Every year, millions of people around the planet pick up a guitar for the first time.
But only a tiny fraction of these beginners actually become guitar players.
The vast majority of folks quit within a few months.
That’s definitely what happened to me.
In fact, I’ve given up countless times. And I would have continued quitting if I hadn’t discovered a viral video that changed my whole approach to guitar learning.
How could just one video have such an impact?
Before answering that, it helps to understand the 2 main reasons why so many people quit the guitar:
Let's take a look.
Problem 1: When Guitar Playing Becomes Frustrating
And that makes sense. When we hear a great tune, we wanna play it.
But I bet that song was a lot harder than you thought it’d be.
It almost always is.
And that’s part of the problem.
If you pick songs out of your league, you’ll get very frustrated – very quickly.
Most people stop right there:
- They try.
- They fail.
- They quit.
End of story.
A small fraction of people push on anyway. They summon their willpower and stick with it. Those brave folks are the ones who eventually become real guitar players.
But what about the rest of us in the middle – i.e. those who neither quit nor improve?
We realize that our favorite songs are too hard (for now). But we’re not ready to give up just yet.
So we start looking for easier tunes to play.
But this often leads to Problem #2.
Problem 2: When Guitar Playing Becomes Boring
But the range is limited.
There are only so many fun tunes out there for beginners.
And if you ask experienced guitarists for recommendations, you’ll hear the same suggestions again and again:
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
- Three Little Birds by Bob Marley
- Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan
Maybe you like these tunes. You might even love them.
But your affection won’t last long.
And here’s why.
To get really good at these songs, you’re gonna have to practice them hundreds of times.
That’s what it takes to get better.
Blowin’ in the Wind might be your favorite song today. But it won’t be after playing it 50 times a day for the next 3 weeks.
You’ll definitely improve. Everyone does.
But you’ll also get bored.
No one enjoys practicing the same song again and again.
So if you don’t quit out of frustration, you’ll eventually quit out of boredom.
I almost gave up for good as well.
And then I stumbled across the Axis of Awesome.
The Viral Video That Changed My Life
The Axis of Awesome is a comedy rock band from Australia. Back in 2011, the group published “Four Chords” – a video medley of pop songs that all use the same chord progression.
Over 40 songs are featured in the clip below – from the Beatles to Akon to Lady Gaga.
If you already know basic music theory, there’s nothing earth-shattering about this video. This 4-chord progression is a staple of popular music.
But when I saw this video, something clicked.
I realized I didn’t have to play the same song over and over.
With just a handful of useful chords, I could play hundreds (maybe thousands) of easy tunes.
So I created a searchable index of guitar songs organized by the chords they use.
This database wasn’t perfect. After all, I pulled the info from user-generated sites like Ultimate-Guitar.com and Chordie.com:
- Some tunes were transcribed very well.
- Other guitar songs – not so much.
But overall, this approach was incredibly useful. I could easily see relationships between songs and their chords.
However, I ran into a snag.
The database was huge, with over 350,000 tunes and thousands of unique chords.
Could I really learn thousands of chords?
Where would you even begin?
But then I found inspiration from an unlikely source – Mandarin Chinese.
Hacking the Chinese Language to Learn Guitar
Nanjing, China is a huge city with more than 8 million people. But there aren’t many English speakers.
It was a simple matter of survival.
But Mandarin is hard. Like really really hard.
The language has over 50,000 individual characters, many with multiple pronunciations and definitions.
But one day, my Mandarin teacher shared something that blew my mind.
She told me that with the 3,000 most frequently used characters, I could understand about 80% of a standard Chinese newspaper.
I didn’t need to learn all 50,000 characters. By focusing on the 3,000 most important ones, I’d become a Chinese literate.
The same is true in other languages:
- English has over 170,000 words. But you only need the 2,000 most popular ones to get through a newspaper.
- You can understand 87% of spoken Spanish if you know the 1,000 most common words.
And when I looked at my song database, a similar pattern emerged.
There were thousands of unique chords. But I didn’t need to learn all of them. By focusing on the most common ones, I’d become a guitar literate who can play thousands upon thousands of songs.
Don’t believe me?
Try it out yourself.
Create an account (if you haven’t already). And do a search of 4 easy chords like G, C, D, and Eminor.
You’ll discover more playable songs than you thought possible.
In fact, you’ll need to use the genre and decade filters to control the flood of results.
And that’s pretty cool.
But it gets better.
Finding the Sweet Spot between Playable and Likable Songs
Chord Genome helps you find that perfect Sweet Spot where playable tunes and fun songs overlap.
With any combination of chords, you can easily discover the ideal comfort zone for your practice.
And your repertoire grows exponentially as well.
All you have to do is:
- Enter the chords you already know.
- Find songs that use those exact chords.
- Choose 10, 50, or 100 tunes you really like.
- Keep cycling through the songs you’ve picked.
- Don’t stop until you’ve mastered those chords.
This approach makes practicing far more enjoyable. That’s because every tune is within easy reach.
And this eliminates Problem #1 (i.e. Frustration).
This endless variety also means you’re not stuck playing the same tune for weeks. You have thousands of songs at your fingertips.
And that eliminates Problem #2 (i.e. Boredom).
Log in today and try it out yourself.
If you’d like to learn more about using Chord Genome’s search feature, be sure to read this article.
And if you’re new to the Chord Genome Project, create create an account today.