“Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life.” - Keith Richards
There are an estimated 50 million guitarists in the world of which 16% are professionals. This means that you’re not the only person in the world who wants to learn to play the guitar and become a famous guitarist. With that said, the type of music you like will affect exactly how you learn the guitar and the type of guitar player you'll be.
Do you want to play rhythm guitar or licks and the occasional solo?
It’s recommended that you choose your favourite musical style before you start learning the instrument. While it's a good idea to listen to John Scofield, Pat Martino, or Mike Stern before jazz guitar lessons, it's probably not a good idea before you're about to practise some Pantera.
Motivation is the key to success and it would be a shame to be forced to learn flamenco guitar when you love bossa nova. For example, you can't become a jazz guitarist if you don't play with other jazz musicians.
Playing Rock Guitar
The guitar is synonymous with rock music, especially the electric guitar.
When was the last time you saw a rock group without a guitarist?
If you want to play rock music, you should opt for a hard pointed pick so that you can play quickly and precisely.
Rock is one of the simpler music styles to get started with and you can find some simple riffs and melodies for beginners. To start playing rock guitar, you should start by learning the names of the notes, useful advice for any style of music!
Power chords (or fifth chords) are very popular in rock music. They’re simple to learn and to play and are a blessing for any aspiring rocker!
Have a look at the minor pentatonic scale which is very common in this style of music.
The Easiest Rock Songs to Play
As a beginner, you’ll have to learn music theory, how to tune your guitar and coordinate both hands before you can play some of your favourite songs. However, you don’t necessarily need complicated chords to play a tune. John Lennon, The Cranberries, and Nirvana all knew that!
Rock music has some of the most accessible songs and here are a few to get you started:
- Ben Harper - Waiting for You
- David Bowie - Heroes
- The Beatles - Yellow Submarine
- The Rolling Stones - Dead Flower
- Nirvana - Come As You Are
- Noir Désir - Le vent nous portera
- Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water
- Bob Dylan - Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
- U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday
- Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe
- The Animals - House of the Rising Sun
Jazz Guitar: The Basics
To play jazz, you’re going to need to invest in a jazz guitar with a bigger soundbox than you’d find on a standard guitar. However, this type of guitar isn’t very versatile when it comes to other styles so you should only really get one if you're certain you're going to be playing jazz music.
If you can’t invest in a jazz guitar, invest in some roundwound strings rather than flatwound strings for that jazz sound.
The pick also plays an important role in producing a jazzy tone so you should opt for a very hard and bevelled pick.
Laid Back Playing
In jazz music, there’s no rush.
The secret to swing is being laid back, which means lagging behind and voluntarily playing on the offbeat on certain measures.
Jazz guitar phrasing is also hugely important. It’s essential that you develop your ear by listening to other jazz guitarists like Pat Metheny, Django Reinhardt, Joe Pass, George Benson, or Jim Hall before you start learning to play jazz guitar. You should also consider getting jazz guitar lessons from another jazz musician.
Accessible Jazz Songs
Jazz isn’t the easiest genre to master. It’s down to a musician’s ability to improvise and play excellent guitar solos. However, there are still simple jazz songs to get you started:
- Duke Ellington - Take the A Train
- Luis Bonfa - Black Orpheus
- Jerome Kern - All the Things You Are
- Joseph Kosma - Autumn Leaves
- George Gershwin - Summertime
- Kenny Burrel - Midnight Blue
- Wes Montgomery - Four On Six
- Kenny Dorham - Blue Bossa
- Maceo Pinkard and Ken Casey - Sweet Georgia Brown
Playing Hard Rock and Metal on the Guitar
It might seem hard to believe, but hard rock came from blues. With aggressive singing, distortion, and pentatonic ranges, hard rock is a blend of blues and rock.
Power chords play an important role in the sound as they’re aggressive and achievable with just two notes. The Mixolydian mode is also used a lot in hard rock.
Metal is a varied genre which includes a number of different styles. From heavy metal to funk metal by way of thrash metal, the common ground between all these styles is the ever-present electric guitar with rhythmic and melodic parts and legendary solos. There are a number of techniques you’ll need to master with your right hand (if you’re right-handed):
- Alternate picking
- Palm muting
The Best Hard Rock Songs
There are so many hard rock classics from AC/DC including Highway to Hell, Hard as a Rock, Hells Bells, Shook Me All Night Long, and many more. The riffs are simple and effective and perfect for practising.
You can also play tunes by Aerosmith, ZZ Top, and Alice Cooper if AC/DC isn’t your cup of tea:
- Aerosmith - Walk This Way
- Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
- ZZ Top - La Grange
- Alice Cooper - Schools Out for Summer, Poison
The Best Metal Songs to Practise
Metal is a difficult style to get started with. It requires accurate and fast guitar playing. However, it’s a great genre for loosening up your fingers and improving your endurance and speed. Here are a few songs for beginners:
- Dream Theater - Hollow Years
- Pantera - Planet Caravan
- Rammstein - Ich Will
- System of a Down - Atwa, Lonely Day
- Nightwish - Angels Fall First
- Slipknot - Vermillion Part 2
- Limp Bizkit - Behind Blue Eyes
Writing Your Own Guitar Songs
While we usually only count around 60 chords, there are millions of combinations possible. So don’t say you can’t write anything. This is the oldest excuse in the book for not writing your own music. A beginner won’t need to wait very long before they’re good enough to start creating their own music.
Improvising and creating a song can be done with just a few simple chords and will help you improve your playing, loosen your fingers, and develop your creativity. Thus, the better you get at playing, the better you’ll get at writing.
A song needs to evoke emotions. Technical ability isn’t necessarily that important. Listen to some of the greatest tunes of all time. Many of them are very simple chord progressions, catchy riffs, and charming melodies. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when you write a song, keep it simple!
Don’t forget to keep a notebook nearby so you can make a note of your creations before you forget them. Also, consider filming yourself as you improvise so you can see where you’re going wrong and use parts of your improvisation as a basis for creating songs.
There are several ways to start writing a song:
- Start by writing the chord progression and then the melody. This is the most common method.
- Start with a melody and then the chords. This is a little bit more ambitious.
- Start with a guitar riff.
- Start with a bass riff (making sure you’re familiar with the bass-ics).
Think of playing your song in different styles and moods to see what works and don't forget to let your creativity run free.
It’s a good idea to learn more about the history of the guitar and guitar culture. You should also learn more about the lingo. In several of our articles on learning to play the guitar, we've included a short glossary at the end with explanations of terms that you should know if you want to start playing the guitar. So make sure you read all of our other articles on the guitar!
This is when you play a note or a chord repeatedly and very quickly
This is a guitar specifically made for Gypsy jazz, a style of music that blends jazz, central European Gypsy music, and the musette from French music.