“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” - Victor Hugo
It's thought that around a fifth of musicians play the guitar. However, it's difficult to determine how well each of them can play guitar since it's very difficult to quantify guitar technique. No matter how well a given guitarist plays, there are always techniques they can improve or new techniques that they can learn. In this article, we're going to attempts to give you a general guide to follow in order to gauge your level on the guitar. If you haven't had the opportunity to have your level gauged by a tutor or a teacher because you're teaching yourself rather than taking guitar lessons, you just need to follow our guide.
Anyone who learns how to play the guitar will have to start as a beginner. However, there's a huge difference between a beginner who's never picked up a guitar and somebody who's been playing for a few weeks. You'll be surprised at how much you learn how to play guitar after a month of practising or working with a guitar teacher.
To help you work out what level you have on the guitar, be it the acoustic guitar, jazz guitar, or the electric guitar, here are some of the different types of beginners.
Before you start taking the online guitar classes, private guitar tutorials, or teaching yourself how to play the guitar, you'll have to start as an absolute beginner. You'll have never touched a guitar in your life, you won't know how to hold a plectrum, tune a guitar, or even coordinate your left and right hands. Online guitar lessons mightn't be ideal when you've never taken a single guitar lesson in your life. You may remain at this level for a long time depending on your musical capabilities. Some people remain absolute beginners for just a couple of weeks, especially if they have experience playing other musical instruments. It all depends on how much effort you put in. Of course, that's not all. Everybody's different when it comes to music. Some may already know how to read music or have a great ear for different notes. Others may require more time. As an absolute beginner, you learn how to make notes on the guitar, how to position your hands, and the right posture to adopt when you're playing. You'll notice very quickly just how much playing the guitar hurts your fingers when you first start playing. Don't worry, though, you'll get used to it. Even Steve Vai and Jimi Hendrix would have gone through this stage.
Once you are no longer an absolute beginner who's never touched a guitar in their life, you'll have reached the stage of beginner. You'll have taken a few online classes, private tutorials, regular classes either in a group for on your own, or have spent some time teaching yourself. You'll be aware of some of the basic guitar techniques and know a few basic chords. You'll be able to play a few simple songs along to some music. While your timing mightn't be perfect and you still play a few wrong notes, you're getting there! You'll be aware of what you've got to do and where you need to go in order to master playing your instrument. You'll also know that you've got a long way to go.
This is one of the more difficult levels to be at… This is when a lot of players start to plateau. When you first learn to play guitar, you'll make a lot of progress in a short amount of time, start strumming some basic chords, and learn to find notes on the neck. This progression tends to make a guitar player overestimate their own abilities. The seasoned beginner isn't necessarily capable of any advanced techniques but they can play what they know quite well. They're able to play in time to music and have mastered all the basic chords. They'll be able to expand their repertoire by playing almost any basic song requested of them. They'll still be taking beginner guitar lessons and working on their rhythm, playing certain notes, and learning guitar basics. They may be able to even play and sing at the same time. At this point, you might even say they're good at the guitar. But they're not without fault. As a seasoned beginner, inconsistency is their biggest flaw. This means that while they're quite good at playing the guitar and they have a decent level, they'll still make mistakes. It doesn't matter whether you play the guitar for five, 10, or 15 years, it won't guarantee that you'll exceed the level of a seasoned beginner. If you constantly play basic songs and chord progressions, you’ll always remain a seasoned a beginner. You need to be aware of your level and start looking to challenge yourself with more advanced techniques and more difficult songs.
Not everyone makes it to the intermediate stage. You aren’t guaranteed to reach this stage just by practising for a few years. It depends on how you practice during this time. Your guitar instructor won't always be there to help you learn guitar or to teach you new techniques. If you attend a weekly guitar class but don't touch your guitar for the rest of the week, you'll remain a beginner much longer than somebody who practises a little bit every day.
The lower intermediate follows the seasoned beginner. You're starting to explore the entire neck of the guitar. You familiar with the different notes and a bit of music theory. You play the songs you know well and you're familiar with concepts such as harmony. Your playing is more varied than that of a beginner and you integrate more complicated chords into your repertoire, which is broader than that of a beginner. You can comfortably sing whilst you play the guitar and you're even capable of basic solos and improvisation. Bit by bit, your ear is developing and you can play without needing to concentrate too hard. Playing the guitar is becoming more natural to you. However, you're still aware of everything that you still need to learn and you're not resting on your laurels. You keep working on your technique and have your sights set on achieving a higher level of playing. Maybe composing and improvising will help you reach that level.
At this point, you're far from being a beginner. You'll have a great understanding of several guitar techniques, know your way around the neck, and have a good ear for music. You'll be able to harmonise in real time and reproduce most of what you hear on the guitar without needing sheet music of guitar tablature. Additionally, your timing will be far tighter than that of the beginner. Since you'll have a good understanding of music theory for guitarists and a number of scales, you'll be able to improvise and compose your own music with greater ease. Playing the guitar become second nature to you and you won't need to think too much about it when you do it. You'll have a solid technique which will make playing most songs quite simple. Additionally, you'll also be able to relax while you're playing and improvise. At this point, you probably want to join a band and start making and performing your own music to crowds. This is the point where a lot of guitarists may stagnate. When you reach this level of playing, you may still have never taken a single music theory lesson in your life. Now might be the ideal time to do just that. Otherwise, you run the risk of remaining an intermediate guitarist for the rest of your life. If you have been taking group classes for private tutorials, you can always ask your teacher about more advanced music theory or even moving to a new class. You may have reached the stage where your level is beyond that of what's being taught. Check out our tips for guitarists.
What Is an Advanced Guitarist?
Moving beyond an intermediate level is complicated.
Your technique needs to be flawless, timing impeccable, and you need to have a sound knowledge and music theory and be able to apply it to your playing. You'll be able to use all the different techniques you've learnt throughout your years of studying how to play the guitar at any given time. Your improvisation is fluid and you can easily reproduce almost any music you hear. You can also play almost whatever you want, whenever you want, all without making any mistakes. You're playing will be so natural that you'll barely have to think about what you're doing. By this stage, you'll probably have a lot of experience performing on stage either as a soloist or part of a group. It'll all seem quite easy, even in front of the crown. Nobody can deny that you're a great guitarist. It's taken years of practice to get to this point. To get a such an advanced level, you've had to remain motivated, regularly practise, and almost constantly work on your guitar playing. That said, the journey isn't over. Anyone who's reached this level won't probably rest on their laurels. There's always something you can improve or integrate into your playing to become a better guitarist or a better musician. However, keep in mind that it's not your level that really counts. It's the music that counts and how we share it and enjoy it. A simple riff can make an absolute tune. Look at how songs like Seven Nation Army and Smells Like Teen Spirit are relatively simple to play but were also huge successes. Music can be simple and effective. Isn't the main thing to just enjoy music and share it?