For some people, learning how to play guitar on their own is the only way they’re going to learn. While there’s no substitute for a great teacher and guitar lessons if you are committed enough you can absolutely teach yourself guitar. But how long does it take to learn guitar in this way? We’ve come up with some good reasons and tips to get you started so you can skip the traditional learning and do it your own way.
Practicality-wise, learning guitar in the normal way might not be an option for you. Guitar lessons can be costly and those bills add up when you take them for a few years. You will also have to learn at the pace of the instructor and they will teach you their own methods of playing. This can mean you may feel a little bit frustrated with the journey and how you are progressing.
We think we’ve come up with some great suggestions for anyone who wants to learn guitar on their own. Here are some of the different steps we think you should take.
Table of Contents
- 1 Learn Tuning by Ear
- 2 Build Your Chord Vocabulary
- 3 Practice Your Chords by Playing the Songs You Like
- 4 Practice Your Chromatic Exercises
- 5 Stay Committed
- 6 Learn Guitar Tabs
- 7 DIY Learning Methods
- 8 Pitfalls of Teaching Yourself Guitar
- 9 Conclusion
- 10 FAQs
Learn Tuning by Ear
Knowing how to tune a guitar without a tuner is a great skill for any guitarist to pick up. You will always need to know how to tune the guitar as a basic music skill. There’s no point trying to practice on a guitar that’s completely out of tune. Keeping your guitar in perfect tune has a lot of benefits, especially when you are learning guitar on your own without a guitar teacher.
You will want to tune your guitar to standard concert pitch with open strings. You start from the fattest string and the notes go E, A, D, G, B and E. When you first start out you should use a digital tuner to make sure your guitar sounds just right. A
We would always recommend learning to tune by ear. Use your tuner to get your low-E string in tune, then you can tune the rest of your guitar to this E string. This may sound daunting to begin with but it’s much easier than you would think.
Every string on the guitar is the same note as you the string that comes before it using the fifth fret. Using this technique you can adjust all of the strings using the simple fifth fret method. Getting the right tuning is an important part of learning guitar so pay careful attention to how your instrument sounds.
A guitar teacher will always make sure that your instrument is in tune for you. Because you are teaching yourself guitar, you don’t get this assistance. Once you have the right tuning on your guitar you can pretty much play anything you want, as long as it’s at your current skill level. Don’t try to run before you can walk and play complicated music. This can stunt your learning journey and discourage you from wanting to continue.
Build Your Chord Vocabulary
In the beginning, when you want to teach yourself guitar you need to nail the basics. And with the guitar, there is a heck of a lot of basics. But it’s these fundamentals you should concentrate on the most because you will need them in every aspect of your playing. These basics will mean you can play songs a lot quicker in the future.
Learning guitar is not a short process and there are no shortcuts you can take to make it faster. What sometimes can be quite frustrating for beginners to the instrument is how long a guitar teacher spends on the basics. You want to get stuck in and play and not have to wait around learning boring fundamentals.
The best advice we can give you when learning guitar is to start out with a beginner’s manual. Normally if you buy a starter guitar one will be included in the pack. If you’re not a big book person you can also find all the information you need to teach yourself guitar basics on the internet.
There are a few goals you want to hit at the beginning of your learning journey. The first thing you will want to do is learn how to hold the guitar correctly and learn some basic strumming patterns. Forming bad habits at this point can make it more difficult down the line so make sure you’re starting out the right way.
Next, you want to focus on learning guitar chords. Start out by getting the basic open form major chords down, then switch to the minors. Lastly, you can try and work on some seventh chords to round out your chord vocabulary. Both power chords and barre shapes will be needed for you to learn guitar properly so once you have the basics down, move on to these.
If you want to put in the work and get the boring parts out of the way first then you could learn all of these in a week. Once you play them a few times your body gets a muscle memory of each chord. It doesn’t take a guitar teacher to help you with this part. There are fun ways of learning guitar chords which we’ll talk about in a minute.
Practice Your Chords by Playing the Songs You Like
When you first thought about learning the guitar without the help of a guitar teacher, you probably didn’t do so because you wanted to just play chords. You did it so that you could play guitar songs. A lot of guitar teachers will tell you that you have to know all of your chords and scales before you can move on to learning to play songs. This isn’t true in most cases.
If you want to play more classical guitar or jazz you will need to know these basics. Other genres such as rock and pop rely on simple chord progressions. You can easily start playing guitar songs like these without knowing every single chord.
Take a song you love and begin learning to play it on the guitar. Play them as you work on your chords because playing them in real music will help you learn guitar faster. Most songs will come with a transcribed list of basic chords for you displayed at the beginning. These diagrams show you how to play them as well. Find chord charts like this on free guitar tab websites. It’s a great way to learn guitar chords and expand your overall knowledge of the instrument.
What’s important to remember at this point is that learning guitar on your own is never going to be easy. You’ll be stumbling and tripping up a lot in the first few weeks. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, no matter if you use guitar teachers or not. But using songs you already know and love gives you much more inspiration than playing the same nursery rhyme over and over again.
There’s a very fine line that you have to try not to cross when learning guitar too. You want to challenge yourself, and that’s fine. To do this you have to play music that’s only slightly above your current playing level. If you go to far you’ll get frustrated with yourself and it can stop your learning. Take everything at your own pace. If you want to play something harder, go for it but don’t burn yourself out. There’s no need to take on a challenge you’re not ready for because it won’t make you any better.
Practice Your Chromatic Exercises
You can start teaching yourself guitar and play some real songs relatively early on in your journey. Becoming a more advanced player is going to take more work though. Eventually, you want to get to the point where you can play guitar solos and understand how you can improvise on the strings. For a beginner, this will be a long way off. However, there’s no reason why you can’t start laying down the foundations for when this day comes.
To get to grips with the basics needed to advance your playing, you have to work on techniques such as fretting and your hand dexterity. The best way to do this is teaching yourself guitar scales and practice them every single day. Guitar teachers are a fan of this method and the reason why is because it works.
The idea of playing scales like this is to improve the dexterity of your hand when fretting. You also want to get a good picking technique down. When you have mastered the basic scale exercises you can make more use of the frets and fingerboards to play the more complicated scales.
A lot of people have the idea that to play the guitar, you have to sit in a guitar lesson and learn from a professional. Playing guitar doesn’t always require that though. Some people want to learn how to play but don’t touch their guitar between lessons.
Just like a teacher would want you to do homework for school, you have to put the work in to learn the music theory and techniques involved in playing guitar. Learning an instrument relies on your dedication and how much time you can commit when you’re at home. If you don’t have the right ambition or the drive to take the time to practice, you’re not going to play the guitar well.
Whether you choose to invest in lessons or are going on this journey by yourself, you have to commit to the time it takes to learn the instrument. The more you can play your guitar, the better. Practice absolutely makes perfect so if you want to learn how to play properly, music theory is a must.
Learn Guitar Tabs
You don’t need to know how to read sheet music in order to play the guitar. You can start out by understanding tabs and this will get you through just fine. Knowing what a guitar tab denotes will really help you as you continue to learn to play. It’s a much easier type of notation that is used by guitarists. In fact, a guitar tab is a more popular form of music notation than sheet music for a guitarist. There’s a tab for pretty much every song that’s ever been written, which makes learning songs you love a lot easier.
DIY Learning Methods
Now you know some of the things you should focus on first when teaching yourself guitar, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can achieve this.
Using books, sheet music and tabs
You can absolutely learn guitar from a book if that’s what you want to do. A book will provide you with written explanations of each step of the learning journey along with images of what you will have to do. Nowadays there are options to download audio versions from books or books that come with a CD. You will also need knowledge of sheet music and tabs if you choose to go this route. Compared to some of the other home learning methods, this is probably the most difficult approach to the process that you could take.
Watching someone play the guitar and copying them is a lot easier than trying to play along to a book. While there are some gems out there in terms of DVD courses, be careful to avoid the scammers. You can end up spending a lot of money and not really learning much about the guitar if you choose the wrong DVD. Just be cautious not to sign on to something that is going to be too good to be true.
Everything can be done online these days and learning the guitar is one of them. You can take lessons whenever you can fit them into your schedule and all of them can be done from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have a teacher breathing down your neck if you don’t get something right and most of the online resources are very well priced.
Pitfalls of Teaching Yourself Guitar
While teaching yourself guitar sounds great in theory, there are some pitfalls to these techniques that you should be warned about. Read through these mistakes so you can become familiar with them and don’t mimic them when it comes time for you to start practicing.
- There’s no structure to your learning. You can watch as many YouTube videos and tutorials online as you want but they are all taken from random lessons. The home learning is not a structured setup. As a beginner, you should try and find some sort of online course that you will be able to stick to.
- Not learning songs. Practice doesn’t just mean doing scales and chords. You want to make practice fun and learning songs is your key to doing so. The exercise drills guitar teachers give you get old very quickly. Learning a song you know and enjoy on the guitar won’t.
- Trying too many sites. If you get stuck on one side it’s only natural to try and look somewhere else. There are so many different videos and articles out there that can help you and a different one could suit you better. Try and resist changing your courses and sites as much as possible. If you keep jumping from one to another you will need up being stuck in a loop and won’t progress to the next level of playing.
- Don’t fall for ads. There are a lot of sites out there that are full of false promises. Someone who is claiming they can teach you the guitar in a month is lying. It takes a long time to teach yourself so rely on a reputable online course or program for your learning.
- Not practicing. You can’t get away with not practicing. No guitar player in the world would be worth their salt if they didn’t practice. If you don’t pick up your guitar regularly and practice your playing, you won’t be successful in learning the guitar. A guitarist that practices regularly will always be better than one that doesn’t.
- Avoiding the difficult parts. Learning guitar has its easy parts and its tricky parts. Don’t avoid the difficult parts of the process. Things like barre chords and guitar theory aren’t just going to be learned in a day. Get your head down and make sure you learn the full spectrum of skills to become a well-rounded player.
- Not tuning your guitar. Your instrument has to be tuned before you play – every single time. If you don’t you’ll sound terrible.
If you don’t want to listen to a word we’ve said in this article and don’t think that online guitar learning is for you then that’s fine as well. Some people learn better with the help of a teacher and you can also join up with other students for practice sessions.
There are some of you out there who want to do this by yourself and in this instance, you can use the methods we mentioned above to get you started. You will want to start out on the acoustic guitar before moving on to the more complicated electric. Soon you will be a good guitar player with enough practice who didn’t need a good teacher to push them along.
Is it possible to learn guitar by yourself?
Yes, you can absolutely learn to play the guitar on your own. It won’t be easy and will take a lot of effort and dedication on your part, but the resources are absolutely there for you to be able to do it on your own.
How long does it take to learn guitar on your own?
Because you are choosing to learn by yourself and not using a conventional method such as a teacher, the process will take longer. With a strict practice schedule, you could become an advanced player in just under two years if you chose to teach yourself.
How can I teach myself to play guitar?
There are so many great resources you can use online to help you learn to play. To teach yourself guitar you may also want to invest in books or you can watch free tutorial videos on sites like YouTube.
Is it hard to learn the guitar?
The guitar is an instrument that’s hard to learn in the beginning. As you advance and pick up more skills, it becomes a lot easier. Don’t be put off by the beginning stages of learning. It takes a lot of patience to learn guitar on your own but you’ll get there with plenty of practice.