making the most out of a very limited number of notes. By doing this task you can work your creativity and make the most of what you have.


To accomplish this challenge, simply play the two notes below in as many different ways you can for 30 minutes.


Set a stopwatch or countdown timer for 30 minutes and only play those two notes. You can only play the two notes shown, you can’t play D or E anywhere else on the neck. The two notes you play have to be on the seventh and ninth frets on the G string (as shown). The reason for this is to limit your choices down to actually using the notes rather than thinking about where else you could play.

When you start this challenge, depending on your current skill level you will start to run out of ideas after the two minute mark. If you give up at this point you will completely miss the point. By continuing past this two minute mark you will force yourself to come up with fresh new ways to play these two notes that you haven’t tried before.

The longer you can last without repeating your ideas the more your creativity will grow. The reason this challenge is so difficult is because we are all used to having a wide range of choices and the ability to freely play in different positions and choose different notes. When you are forced to actually think about how you will use the notes instead of thinking about what the next note will be, you start to learn to really play. You probably won’t last 30 minutes but the longer you do last the more you will learn and improve.

What will this do for your playing?

If you can successfully play these two notes for 30 minutes without getting stuck for new ideas, imagine what you can do with three notes. Imagine what you can do with a whole fretboard! After the grueling 30 minutes of struggling to come up with fresh ideas, you will really start to think about making each note count. This effect is obvious when you compare the jamming of an intermediate player versus an expert player. The intermediate play will shred like crazy, filling their playing with lightning fast scale runs. The expert play may play some shred and include scale runs, but they will do so only when it’s suitable, and they will choose very selectively which notes they play. They make each note count.

This challenge will change your playing forever because it will get you stuck out of the rut you didn’t even know you were in. It will teach you to make each note count.


Action 6: Transcribe a lick or riff by ear

In the past when a guitarist wanted to learn how to play a song they would either buy a sheet music book, or if they were unavailable as they often were they would learn by ear. This is a skill which is quickly dying off as countless TABs are available in an instant online. It’s a bit of a learning curve to figure something out by ear and when it’s so easy to download a TAB instead, well it’s no wonder people prefer the instant option. This challenge is to get you used to using your ears and learning to hear the music rather than read it.


Choose a song where you haven’t seen the TAB before and choose an interesting lick or riff you would like to learn. It’s best to do this at a computer so you can easily playback the lick or riff over and over without having to fiddle around with rewind on a CD player or iPod. Listen to the lick a few times in a row then try to play it on your guitar. Just give it a go and fish for the notes that sound about right. Listen to the lick again a few times and make adjustments to what you played. Continue the pattern of finding the right notes, listening to the lick, then making adjustments. Keep on making adjustments until you’re certain that the notes you are playing are exactly the same as what you’re hearing.

Once you complete this challenge and manage to figure out an entire lick or riff by ear, you can choose to keep going and learn an entire solo, or an entire song. But even if you just learn a single lick or riff by ear, it puts you miles ahead of so many other guitarists.


What will this do for your playing?

Very few guitarists starting to learn today will learn this skill. Not because they are lazy, but because TABs are so accessible it never occurs to them that this skill is important. Learning to develop your listening skills is paramount to becoming a great musician. You may already be a great guitarist but with this skill you can become a great musician as well.


Action 7: Jam with other musicians

This will have a huge impact on your abilities especially if you have never done it before. If you do regularly jam with other musicians, we can change this action to jam with other musicians playing an instrument you have never jammed with before. So if you have never jammed with somebody playing a Trumpet, try to find somebody who plays it then jam with them.

The reason jamming with other musicians is so powerful is because it helps you gain a new perspective on music. Seeing how another musician improvises and uses your ideas to come up with new variations is a great way to improve your creativity. You will be able to bounce ideas back and forth and try things new you haven’t done before (see action 1).

The more different the musician you jam with is to you the better. If you’re a metal player and jam with another metal player, you may learn a bit but it won’t be anything compared to what you would learn if you jammed with a jazz player or a player who plays something else completely different to metal. The idea here is to break out of your comfort zone and try something new.


What will this do for your playing?

Every single musician you jam with will teach you something regardless of their level of expertise. Even a beginner will teach you something (often what not to do). Whenever you have the opportunity to jam with another musician, make sure you take full advantage and go for it. Even if the musician plays a style you don’t like, just keep an open mind and you may still learn something. One of the easiest ways to kill any progress you make as a musician is to have a closed mind. Jamming with other musicians with an open mind could possibly have the biggest effect on your playing out of these seven actions.


What next?

You may notice that some of these actions you have done before and some you haven’t. The whole point is to try something completely new to you to grow your comfort zone and learn new skills. So after you try these seven actions, you can keep going by finding new ways to challenge yourself. Whenever you come across a guitar lesson or anything else that you haven’t done before, give it a go. It’s the only way to make real progress as a guitarist. If we keep doing the same things over and over, we might gradually increase our skills and abilities but they won’t dramatically change in new ways. These seven actions will each give your development a massive boost in very different ways.


These seven actions were chosen because you can do them again and again and still learn from them. Make it a personal goal to try to play something completely different (action 1) every time you practice. Next time you hear a nice lick or riff that you want to learn, don’t just go find the TAB, try to work it out on your own (action 6). Whenever you meet a musician ask them if you can jam with them some time (action 7). Every time you repeat these actions you will learn new things and become a better guitarist and a better musician.

Found this lesson useful? Share it by clicking the icons below so others can learn too. Check out more lessons here.

Guitar FAQ: How long does it take to memorize all open guitar chords?

If you’re just starting to learn guitar, you’ve probably wondered how long it takes to memorize most of the basic chords. It can seem pretty overwhelming at first when you see how many chords are out there. But the truth is once you get started it doesn’t take long to get through them all. In this post we’ll look at how long it realistically takes to memorize them all.

Time you spend practicing the chords

Obviously the more you practice the chords the faster you will learn them. But the important point to remember here is you shouldn’t think of how much time you spend practicing, but should think about how often you practice.

For example: if you practice once a week and spend two hours practicing, it will take you months to learn the first 10 chords. On the other hand, if you spend 10 minutes a day practicing, you can learn 20-50 in a month. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking more practice is better. Three short practice sessions a day is far better than one very long practice session.

How you practice the chords

If you pick a chord and strum it a few times then move on to the next chord, it will take you a long time to memorize them properly. How you practice the chords plays a big part in how fast you can memorize them. The trick to memorizing chords is to practice changing between the chords as often as possible. It’s pretty easy to figure out where to place your fingers for each chord but it can be tricky to change between different chords quickly. By focusing on how you change between chords, you will learn faster.

The resources you use

Some chords are better to start with and others better to leave to later on. If the first chord you try to play is F Major, you’re going to have a hard time getting started. On the other hand if the first chord you try to play is E minor, you will ease into the routine and learn faster. Possibly the worst resource you can use in this regard is a chord dictionary. If you practice by opening the dictionary and starting on A and working your way through the pages towards G, you’re going to struggle. If on the other hand you can rank the chords based on difficulty, you will be able to gradually work towards the harder chords over time.

How we can help you memorize 50 chords in 30 days

We have taken the above points and combined them all in a 30 day practice plan suitable for beginners. In this practice plan we rank the chords from easiest to hardest and explain the best method you can use to memorize the chords effectively. Each day in the 30 day plan will detail which chords to focus on and exercises you can use to learn faster. The 30 day practice plan is included in the comprehensive 30 Day Guide eBook available with our popular 50 Essential Chords Pack.

Using the 50 Essential Chords Pack along with the 30 Day Guide really is the most effective way to memorize 50 basic open chords within 30 days. The practice plan has been tested on many students who all found that their recall increased as well as their ability to instantly switch between chords. If you want to learn 50 chords as fast as possible, grab yourself a pack with the included eBook here.

How are you improving as a guitarist?

To be able to improve as a guitarist, it really helps to know exactly where you’re at right now. By spending a couple minutes working out where you’re at now you might find that most of the practice you have been working on isn’t what you need. Spend a couple minutes answering the questions below:

  • When you practice, do you ‘just play’ or do you really focus and push yourself to do better?
  • Do you fully understand the theory behind the chords and scales you use?
  • When you improvise, do you often repeat the same ideas and licks or do you push yourself to try something completely different each time?
  • How many different styles of music have you studied? When was the last time you tried to learn a completely different style?
  • Can you figure out the notes to any basic chord without using any reference material?
  • When was the last time you tried to figure out how to play a lick or riff by ear instead of simply looking up the TAB?


All of the above points make a big difference to your development over time. For example: players who ‘just play’ may think they are doing the right thing but unfortunately their development will plateau very early. A player who focuses on really making improvements will always end up a better player. When you push yourself to become a better player you will achieve it. Don’t overlook any of the above points as each one will make a huge difference to your abilities and understanding of music.

Another way you can figure out your current level of abilities is to record yourself playing and listen back to it. Record yourself improvising then ask yourself these questions:

  • How many notes didn’t fit with what you were playing?
  • How many notes were out of tune (eg: bends pushed too far)?
  • Does your playing sound musical or did it sound like randomly played notes and scale runs?
  • How much noise did you hear (eg: strings ringing out, fretting noise) that distracted from the actual playing?
  • What was your tone like?

Answering tough questions like these and really putting the microscope on your own playing is the best way to find out any problems and become a better player. If you honestly think you’re doing everything fine, then you won’t improve. It’s the player who criticizes his/her own playing that really makes the progress.

Don’t just gloss over these questions, really spend the time answering them and you will find it will be worth it. Check out our lessons here for ways to improve your understanding and read through our articles here to think about your practice and playing in different ways.

Guitar Quiz: March 2012

This month’s quiz focuses on chord construction. Understanding which notes form which chords is a valuable skill to possess. Understanding the construction of chords will help your improvisation skills as well as help you come up with more interesting sounding progressions.

If you have trouble with some of the questions, it might pay to brush up on some theory by reading our lessons here or grab a pack of our flash cards so you can fully understand the chords you play.

There are 8 questions in this quiz. Good luck!

The notes in the chord D Major are D F# A. What extra note needs to be added to play D7?

The chord A Major uses the notes A C# E, which of the three notes do we need to replace with B to form Asus2?

E Major uses the notes E G# B, what will the three notes be if we change this to play Esus4?

What chord is formed from the notes A C E G?

What four notes do you need to play Gadd9?

If you add a F# to the notes E G# B, what chord do you end up with?

What chord do you end up with if you replace the F# with G in the chord D Major?

What two notes do you need to add to D Major to form D9?

Teach guitar? Use flash cards to enhance your lessons

If you’re a guitar teacher, one of the most important aspects when teaching is looking at effective ways to reinforce your student’s knowledge. Every student learns differently and therefore you need different tools and resources to help your student learn. Using flash cards can be a great way to reinforce a student’s chord knowledge and can provide fresh ways to enhance your lessons.

As a tutor, you can use guitar flash cards in quite a few ways. For example, you can:

  • Give your student 3 new cards every week for them to study
  • Play memory games with your student (great with children)
  • Use them to explain chord progressions, keys and scales
  • Practice strumming between chords by changing chord combinations

The best reason why you should use flash cards in your lessons is simple: you can choose how to use them. Flash cards are extremely flexible and can be used in any way you want. You can still have full control over your lessons as well as providing a fresh way to teach your students. Not to mention students love it when they get to keep their own pack of flash cards.

You can read more on our flash cards here.

New article: How to use tools and resources to teach yourself guitar

A new article is available in the Articles Section that will explain how you can use tools and resources to teach yourself guitar and why they’re so important. When you teach yourself guitar you don’t have an experienced tutor looking over your playing and giving you feedback on what you’re doing right/wrong. Therefore it’s pretty important you use alternate methods to develop your playing. This article will help you find out how.

Access the article here: How to use tools and resources to teach yourself guitar

There are plenty more articles available in our Articles Section.

Have you used a metronome before?

Ask yourself that simple question and if you your answer is no, then stop whatever you’re doing and read this post. Seriously.

What’s the big deal?

Using a metronome to help develop your guitar skills will have a major impact on your progress. One of the main factors that separate a poor guitarist from a great one is the player’s sense of timing and rhythm. A metronome can help you develop your sense of timing and force you to improve your rhythm skills. It’s such a simple tool to use and the results are often amazing. Think of it a different way: if you don’t use a metronome to practice and hone your sense of rhythm, you may develop poor habits and continue to play with bad timing and not even realize it!

How to get started with a metronome

Fortunately, it’s quite simple to learn how to play along with a metronome and learn to use it to develop techniques and other skills. There is a lesson here to teach you the basics of practicing with a metronome to start you off right away.

Do I need to buy a metronome?

The great thing is you don’t need to have a physical metronome to get started. Although it’s not a bad idea to have one handy, there are alternatives. You can download apps to your phone that will do the job or to your PC/Mac. We even have a section on this site under the Backing Tracks Section that simulates a metronome at various tempos.

What’s the next step?

After you work through the lessons on this site, you will have a basic understanding of the metronome and how to use it. From here you can continue to use it to help you improve your abilities with techniques such as tapping, sweep-picking, alternate-picking etc. For now, just start with the basics and your abilities will definitely improve straight away.

New lesson: Learn how to extend basic chords across the fretboard

A new lesson has been added to the Lessons Section that will help you master the fretboard and build up your chord vocabulary. The lesson will explain how to take a basic chord and find new positions across the fretboard. This is a skill not many guitarists know well so take your time to read the lesson and you will be ahead of the game.

Access the lesson here: Extending chords across the fretboard

If you have been wondering how you could improve your improvisation skills or want to be able to come up with new and interesting chord progressions, this lesson will give you a valuable tool to do it.