You got your new guitar.
You want to learn to play it, of course. But how do you go about finding a good place to learn?
That’s what this article is about: Where to learn how to play your guitar.
You currently have 3 (maybe 4) general options.
- Teach yourself through experimentation.
- Hire a guitar teacher – a real, live person.
- Watch videos online.
- Get an app for your phone or tablet.
Let’s take a look at each of those choices, so you can decide which one(s) will work best for you. We’ll also look at some common problems or objections new guitarists sometimes have related to learning this awesome instrument.
Note: Any prices mentioned below were accurate at the time of this writing but may have changed since.
Teaching Yourself to Play Guitar
I’ll cut right to the chase here. Unless you want to risk learning poor technique, spend more time on less than optimal strategies, or don’t care how long it takes you to sound like you know what you’re doing, don’t try to teach yourself solely through experimenting in a room by yourself.
Okay, wait. There is a time and a place for that kind of experimentation. After all, that’s how some of the greatest guitar players learned to do some of the special things they can do with their guitars.
My point is that you don’t want to rely on this technique exclusively. There are just too many other options that are better than that.
Later, when you’ve mastered some of the basics (or perhaps along the way), you can certainly conduct your own experiments in guitar playing. Who knows? You just might develop something no one’s ever heard before. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Now moving on.
Hiring a Guitar Teacher
The kind of guitar teacher we’re talking about here is someone you actually meet with in person, probably weekly, who will impart his or her knowledge of guitars and playing them well.
We’re not talking about watching a video online or even doing a video chat long distance. The former I’ll cover below. The latter just doesn’t seem reasonable to me. It’s certainly possible these days, if you have a decent Internet connection (and the teacher does too), but I still don’t recommend it.
I would instead recommend meeting your teacher in person at your local music store, at a local school, or even at your home.
If you hire a guitar teacher through a nearby music store, you’ll most likely find that they want to conduct lessons at that store. (I’m sure there are exceptions to this.) This is no different, though maybe a little less common, that hiring a piano teacher via such a store.
If you find a “private” teacher; that is, someone willing to give lessons on their own time, then you most likely will meet at your home. In some cases, you might meet at the teacher’s house.
There are obviously other possible scenarios here. In any case, the main thing is that you are in the same room with another human being. The immediate feedback you can get from this type of contact is something you just can’t get any other way, at least, not with today’s technology. (When holograms or robots become vastly improved, this may change.)
If for any reason this option is not possible for you, you still have many other good choices.
Watching Online Guitar Teaching Videos
When it comes to online guitar videos, I’m not talking about randomly searching YouTube to find something suitable. You can do that, if you want, of course, but I think there are better offerings on other websites. (Note: These sites may employ YouTube to get their message across, but they do so within the structure of their own site.)
GuitarLessons.com has videos for the beginner and for the more experienced guitarist. For beginners, they recommend their Beginner Guitar Quick-Start Series. You’ll learn how to hold the guitar properly, tune it, and strum it. You’ll learn basic chords and everything else needed to give you a solid foundation for other lessons, should you decide to continue past their initial offerings.
These lessons are free. If you exhaust all the possibilities here, they suggest you continue at Guitareo.com.
Guitareo.com has some free lessons too, but they also offer more personalized instruction for a fee. You need to register for this course and can only do so (apparently) at certain times during the year.
The course is 26 weeks long and is hosted by Nate Savage. Each week on Monday, you get a new lesson. Lessons include topics such as tuning, timing, open chords, strumming patterns, how to play specific songs, music theory, and more.
ChordBuddy.com exists mainly to offer the Chord Buddy gadget. It’s a chord-learning device that you attach to the neck of your guitar. It uses color-coded buttons to help you learn chords quickly.
Chord Buddy claims that you’ll know how to play within 2 months using the package (under $50, as of this writing) that includes the gadget itself, an instruction book, a DVD, and a songbook.
ChordBuddy.com does have videos available for free on the site too, but the intent is that you have the Chord Buddy in place on your guitar when you watch them.
How To Play Guitar
HowToPlayGuitar.com is basically the same as GuitarLessons.com. It’s another site by Nate Savage that leads you to Guitareo.com.
Guitar Lessons for Beginners
Guess what! GuitarLessonsForBeginners.com is more Nate Savage.
So looking back at the list above, it would seem that there aren’t that many online sites for learning guitar. However, these are just a few I happened to come across. You can probably find other video sites with just a little searching.
Note: I am not affiliated with Nate Savage or his sites in any way.
If phone or tablet apps are more your thing than full-blown websites, take a look at the list below.
Getting an App for Learning Guitar
Now, I have not downloaded or tried any of the apps in this list, but I can tell you what others have experienced with each of them. As with Mr. Savage’s sites above, I am not affiliated with any of these apps or their designers.
Guitar Tricks is an award-winning app that has apparently been in existence since 1998. That’s like forever in app-years.
The owners claim that over 3 million people have been taught using Guitar Tricks. I assume this means the app has been downloaded over 3 million times. Whether everyone who downloaded it actually learned to play guitar by using it is something else.
Guitar Tricks includes over 11,000 lessons. That seems like overkill, even if you account for all the different styles of music that it covers. Each lesson is only a few minutes long though, so I suppose it does add up quickly.
You can try Guitar Tricks for free by downloading it from either the Apple App Store or Google Play. In-app purchases, which are required to get more than the basics, (as of this writing) range from about $20 for a monthly subscription to about $180 for one-year access to the full course.
With a 4.2 out of 5 star rating, Guitar Tricks is among the best in its class. Other sites, such as Guitar Fella, also rate them very highly and have trouble finding any fault with them.
Guitar World Lessons
In February of 2015, Guitar World (magazine) produced the Guitar World Lessons app for iPhone and iPad.
The app itself is free, but you’ll pay about $15 each for the guitar (or bass guitar) lessons.
Overall, users (as of this writing, only 39 of them) rate this app 2.8 out of 5 stars. That’s less than stellar, to say the least. I’m guessing the cost has a lot to do with it.
Fretboard Hero is more of a game than lessons. You use it to learn the notes on your guitar fretboard.
While it rates over 4 stars at the App Store, Google Play, and appgrooves, the comments seem rather mediocre. Users say it does what it was designed to do, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
The app costs $1.99 and you can pay about a dollar more to get rid of in-app ads.
First, I just want to mention that I love the name of this tool: GuitarTuna. This free app does have 6 learning games and 4 songs you can learn, but it’s mainly a tool for tuning your instrument.
It’s also a metronome and has a chord library so you can see and hear what chords look like and should sound like.
For advanced guitarists, you can use this app for other tunings such as Drop-D, half step down, 12-string, open, and many more (over 100 total).
You can also use GuitarTuna with bass guitar, mandolin, ukulele, violin, banjo, and many other stringed instruments.
Some of these extra capabilities require in-app purchases ranging from about $4 to $13.
GuitarTuna is very highly rated with 4.8 of 5 stars on both platforms, Apple and Android.
GuitarTuna was developed by Yousician…see below.
Yousician, just like Guitar Tricks, is a free app that requires about a $20 monthly subscription or a $180 payment to access all of the lessons available.
This app is rated a little higher, at 4.4 or 4.5 stars, than Guitar Tricks. It also received the Editors’ Choice award in the App Store.
Besides guitar, Yousician has lessons for piano, bass guitar, and ukulele.
If you want another reviewer’s take on some of the offerings above, plus some other guitar lesson websites, check out Tyler’s thoughts at Voices Inc.
In general, there are two classes of concerns, objections, problems that beginners have about starting to learn guitar. One has to do with the shape or size of the hands. The other is about the potential pain involved.
Whether you have small hands, short fingers, fat fingers, or long fingernails, you can still learn to play the guitar. If you’re left handed, you can still play.
There are ways to compensate for or to get around all of these so-called problems.
The most severe problem is actually long fingernails. If you really, really, really want to play guitar, clip those nails! This is the only real solution.
If you really, really, really want to keep your long nails, take up a different instrument where length of fingernail doesn’t matter.
Small Hands and Short Fingers
The solutions for those with smaller than average hands or shorter than average fingers are the same. You can get a guitar with a smaller than average neck. You can learn to adjust the position of your wrist for easier playing. You can use the very tips of your fingers, instead of an area nearby. You can use lighter weight strings so less pressure is needed.
If you have fat fingers, there are ways you can adjust your guitar, hand, and finger positions to compensate for your size. There are many fat-fingered folk who still play the guitar as well as anyone else.
What about the pain?
Yes, your fingertips (and perhaps your hands and wrists) will hurt for a while when you first start to play. This is one of the cases where the phrase “no pain, no gain” is pretty much true.
You’ll play until your fingers hurt and then play a little more. You’ll play each and every day, even though you’re still a little sore. Within a couple of weeks at the outside, your fingers will form calluses, and you just won’t feel the pain anymore. If you keep playing, you’ll never feel that pain again.
That’s a small price to pay for learning how to play this wonderful instrument – something you’ll enjoy the rest of your life.
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