With the right mindset, you can teach yourself how to play guitar, but how do you direct your guitar education without anyone to guide you? The truth is, practice doesn’t make perfect — only perfect practice makes perfect, so here are 10 tips and tricks for teaching yourself guitar, all of which you can apply when digging into TrueFire’s 600+ self-study guitar courses!

1. Learn to Read Music

It’s not as hard as it looks! At this point, books are your best friend. However, if you have a best friend who knows how to read music, ask her or him to teach you. Once you have the basics of reading music, you’ll suddenly have access to decades; worth of songs and sheet music.

2. Learn to Love Tabs

Tabs are often viewed as a shortcut for reading music, but you’ll often see them paired together. When you want to play your favorite radio tunes, you can easily find free (and usually accurate) tabs on the Internet. Learning a song this way teaches you to listen closely.

3. Give Your Pinkie Some Love

It’s easy to forget about your little finger, but that runt will be your hand’s MVP if you let it. Work your pinkie just as hard (if not harder) than your other fingers to fully develop your hand.

4. Take Pride in Your Callouses

Honestly, your callouses will probably only be attractive to other guitar players, but you should be proud of those hard-earned rough patches. Learn to view light peeling or flattened fingertips as badges of guitar-playing honor.

5. Try Classical or Jazz

If you really want to develop your finger picking and strengthen your pinkie, classical (or flamenco for more soul) is impossible to play without great technique. If you want to learn the art of effortless improvisation, jazz is what you need, and it’ll do wonders for your technique.

6. Learn Keys and Their Chords

Memorize which chords match specific keys. As you jam and learn, knowing the keys and chords helps you gain a more intuitive understanding of how songs are built.

7. Find a Practice Buddy

Friendly competition and solidarity help those practice hours pass quickly and give you the motivation you need to power through that tough solo or chord progression.

8. Regular Practice Beats Irregular Practice

Practicing for 30 minutes every day is better for you than practicing three-and-a-half hours once a week. Like athletic condition, the routine is an important part of the process.

9. Bar Chords Are Fun (Repeat Until You Believe It)

The F chord should be your first bar chord. Why? Most bar chords are either the same shape or very similar. Bar chords are tough on your hands, but once you learn them, your hand will be strong enough to play for hours on end. Plus, changing keys, playing without a capo, songwriting and song learning become much easier.

10. Know When to Stop Practicing

If your hands are shaking or your fingers feel bruised, you’ve been practicing too long. Your hands are made of muscle and knowing when to stop practicing ensures you’ll be able to play guitar tomorrow.

Many modern guitarists are self-taught, and with so many free or cheap learning resources, you can jump start your guitar playing all on your own. Join TrueFire for free and select a Learning Path to begin your journey to guitar greatness!