How to Lock Down Basic 12 Bar Blues Progressions

In the context of the guitar, 12 bar blues often refers simply to bluesy-sounding progressions comprised of three chords. Formally, the three chords are the first, fourth and fifth in a given key, written in roman numerals. So in the key of E for example, a 12-bar blues progression would be the following:

Image Courtesy of FromThePhotoPit


What's the best way to learn guitar? Music Education Methods

What's the best way to learn guitar? Music Education and Your Brain

There are a lot of ways to study music and learn the guitar.

It's not a static discipline, thus optimal methods aren't always obvious. Learning the guitar is a subjective flight path, where the waypoints depend on your style of learning.


Because not everybody learns the same way.

It's tough to put 30 kids in a classroom and expect all of them to fully (or even partially) understand the material based on one particular teacher's method. Regardless of the topic, that format isn't comprehensive for most students.

It's narrow, outdated and often times ineffective. Because we're wired to learn differently from person to person. Some are visual learners, some auditory, while others thrive with formal instruction.

It's also more prone to talking about problems and ideas that had already been solved, as opposed to presenting young musicians with a problem and allowing them to solve it.

Thus I never recommend the crowded classroom model.

I'm not so sure Hans Zimmer would either.

But most of the remaining methods are all valid approaches, having both advantages and disadvantages, depending on the individual.

So which one is right for you?

Read on and we'll discuss a little bit about each, as well as their pros and cons.

Self Taught

Self-taught individuals who are engaged and motivate make some of the most effective and promising guitar students.

That's not to say you don't seek help (that's what this entire website if for) or even that you avoid formal lessons. But it does mean that you do your own research and learn most of the guitar on your own, without third party assistance.

It also means that you assess your own learning style and pursue methods that accomodate.

Are you a hands-on learner? Play songs instead of scales. Or perhaps you're a mathematical-leaning brain? Stick to the scales and memorize note patterns.

Self-teaching the guitar involves self-assessing and understanding how you absorb and retain information.

If you can do that, being able to apply it yourself has a lot of advantages.

1. Opportunity to do your own research and develop your own lesson plan.
2. Not required to pay for lessons or information.
3. Helps the student engage on their own without third-party motivation.
4. Often results in a more creative and self-sufficient musician.
5. Can help a student craft a more unique approach to the guitar.
1. Lack of direction and difficulty knowing "where to go next."
2. Can result in skipping important topics and concepts.
3. Those who aren't self-motivated can more easily slack off the guitar.
Some people need the extra push of a third-party to get them to really stick with an instrument.

But if you're a good self-motivator who likes to learn and be creative on your own, self-teaching and learning the guitar is going to work well for you.

One on One Lessons (Tutoring)

The personal touch of one on one guitar lessons can be beneficial for a number of different learning styles. Those who like to take notes or who learn in a more linear and concrete fashion will fair better with someone who's able to guide through concepts one step at a time.
Getting guitar lessons don't abnegate you from the responsibility of self-teaching.
It's also a more corrective environment, where a guitar student is able to get instant feedback. Mistakes, inconsistencies and bad habits are handled immediately instead of over time.

What a lot of people might not like about tutoring is that it can be a crutch for some players who find it difficult to play guitar outside of a weekly session.

Keep in mind, a guitar lesson is only an hour or so once a week (often an expensive hour) which means that you won't actually learn to play guitar in just that time span. You'll learn concepts, topical knowledge and acquire tools that you can apply later.

But you still need to take a lot of time on your own to apply them.

Thus, guitar lessons don't abnegate you from the responsibility of self-teaching.

1. Personal and attentive.
2. Can quickly and easily correct mistakes and bad habits.
3. Relational learning component.
1. Cost
2. Can discourage creativity.
3. Can make a player less innovative.
4. Is often used as a crutch.
The disadvantages here are mostly self-inflicted as a result of putting too much faith in the guitar lesson itself.

A lesson is a tool in your hand, but in and of itself, can't make you a great guitarist.


Before you pay any money, you could spend a lot of time working with free educational resources and probably never have to spend a dime.

If you did want to buy a DVD or purchase an online resource, the market is inflated with options.

That's both a good and bad thing. Good, because it gives us a lot of great resources; bad, because it can be difficult to find something of quality. I've reviewed two websites where you pay to learn guitar in a video format, both of which I would recommend to someone looking to spend money.

These are not affiliate links and I'm not being paid to name them. They're just great sites.

  1. ArtistWorks Guitar Campus

  2. Guitar Tricks

There are plenty of others that I wouldn't recommend simply because of the inflated nature of the market. What people tend to do online is develop a guitar-learning system, buy a domain name that's loaded with keywords and then sell their cheap system as a DVD package.

The other advantages with the two websites is that they're offering updated content and a live online community, neither of which you get with DVDs.

If you do decide to pay for a video-based lesson system, go with the reputable sites and avoid the outliers.

In addition to the two paid sites I mentioned above, here are a few of the free resources I would recommend starting with:




1. Ideal for visual learners.
2. Quicker and more succinct then written or in-person lessons.
3. Illustrative.
1. Inflated Market
2. Can in some instances be overpriced.
3. Explanations can often be incomplete and short-winded.


This method would include any and all online or book resources (not unlike this website) that rely either primarily or completely on text to communicate ideas and teach the instrument. It often works in conjunction with video, though it's rare that someone who prefers to read their instruction will also find video to be an equally useful format.

Most people prefer one or the other.

Text-based and graphical content are more often coupled as they're a time-tested and optimal combination. That's a belief that Guitar Chalk is built off of, that the power of the written word and graphical imagery will always be the most effective teaching tool.

Learning this way has a few distinct advantages over the others.

First, it's an easy medium to access anywhere and on any device, electronic or otherwise. Video is accessible too, but you can't print it out.

Second, the written word allows you to set your own pace for absorbing content. However fast you read and process information is how long it will take you.

Though written lessons can in some cases be less descriptive then video lessons, that's more so a fault of the writers and in no way reflects the true capability of the written word. It has (unfortunately) become a trademark of internet content, regardless of topic.

Cheap, short-form, low on detail and low on value mark a high percentage of online content.

Guitar Chalk's commitment is to avoid that trend.

1. Allows the student to easily set their own pace.
2. Traditional method of sharing information and teaching.
3. Easily transported and shared via paper.
4. Requires an engaged mind.
1. Can be susceptible to low-quality content.
2. In some cases will lack depth of explanation.

Homeschooling Considerations

Those who are homeschooled have a unique opportunity to put time into their instrument. I was homeschooled K through 12 and was able to put a significant amount of time into the guitar.

First, we did school year-around from 8am to 12pm, which often gave me the entire afternoon to play guitar or do whatever else I wanted. From 14 to 18 years old, there were plenty of three and four hour practice sessions in any given week.

In that situation, being self-taught is one of the best ways to learn, whether you lean towards video or text-based material.

It's also extremely conducive to those who are self-motivated learners, something being homeschooled always requires of you.

For those who don't have quite so much time to devote, personal tutoring might be a better way to learn, especially since those who aren't homeschooled might be more comfortable with an actual instructor.

So which one is the best?

Is there a best way to learn?

There isn't, if you're talking about a universally accepted optimal method.
The method that I most often recommend is a combination of the self-taught/text methodologies.
That doesn't exist.

But there are optimal methods for different people, depending on your own learning style, tendencies and wiring. That said, the method that I most often recommend is a combination of the self-taught/text methodologies, with the following prerequisites:

  • Must be a motivated self-learner and researcher.

  • Must be excited and interested in the guitar.

  • Must have the time to devote to the instrument.

If you fit that description, go with the self-taught strategy and read up. 

This is often the younger player with extra time on their hands, where someone who doesn't have the time or who isn't motivated outside of a casual interest in the guitar might be more comfortable with formal tutoring and quicker video-based lessons.

So you have two basic lanes for two different types of learners.

  1. Self-Taught, Slow Moving and Comprehensive

  2. Lesson-Taught, Fast and Focusing on the Highlights 

The first is good for developing a thorough and specific set of skills, while the second is more so designed to "get you playing" and focusing on the foundational aspects of the guitar.

Something to share?

What are your thoughts on music education and the best ways to learn guitar? Is the classroom method dead or dying?

Let us know over on Twitter and Google Plus.

Recommended Reading and Resources

Products that might actually be useful to you and aren't showing up because Google spied on your browser history.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of quinn.anya

Print Friendly and PDF

About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.


Guitar Chords for Beginners: Infographic and Cheat Sheet

Guitar Chords for Beginners: Infographic and Cheat Sheet

It doesn't take long to get useful guitar chords under your belt.

You don't need a massive chord vocabulary to play songs. In fact, most of the music you listen to is made up of simple chords and progressions that can be easily grasped by a beginner.

It's especially straightforward if you have it all in front of you.

We've created this cheat sheet that's meant to be a bookmark resource for all of the most basic and practical beginner guitar chords. So why should you learn these specifically?
They have a low learning curve and high useability.
They're not complex, but can be applied to nearly every musical genre in some capacity.

Learn these, then head on over to our list of beginner guitar songs and test out your new chops. 

Guitar Chords for Beginners: Infographic and Cheat Sheet
Infographic Code
Feel free to share our graphic but please don't claim ownership or alter content.

Want to just learn the chords and start playing?

No problem.

But if you'd prefer to delve into more detail about these chord categories (and others) here are a few places to get your started.
You wouldn't need to spend a crazy amount of time on this chart before being able to move on.

Because these chords don't take long to learn.

They also span most common musical genres, thus accounting for a high percentage of the progressions you would hear and play.

Moveable Chords

Keep in mind that dyads and power chords are moveable, meaning they can be played on any fret. Each fret will dictate a different root note for the chord, giving you a lot a full compliment of keys after learning that chord.

These chords are easier to learn initially before you'll need to focus on transitions and getting good at moving them to different frets while maintaining shape and form.

If you want some help with that:

Seven Speed Hacks for your Chord Changes

Your thoughts?

What chords helped you as a beginner?

Would you add anything to the graphic? Different genres and interests can mean different chords, progressions and comfort zones.

Let us know over at Twitter and Google Plus.

Recommended Reading and Resources

Products that might actually be useful to you and aren't showing up because Google spied on your browser history.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of lemuelinchrist

Print Friendly and PDF

About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.