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There are dozens of methods and approaches when it comes to learning how to play any given instrument; despite the fact that guitar is one of the simpler ones, it can still be pretty hard and frustrating for beginners.
Today, we’re here to discuss some of the best ways to learn guitar, so without any further ado, let’s get straight to it.
Here are the best ways to learn guitar:
1. Listening to bands perform and acquaint yourself with the basics of music theory
The best way to teach yourself guitar is by actually developing your ears before you move over to the sphere of finger dexterity. Many professional teachers and educators will tell you that beginnings are incredibly important for a plethora of reasons – the most important being the process of developing certain habits.
By listening to other bands you’ll get a certain taste for quality that should not be confused with your personal taste for music. We all love some bands more than others; what we’re talking about here is the fact that you will be able to discern the guitar’s tone, the techniques the player uses, the synergy of the instruments, and so on.
Obviously, it’s easier to try to play something you’ve heard before, mainly because you’re at least subconsciously familiar with it. Aspiring guitar players who perceived music as background noise prior to picking up an instrument typically have weak foundations and a rather shallow pool of tools at their disposal when it comes to trying out unknown guitar techniques, scales, chords, and so on.
There are no real drawbacks to this approach other than that you won’t be actually practicing guitar playing. The knowledge of music theory will vastly help you develop ‘healthy’ playing habits, which beats playing the same scales and chords for months.
Now, the only real issue with this method is that it creates a rabbit hole that is very easy to fall into. Once you’ve grasped the basics you will want to try them out as soon as possible; this leaves most people with ‘partial’ knowledge regarding numerous techniques rather than a comprehensive understanding of the gist of it.
Some of the websites you may want to look at are Teoria and 8Notes for start. Both of them offer free content and beginner-friendly user interface that will certainly help you understand the fundamentals of what a guitar is as an instrument, how to read sheet music, a variety of beginner riffs and licks, and a number of cool, interactive games and quizzes that you can use to test your newly-acquired knowledge.
- Focused listening to other bands will expand your musicality and creativity.
- It’s easier to spot different styles of playing by learning basic music theory.
- Most information regarding the basics can be found on the net for free.
- YouTube offers access to the vast majority of bands and their content (live and recorded).
- Helps develop healthy playing habits.
- Playing discipline is often left on the wayside.
- Doesn’t help with actual playing.
- Inferior to learning from actual teachers.
- Not all music theory content on the internet has merit.
2. Becoming a roadie
Another, and arguably one of the best ways to start learning guitar is watching how the professionals do it every day for weeks and months at end.
Furthermore, you’ll be surrounded by sound engineers, technicians, and a variety of other backstage professionals who are in charge of the gear, so this is also an excellent way to learn electric guitar basics.
Now, this approach is fairly common for outgoing people that are at least remotely connected to their local scenes. It doesn’t quite matter whether you know the most popular gigging bands in your area or have friends that can connect you with them, but there are several other factors that you should keep in mind.
First and foremost, you should search for bands that are looking for roadies in the first place; it doesn’t quite matter which kind of music they play, although you certainly won’t get much experience while touring with an EDM troupe, for example.
Pop, rock, and metal genres are generally considered to be the most guitar-heavy styles of music, so hitting up your local venues when any band that falls under the aforementioned categories might be your way in.
Musicians on the road typically live and breathe music; just like hunters talk about guns more than anything else and fishermen talk about nets, rods, and baits, guitarists will talk about their gear all the time, about their shows (past and upcoming), discuss new techniques, songs, talk about song structures, and so on.
One of the reasons why it might be a great idea for you to become a roadie if you want to learn how to play guitar is that you will be able to see firsthand how it is supposed to look like when it’s done correctly.
This will also help you understand a bit more what a band’s dynamic is supposed to look like; even bad examples are actually beneficial, as you will know what to look for and what to avoid, plus you will be able to make some cash at the same time.
While other approaches are more concerned about the actual playing, the essence of becoming a roadie affords you a first-row seat and a guaranteed backstage pass to the band you’re working for. The guitarists in that band will, in a way, become your guitar teachers while the other members of the crew will help you gain a direct understanding of guitar gear and accessories.
- This is an all-encompassing way to learn much about guitar playing, guitar gear, and band dynamics.
- You will get paid and get an opportunity to visit different places while learning from the band’s guitarists.
- Most bands consider their roadies and crew members as family, so you can count on friendly talks over drinks every once in a while.
- Learning directly from professionals is often better than learning from online lessons.
- Definitely not a way to go if you consider yourself an introverted person.
- Tackling different personalities on a daily basis makes this an actual job.
- It’s difficult to land a job as a roadie in areas where bands are seldom playing.
3. Playing / jamming with friends
The fastest way to learn guitar is by falling in love with the instrument and focusing on the entertainment you can get from playing it. Although this is completely subjective, most people enjoy playing with their friends rather than strumming to themselves in their bedroom.
This is a very natural approach for most people; in fact, a huge bunch of people has picked up an instrument simply because they wanted to play with some of their friends.
In a nutshell, this is the most straightforward approach to learning how to play the guitar laden with numerous benefits and only a couple of tiny potential drawbacks.
Playing with other people always leads to growth, but playing with friends is a bit different. The atmosphere under which you will be learning will not be as strict and formal as if you were in a band, which further means that you’ll be able to be comfortable, relaxed, all the while learning alongside your mates.
You don’t need a highly-skilled guitar player friend to be your mentor (although this would certainly make the things go a lot faster); even if a couple of immediate beginners came together to jam while knowing next to nothing about guitar, you’ll still be able to learn a lot through the sheer experience.
The main reason why we emphasize jamming rather than picking cover songs is that this way you will be able to make the atmosphere even cooler and more relaxed. Deciding and nailing down cover songs is much easier with an actual troupe of musicians.
One of the most obvious benefits of playing with friends as opposed to playing in a band is that you won’t need to worry too much about the rehearsal space. You don’t need to crank up your instruments all the way up to 10 in hopes of getting anywhere near the loudness of the drums, which also leaves you with an opportunity to organize jamming spots with more flexibility.
Although playing with friends is more fun-oriented, that doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the progress will be slow. It’s precisely because of this element of entertainment that you will feel more inclined to practice and play guitar more often. The situation in bands is not always the same, with the exceptions of the lucky few.
Since you’ll find yourself in a comfy, familiar atmosphere that doesn’t put too much stress on acquiring top-dollar gear, this is also one of the best ways to learn acoustic guitar too.
- Learning how to play guitar in a comfortable, familiar atmosphere motivates more than playing in bands, studying music theory, or being a roadie.
- There’s no emphasis on costly equipment, whereas you’ll need at least a ‘decent’ setup while playing with strangers.
- You’ll be able to form stronger relationships with your friends while simultaneously experiencing growth in terms of guitar-playing skills.
- It’s easier to find a spot where you will rehearse and jam as opposed to booking a rehearsal room.
- People grow at a different speed; your friends may want to keep the relationship with their guitar-playing casual while you want to move on to a bit more advanced levels (and vice versa).
- Numerous unpredictable and somewhat random aspects to this approach make it a bit less reliable form of learning how to play guitar.
4. Self-teaching with online lessons
In essence, the best way to learn guitar on your own is to be persistent, set your own tempo, and keep going at it until you notice that some progress is made. If you are into learning guitar on your own rather than enrolling in music schools, hiring a teacher, or playing with others, this is definitely the way to go.
The self-teaching aspect gives you total control of the entire learning process. You’ll be able to set your own pace and learn only the things that interest you. While some people may be a bit intimidated by this approach thinking that they know very little in regard to what they should even be learning there are still many positives to this method.
One of the best ways to start is with YouTube. There are dozens of free song tutorials, exercises, and comprehensive lessons, and more importantly, all the content is completely free. After a while, you will stumble across numerous endorsed clips that will lead you to related websites.
The only reason why this approach is not completely reliable is that many beginners lack the required amount of discipline to practice and learn every day. Furthermore, there’s no limit to clips you can watch, and a good portion of it is not entirely interesting (or even legit for that matter).
Again, the DIY approach is an excellent place to start, especially if you’ve just planted your feet in the world of guitar playing. The net of recommended videos, lessons, and clips will expand, tailored to your preferences, which makes it much easier to grow and develop your skills.
- Great for beginners who don’t want to invest in private lessons or teachers.
- The individualistic approach rewards a bit less outgoing types of people.
- Pick and choose which lessons, songs, licks, and riffs you want to learn.
- The lack of discipline usually leads to hitting a ‘plateau.
- Endless amount of content; sifting through relevant and irrelevant clips and lessons will take some time.
5. Taking online lessons / courses
Online lessons and courses is the category standing between teaching yourself how to play the guitar and enrolling in a music school. You’ll still be able to sit at home and choose your own pace, but you’ll have the help of a professional, just like you would in an actual music school.
Before we go any further it’s important to note that there are free and paid online lessons and courses. Paid lessons are further categorized in membership and unlockable courses, so it’s up to you to decide which path you should take.
Basically, the benefits of the DIY approach apply here while the drawback of the endless amount of content is eliminated.
- Most online guitar lesson websites have interactive forums.
- The vast majority of sites offer free trial previews of their content.
- Free lessons have no actual drawbacks.
- One of the best ways to learn how to play guitar for immediate beginners.
- Finding the right platform is the only potential drawback (shifting back and forth between websites).
- Not all online teachers are actually professionals.
- The best online guitar lessons (our reviews of the best websites and apps available)
6. Signing up for masterclasses
If you already have a certain degree of knowledge regarding music theory and guitar playing techniques, the best way to learn to play guitar might be to sign up for guitar masterclasses.
In essence, this is the best way to learn to play guitar, but it’s costly and it has a set of different prerequisites, which means that it might not be the perfect choice for a beginner per se. We’ve purposefully segregated this segment from similar categories as there are distinct differences between partaking in virtual courses, enrolling in music schools, and taking masterclasses.
First of all, masterclasses are normally orchestrated, directed, and filmed by professional musicians of renown. Masterclasses offer a variety of advantages that are completely unique, such as detailed descriptions of the gear these particular guitarists used, broad explanations of their technique, step-by-step tutorials regarding certain songs performed by them (or their band), and such.
That’s obviously the reason why masterclasses are typically better-suited for players with at least basic guitar knowledge and skill. This method offers a sure-fire way to permanently correct unhealthy habits you’ve developed earlier on while replacing them with the ones that your masterclass teacher implements in their own arsenal.
Furthermore, masterclasses are incredibly thorough, which is another thing that separates them from video lessons and courses that normally only touch as many topics as possible. While this is an exquisite advantage in and of itself, it also hides a little flaw. Namely, masterclasses are more time-consuming and require a bit more focus and attention.
Even though you will be able to pause, stop, and resume your masterclass course at any given time, the pieces within each class are logically linked in such a way that they’ll make the most sense to you when you complete them from start to finish.
On a side note, masterclass fees (unlocks and tuitions) are generally more expensive in comparison to other approaches. However, they are also more interactive than ‘general’ music courses and lessons.
A crucial part of guitar masterclasses is the one-on-one feedback, which means that you will be able to inquire about anything related to music, ask questions about the masterclass, and even potentially develop a certain kind of a relationship with the featured musician.
- Correct unhealthy guitar playing habits while instilling valuable new ones.
- Allow you to get acquainted with a certain musician’s gear, techniques, and influences.
- A complete breakdown of featured musician’s play style.
- Masterclasses offer rapid breakthroughs to moderately skilled players.
- One-on-one conversations and feedback; interactive learning platform.
- Masterclasses are more expensive than similar modes of learning how to play guitar.
- The comprehensiveness of masterclasses make them ill-suited for beginners.
- They’re more time-consuming and focus-intensive than standard video tutorials and lessons.
7. Enrolling in a music school
Music schools were invented for this exact purpose, although nowadays this is normally the last resort for most people for several reasons.
First and most importantly, music schools are a bit too broad in terms of comprehensiveness to everyone but the youngest pupils. Actual music schools abide by pre-determined curriculums and feature different grading systems, both of which put extra pressure on the students who only want to learn guitar.
If you’re into the idea of understanding other instruments and music history and theory, this might be a good idea. However, most of the knowledge you’d gain in music schools can be found online for free, whereas you’ll have to pay a number of fees once you enroll in a music school.
Accredited music schools are irreplaceable for students who aim to continue their musical journey and who want to get into music colleges later on. The strictness of music schools in comparison to other approaches ensures that you’ll develop a certain amount of guitar discipline, which is the biggest differences between this and similar learning methods.
The social aspect of learning guitar in a music school plays a key role in differentiating it from other guitar learning approaches; you’ll get to find more friends and like-minded individuals this way. Although this is not the one and only group learning platform, it’s definitely worth considering if you are bent on learning more about musical instruments and music theory rather than exclusively guitar.
- Accredited schools open up professional career paths and opportunities.
- Learning in a group is better from a sociological standpoint.
- All-encompassing method of learning about instruments, music theory, and music history.
- Ideal for players who struggle with playing discipline.
- Grading-based feedback offers excellent insight regarding personal progress on guitar.
- Textbook and enrollment fees often discourage many people.
- More comprehensive and time-consuming than most other guitar-learning methods.
- Less viable for adults given the strict timelines of schedules and classes.
- Minimal flexibility due to pre-determined studying curriculums.
Some people prefer to sit at home and watch online lessons while others feel a bit more comfortable with other students and friends. Some people don’t mind paying hundreds of dollars for quality teachers while others are on a bit more cash-strapped budget.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to determine what is the best way to learn how to play guitar and we hope we’ve helped you find it.
Marko is a writer, bassist, and fan of all things music. His passions include quality music gear, King Crimson, and sifting the web for the latest music updates.