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Guitar Milestones | Easy Markers For Your 2021 Progress

So, you are ready to get cracking with your guitar mastery journey or maybe you are just trying to figure out what to learn next. Checking up on some guitar milestones could help you progress

“Getting good” at guitar is a monstrous task. It’s hard to know where you’re at and comparing yourself to others can be incredibly disheartening. In our article about helping kids practice we talk about breaking big tasks down into smaller chunks. You can also apply this method for yourself. Reaching the goals you set will help you to feel like you have accomplished something. The good vibes you get from that feeling should keep you interested in your practice.

 

Guitar Milestone 1 - The Spark

You may have been to a concert and become inspired. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn. You could even have had pressure from others to learn guitar. In any case, You have awakened the spark in you and you and you’re ready to start learning.

 

Guitar Milestone 2 - Your First Guitar

To play guitar you are going to have to get one! You could borrow one for lessons but you won’t make any real progress until you are able to practice at home. 

Constant repetitions are necessary to make improvements.

You have probably researched whether you want to get an electric or an acoustic guitar. Maybe you have found the perfect guitar for you in a music store. A friend could have even loaned you one.

You won’t ever forget your first guitar, even if it is a hunk of junk so take care of it.

If you haven’t fallen in love with one yet have a look at our reviews

 

Guitar Milestone 3 - That Riff

 
Smoke on the water album art
Smoke On The Water Album Art - Copyright EMI Records

I think we all know the first riff most people learn on the guitar. I can remember counting the frets ever so slowly, saying out loud while I play 0, 3, 5, 0, 3, 6, 5... I was sure this was the slowest anyone had heard Smoke On The Water before. Yet, with a little patience and perseverance, you’ll be smashing out that riff in no time.

Whether this is the first riff you learn, or maybe 7 Nation Army, or anything else, be proud of yourself when you nail it. Especially when you can play along with the song.

 

Guitar Milestone 4 - Your First Chords

Em, G, C, D. You can play a bunch of different songs with these 4 chords. These were the first 4 that I learned anyway.

You could have taken a different path, or you are learning all the open chords at once. In any case, learning a few chords is a pivotal point in learning the guitar.

When you reach this milestone, you can play a huge amount of covers. You can even start writing your own songs. As you progress you will learn more about music theory. That can help with your writing too.

 

Guitar Milestone 5 - Cleaning Up Your Transitions

When you first start playing chords, the transition between them can be clunky. Getting the changes to sound smooth is a big step to being a better player. That pause between chords, while you get your fingers to the right spot, is a sign that you’ve not practiced enough. Once you have this down you will sound 5000 times more professional.

 

Guitar Milestone 6 - Barre Chords

A Barre Chord Example
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

These difficult little demons are a real pain to learn for a beginner. You need a lot of strength in your fingers that most people don’t have when they first start out.

I had the misfortune of breaking my left pointer finger and still have trouble with these chords now. You should feel satisfied with yourself if you can play clean barre chords. It means you have been practicing guitar enough to build up your guitar strength. Good job!

 

Guitar Milestone 7 - Learning Lead Lines

Learning some simple lead lines may even come before you can nail barre chords. Lead lines do require a certain level of dexterity though. The more nimble and accurate your fingers are, the better.

If you are stuck in this milestone and struggling to get it right, I recommend slowing down. Play the riff at 5% its normal speed if you have to. The next day increase the metronome’s tempo a little and repeat until you get it. This is a good method for learning most guitar related skills and new songs. It’s something you should carry with you on your guitar mastery journey.

 

Guitar Milestone 8 - Pentatonic Scales

By now you have learned a few songs by other artists and have developed an interest in improvisation. The place most people start to learn how to improvise is with the pentatonic scales. You will learn a series of patterns along the fretboard. Once you have learned the patterns, you can then move them to different positions to match the key of a song.

Starting out there is a lot of guesswork in finding the key. You will likely start out by playing along with a key you are comfortable with. A minor/C major is a common starting place. As you advance you will uncover more about music theory and feel more comfortable on the fretboard.

 

Guitar Milestone 9 - Jamming

By now you are comfortable with your chords and can find your way around the fretboard pretty easily. Your pentatonic scale knowledge is ready to be used freely and you’ve got confidence. Beyond your basic scales, you may have also visited the C.A.G.E.D method

Now you can jam along with a track on the radio. At this point, you also feel relaxed while playing with other musicians. You can listen to chords and find the right key with your ear or look at other musicians’ chords and pick it up. Sometimes it could take a few bum notes first, but once you get going, you have it covered.

 

Guitar Milestone 10 - A Deeper Understanding Of Music Theory

Now that you are an ace at jamming with the knowledge that you have you’re looking to expand your horizons.

You are

  • Beginning to dabble into the different modes. 
  • Starting to compose your own tracks.
  • Learning different styles than when you first began.

You likely now own a few different guitars so you can cover all the different styles you play.

You are a "real guitarist"

 

Guitar Milestone 11 - It Never Ends!

You now feel comfortable saying “I’m a guitarist” and showing off your skills. However, if you have reached this point you are also aware that there is always more to learn.

By now you are working on difficult skills such as sweep picking or complex tapping solos. You are constantly working on your speed and accuracy. Finding inspiration from other musicians has become standard practice. This is where you make your own milestones, find rabbit holes you want to fall down, and immerse yourself in music. Congratulations on your effort so far, but, you know this will be a lifelong obsession.

Which Of The Guitar Milestones Is Most Important?

That depends on what your goals are. Playing your first gig is an amazing feeling for some but others are content nailing their first solo in the comfort of their living room. Stay focused on your own journey.

Final Word

Let us know in the comments which milestone you are at, what you are having trouble with, what inspires you to keep at it, or anything you think I missed. 

Wherever you are on your journey keep at it and don’t get too comfortable. Keep your practice conscious and pay attention to what you’re doing. Good luck!

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About The Author

Hi, I'm Chris, the owner, creator, and head writer for InciteMusic.com 
I have been a touring cover musician and a teacher for the last 10 years and take helping people to achieve their musical goals very seriously.
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