I've been playing guitar for two months now. I'm able to play some basic chords, a couple of simple songs, etc. A little bit of everything, really (or nothing). My goal is to play lead guitar and rhythm guitar, in hard rock/metal songs (by Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, and Eluveitie).

However, my question is: can I, as a beginner, just get to work on my hand accuracy, hammer ons, pull offs, power chords, etc. (typical lead/rhythm techniques), or should I practise chords first?

Because that's what everybody seems to suggest, to start with chords and practise some songs with them. I don't want to invest time in that however, because that's not the style I'm going for. I know they're important to learn, but right now, I want to practise stuff that I enjoy playing.

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    If you learn to play songs you like, you will learn the techniques you need for that kind of music. You'll find that almost every genre includes playing of chords, single notes, two finger power chords, etc., so it's hard to avoid learning most of the basics even if you focus on one genre. At the same time, it's better to branch out, sooner or later, to all kinds of music that you like, and your tastes are likely to change over the years. If you're playing for fun (which I recommend), play what is fun! Don't force yourself to learn something boring because you think you have to. Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 13:15
  • If you've got the cash, and equipment, I found Rocksmith to be an amazing way to learn, you can spend a little time playing random songs, and a little time playing the songs you love (Avenged Sevenfold & Disturbed, both dlc).
    – Martin
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 11:47

7 Answers 7


It depends somewhat on whether you want to be a one-trick pony. There are so many guitarists out there who only learnt certain narrow style stuff, that can only do that stuff.

Harsh, maybe, but as far as chords are concerned, the guitar is one of very few instruments that can play chords, so it's good to be able to do just this. Also, so much lead playing emanates from the chord shapes, so not knowing them will effectively slow down your progress. You mention the goal to be a rhythm guitarist as well - not particularly easy if you can't play chords!

My students always learn to play both lead and rhythm (chords) in parallel, so they will be able to switch easily as needed. Yes, it takes longer initially, but the progress is superior leading to a more rounded player. One day you may feel the need to play other sorts of music, and starting from scratch will slow you down.

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    +1 and I especially agree that chord shapes & positions are a handy way to visualise scale shapes and intervals on the fretboard. (Also helps the hand strength, in my opinion.)
    – Andy
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 8:02
  • Thanks for your reply, really helped :) there's just so much to learn, that i didn't really know where to start, or what was important. Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 12:26
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    I have always taught songs, selected by the student, presumably that they really like, to help with motivation. Most songs have a mixture of chords and single-note work or double-stops, etc. Only for specific problems or techniques have I recommended or provided exercises that are not actual music. So I agree, learning both sides is important, with one way to do that to learn entire songs. +1 Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 13:12
  • @ToddWilcox - yes, most teachers tend to teach songs. It's something I have tended to shy away from, though. Instead, I'll go through an intro, verse, chorus, etc., and may once in a while go through the whole song. Working on the premise that if verse 1 sounds good, the next virtually identical one will too. Putting it all together is left to the student, except where we're reading through, and D.S or D.C. become important. So, learning a whole song is rare for my students. Sort of - if you can change E to A to B7, then you should be able to at least strum along to any 3 chord tune in E...
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 15:30

I have two words for you: sweep picking. Or as it's more generally known, arepeggios / broken chords.

This is when you hold a chord with your fret hand and play individual notes with your pick hand. Yes fingerpickers do this, but metallers do it too and they call it sweep picking. Its a very important technique metallers use to play fast.

If you try and copy a tab and don't know about chords, you will find yourself positioning your fingers awkwardly and having to move them often. If you understand chords, then you will be able to position your hand in a chord shape and play with less movement of your fret hand, even if you're only playing individual notes.

Do what everyone does. Learn chords. Learn scales, starting with the pentatonic. Otherwise you'll just make life hard for yourself.


Do you think the guitarists from Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Eluveitie can play chords? I'm pretty sure they can. If you don't learn them now, you are going to have to go back and learn them later to progress. The shapes of the fundamental chords crop up everywhere, in every form of music, not necessarily as strummed clean chords but also in riffs and solos. Power chords themselves are derived from E shape and A shape barre chords.

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    Good advice...those guys started off with basics. You would have to if playing fast and clean is the goal. They have also put in a lot of work and they are very disciplined to play that style.
    – r lo
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 16:47

The most accuarte answer I can give you is just do what feels right. I hope that playing guitar is a hobby, something you enjoy. So you should enjoy every minute of it.

I know some people will say that you need to start with basic chords and basic songs. Well they are not wrong per se. They just started that way and it felt right for them.

My example is different. I am a big Led Zeppelin fan so first thing I started with was learning Stairway to Heaven. As you may suspect it was far too big feat to pull off as a begginer. But I wanted to learn StH so that is what I did. After four years of playing I still didn't master that song but gradually I perfected my technique and naturally applied StH wisdom to other songs.

On the other hand I had periods of staying away from electric guitar and playing simple songs with simple chords and singing along. That felt great so that is what I did.

So to summarise. Do what you want, don't let anyone tell you that their way of playing is superior. Jimmy Hendrix didn't know how to hold a guitar and nobody dared telling him that what he was doing was wrong. Ultimately you will learn to play chords, hammer-ons, pull-offs and more specific techniques, but you should always begin with the thing that gives you the most fun.

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    Couple of points - had you learned other things, they would have probably helped StH, rather than the other way round. Jimi actually learned to play right-handed, but preferred the other way, much to his Dad's disgust, and could play just as well either way. Not a matter of 'didn't know'.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 15:36
  • Stairway offers nice strumming chord progressions used in many songs beyond it's intro. The solo is a great example of how to utilize the whole neck for scales. I think it is an appropriate choice, but other tunes like Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, and Communication Breakdown can be easily understood for riffs too.
    – r lo
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 16:45
  • @rlo From technicall point of view, learning easier songs would speed up StH learning process, but forcing myself to learn easier stuff would be counterproductive. I may be mistaken with Hendrix. I read somwhere that he learned by ear, and as a result held guitar the way it felt right. When I started learning StH I had problems with my fingers colliding with each other on the intro. Bar chords where punishing for my fingers. I would probably benefit from learning House of the Rising Sun but it wouldn't be as fun as pretending I'm Jimmy Page. ;) Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 18:46

When children go to grade school they learn two main subjects among many others: Math and Reading/Writing. These subjects have some crossover, but are obviously separate. As you become advanced students the ability to do both skills is merged in some advanced subjects.

I recommend students start with guitar by studying multiple subjects in every practice, where the subject categories are (roughly) are rhythm (chords, arpeggios, fingerpicking, and strumming) and lead (scales, reading tabs, arpeggios, and reading music). Merging these skills more and more as you become more skilled is an indication that you are becoming more advanced.

This is more or less what @Tim seems to be saying. He is right: Guitarists who know both lead and rhythm are better at both.

This is not to say that you should avoid anything. @Todd Wilcox is right. You should learn what you like. I also recommend in addition that you should spend some time working on basic skills that you might miss, to help you become well rounded. Don't avoid things because they are hard, or you don't like them. It takes a long time to learn guitar, and eventually you may want to be able to do some other style than the one you want to do now. All the work on your journey will improve all your skill to some degree, and at the same time you can be held back by any basic skills that you did not bother with.

I would argue that it does not take longer to learn both. It takes a long time to learn guitar, but working in parallel like this multiplies the value of your practice time.


Sounds like you have a specific goal in mind, so the idea of playing what you want when you feel like it will not work. The bands you mentioned are highly technical and worked very hard to get there. Learn chords and scales. Get tabs of the songs from a published book or magazine and find how they executed the riffs.

I started by looking at tabs of Randy Rhoads and it was intimidating at first, but with lessons I understood where these riffs and licks were coming from. I practiced the tabs and the lessons my teacher gave me. Be goal oriented in your playing. Start with basic chords and master them. This will build technique in the hands that can be applied to the riffs from those bands eventually. Maintain a log book of what you do to track progress.

You will always need basic chords and scales. Practice them well. It is the foundation of all playing.


I'm no good with chords. I'm horrible with chords. - B.B. King

B.B. King could say that, because he was B.B. King. He was a very unique player, and that made him one of the all time greats.

You, on the other hand, should learn chords and work on chords until your dying day. Because chords are really the starting point for everything else you do on the guitar.

Now, you don't need to work your way through Ted Greene's Chord Chemistry book, but you do need to know all the basic chords in several positions. And if you want to play rock, make sure you learn the E7#9.

  • yes the E7#9 lol - but I mostly use that when playing "Funk". Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 13:41

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