Where are you on the beginner's scale

The following questionaire will help you find some context for what you do know and what you don't. Answer the questions and then work through the answers to gain a little perspetive on how far you've come and where you could head out to. I've distinguished four levels of beginners.

Links in levels and questions lead to answers and/or links that deal with the question asked to help fill in gaps, and give the guide that i use with my students to help them see what they know or don't know (as far as beginning studies go).

This is somewhat subjective, but i've found it useful in helping people learn to teach themselves and grow beyond being a beginner. I hope you can find it useful in some way as well.

Christopher Roberts


Q1.) Can you name the parts of the guitar? yes or no. Then list the parts and draw a guitar with the parts listed.

Q2.) Do you know how to hold your guitar? Do you know where to place your fingers?

Q3.) Do you know where your thumb goes?

Q4.) Do you know how to hold a pick (a plectrum)?

Q5.) Do you know how to pluck a string? With a finger? With a pick? Can you physically do both of these things?

Q6.) Can you physically hold down a string? If so, for how long before your finger hurts?

Q7.) In which direction are the strings numbered?

Q8.) What letters are used for notes? How many letters? How many notes are there?

Q9.) What are the names of the strings (in letters) in order?

Q10.) What is the tuning called? Can you tune your guitar?

Q11.) Can you read chord diagrams? Could you place your fingers in the right place for a chord that you've never seen before?

Q12.) Do you know the finger-per-fret rule? If so, describe it.

Q13.) Can you downstrum? upstrum?

Q14.) Can you pick (with a pick) up and down on a single string?

Q15.) Do you know, and can you play from memory the following chords: E, A, D, G, C ?

If you play electric:

E1.) Do you know how to connect your guitar to an amp? Do you know how to turn on your amp?

E2.) Do you know how to control the volume of your guitar? From your guitar? from the amp?

E3.) Can you name the parts of the guitar that make it electric? Can you explain what those things do?

E4.) Can you name the parts of your amp? Do you know what the knobs are called, and what they do?


Q16.) Can you strum in time? Can you count in time? Can you keep an even beat?

Q17.) Can you read TABlature? What is it, and how is it written? What does it tell you, what doesn't it tell you?

Q18.) Can you play from memory the following chords: Em, Am, Cm, Dm, Gm?

Q19.) What type of chord is E5?

Q20.) Can you play at least one scale?

Q21.) Do you know which note is the root note in every chord/scale pattern that you know?

Q22.) Can you identify and trouble-shoot the causes of bad sounding notes that you play?

Q23.) Can you play through chords that you know, and change chords without stopping?

Q24.) Can you play from a strumming pattern?

Q25.) Can you alternate pick?

Q26.) Can you play a bass-note strum? How about an alternating bass-note strum?

For electric players:

E5.) What do the pickups do? How can you switch between them?

E6.) What do the tone knobs do?

E7.) What does the gain do on your amp?

E8.) What kinds of effects exist, and how does an effect work? how do you connect them?


Q27.) How many songs can you play all the way through?

Q28.) How much time do you spend studying? Practicing? Playing songs? Noodling?

Q29.) Have you picked a genre (type of music) to concentrate in?

Q30.) Can you play from memory the following chords: A7,B7,C7,D7,E7,G7.

Q31.) Can you play Barre chords? Which ones?

Q32.) Can you read standard notation? Can you sight read 1rst position?

Q33.) Can you play hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, slides, vibrato, bent notes?

Q34.) Can you tell by ear whether a chord is major or minor, or other?

Q35.) Do you know what a chord progression is?

Q36.) What do I-IV-V and i-iv-v mean? Can you play them? In how many keys?

Q37.) Can you play a major scale? In how many keys?

Q38.) Can you recognize rhythmic notation and symbols (rests, repeats, tempos, dynamics, etc.)

Q39.) Can you distinguish time signatures by ear?

for electric players:

E9.) Can you tell by ear when the following effects are being used: distortion, chorus, reverb, delay, flanger/phaser?

E10.) Can you explain what the above effects do?

E11.) What does EQ do? What does compression and sustain do?

E12.) What non-electric components of the guitar affect the tone of the guitar?

E13.) How will arranging the effects in different orders affect the final sound?


Q.40) Can you play the following chords: sus4, sus2, 6, add9, m7, maj7. In how many keys?

Q41.) Can you perform simple finger picking? Can you finger pick a chord from a picking pattern? What are the names of the fingers of the picking hand?

Q42.) Have you developed caluses?

Q43.) Can you play different voicings of the same chord from the same shape?

Q44.) Can you play moveable scales?

Q45.) Do you know where the 5 is in the chords you know (all of them)?

Q46.) Do you know what all of the notes in a chord are?

Q47.) Do you know what an interval is? How many can you name?

Q48.) Do you know exactly how intervals map out on the fretboard?

Q49.) Have you been playing for more than 3 months? 6 months? 1 year?

Q50.) Estimate the # of hours you've studied/practiced the guitar (not song playing).

Q51.) Can you play at least 3 songs all the way through by memory?

Q52.) How do you feel about theory? a.) don't need it, b.) not ready for it, c.) unsure what it is, d.) slowly progressing through it, e.) it's a necessary evil, f.) can't learn enough, g.) ecstatic about it.

Q53.) Do you have a systematic approach to learning? How do you decide what to learn?

Q54.) How do you feel about teaching others?

modified for the web
December 29,2002. All rights reserved