Learning Guitar Starts With Listening

Listening to guitarListening is severely underrated when it comes to learning to play guitar. If you truly want to succeed on guitar you must be an active listener of guitar music. As a guitar teacher I have even found myself neglecting to both listen and to advise my students to listen. There are two types of listening and both are important so let me explain in more detail.

Type 1. Listening for inspiration

In this case you are listening for the pure enjoyment and inspiration the music brings. The idea is to find guitar music (when I say guitar music I mean anything with a guitar in it which could be a band, singer/songwriter, solo guitarist etc) that you personally like. It does not matter what others think. It only has to inspire you. Music should also be a journey of discovery. When I hear something new and fresh that inspires me I can’t wait to jump on my guitar. Start with the music you already like and search online to find similar music or perhaps look at who influenced the artist.

Type 2. Listening to learn

When we listen to learn we are basically trying to understand the elements of the music. Firstly we want to identify the guitar and whether or not there is more than one guitar. We need to work out the tuning of the guitar, the key of the song, the chords and scales being applied etc. The aim is to take what we hear and transferred it to the guitar. The difficulty of this exercise will depend on your experience and the complexity of the song itself. When I started learning guitar in the 80’s I would listen to AC/DC working out the riffs, chords and scales literally one note at a time. At first it was difficult but the more I did it the easy it got.

How much listening should you do?

With type 1 listening you should do this whenever possible. Music should be a passion for you so this should never be a chore. I think most days I spend time just listening and becoming inspired by music and if I miss a day I actually feel something was missing so daily type 1 listening is my preference. With type 2 I believe you should spend about 20% of your practice time listening and trying to work out what you hear. I strongly recommend finding a teacher to help you especially in the early phases because they will be able to correct and guide you either way make sure you do it every few days if possible.


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