What guitarists should know.
As I was making this list I realized that this is more of a “work in progress” than a completed list. This list could also be applied to other instruments as well. Like the bass guitar, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, or any stringed instruments.
January 27, 2017

Beginning Guitar

You will be an Intermediate guitarist when:

Intermediate Guitar

After learning the basics and being able to play a few songs and chords you should start learning more in depth about your guitar. There are three intermediate levels.

Intermediate Level 1

1. About Your Guitar

  • Be able to change your own strings on any of your guitars or instruments.
  • Be able to describe what intonation is and why it is important to your playing.
  • Does your guitar have a truss rod? Understand the truss rod in a guitar neck and what it does.
  • Understand what the action is on a guitar and how it affects your playing.


2. Tuning

  • Be able to tune your guitar by ear listening to pitches on a video, a piano, or from another instrument.
  • Be able to tune with an electronic tuner or app, by ear using the 5th fret method, and one other method. (Tuning fork, pitch pipe, harmonics, etc.

Intermediate Level 2

Intermediate Level 3


Advanced Guitar

  • Be familiar with the different kinds of guitars and the kinds of tones they can produce as they are used by different artists.
  • Be able to tune your guitar with an electronic tuner or app, and by ear using the 5th fret method, tuning fork, pitch pipe, harmonics, 7th fret technique from the low to high strings, 7th fret technique from the high to low strings,
  • Understand intonation, what it is, how it affects your playing, and how to adjust it on different guitars like the acoustic guitar and different kinds of electric guitars.
  • Understand the truss rod in a guitar neck and how to adjust one.
  • Understand what the action is on a guitar, how it affects your playing, and how to adjust the action by adjusting the truss rod, filing the nut, and seating and sanding the saddle.

If you are into classic rock here is a video – Joe Walsh Les Paul Set Up – Where Joe Walsh talks about intonation, action, the truss rod, and walks us through the set up of a Gibson Les Paul.

This page is under construction.

From here on down are the notes about this page. I have left them here so that you can browse through them if you want. Periodically I update this page and move these ideas into the upper part of this page and include links to videos that I have made on these subjects.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. lessonswithhal@gmail.com
Hal Stead
Know the names of all the notes on the fretboard of the guitar.
Understand how to notate all the notes on the guitar in standard music notation.
Be able to:
Transcribe a four part hymn and play it on the guitar.
Learn a classical piece for guitar reading only from standard notation without tablature.
Reduce an orchestra score and play it on the guitar.
Transcribe a piano piece, write it down, in standard notation with tablature, and play it on the guitar.
Write down on staff paper with a pencil a piece for guitar.
Be able to write down a major piece for guitar on paper with a pencil without the aid of a computer.
Use a music notation program to write down a piece for guitar in standard notation with tablature.
Be able to arrange songs that have been played by an ensemble, an orchestra, a rock band, and a jazz band, and play it on the guitar as a solo piece or accompany yourself or someone else singing while you play.
Be able to sing and play at the same time. The guitar part and the singing should sound like they are separate parts, the guitar playing rhythms either picking and/or strumming.  An advanced guitar player should be able to play and sing different complex rhythms simultaneously.
Be able to transcribe pieces of music and songs just by listening to them. Be able to write them down in standard notation and in tablature.
Be able to create lead sheets for songs just by listening to them.
Know how to tune your guitar by all of the following ways.
Tune your guitar to
reference pitches – from another guitar, piano, tuner, etc.
Tune the guitar relative to itself using the 5th fret technique.
Tune using harmonics and understand it’s problems for achieving an equal temperament tuning
Tune your guitar using a tuner or app.
Tune your guitar using a tuning fork as a reference pitch
Be able to explain the physics of harmonics of a vibrating string.
Be able to play a song using natural and artificial  harmonics.
Be able to play hammer-ons and pull-offs in songs and articulate them well.
Be able to play different styles of music well including classical, jazz, rock, country, hard rock, alternative, reggae, ska, R&B, and rock and roll,
Be able to play in a band as the principle rhythm guitar player and/or lead guitar player.
Be familiar with the different kinds of tuning such as equal temperament and just intonation. Understand the limitations of tuning on the guitar and how to compensate your guitar to make it sound more in tune as you play.
Understand how to adjust your tuning to compensate for strings that are not true because of age.
100 hours of performing in front of an audience as a solo artist.
100 hours of performing in front of an audience as a band member.
Be able to play songs in the following tunings:
Regular or standard tuning
Eb tuning
Drop D
Open tunings such as open G, D, and E
DADGAD tuning
Understand enough music theory to be able to build any chord and then find them on the guitar without using any outside reference. IE: a book, the internet, or an app to find and make the chord.
Be able to play root position chords and their inversions in 5 places on the neck. This includes the following kinds of chords: major, minor, augmented, diminished, dominate 7th, major 7, 9th, 11th, 13th, minor 7, 9, 11, 13, sus2, sus4, 6ths,
Be able to transpose a piece of music from its original key to any other key.
Be able to optimize the key of a song to fit both low and high, male and female voices.
Be able to explain how to achieve good voice leading when playing chords, which types of chords to use, and why.
Explain what is music theory and why do we study it for all styles of music. What purpose does it serve? Why do we appear to have different rules? What purpose do they serve? When do we need to keep rules in music theory and when can we break them?
Foundation Chords
1st page, develop 2nd page
Open position guitar sheet
2nd open position chord sheet
include G7 and Bm7
Learn notes on the bottom two strings E and A. This is preparation for barre chords.
Barre Chord sheet
Half step and whole step relationships in a scale
The notes on the first 5 frets all strings
Notes all over the neck using octaves
Introduction to the circle of 5ths
you can use this sheet for figuring out basic major and minor triads (chords), key signatures, transposition, chord tones, notes to 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th chords, and to learn the names of chords so that you don’t need a chord chart or book to tell you how to build or make a chord.
Finding the beat and developing rhythm
Downbeat, timing, rhythms (this is one of the hardest skills to master)
Basic strumming
Strumming with G and Em with bass run
Basic fingerpicking
Rest stroke and free stroke
Fingernails – do I need them? Paragraph how should my nails look on my left hand?
How should my nails look on my right hand in the first year of learning to fingerpick?
Hand shapes – everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you
How should my nails look after a year? What part of the finger should I pick with?
Tone – how is it created?
Bright tones and dark tones
Palm muting – what does it do, how do I work with it?
Vibrato – how do I develop it? The soul of the tone.
Time signatures
4/4, 3/4, duple and triple meter
Compound meters
Figuring out songs for yourself
Basic ear training (aural training)
Unison -
Major 2nd – In My Life, Yesterday (down)
Minor 3rd -
Major 3rd – Here Comes The Sun (goes down)
P4 – Here Comes The Bride, Oh Christmas Tree
Tritone – Maria
P5 – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Blackbird
Major 6th -
Major 7th -
Octave -
Advanced Ear Training
1351531, 135717531, etc
What are the important elements of figuring out songs?
Start with bass notes. Bass notes are the key to the chords most of the time. When inversions are used in the piece then that’s when the Advanced Ear Training kicks in.
Singing strengthens ear training
Sight Singing
Reading Music
Rope example
One way to measure your progress in guitar playing  is to take an exercise, like the chromatic exercise, and time yourself to see how fast you are.
One minute chord changes. Beginning Guitar – 60 chords in a minute.
Be able to apply palm muting to your playing. Explain how palm muting can change your tone on the guitar. Elaborate on  the different sounds that can be produced with palm muting, and the different situations in which palm muting fits into different styles of playing
Holding the Guitar
Demonstrate how to hold the guitar in a classical position, rock, folk position
If you have different kinds of guitars demonstrate how you hold each one
Finger Picking
Show what finger picking technique is best for power and speed.
Tone Production
Describe how both the left hand and right hand affect tone production.
Demonstrate the different kinds of tones that you can produce on the guitar without special effects from pedals or amplifiers.
Describe how the use of different picks (plectrums) affect tone and whether you use this device in your playing.
Using a Pick
Show how you utilize a pick, what size or sizes that you use, how you hold it, its advantages and disadvantages.
Beginning repertoire – 7 songs, intermediate repertoire – 17 songs, advanced repertoire – 40 songs.
Warm ups
Strumming – rhythm work
Ear training
Music theory
Music analysis
Sight reading
The most advanced guitar players have 10,000 hours under their belt. To be on a professional level strive to reach that goal.
10,000 hours can be reached practicing 5 hr per day for 5 1/2 years.
, 6 hours per day for 4 1/2 years, 8 hours per day for 3.4 years,
Study piano for two years practicing at least 1/2 hour every day
Performance time: at least 60 min
Study voice for two years practicing at least 1/2 hour every day
Performance time : 60 min
Sing in a barbershop quartet for 1 year with at least 60 min performance time
Sing in a mixed quartet for 1 year with at least 60 min performance time
Study counterpoint
Write at least 15 min of music in that style utilizing two and three part counterpoint
Beginning music theory
Learn the notes in musical order. ABCDEFG ABCDEFG
Learn notes in chord order. ACE, BDF, CEG, DFA, EGB, FAC, GBD