How I Learnt the Guitar

Hey guys,

Well, I thought that as you’re on my website, I should probably introduce myself!
This is me, Rob Barnes, creator of Chainsaw Guitar Tuition
My name is Rob and I’m the man behind ‘Chainsaw Guitar Tuition’. As well as running this website, and the YouTube channel, I also teach private lessons (either in person, or via Skype or webcam).

In fact, I have taught many students, over the years, to achieve high levels on their instruments. So, I would consider myself a pretty competent teacher, and guitarist…but it hasn’t always been this way!

I started out as a clueless newbie, just like anyone else. This is my story, and how I’ve gone from complete beginner, to a competent guitarist- and you how can do the same!

I mean, if even I can do this, I’m sure you can!

The Beginnings

Everybody has to start somewhere, right? For me it was around the summer of the year 2000. I found my Mum’s old classical guitar, which needed fixing together- and it still didn’t sound like the best guitar in the world! There were no fret markers, and the strings were way above the frets!

Still, I wanted to learn to play guitar! I knew that one day I would have the skill to get past this…or at least the money to buy a better guitar…

Around this time I also bought my first issue of ‘Guitarist’ magazine. I was still a complete beginner with all of this stuff and got the magazine because it had a free set of strings.

These later turned out to be electric guitar strings…which were no good to me just yet. As I said, I was still clueless about this stuff!

Still, I would attempt to play the songs tabbed out in the magazine (with varying degrees of success…).

Moving to Electric

For the first full year that I played guitar, all I had was an acoustic. I learned a lot about finger-style playing in this year, but I knew I really needed to move on.
Rob Barnes of Chainsaw Guitar Tuition when he was at school
At this point, I didn’t even know what a pick was! I just assumed that all guitar playing was done finger-style.

Yes, I was actually that clueless when I started out!

Anyway, after a year of saving up, I had half the money I needed. Fortunately, my birthday was just coming up, and my parents helped me with the rest of the money. I was also fast becoming a fan of Jimi Hendrix, which might have influenced me on buying a Squier Stratocaster beginner pack (similar to this one).

Again, not the best guitar in the world, but that didn’t matter. I finally had an electric guitar!

Through the School System

I studied music through A Level exams at school. This training meant that by the time I left school, I could read music, and had studied the works of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven etc.

I really wanted to go and study more modern styles. This is why, around the same time, I took graded exams for guitar. I finally reached grade 8 (the highest grade) in about a year (with the help of a private guitar tutor, of course!).

It was a crazy year of study (and I mean CRAZY!), but it was worth it. I mean, at least now I wasn’t a complete beginner!

Studying Hard

Then, I applied to music college- the ACM in Guildford.
Me with my band Frosthammer from many years ago
I should probably state, at this point, that everything was not going as smoothly as it sounds. Those graded exams are not easy! Although I’d been playing for around 4 years by now- it still took an epic amount of practise and dedication to achieve that.

I just don’t want you to think I found this part easy! I know what it’s like to struggle with this stuff.

I also didn’t seem to get on with the music teacher I had at school- which meant a lot of my studying was done in my own time. I had hired a separate teacher to teach me on weekends, just to get through the school music exam.

The situation wasn’t great, but I was still as determined as ever!

To Music College

When I started music college, the problems were over, right?


I could have gone on to study classical music at University. However, the music college worked on a different system. So they preferred me to be on the beginner level course.

By this point I was also already teaching guitar privately. Some days I would literally be in a lecture learning what I’d been teaching the previous evening…

It just wasn’t at the same level as the previous crazy year of study.

Soldiering On

I continued with my studies, anyway- and met some great friends along the way. I spoke to the college about being moved to a higher level course, but they assumed that I was being a bit of a ‘know-it-all’ and were less than encouraging!

Looking back, maybe I should have dropped the ‘lead guitarist’ ego a bit, haha!

Although, I had now seen the mistakes that can be made by some teachers…

Actually, I should point out that there were also good teachers both at my school, and at the college. So it wasn’t all bad! However, this showed me that it can only take one discouraging teacher to put someone off forever. Although I was determined, this almost happened to me, too.

I will never let that happen to one of my own guitar students!

Guitar Overkill!

So, despite some setbacks, I’m still determined to master the electric guitar! By this point, I was practising around 7 or 8 hours a day. I would be playing guitar all day, and then teaching in the evenings.

I must have been getting really good by now, right? I mean, practising all day, and then teaching?

Well, it turns out practising for 8 hours a day is not the best way to get good at guitar (you might be relieved to hear)! In fact, I had to stop this pretty extreme routine after waking up one day and not being able to feel my hand. Pretty scary stuff!
This is me, Rob Barnes, creator of Chainsaw Guitar Tuition
I had just been playing WAAAY too much!

The problem was that my method wasn’t yet perfected. By comparison, I now practise for a maximum of two hours a day, and I have improved a lot faster. All because of what I learnt (and put into practise) from these mistakes.

That doesn’t mean you can’t- or shouldn’t- play for 8 hours a day. It just means you need to know how to use that time most effectively.

Developing the System

All of this lead me to develop the ‘Full Rock System’, which I’ll be explaining in the next post. Make sure you’re signed up to the mailing list (if you’re not already) to be sent the link and find out how I went from this:

  • Ineffective practise routines
  • I couldn’t to use the theory that I knew
  • I couldn’t to use advanced techniques smoothly in solos
  • I had lots of tension when playing fast

To this:

  • Easy and effective practise routines
  • Effortless use of more advanced theory
  • Calm, relaxed playing- even when playing faster techniques

I’ll explain everything in the next post, so make sure you’re signed up to receive updates!

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