Why should guitarists learn music theory?

If you play guitar, do you need to know music theory?

Guitarists learn in a variety of ways – from classic music lessons to training themselves to play by ear. However, if you want to get the most out of your instrument, you should consider learning music theory. 

Here are some reasons why: 


  • Having a grasp of music theory will help you be a better improviser 


If you have a good grasp of the pentatonic scale, it’s much easier to improvise solos, especially for blues and rock music. It also makes you much less likely to hit a wrong note while improvising if you’re basing the solo on theory, rather than playing by ear. 


  • Music theory can help you write your own music 


When you know scales and how to build chords, your musical world opens up. Having an understanding of the fundamentals of music will make it easier for you to write your own riffs and chord progressions, as well as make it easier for you to solo over a song. 


  • Reading music is more useful than just reading tabs 


Tablature is a useful tool for guitarists to learn riffs and solos quickly. However, the tabs only show you which notes to play – whereas sheet music shows you the timing and breaks, allowing you to play the piece as it’s meant to be played. Being able to read and write sheet music is also important if you want to write or transcribe music. 


  • Music theory will help you play better with other musicians 

It’s quicker and easier to learn music when you have a musical theory background rather than playing it by ear. Knowing musical theory also makes it easier to communicate musical ideas with other people. 

Check out this Music Theory 101 course to get started today!



Five songs you can learn on guitar this weekend

Got a little bit of free time this weekend? Here are five fairly easy songs that you can easily learn between now and Sunday evening! 


“You Belong with Me” – Taylor Swift

You’ll need a capo on the fourth fret to play this “Fearless” hit. It involves some fingerpicking to nail the distinctive riff, but it’s easier than it sounds!

“Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5

The funky, disco-esque rhythm is the most important part of this dance floor anthem – but with only a few chords, it’s pretty easy to learn.

“Wake Me Up” – Avicii

You only need four chords to play this popular song – it’s very easy to accompany yourself singing. 

“Creep” – Radiohead 

Ready to practice those barre chords? This song only has four chords total, and is another great one to sing along to.

“Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers

This 1971 hit is an absolute classic. Learn this simple version, or you can try the slightly more challenging fingerstyle version.

How weather and environmental conditions affect your guitar

High or low temperatures, high or low humidity – all weather conditions can have an effect on your guitar! Here’s what to watch out for, and how to protect your instrument. 

Guitars are made mostly of wood. Like the wood in your home, the wood in your guitar absorbs moisture and swells during hot and humid weather and shrinks during cold and dry weather. When the wood in your guitar shifts, it can change the shape and more importantly, the sound of the instrument.

Ideally, guitars should be kept in 66-77 °F (19-25 °C) and 40 to 50 percent humidity. Guitar owners should avoid exposing their guitars to rapid changes in temperature. A good way to do this is leaving the guitar in its case after it’s been outside (in cold or hot weather) allowing it to reacclimate to room temperature before taking it out. If you can get to a gig a little bit early to allow your guitar to “settle” in its case before playing it, do that! 

Here are some other ways to protect your instrument from the elements: 


  • Keep your guitar in its case when you’re not playing it

A case is your guitar’s “best case” scenario against environmental damage. By keeping it in a case at home, you protect it from air conditioning or heating, as well as allowing the humidity level to remain consistent. 


  • Keep your guitar away from windows 


As great as the view out of your window is, it’s not a good spot to keep your guitar. Less insulation means that the temperature and humidity levels near windows fluctuate more. 


  • Get a hygrometer

These devices monitor humidity and temperature changes throughout the day, to ensure that the area you’re storing your guitar is a good spot for it. 


  • Don’t leave your guitar in the trunk overnight 


Even if you get home late from that gig, bring your instrument in! Your guitar will thank you. 

Learn these Lynyrd Skynyrd songs with Fret Zealot

Lynyrd Skynyrd songs are a valuable asset in any guitar player’s repertoire. The Southern rock band has spawned many classic hits over their decades long career, including “Sweet Home Alabama” and the often-requested “Free Bird”.

Sweet Home Alabama

Three chords make up the vast majority of this 1974 hit. 

Free Bird 

The first line for “Free Bird” came from Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins’s girlfriend, Kathy, who asked Collins “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” The question became the first line of the band’s signature song and the band performed it for the first time during the reception at Collins and Kathy’s wedding. 

Simple Man


“Simple Man” was inspired by the passing of vocalist Ronnie Van Zant’s grandmother.

Saturday Night Special

The term “Saturday Night Special” refers to cheap handguns, and the lyrics of this 1975 track associate them with impulsive violence. Lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant said in the documentary If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd (2018) that the band knew a person who shot another friend over a game of poker. 

Gimme Three Steps 

Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington told VH1’s Behind the Music that the story behind “Gimme Three Steps” actually happened at a bar the band was hanging out at, when a woman asked Von Zant to dance and he later encountered her angry boyfriend, who threatened to shoot him. 

That Smell 

The lyrics of “That Smell”, off of the 1977 album “Street Survivors” are morbid, containing lines like  “tomorrow might not be here for you”, and that “the smell of death surrounds you”. Three days after the album was released, a plane crash killed several members of the band, including Van Zant. 

Tuesday’s Gone

What’s the unusual piano sound on the chorus of this song? It’s courtesy of a Mellotron, an instrument played by pressing keys that cause magnetic tape to be pulled against a playback head. 


Are guitar lessons worth it?

If you’ve ever wanted to learn guitar, you’ve probably weighed out the pluses and minuses of taking guitar lessons. 

Guitar lessons will ensure that you’re learning the correct technique (as well as the right terminology) as opposed to just learning by ear. However, finding an in-person instructor, keeping to a set schedule of lessons, and commuting to and from the lessons can be an imposition to some learners – especially those with a busy schedule. 

Many famous guitar players learned to play in slightly unorthodox ways and some stuck to a more traditional method. 

Here’s how some of the biggest guitarists around learned to play: 


John Mayer 

John Mayer’s father rented a guitar for him to play when he turned 13, and a Stevie Ray Vaughan cassette tape gifted to him by a neighbor helped Mayer develop his affection for the blues.

Mayer took guitar lessons from a guitar shop owner in his Bridgeport, Connecticut hometown. His preoccupation with the instrument concerned his parents so much that they took him to see a psychiatrist, who assured them he was fine. 


Slash – aka Saul Hudson – originally started playing bass. He switched to guitar after hearing music teacher Robert Wolin play “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones. He started taking classes with Wolin, playing a one-stringed flamenco guitar gifted to him by his grandmother. Hudson was a champion BMX biker, but started devoting up to 12 hours a day to playing the guitar.

Jimi Hendrix

As an elementary schooler, young Hendrix took to carrying a broom with him to pretend it was a guitar. Hendrix first got his hands on a string instrument while helping his dad with a side job. The client allowed Jimi to keep an old, one-stringed ukulele that was among the items being removed from her home – and he taught himself by ear to play Elvis Presley songs. He bought his first guitar for $5 (about $51 in 2022) and played for hours every day. He listened to artists like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Robert Johnson for inspiration.

Kurt Cobain

Nirvana’s guitarist and frontman developed a love of music at an early age. He reportedly started singing at two years old, and started playing the piano at age four, composing his first song – about a trip to a park. For his 14th birthday in 1981, Cobain’s uncle let him choose his gift – a bike or a used guitar. Cobain picked the guitar. He learned to play some songs by Led Zeppelin and Queen before starting to write his own songs. He played guitar left-handed, despite being forced to write right-handed. 

Eric Clapton

The “Cream” guitarist got his first guitar for his 13th birthday, but it was so difficult to play that he lost interest until two years later. Blues music was Clapton’s biggest inspiration – he practiced learning the chords by playing along to blues records. By age 16, he was getting noticed for his skills and began busking around London.


However, if you want fast, real results, guitar lessons can get you there faster. Fret Zealot’s ecosystem of guitar lessons allows users to learn guitar how they want – when they have time, wherever they are. Rather than having to travel to a guitar teacher, Fret Zealot users can access lessons from world-class instructors from their phones. 

There are lots of courses for complete beginners, which will teach you the basics like notes, chords, strumming, and finger positions, and from there, you can learn what interests you – whether it’s delving into simple song lessons or working on more advanced techniques like pentatonic scales or riffs. 

Plus, the Fret Zealot app contains every note, scale, and chord – so you’ll never have to resort to books or diagrams. 

According to TakeLessons.com, the average cost of in-person guitar lessons in the U.S. is $30 to $60 an hour. With Fret Zealot, you’ll save money on the cost of guitar lessons, plus gas or transportation and any books an in-person tutor may require. The biggest saving is time – you can simply take out your phone anytime, and get to learning. 


Songs you can play with just four chords

There are a lot of songs you can play with just three chords – here are songs you can play with only four!


You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC 

Chords used: G, C, D, G/B. 

Angus Young uses power chords to play the rhythm part of this song. If you need help figuring out power chords, check out this course!


Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison 

Chords used: C, D, G, Em. 


Four chords and a little fingerpicking are all you need to master this classic.

Creep – Radiohead

Chords used: G, B, C, Cm


If you have trouble with the Cm barre chord, check out this easy barre chord course! 

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Chords used:  F, Bb, Ab, and C#

Kurt Cobain used a lot of power chords and barre chords in his playing style. Learn more about his unique style with this course.

With or Without You – U2

Chords used: G, D, Em, C 


Learn this U2 favorite with easy “cowboy” open chords! 


Photograph – Ed Sheeran 

Chords used:  D, Bm, A, and G


This lesson includes a play-along video so you can make sure you have the rhythm right. 


Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton 

Chords used: A, E, Bm, D. 


Another song that sounds great with “cowboy” chords. 


Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker 

Chords used: G, D, Em, and C 


This popular song is perfect for beginners. 


Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash 

Chords used: E, E7, A, and B7


This simple chord progression gets bluesy with the addition of 7th chords. 


Five great country songs to learn on guitar

There’s something about country music that’s perfect for a six-string. Here are five great country songs you can learn on guitar – and the step-by-step lessons to learn them. 


Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton 

Chris Stapleton’s cover of “Tennessee Whiskey” is a huge crossover hit – it made it to number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 after its release in 2015. The original version was recorded by David Allen Coe in 1981.

Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker/Old Crow Medicine Show

This song, popularized by Darius Rucker, is made up of a simple four-chord progression. The chorus and melody were written by Bob Dylan in the 1970s, and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show wrote the verses 25 years later. 

Somethin’ Bad – Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert

Country stars Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert teamed up for this 2014 hit – an all-woman take on the “bro country” genre that was rising in popularity at the time. The song was originally written as a male/female duet, but the lyrics were tweaked for the Underwood/Lambert pairing. 

Man! I Feel Like a Woman! – Shania Twain

Country superstar Shania Twain wrote this track for her third studio album with longtime collaborator and then-husband Robert John “Mutt” Lange. Twain said the title of the song was inspired by drag queens who worked at the same Canadian resort she worked at while providing for her brothers and sisters after their parents’ death. The video is a gender-swapped homage to Robert Palmer’s videos which featured glassy-eyed models as backup dancers. 

Friends in Low Places – Garth Brooks

Songwriters Earl Bud Lee and Dewayne Blackwell penned this jukebox classic in 1989. According to Lee, he was at lunch in Nashville with a group of fellow songwriters when he realized he forgot his wallet, but said “Don’t worry, I have friends in low places, I know the cook”. Lee and Blackwell gave the song to Garth Brooks – who they had met when he was a salesman at a Nashville shoe store – and it was the last demo session Brooks ever did as a singer. Brooks’ version was the lead single on his second studio album. 


Check out these lessons for other great country songs on Fret Zealot!

The top 5 Fret Zealot courses of 2023

Fret Zealot has guitar courses for all skill levels, genres, and techniques. These are the five top courses for 2023. 


30 Day Beginner Challenge 

One month is all it takes to learn the basics of guitar with this course. 


The Total Beginner’s Guitar Course (Level 1)

This is a great course for complete novices at guitar. It breaks down guitar anatomy, how to tune, finger exercises, as well as first chords and strumming.

Electric Guitar Beginners – Level 1

This beginner’s course will teach you chords, how to read chord charts, and how to strum in time. 

Acoustic Beginners – Level 1

This course, which covers chords, strumming, and good practice habits, is all about setting the foundations of your guitar education journey. 


Acoustic Guitar Lessons For Beginners

This step-by-step program takes the guesswork out of what and how to practice. It breaks down music theory into easy-to-understand sections.

Read more:

Review: Pentatonic Protocols guitar course by Robbie Calvo

How to choose between over a hundred courses available on Fret Zealot

These are the top five guitars in the Fret Zealot store in 2023

These are the five most popular guitars from the Fret Zealot store in 2023! 

Epiphone Slash Pack

Designed by Slash himself, the AFD Les Paul Special-II has more appointments than most electric guitars. Topped with AAA flame maple, this guitar also features a dark cherry mahogany body and neck, ivory binding, and a silk print of Slash’s Snakepit logo on the headstock. The first time you plug into a high-gain amp, the AFD Les Paul Special-II’s Ceramic Plus Zebra-coil humbuckers will treat you to the thick, overdriven, screaming metallic tone that Slash made famous. Complete with a premium gig bag and signature guitar picks the Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special-II Outfit is a great bundle for beginners or anybody who is searching for a quality, affordable electric guitar.

Check out this review! 

Epiphone PR-4E

The Epiphone PR-4E Pack gives you a great-sounding acoustic-electric guitar and much more! You get a quality Epiphone PR-4E acoustic-electric guitar that sounds amazing unplugged or amplified, with a comfortable neck for easy fretting. You also get an acoustic guitar amp, a gig bag, electronic tuner, strap, and picks. When you learn to play on a quality acoustic-electric instrument that sounds good and feels right, you’ll be inspired to keep playing.  That’s what the affordable Epiphone PR-4E Pack gives you.

Yamaha FG800



Try this guitar’s acoustic/electric counterpart, the FGX800C. 

Epiphone Player Pack

The Epiphone Les Paul Player Pack gives you a great guitar, combo amplifier, and everything else you need to get started playing electric guitar! You get a quality Epiphone Les Paul electric solidbody guitar with two humbucking pickups and a fast neck for easy fretting, a 10-watt amplifier with a clean/crunch switch, a gig bag, a clip-on tuner, a strap, and picks. When you learn to play on a quality instrument that sounds good, you’ll be inspired to keep playing. Quality, great sound, and affordability are what the Epiphone Les Paul Player Pack gives you.

Check out this review. 

Epiphone DR-100

The DR-100 has the look, sound, and build quality that first time players and professionals expect to find when they pick up an Epiphone. The dreadnought is considered the classic go-to shape for bluegrass, folk, rock, country, and everything in-between. The dreadnought sound is commanding when required, but its balanced sound means that at any volume, you can be heard and hear yourself well, too.

Click here for the review.

These are Fret Zealot’s top five new lessons of 2023!

We unveiled lots of brand new song lessons this year – from AC/DC to ZZ Top. Here are the five most popular song lessons we released in 2023. 

Purple Rain – Prince

“Purple Rain” is the title track for Prince’s 1984 album and film of the same name – but it was originally intended to be a collaboration with former Fleetwood Mac frontwoman Stevie Nicks. Nicks said Prince sent her a ten-minute instrumental version of the song and requested that she write the lyrics. Nicks declined, saying it was too much for her. Prince brought the song to his band instead, and by the next day, had “Purple Rain” as we know it arranged. 


Creep – Radiohead 

Radiohead’s debut single “Creep” – and one of their most successful songs – wasn’t supposed to be released at all. The band recorded the song at the request of their producers and released it as a single in 1992. It didn’t become a hit until it was re-released in 1993. 


Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver 

Songwriting team Taffy Nivert and Bill Danoff were driving through Maryland when the inspiration for “Country Roads, Take Me Home” struck. They were originally going to sell the song to Johnny Cash, but John Denver “flipped” when he heard that news, and had to have the song for himself. The song is one of West Virginia’s four official state anthems. It was selected to go in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2023.

Hells Bells – AC/DC

The creepy bell featured at the start of this 1980 track is an actual 2,000 lbs. bronze bell. It was recorded using a mobile studio inside of the bell’s foundry in England.

Come As You Are – Nirvana

Read more:

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