Ultimate Guide To Learning Guitar As An Adult

Contrary to popular belief, learning and creativity are lifelong journeys. Adulthood is where we discover our freedom, where we figure out who we are and who we want to be. We discover our values, gain life experience, and embark on new journeys. Many turn to learning guitar as an adult because they never had the opportunity to when they were growing up. Others seek an outlet of expression during the growth and changes that occur in our lives.

This article seeks to put an end to any limiting beliefs you may have as an adult guitarist, giving you all the knowledge you need in order to get started. If you have the right attitude, learning the guitar may be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make. 

After all, adulthood is where the fun starts; it is just the beginning.

Learning Guitar As An Adult

The Benefits of Learning Guitar As an Adult

Guitar playing has also been proven to have positive effects on mental health. For example, engaging with music has been linked to reduced stress levels by providing a creative outlet for emotional release. It serves as a form of therapy through which adults can channel their thoughts and emotions into something beautiful.

Learning the guitar also nurtures patience and discipline qualities which can then be applied to various aspects of life. It encourages perseverance in the face of challenges, leading to personal growth and a sense of accomplishment when mastering new songs or techniques.

The Mindset For Learning Guitar As An Adult

Many adults hold the belief that learning a new skill, such as the guitar, is only for the young. It’s not uncommon for adults to feel discouraged by comparing themselves to younger players who seem more advanced or accomplished. It’s important for adult learners to remind themselves that progress takes time and effort; every guitarist starts at their own level regardless of age.

Despite these misconceptions, there are numerous advantages that adult learners possess over younger students. One advantage lies in maturity – adults tend to have a clearer understanding of why they want to learn guitar and are motivated to pursue it passionately.

Additionally, adults often have developed critical thinking skills and the ability to grasp complex musical concepts more readily. Their life experiences can also enrich their musical interpretations, allowing for a deeper emotional connection with the instrument.

Lifelong learning is a concept that emphasizes continuous intellectual development and acquiring new skills throughout one’s entire life. Engaging in such pursuits not only broadens our horizons but also nourishes our minds, keeps us intellectually stimulated, and enhances overall well-being. Personal growth goes hand in hand with lifelong learning.

It encompasses the process of self-improvement, introspection, and honing one’s abilities to reach their full potential. By challenging ourselves to learn something new like playing the guitar as adults, we cultivate resilience, perseverance, discipline, and develop a growth mindset that extends beyond the realms of music.

Related: Why Guitar is So Hard For Beginners

how to learn guitar as an adult

Choosing Your Guitar and Accessories

When getting started playing guitar as an adult, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is the type of guitar that best suits your musical aspirations and personal preferences. There are several different types of guitars to choose from, each with its own distinct sound and playing styles. 

Acoustic Vs. Electric

Acoustic guitars are a popular choice for beginners due to their versatility and portability. They produce sound through the vibration of their strings without any electronic amplification. 

On the other hand, electric guitars require an amplifier to be heard properly as they rely on pickups that convert string vibrations into electrical signals. They offer a wide range of tonal possibilities and are commonly used in genres like rock, blues, and metal.

Classical guitars have nylon strings and are designed specifically for classical music repertoire.


Next, consider your body type and comfort level when holding different guitar types. Acoustic guitars come in various sizes ranging from small parlors to large dreadnoughts; finding one that feels comfortable against your body is essential for long practice sessions. Other considerations may include the guitar’s aesthetics, playability (neck width and shape), and additional features like cutaways or built-in pickups for acoustic-electric guitars.


Another vital aspect is understanding tonewoods—the specific woods used in creating different parts of the guitar—which significantly impact its tone characteristics. Common tonewoods include spruce, mahogany, rosewood, and maple.

Though subtle differences can be difficult to discern as a beginner, getting familiar with tonewoods allows you to make an informed decision. 

Trying Different Guitars Out

It’s essential to spend time trying out different models and brands before making a final decision. Visiting local music stores and engaging with knowledgeable staff can be extremely helpful in guiding you toward suitable options within your budget range. Take the opportunity to hold, strum, and play various guitars to get a feel for their sound projection, comfort, and overall playability.

Asking an expert can offer valuable insights into specific brands, models, and features that align with your interests and skill level. Additionally, online forums or communities dedicated to adult learners can provide valuable recommendations based on individual experiences.

Guitar Accessories

Having the right accessories can greatly enhance your playing experience. Let’s start with picks.

Guitar picks come in various thicknesses and materials like nylon or celluloid. They affect your tone and attack on the strings, so experiment to find what suits your playing style best. A variety of picks allows for versatility in different genres and techniques. 

Another essential accessory is a guitar strap. A good strap ensures proper support while playing standing up and helps you maintain a comfortable position without straining your back or shoulders. Look for adjustable straps that are durable and provide sufficient padding for extended practice sessions or performances.

A capo is another useful tool that can instantly transform your playing by altering the pitch of the strings. It allows you to play songs in different keys without having to learn complex chord shapes or transposing music. Capos come in various designs but ensure you choose one that fits securely on your guitar’s neck. Tuners are indispensable for keeping your instrument perfectly in tune.

While there are different types of tuners available, clip-on tuners are highly recommended for their convenience and accuracy. Simply clip it onto the headstock of your guitar, pluck a string, and it will detect if it’s sharp or flat—making tuning a breeze even if you’re just starting out.

For those venturing into electric guitar territory as adult learners, amplifiers become an important consideration. Amplifiers shape the sound produced by an electric guitar through various controls such as volume, tone knobs, EQ settings, and built-in effects like reverb or overdrive/distortion. When choosing an amplifier, it’s essential to consider your intended use—whether for practice at home or live performances.

Practice amps, often smaller and more affordable, are suitable for beginners and offer a range of tones ideal for learning different styles. On the other hand, gigging or recording musicians might require more powerful amps with additional features to cater to their needs.

Effects pedals are another exciting aspect of the electric guitar world. These devices alter the guitar’s sound by adding effects like delay, chorus, or wah-wah.

They allow you to experiment with different sounds and add depth and character to your playing. As a beginner, you may want to start with a few essential pedals before expanding your collection as you progress.

Can I Learn Guitar as an adult?

Music Theory Basics

Music theory forms the backbone of any musician’s understanding and proficiency. When learning guitar as an adult, it is crucial to grasp the fundamentals of music theory to unlock a deeper comprehension of the instrument. Notes, scales, chords, and intervals are essential elements that shape the language of music.

Notes, Scales, Chords, and Intervals

Firstly, let’s delve into the musical alphabet. The musical alphabet consists of seven letters: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. These letters represent different pitches or tones in music.

Understanding sharps (#) and flats (â™­) is also essential as they modify these pitches. Sharps raise a note by a half step while flats lower it by a half step.

Now let’s explore scales—patterns of consecutive notes with specific intervals between them that create melodies or harmonies. Major and minor scales are vital foundations in guitar playing.

The major scale possesses a bright and uplifting sound while the minor scale evokes feelings of melancholy or introspection. Both scales follow specific formulas known as intervals—distances between notes—to create their distinctive sounds.

Related: What Are Scales On A Guitar?

The Musical Alphabet

The musical alphabet serves as the framework for understanding how notes relate to one another on the guitar fretboard. Imagine starting with an open string—the lowest sounding pitch or note on a particular string—and moving up in alphabetical order along that string until you reach G (or beyond).

Once you reach G on one string, you then move up to A on the next higher string to continue ascending through the musical alphabet. Sharps (#) and flats (â™­) are used to modify these natural notes within a scale or piece of music.

For example, if we take the natural note A from our musical alphabet, raising it by a half step with a sharp sign results in A#. Conversely, lowering A by a half step using a flat sign gives us Ab.

These alterations affect the pitch of the note and provide the guitarist with more expressive possibilities. Understanding sharps and flats is crucial for navigating guitar sheet music or chord charts effectively.

It allows you to recognize these symbols and execute them accurately on your instrument, thereby expanding your repertoire and versatility as a guitarist. Moreover, familiarizing yourself with this aspect of music theory will enable you to communicate more effectively with other musicians and understand complex musical concepts that arise during guitar playing.

Major and Minor Scales

The major scale is one of the most common scales used in Western music. It comprises seven notes arranged in a specific pattern of whole steps (W) and half steps (H). The formula to construct a major scale is: W-W-H-W-W-W-H.

For instance, if we start from C as our root note on the guitar fretboard, following this formula gives us the C major scale: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Similarly, minor scales possess their own unique construction pattern.

The natural minor scale follows this formula: W-H-W-W-H-W-W. Suppose we take A as our root note for the minor scale; applying this formula yields the A natural minor scale: A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.

Major and minor scales are fundamental because they form the basis for melodies, chords progressions, improvisation, and understanding harmonies within music. Familiarizing yourself with these scales on your guitar will allow you to navigate through different musical styles confidently.

Chord Progressions

Chords are groups of three or more notes played simultaneously that create harmony within music. In guitar playing, chords are formed by pressing down specific combinations of fretted notes on the strings.

The most common chord types are major and minor chords. Major chords have a bright and uplifting sound, while minor chords possess a more somber or introspective quality.

Understanding chord progressions is essential for any guitarist, as they provide the harmonic structure for songs. Progressions dictate the order in which chords are played and create musical tension and release.

For example, the most basic progression in Western music is the I-IV-V progression, which consists of the first (I), fourth (IV), and fifth (V) chords within a given key. These progressions establish tonal centers within a song and can be used to evoke certain emotions or moods.

By comprehending major/minor chords and their relationships, you can start building chord progressions that enhance your guitar playing. Whether you’re strumming along to your favorite songs or writing your own compositions, understanding these fundamental concepts will immensely enrich your musical journey as an adult learner of guitar.

Related: The Ultimate Chord Progression List

Learning music theory as an adult



Proper posture is so important to ensure comfort, prevent injuries, and enable optimal performance. Whether you choose to sit or stand while playing, maintaining good posture is essential. When sitting, position yourself on a chair with a backrest that allows your spine to remain straight.

Sit at the edge of the chair and avoid slouching or leaning forward excessively. Rest the lower curve of the guitar body comfortably on your leg while keeping your back and shoulders relaxed.

If you prefer standing while playing, ensure that both feet are firmly planted on the ground in a balanced stance. The guitar should rest against your body at an angle where it feels stable yet comfortable.

Avoid hunching over the instrument or letting it hang too low, as this can strain your back and neck muscles. Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed throughout your practice sessions.

Hand Positioning

When placing your left hand on the fretboard (assuming you are right-handed), begin by ensuring that your thumb rests comfortably behind the neck of the guitar – ideally around its midpoint – providing support without applying excessive pressure. Next, gently arch each finger so that they hover slightly above their respective strings without touching them when not in use.

This position allows for quick transitions between chords and minimizes unwanted string noise during playing. As you press down on a string to produce a note or chord, use only enough pressure for clean sound production without straining.

For right-handed players using their picking hand, position it just above the soundhole (if acoustic) or pickups (if electric) with fingers lightly curled inward towards the palm when not actively picking strings. Maintain a relaxed and fluid motion, as excessive tension in the picking hand can hinder speed and accuracy.

Fingerpicking Techniques

Fingerpicking is a versatile technique that enables guitarists to play complex melodies, intricate patterns, and captivating harmonies. To develop efficient fingerpicking skills, start by assigning one finger (usually the thumb) to pluck the lower strings (E, A, D), while the other fingers (index, middle, ring) handle plucking the higher strings (G, B, E).

Begin by practicing simple patterns using open chords or single-note melodies. Gradually increase the complexity and speed of your fingerpicking exercises as your dexterity improves.

Focus on maintaining a steady rhythm while avoiding excessive tension in your hand muscles. Additionally, use your fingertips rather than nails to strike the strings for a clean and precise sound.

Strength and Dexterity

Building strength and dexterity in your fingers is crucial for playing guitar fluently. Regular practice incorporating finger exercises will help improve these aspects over time. Start with basic finger exercises such as fretting each string individually with different fingers while keeping other fingers down on adjacent strings.

Another useful exercise involves practicing scales up and down the neck of the guitar using various finger combinations. Gradually increase speed without sacrificing accuracy or control.

Additionally, try incorporating specialized hand strengthening tools like grip strengtheners or stress balls into your routine to target specific muscle groups involved in playing guitar. Remember that consistency is key when developing finger strength and dexterity.

Dedicate regular practice sessions solely to these exercises to see improvement over time. Avoid overexertion or pushing yourself too hard initially; instead, focus on gradual progression and allowing ample time for rest and recovery to avoid potential injuries.

Related: Guitarist Fingers: Anatomy of Speed and Dexterity

Sheet Music or Tablature

Understanding standard music notation on sheet music is like acquiring a new language. It may seem daunting at first, but with patience and practice, it becomes a powerful tool for any guitarist. Sheet music employs a combination of symbols, notes, and musical symbols to convey pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and other musical elements.

The clef sign (treble or bass) determines which range of notes will be played. Notes are represented by oval-shaped heads placed on specific lines or spaces on the staff.

Each note carries its own duration value indicated by different types of noteheads and stems. Additionally, various symbols such as sharps (#), flats (â™­), naturals (â™®), and dynamics markings (piano, forte) contribute to the expressive interpretation of the music.

For many adult learners who might be intimidated by traditional sheet music notation initially, tablature provides a simpler alternative for reading music on the guitar. Tablature consists of six horizontal lines representing each string of the guitar and numbers indicating which frets should be pressed on each string.

The numbers correspond to specific fret positions where you place your fingers to produce desired notes. Unlike sheet music that conveys information about rhythm through visual placement within measures, tabs focus solely on pitch and require familiarity with the song’s rhythm beforehand.

How to learn to read music as an adult


As adult learners, we should embrace the joy of challenging ourselves and relish in the progress we make every step of the way. So grab your guitar, embark on this musical journey, and let the language of music guide you to new heights of self-expression.

Related: Learning Guitar At 40

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