I receive more requests for lessons or advices than I would have ever imagined so I might as well answer here and summarize the various answers I have been giving so far.

First, I am flattered by those requests.
Second, I am not exactly a music teacher, I am not giving guitar lessons in person or online and never did.
That's the short answer, if you don't need advices for beginners from an amateur guitarist you can stop reading here.

Two problems

When I read that a beginner wants to learn soukous guitar I see two distinct problems he or she has to solve:
one is learning how to play guitar; the second one is learning how to play soukous guitar. The second requires the first one to be dealt with.
One thing is certain: there is no way around long hours spent playing and practicing deliberately with intelligence every day if you want to play like a pro (which I am not and maybe you also don't want to be).

Solo or not?

First choice: you can learn by yourself, with the support of books, videos, dvd, internet stuff etc., or you can find a guitar teacher and take a good lesson every week.
There are many amazing guitarists who are self taught but my advice is to go for the second option: find a good teacher, even better if it is in a music school, because what you really need is some guidance to move your first steps, a lot of feedback to quickly correct the mistakes that you will tend to make as a beginner, and some peer support for the moments when you feel like quitting or you just need to play with someone who shares your passion.
In my experience the most difficult thing as a beginner is to have the patience to wait for the results while committing to daily practice. A teacher should give you support also with that, helping you with your practice schedule and commitment.


Don't worry too much about the style that you learn as a beginner, the basics are the same for all guitar styles and you can play soukous guitar with the pick or with your fingers. I believe what they call flatpicking or american country guitar are the closest things to soukous guitar. Classical guitar will work as well and regarding rock or metal they are ok as well, but if a teacher makes you practice as a beginner with the distortion on, then find a better teacher.


Talking more specifically about soukous guitar: I am using soukous as an umbrella definition, meaning anything that came out of Congo, from the early rumba on Ngoma records from the 40s and 50s, to the latest video of Flamme Kapaya (I know, it is awfully broad and wrong, but I need to simplify).
The basic structure of soukous guitar playing is at least as simple as the basic blues structure: one scale (diatonic major for soukous) and three chords (I-IV-V in various combination). If you don't understand the previous sentence that's a good point to start your study: find the explanation, search, ask around. If you have a guitar teacher who can't explain that sentence, then find a better teacher.
Soukous guitar is not taught in the same massive and sistematic way as for instance country guitar, or blues guitar are. I believe it should be.

Learning Process

There are three main aspects of this learning process:
a) gain the necessary technical skills, the knowledge and the mental and physical dexterity necessary
b) learn how the musicians you like and admire use those skills and technical knowledge
c) put everything in practice possibly every day, play with other musicians and in front of other people, in bars, garages, church, concert halls, anywhere

Let's expand on those three points
In terms of knwoledge all you need in order to play most of what we call soukous guitar is:
1) main basic chord shapes, major and dominant 7 all over the fretboard
2) diatonic major scale, played anywhere on the fretboard (mainly on the first four strings for solos) also in intervals of 3ds, 4ths, 6ths, 8ths, 10ths. Major pentatonic scale is also used, although depending on your approach it could fall into position playing around the chord shapes.
3) harmonization of the diatonic major scale (harmonisation de la gamme majeure diatonique)

These are standard lessons that you learn no matter the style: from Andres Segovia to Paul Gilbert. There are tons of tutorial on those topics, just search them.

The easiest way to learn from other great musicians when you can't spend time with them or watch them playing live is to learn from their records. Transcriptions are key in this process. Pull down from records, learn and play as many songs and guitar parts as you can, possibly all the ones you like and then some more. The saxophonist David Liebman has written an excellent article titled "The Transcription Process" on how to use transcriptions to learn a specific style, train your creativity and build your own style on the shoulders of the musicians you admire. I am not providing a link because the article comes and goes from Liebman's website and can be found elsewhere on the Internet. Just do a search. My advice is to read very carefully at least the first three pages, maybe with the help of somebody more experienced so that you can really understand the method and how to apply it.


Your best friend when you work on these first two items is the metronome. The metronome is the simplest and most effective way to discipline your work and measure your achievements.

Play every part that you want to learn slow enough that you can play it without mistakes, practice at that speed trying to play it four times in a row without mistakes and with a good sound, then start increasing the speed and play until the mistakes become prevalent. You should see your base speed, the one at which you can play the solo, the scale or the difficult passage perfectly clean four times in a row without pauses, increasing gradually but significantly over a number of days and weeks before reaching a plateau. This applies to scales as well.  If there is a passage that is particularly difficult then isolate it and work on it separately before going back to the whole piece.

Critical Mass

Once, after all that work, you have learned and memorized very well at least ten good solos from Diblo, Kapaya, Kimoko, Makaba etc you will see that at that point you are able to start making up your own lines. Once those solos are thirty or fifty you will see that your hands will start playing as soon as you hear a chord even if you don't know the song in advance. Keep in mind that in music ten is a very large number: if you are in a jam session and you play ten different solos, ten distinct musical ideas, over the same song/chord progression, that would be considered an extraordinary performance anywhere anytime.

There isn't much to add: just do it. If you don't use what you learn, then it is going to be difficult to retain and progress will lag. Playing with and for others is what will put together and accrue all the practice and study you do. That said, remember that not everybody has to become a professional.

I am not going to tell you how important your passion and grit are in all this process, or that you should enjoy what you do etc; you should know that already and this is not a cheesy coming-of-age story anyway.

This is the modest advice I can give to a beginner. If something else comes to my mind I will update this post.

Hope this helps