The Intermediate Guitarist Checklist

Andrew Clarke  /  Articles UPDATED Mar 23, 2023

Every single guitar player that’s ever existed has been a beginner at some point. For you, that might even be right now. But how do you know when you’ve broken out of the beginner stage and can officially call yourself an intermediate guitar player?

Well, everyone has a slightly different set of criteria they use to make that judgement. In this article, we’ll give you our checklist of things every intermediate guitar player should be able to do. If you feel like one of these points could use some work, we’ve included a link to a helpful lesson for each topic listed here.

It’s important to remember that these things can vary depending on your goals. An intermediate heavy metal guitarist will have different skills than an intermediate fingerstyle guitarist. The skills and concepts in this article focus on the more general items that every beginner should have conquered. Let’s get into the first video.

Are You An Intermediate Guitar Player?

In this video, Nate Savage dives into the 16 topics he thinks every beginner guitarist should know before they can call themselves an intermediate player. 

Change Chords Smoothly

To be considered an intermediate guitar player you’ll need to know how to change between open chords smoothly. This one is pretty obvious and if you’re reading this article you probably already know how to do this. But if you still find yourself struggling, we have the perfect lesson for you: 10 Tips For Guitar Chord Transitions

Power Chords

The next technique is power chords. Power chords are the foundation for rock music and are used in almost every genre to some extent. These simple chords contain only the root and fifth of a chord and are especially useful since the shape never changes no matter where you use it. Check out lesson #2 of our Rhythm Guitar Quick-Start Series: How To Play Power Chords

Bar Chords

Here’s where things start to get tough. Bar chords aren’t easy to pick up right away. It will take you time to build up the strength and dexterity to be able to use them properly. If you’re struggling with your bar chords, we have a full in-depth guide that will help: Bar Chord Survival Guide

Notes On Low E & A Strings

Next up we have to talk about some of the basic theory that goes along with playing the guitar. At the bare minimum, you should know the note names on the low E and A strings on the guitar. The only way to get this down is through straight-up memorization. Check out Ayla’s lesson on Navigating The Fretboard For Beginners

Basic Strumming Patterns

Strumming goes hand in hand with playing guitar chords. You’ll need to know some basic strumming patterns before you can call yourself an intermediate. Check out Nate Savage’s 5 Essential Strumming Patterns. If you want to take your strumming patterns even further Ayla’s lesson on 5 Unique Strumming Patterns You Should Know. 

Play With A Metronome

It’s no secret that metronomes can be kind of boring to use. But having a developed sense of timing is essential for being able to play with other musicians. This all starts by learning how to play along to a metronome. There is a completely free metronome available that you can access by simply Googling “Metronome”.

Hear The Difference Between Major & Minor Chords

Ear Training has become something of a lost art among beginner guitar players. With the prevalence of guitar tabs it seems less necessary to be able to recognize the qualities of a chord with just your ear. Here’s a great video lesson to help you develop your ear for guitar: Major vs Minor – Can You Tell The Difference?

Identify The Key Of A Song

Music is made up of 12 different keys. These different keys all contain different combinations of chords. Being able to recognize the key of a song is important for soloing and also for being able to figure out the chords of a song. This skill is instrumental for any intermediate guitar player. Learn how to find the key of a song with this video lesson from Andrew Clarke: Instantly Find The Key Of Your Favorite Song

Understand Music Theory For Keys & Chords

Music theory is an essential part of playing the guitar whether we like it or not. Knowing how chords are made, what a key of music is, and how scales are made is an integral part of being a good musician. If you don’t feel confident in your knowledge of music theory for the guitar you can check out our best music theory lesson here: 8 Steps To Understand Music Theory

Play Complete Songs

The culmination of all our time and effort spent practicing and learning theory is playing songs on our beloved instrument. Being able to play complete songs is a massive accomplishment and makes all the struggling worth it. If you’re looking for 5 easy songs to get started with you can check out Ayla Tesler-Mabe’s 5 Easy Guitar Songs For Beginners.

If playing songs on the guitar is your main goal, then we have something extra special for you. Build all the knowledge and develop the skills to be able to play 500 songs on the guitar in just 5 days of work! Learn more here: 500 Songs In 5 Days 

The Blues Scale

There are many different guitar scales you can learn. Thankfully, there are only a handful of scales we’d consider essential. The blues scale is one of those essentials. It takes the minor pentatonic and adds a single “flavor” note to make your solos and licks sound more bluesy. Learn all about the blues scale in our 5 Essential Guitar Scales guitar lesson.

The Major Scale

The king of all guitar scales is the major scale. It’s considered the king because almost all western music is based on it. Not only is it useful for playing guitar solos, but it’s also key to making chords, chord progressions, melodies, and harmonies. If you haven’t mastered the major scale yet, be sure to dive into our Guide To The Major Scale On Guitar.

The Major Pentatonic Scale

Another essential guitar scale is the major pentatonic scale. This scale is known for how relevant it is in just about every genre of music. It takes the major scale and removes two notes to create a five-note scale. The removal of these notes makes it especially useful for soloing with. If you want to learn how to play the major pentatonic scale you can find it right here: 5 Essential Guitar Scales

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

The minor pentatonic scale is the most famous guitar scale. If you want to play epic guitar solos, then this scale is where you want to start. It’s closely related to the major pentatonic scale but has a minor sound instead. Like our other important guitar scales, you can learn all about the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson: 5 Essential Guitar Scales

If you already know the minor pentatonic scale and want to learn how to break out of the basic scale box shape, Ayla created the perfect lesson for you: Breaking Out Of The Minor Pentatonic Scale

Lead Techniques: Picking, Bending, Sliding, & Vibrato

There are plenty of different guitar techniques out there for you to learn. When it comes to lead guitar, an intermediate guitar player should be proficient with picking, bending, sliding, and vibrato. These techniques make up the foundation of lead guitar for just about every style of music. To brush up on any of these skills, you can access our library of free technique lessons here: Guitar Technique Video Lessons

Bonus: Read Sheet Music

This last one is a bit of a bonus. Being able to read sheet music depends entirely on your goals as a guitar player. If you plan on playing classical music or with classical musicians, then being able to read some sheet music is a good idea. If you just want to play the blues or join a rock band, then knowing how to read sheet music won’t be nearly as important. 

At the end of the day, it’s totally up to you if you want to learn How To Read Sheet Music for guitar.

Are You Still A Beginner?

So you’ve made it through our checklist for intermediate guitar players and you’ve realized you’re still a beginner. What do you do next? How do you take it to that next level? Well, Ayla’s video on the 4 most important things you need to practice as a beginner is a great place to start. Check it out!

More Lessons You’ll Love

20 Chords Every Intermediate Guitar Player Needs To Know

Bolster your personal guitar chord library with this helpful video lesson. Nate Savage shares twenty chords that are useful for beginner and intermediate guitar players to know. Download the free PDF chord chart.

Guitar Techniques To Make You Sound Like A Rock God

It’s no secret that our favorite guitar heroes have their own approach to technique. That’s what makes them stand out among the rest. In this lesson, Ayla shares a few iconic techniques used by some of your guitar heroes.

6 Exercises From Iconic Songs

Did you know some of the best guitar exercises can be found in some of our favorite songs? In this video lesson, you’ll be able to download the backing tracks and practice along with songs by KISS, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Link Wray, Lynard Skynard, and Led Zeppelin!

Andrew Clarke is a guitarist, educator, and content creator from Vancouver, Canada. He's best known for his YouTube channel, where he creates easy-to-follow guitar lessons and informative guitar gear videos. Andrew also manages The Riff.

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