top of page

How To Think About Your Guitar Playing Skills

Article Written By Diana De Cabarrus

When it comes to being able to play songs and melodies, there are different skills that you need to acquire:

  • Memorising chord shapes and being able to find and play them in time.

  • Building control and precision in your right hand so you can accurately pick any of the strings you want to.

  • Developing your ability to read and understand rhythm notation so that you can strum any song.

  • Understanding how songs fit together, being able to read chord charts, so that you can easily play chord charts, and so you get used to how songs are typically constructed, which makes it easier to analyse, transcribe and play them.

  • Remembering songs you love and knowing how to memorise sections of material.

  • Playing single note melodies and riffs.

  • Having pieces or songs you can play comfortably = repertoire


These elements are pretty much essential to whatever you'd like to be able to do, although there are others that are also helpful. If you want to be able to play songs confidently, you need all of these pieces. If you'd also like to be able to fingerpick, to improvise, to play in a certain genre, to learn certain songs or pieces, then moving forward with the elements above will support that. One of the reasons taking guitar lessons with a good teacher is essential is that when you start out on guitar, it's really hard to know what to focus on and hard to even understand and identify the different skill-areas you need to develop to do what you want to do on guitar.

People can try different approaches online or with books on their own, but because they don't know the best order in which to build their skills, they can get bogged down and spend five years covering ground which would only have taken them a few months with the right advice. Can you imagine the frustration of putting weeks into learning how to change chords, but having no idea how to strum, and finding that you have the chords to a song in front of you but it sounds nothing like the original and you have no idea why?

The way to develop great overall guitar playing skills is to make sure you are growing in all of these different areas of your playing and knowledge evenly. It's no use to you to able to play a scale super fast if you don't know how to apply it and can't get it to sound good. It's no good knowing 100 chords if you can't play a song in time all the way through.

The fastest way to become a great player is to start understanding the concept that playing guitar is not one skill but different related skills. If you work on different areas of your playing, you'll see your abilities grow much quicker. Don't worry if this seems like a lot right now! You will soon get used to rotating your focus and it will become second nature.

Diana De Cabarrus is a professional guitar teacher and vocal instructor who provides guitar lessons in Edinburgh. if you wish to improve your voice or develop your guitar skills be sure to contact Diana.

bottom of page