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The Best & Worst Ways to Learn to Play Guitar

At some point in most peoples lives the thought of how to learn to play guitar has come to mine. Learning a new skill, like anything, takes patience and consistency. However, with the right steps and will to learn, any skill is achievable.

Once you get your hands on a guitar, it’s time to choose a learning method that works for you. Countless online courses, instructional books, YouTube tutorials, and private instructors make deciding on a method a little daunting. Each has its pros and cons when wanting to become a guitar player so comparing the various options is the first step to learn to play guitar.

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All the ways to learn to play guitar have some components in common.

No matter how you do it, you're going to need a guitar. The one in the closet might work fine, but is it right for the player? Is it the right size and easily playable? Do you need that $2000 Martin right away or will the $150 Yamaha suffice? If you've never played, then choosing your first guitar is a bit of a mystery. This important second step to learning guitar will be addressed with each learning method. Here are the best and worst ways to learn to play guitar!

  1. Buy a Guitar and Hope for the Best

This method is by far the easiest and least expensive depending on how you look at it. We know it's the absolute least effective way to learn to play guitar.

Learning any instrument takes structure and regular practice. Relying on your whims to make you pick up your new guitar on a regular basis is a bad idea. We’ve all been there where there’s no system or accountability.

Unfortunately, with no guidance or instruction your guitar will quickly become a decorative piece in the corner. This isn't your fault. It's simply the way this method usually plays out.

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You might have friends or family members that can show you a few things. Tinkering with their tips and advice when the mood strikes will only get you so far. There are peaks and plateaus when you learn to play guitar. Getting stuck at your first plateau is common when you buy a guitar and hope for the best. The result, simply put, you’re not a guitar player. Sorry! Let's uncover another method to learn to play guitar.

  1. YouTube Guitar Tutorials on How to Play Guitar

Like the method above, you're going to have to figure out how to buy a guitar on your own if you learn to play guitar using YouTube tutorials. Strike one! YouTube is very useful for many things, however beginner guitar instruction is not one of them. It’s a great complementary learning tool after you know a little about playing guitar but Unfortunately, it’s full of videos claiming to teach you guitar in 5 minutes. Yes, immediate rewards are nice but long term, they don't pay off. 

If you're dedicated enough and good at filtering out bad videos, this method can serve you well. However, it lacks structure and you end up spending more time searching for videos than learning to play guitar.

YouTube guitar tutorials can be posted by anyone. Who's teaching you? What authority do they have? How can you be sure their guitar method is right for you? You can't. More importantly, a YouTube video doesn't provide feedback or guidance. It maybe as simple as you holding your guitar wrong. You won't know. The lack of direction can lead to very bad habits. You can learn to play your favorite Passenger song, but you’ll be missing the fundamentals of guitar along with lack of advancement.

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  1. Online Guitar Courses and Lessons

For every YouTube video claiming to turn you into Jimi Hendrix in 5 minutes, there's an online guitar course. These typically cost a one-time, or monthly, fee. Now you're spending more than just time, so the stakes are a little higher. If you find the right online course, it hopefully provides a well structured lesson format that previous methods were missing. The best ones will also introduce some amount of music theory. Since it costs money, you’re more likely to keep up with regular practice. We're getting there, but then again, this method still has its drawbacks. 

Before the downside, here's another important advantage online guitar courses and lessons have over YouTube. They can lead you to becoming a musician that plays guitar; not just a guitar player. A guitar player is a great thing to be. Playing some popular songs and reading guitar tablature take you all the way to the main stage at your favorite coffee shop. That's a good place to be, but what if you're offered a gig playing Blues at a local music festival? Now what?

Be a Musician Who Plays Guitar

A musician who plays guitar is equipped to play any style of music because the fundamentals are in place. A guitar player who knows a few things and sounds great lacks true versatility and understanding of the instrument. Again, being either is wonderful but if you truly want to learn to play guitar then you need to become a musician first. 

Guitar Lessons Upland

So that's it, right? Time to sign up for an online guitar course. Not so fast.

The same lack of feedback and guidance that YouTube tutorials provide, as you learn to play guitar, is still an issue. Proper form and technique are vital for any musician. Online guitar lessons can't stop you mid-song and correct your form. What you're playing might sound good but with proper form it'll sound great.

Developing good habits from the beginning based on feedback from an expert is the only way to know you’re on the right track.

  1. Instructional Books to Learn to Play Guitar

There are over 7,000 instructional guitar books available on Like YouTube tutorial videos, that is a lot to sort through. Do you pick a specific guitar style? A book with chords and scales? These are the worst choices, FYI. A book full of 1000's of chords gives no structure or direction. It just says do this with no explanation. If you buy a guitar book for beginners, please don't buy a chord book. Save it for later, if ever.

That said, using this method to learn to play guitar is very similar to taking an online course. You get structure, a step-by-step plan, and, if you choose the right book, you’ll pick up some music theory along the way.

A bonus is you can take you book anywhere to practice. While you could carry around a laptop or use your phone for online lessons it just isn't as practical. A good guitar book makes a nice companion at the park, beach, or anywhere else you might find some solitude to focus. However, you’ll still be lacking key ingredients; feedback and personal guidance.

With that in mind, the best place to take your new guitar book is to a private instructor. It's time to talk about the best way to learn to play guitar!

  1. Learn to Play Guitar with a Private Instructor

You bought a guitar and hoped for the best. Tried out some YouTube videos to no avail. The online lessons were nice but after a few you lost focus. Your new guitar book might or might not have all of the best information.

It's time to bring in a professional to help you learn to play guitar! Much like your guitar instruction book, you can take your guitar instructor just about anywhere. Well, some of them. At RC Music Lessons, our guitar instructors come to you. Home lessons provide convenience, focus and of course saves on time. A private instructor provides the one element that other ways to learn to play guitar lack. You guessed it, feedback! 

More than just feedback, a personal guitar instructor can give guidance, advice, and create a custom lesson plan specifically around the way you learn best. You won't get that from one-size-fits-all online courses or books written for the masses!

A great instructor has experience playing and performing music that can be used to your advantage. Finally, you don't have to figure out which guitar to buy or book to learn from. The guitar instructor has done the work for you and makes these decisions simple. He or she will be able to assess your goals and intentions in order to put you in a position to succeed. Your guitar instructor will make sure that you learn to play guitar the most efficient way that works for your level and skill.

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Find a Guitar Teacher

Like YouTube videos and guitar books, there are a lot of guitar instructors. Read our guide on how to choose the best guitar instructor to save a little time in your search. You, or a family member, are ready to learn to play guitar. Take private lessons with a guitar instructor. It's clearly the best way to learn to play guitar!


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