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Using the 80 20 Rule for Learning Guitar

This week I want to turn you on to a great blog posts I read on Tim Ferriss’ blog titled How I Finally Learned Guitar: 80/20 and Minimalist Music. Tim Ferriss is the author of the book the four hour workweek. I really enjoyed his blog

The 80/20 Rule

In short the 80/20 rule is referring to a principal that you can often get a large percentage of the results you want by finding the right 20% of either actions or specific things to concentrate on. In this case it's referring to getting started on the guitar in getting the most bang for your buck for the amount of time that you spend in the beginning stages.

A New Take On D – C – G

The post describe starting with three basic chords – the D chord, the C chord and the G chord. The fingering is a little different than I teach at first. The D is the same, but the C is played while keeping the third and fourth finger on the first and second string.

This gives you a kind of an anchor. The G chord also is played with the same third and fourth finger in the same place. It has a secondary advantage of making some very beautiful sounding chords.

Using A Capo

You'll find that he recommends using a capo to make it easier on the fingers. I think this may not be useful for everyone but it's worth a try and I created the video using the capo on the second fret.

Comments Are The Best Part

I'd encourage you to read the comments in the post as well. I found a lot of great tips and information there as well as different viewpoints on the best way to start.

About Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is the author of the book “The 4 Hour Workweek”, “The Four Hour Body” and “The Four Hour Chef”. He's best known for finding ways to get more done in less time and for the most efficient ways to master any skill.

I find his blog both inspiring and a source of many useful ideas and tips.

Here’s the Link to the Post:

How to Finally Play the Guitar: 80/20 Guitar and Minimalist Music

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  1. Thanks for the tip Tomas. Fingering variations for the different chords is a study in itself. Always good to hear from you. 🙂

  2. Tomas, I like this! Easy to learn and a good method to play the GCD. The C doesn’t sound like the standard C, even with Capo 2. Bothers me. May be my ear. I am curious about how you feel about the C. Thanks again. Joe

  3. I have to admit I was dubious at first, Tomas. Capo EVERYTHING (?) 2 and then “dumb down” every song to D-C-G, huh? But then I tried play along with you in the above video. Hmmm. It DOES sound good, and it’s a lot easier to change between the chords played this way then in the usual way. Also, I find that when I’m learning new songs, I often “dumb them down” a bit . . . why struggle with a Bm chord when I don’t have to? So I change the key by capo and then LEAVE OUT (sorry 🙁 ) the chords that don’t really sound necessary to me. I know this method isn’t going to make me a “real” guitar player, but I still get a lot of fun out of playing. Now I just need to get a really good clamp capo. You’ve made a believer out of me! But what about learning and using all the other “real music” stuff? Like bar chords, and “hard to play chords,” etc. In other words, where does it all fit together . . . or does it?

    Katherine Hageland

    1. Hi Katherine,

      I’m glad you found my last update useful. As I mentioned I got this from a post on the Tim Ferriss blog. It’s one of the few useful and good sounding “dumbing down” suggestions that I’ve found. I usually stay away from that kind of stuff.

      I think of this lesson as just a small piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t take away from learning more advanced chords anymore than learning a few survival language phrases when traveling to another country takes the place of becoming fluent in the language. Two different things, though not mutually exclusive.

      As far as ” where does it all fit together?”, I’m not exactly sure how to answer that. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive and systematic approach that is why I created my course Real Guitar Awesomeness.

      And still always looking for new and fun things to add to my teaching repertoire.

      Take care Katherine,


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