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How I Learned to Play Guitar in 6 Weeks

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

1) Basic Chords

In the summer of 2008 I decided to test out the methods I was using at the time with beginner guitarists to get an idea of what was fair to expect from them. I bought a cheap left handed acoustic guitar and set myself the challenge of learning to play left handed, something I'd never attempted before.

2) Basic Chord Progress

Although mentally I fully understood what to do, the physical side of things was as tough for me as for any beginner I'd ever taught.

See my progress from total novice to semi-competence in the 7 part series presented here.

3) Adding Some Right Hand Work

In total it took me 36 hours of practice to make this journey. I've never been back to the left handed guitar in the nine years since, but I learned a few good lessons through undertaking this challenge.

4) Chord Changing

The big takeaway for me from this investigation was just how much harder it is to play using G, C and D than it is using A, D and E. I 'm seen strumming through the verse of Hey Jude in the key of A after only a week of learning (see video 3, after under ten hours practice in total).

It was approaching four times as long by the time I reached the same ability level using the chords G, C and D!

5) Improving Chord Changes

Consequently in lessons I quit trying to teach anything but A, D and E to beginners. We could learn all the basic skills using the easier chords, so there was no need to over-complicate matters.

6) Putting It All Together

I proved to myself something I'd told many students beforehand. That is, it doesn't matter which way round you learn (left or right handed), both hands are taking on brand new skills. Here, I have my supposedly superior (right) hand doing the clever fretboard work, but I found it no easier than did any (right handed) beginner I've worked with who was using his idiot (left) hand to fret.

This cemented for me, my long offered recommendation that left handed beginners in any doubt should learn to play right handed, purely for the benefit of having access to more guitars.

7) The Finished Article

Nine years on, I'm a bit more comfortable in front of a webcam, my singing voice hasn't improved any and I fill the screen a little better! One day I may revisit the left handed acoustic again to examine some other guitar challenges.

I quite fancy seeing how long it takes me to get to 100bpm on my 4 note challenge (see blog post How Good is Your Technique?). After completing the challenge above, I tried it and scored a pitiful 12.5bpm, making me the least naturally talented guitarist I've ever tested on that pattern (the previous worst I'd seen was 20bpm")!

Paul Swanson

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