If you’ve been playing guitar for a while, you’re probably sick of calling yourself a beginner. But are you an intermediate guitar player? That’s a tough question, but we’re here to answer it as best we can!
What Defines an Intermediate Guitarist?
The intermediate stage of learning guitar isn’t well-defined. That is, different players will have different opinions as to what technical, musical, and theoretical skills are required for a player to be considered intermediate.
We also must consider the fact that not all styles of guitar are created equal.
A metal guitarist who shreds like a pro might have a total beginner’s ear when it comes to playing jazz. Similarly, an intermediate-level classical guitarist might read music much better than an advanced pop guitar player.
Basically, it’s all somewhat relative. Yet I think we can loosely say that, within the expectations of any given guitar style, intermediate players will have mid-level skills. They’re somewhere on the long bridge between beginner and advanced.
What Skills Should Intermediate Guitar Players Have?
Almost regardless of your guitar style, there are certain skills you should have in order to reasonably be called intermediate:
Mastery of the basic open chords including C, A, G, E, D, Am, Dm, and Em
I think it’s fair to say that if you don’t know the above chords pretty well, you’re not quite out of beginner mode.
One or more songs ready to perform
A common mark of beginners is that they can pick around a bit but not actually perform pieces start to finish. I’d focus on playing a few songs well rather than a bunch badly.
A solid grasp of music theory fundamentals
I’m not asking for much here—just some kind of working knowledge of notes, rhythms, scales, keys, and chords. But you’ll be better off the more you know!
Effective practice habits
Few beginner guitarists practice well. For me, if your practice time isn’t yielding steady results, you’re doing something wrong. Intermediate players tend to know How to Practice Effectively
Other style-specific abilities
Beyond the above, every intermediate guitarist is going to have skills relevant to their primary style(s).
For instance, rock guitarists will probably know power chords fairly well. Classical guitarists will know how to read music. Jazz guitarists will have some improvisational chops. And so forth.
Clearly, there’s no exhaustive “Intermediate Guitar Checklist” that applies to all guitarists across all styles. The guitar world is just way too diverse for that.
How to Learn Chords Effectively
Mastering the basic chords is crucial to becoming an intermediate guitarist. You’ll find the 8 most important open chord shapes below:
Chances are, you already know one or more of these chords. But the difference between beginners and someone more advanced often has to do with how well you know the chords.
I recommend you take a little bit of time every day to practice moving between these crucial chords. In particular, switching between G and D is helpful because it forces all your fingers to move simultaneously.
One of the best tips I have for learning chords quickly is to isolate your fretting hand. You might be tempted to strum every chord you fret, but if you can discipline yourself to fret each shape silently, you’ll actually get them down much faster.
The reason isolating hands works is because it allows your mind to fully commit to one objective. If you’re always doing both hands together, your attention is divided, preventing you from making quick progress.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Intermediate Guitarist?
If you’re serious about practicing effectively and frequently, you could easily go from beginner to intermediate in a few months.
However, if you don’t practice well and/or neglect to put the time in, you might not get there at all.
The secret to leveling up your guitar game fast is to simulate total immersion. You want playing music to feel as natural as speaking a first language.
This takes time, of course, but that’s the practicing model you want to adopt early on.
For more tips, check out this post about The Fastest Way to Learn Guitar
How to Go from Intermediate to Advanced at Guitar
If you’re already an intermediate guitarist and want to step up your game, here’s a list of the best ways to do that:
- Memorize the fretboard. And I mean cold. You should know all the notes, and you shouldn’t need reference frets to find any of them. Here’s 10 Ways to Memorize the Guitar Fretboard.
- Begin or amp up your ear training. Ideally, you develop a jazz musician’s ear, regardless of your preferred style. I personally use Earmaster, but you’ve got tons of options these days, including free software and websites.
- Start a daily technical training regimen. Basically, you want to isolate all the skills you need (barre chords, shifts, strumming, plucking, etc.) and drill them until they’re easy. If you’re a fingerstyle player, I recommend using the 10 exercises in my ebook Fingerstyle Fitness.
- Incorporate sight-reading into your practice routine. Reading through lots of new music (whether using tabs or traditional notation) will greatly speed up your technical, theoretical, and musical progress. You’ll also Learn New Music Faster if you read well.
- Put yourself out there, whether by performing alone, playing with others, or recording your music. There’s no motivation quite like “not wanting to look like a fool up there.”
- Study music away from the guitar. You can read books about famous performers or composers, guitar methods, methods for other instruments (and apply them to guitar), music theory textbooks, and so forth.
Although in no way exhaustive, the above list should give you some direction as to how to move forward.
Remember the words of the great Fernando Sor: “Hold reason for everything, and routine for nothing.”
So, are you an intermediate guitar player? Ultimately, I think it’s your call.
You’ll find a lot of different opinions on what constitutes an intermediate guitarist, but it’s all relative to where you started and where you’re hoping to go.
But regardless of how you rate yourself, I hope you keep having fun with our favorite instrument!
Are you looking to upgrade your gear or browse some awesome guitar learning materials? Check out my recommendations page
to see all my favorite stuff.
Want to streamline your fingerstyle guitar progress? I just released my new ebook, Fingerstyle Fitness
, which presents 10 easy exercises to quickly develop your fingerstyle chops. Grab it today!