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The Best Way to Learn to Play the Guitar

June 16, 2017

Learn to Play GuitarWhat is the best way for ME to learn how to play the guitar?

This question may never have entered your mind, but it’s an important question to ask. Everyone has an optimal learning method, but you may not know which method is best for you. By investing a little time in determining your learning style, you can potentially save yourself from months or years of frustration and hundreds of dollars spent on guitar learning methods that just aren’t right for you.

So what do I mean by learning method or style?

There are many ways to pick up knowledge. One way is through personal experience or the “school of hard knocks.” Another way is through the experiences of others – being taught what to do or not to do (otherwise known as wisdom). Are you more of a hands-on, “I’ll figure it out on my own” person, or do you prefer a structured environment with a clear-cut path for you to follow? And then you have folks that learn better through a shared experience, like a team building exercise. The combined knowledge and intuition of the group grows and educates the individual.

So what does all this have to do with learning how to play the guitar? And what does it mean to you?

Many educational options are available today for guitar. You have traditional lessons, free online videos and instructional websites, subscription websites, downloadable guitar courses, full DVD courses, even complete college certificates and degrees in music focused on guitar. Based on the amount of interaction you need to learn something new, some options are better than others for learning guitar. Let’s break them down:

Tutor or Lessons

These are the usual routes for music instruction. If you happen to have an instructor that has a music education background, you will likely end up getting a very traditional curriculum. You’ll cover the basics of the guitar with an emphasis on music theory. It’s possible that the instructor’s main instrument isn’t a guitar at all.

Other guitar tutors will focus more on what you want to get out of the lessons. For example, let’s say you’re a big fan of the Beatles or Metallica. You could have some songs in mind that you want to play in the course of learning guitar techniques. Your instructor would then develop the lesson plan to teach you the basics of the guitar while you learn the songs you want to know.

Ideally, you get an instructor that knows how to mix the basics of theory along with learning new songs. Doing so will keep you more excited about learning the instrument.

If you are interested in different approaches to techniques, you might invest in some guitar courses in addition to your regular lessons. This can certainly make for more interesting and exciting sessions with your instructor, as you can discuss things you have learned on your own and potentially accelerate learning guitar techniques.

Self Taught.

Some people have the knack to learn things on their own. It could be a stubbornness that they just don’t want to be told how to do something, or it could be an ability to focus on one aspect at a time. It may also be a confidence that they don’t need someone to show them how to play guitar – they will figure it out.

The self-taught learner usually has guitarists or bands they admire and want to replicate, so they will invest hours working on learning the songs of that artist. This is a good technique because you develop your ability to hear and duplicate techniques and playing styles.

Many times they will read free online articles, study guitar tablature (tabs), watch free instructional videos and purchase songbooks and guitar chords chart. However, this is a most difficult way to learn. Most people don’t have the discipline to focus their efforts.

Fortunately, there are many options open to the self-learner. Online subscription guitar sites and downloadable courses let you study and practice in the privacy of your home, but also give you access to a mentor or instructor, so you don’t have to figure everything out yourself. Dominic Fraser, who has trained many students to play guitar, goes by the mantra “All students are self-taught,” meaning, a student will only learn if they have an open mind and the dedication required to learn.


Finally, some guitar players enjoy learning new things by playing with better guitarists/musicians. This certainly helped me as I grew as a guitarist. When you jam with better musicians, you can pick up tips and tricks that increase your abilities quickly. By working with another guitarist or a band, there is a natural urge to step up your game so you can keep up with the others. As long as the environment is one where the primary interest is in improving and reaching some goal together (such as playing a gig or recording), this is an incredible way to grow your playing ability.

There is also dynamic in working with other musicians that allow you to develop a sense of timing and rhythm that you don’t learn as well on your own. The team atmosphere is a lot of fun, too, especially when you work through learning songs together. Combine this with other learning methods, and you’ll be rocking it out before you know it!

Which Works Best For You?

So what kind of learner are you? Are you strongly independent? Do you want someone to teach you exactly how and what to work on in a very structured setting, or is a combination of methods best for you? Probably the best way to determine is to look at other areas of your life and think about what has worked for you in the past. Did you prefer having someone guide you through a process or did you want to try it out yourself the first time through?

If you are more independent and enjoy learning at your pace, self-instruction is a great way to go. If you are more likely to wander and get distracted in your studies, you should consider the more structured, instructor-led methods of learning guitar. This includes the courses you can purchase online and download, as these usually work through a series of lessons.

And don’t be shy – find a group to jam with. You will not only have a lot of fun – you will also improve in areas of musicianship you probably never considered. To drastically improve your chances of success in learning how to play the guitar, click here.



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