What Is The Best Way To Learn Guitar? Self Taught vs Guitar Lessons

What Is The Best Way To Learn Guitar? Self Taught vs Guitar Lessons

A guitar is one of the best instruments to learn how to play. It is incredibly diverse and one of the most popular instruments, with the rise of pop music contributing to its popularity.

Ways To Learn Guitar

Whether you are wanting to learn from a professional or you have undertaken the decision to teach yourself, learning how to play the guitar will be an experience that differs for everyone. The one mutual experience is that it takes time and a lot of practice to learn how to play the guitar.

It can be difficult knowing how to start learning, whether you should book lessons, buy a guitar and start, or whether you should do your research and methodically plan the process. However, there is no right way to learn the guitar. With that being said, you might want to decide which process is best for you.

The two most common ways to learn how to play the guitar are as followed:

Guitar Lessons

Guitar lessons will teach you how to play the guitar from the basics right up until pro level. If you struggle with teaching yourself, guitar lessons can be a great way to build the foundation of your guitar playing abilities. Some of the benefits of guitar lessons are:

Discipline/Motivation

When you teach yourself how to play the guitar, it is easy to fall behind when you do not have anyone to hold you accountable. In addition, learning how to play can be very difficult, with some finding it harder than others. The art of picking, finding a rhythm and using both of your hands at the same time can take a lot of practice and discipline, something that you can practice with guitar lessons.

An instructor will be able to hold you accountable and ensure that you are dedicating the right amount of time and effort to your practice. This can be incredibly useful if you need that kind of motivation. Having weekly lessons can be a great motivator, helping you to develop the right techniques and ensuring that they correct any mistakes you might make.

Having lessons will also ensure that you make the time to practice. It can be easy to forget about something we are teaching ourselves, therefore guitar lessons ensure that you are picking up your guitar to learn at least once a week (varying on how often you have your lessons).

Feedback and Advice

When you are teaching yourself, it can be hard to hold yourself accountable for mistakes that you make. This may be because you do not notice that you are making them. An instructor can let you know what level you are working at and what improvements you should make.

They can then teach you how to work on the parts that you are struggling with and for some, this is the most beneficial way to learn how to do something. Reading or watching how to do something may not be as easy. If you are struggling with something, in particular, they can give you the best techniques to learn. In some instances, they may give you exercises that resemble homework.

If you are someone who benefits from direct feedback, an instructor is able to do so after each session.

Structure

Guitar lessons will provide you with some structure to your learning. This structure can be very helpful, especially if you are a beginner and you need to move through the stages up until you reach pro level. It may also be helpful if you have a structure in the process of beginning your journey.

Guitar lessons will go at a pace that is catered especially to you. Your instructor will know what you are ready for a what you are not ready to learn ensuring that you are not working at a higher level than you are able to.

Cost

The only downside to guitar lessons is that they can become costly, especially if you are having guitar lessons long term. Guitar lesson costs will vary depending on where you live and what level you are at. On average, in the US, you are looking to pay around $25-$40 per lesson, but private lesson costs can vary. As well, the length of the lesson will contribute to the cost.

In the UK, you are looking at around £18-£25 per lesson, with an average run time of an hour.

Self Taught 

Being self-taught is only a certain element of learning how to play the guitar. If you are a beginner and do not know anything about how to play, you will have to get your information from somewhere. Whether this is videos, readings or apps, you are finding the information from a source that is essentially teaching you.

With that being said, there is a certain extent of the guitar in which the entire process is self-taught. You are the one who is applying the knowledge and the practice to the instrument, but taking guitar lessons is a method of assisted learning.

For this reason, we refer to the process of being self-taught as learning without direct guidance. This means that you can use various methods in order to teach yourself how to play.

Cost

For most self-taught guitar players, the cost of learning is free, eliminating the cost of buying the guitar and any equipment that you may also need. You may want to spend money on apps or books that can aid the process, but overall you can learn for free, or for very little.

With modern technology, you can find free learning videos on YouTube. Channels such as Andy Guitar, which teaches you as a beginner. Another great Channel is Marty Music.

If you are wanting some other aids, books can be a great method. They are always there for you to refer to and you can read them more than once so as to absorb the information. However, note that this is the extent to their support and they cannot offer any more than what they say. For some, this can be limiting. 

Below, we have outlined some books to get you started:

Ensure that if you are buying books that you are buying one that suits the best level for you. The two abovementioned books are aimed towards beginners and would not be as useful, if at all, for those who are much more experienced at playing the guitar.

No Structure

For some people, a structure can be important, but for others, it can be limiting. Not having an enforced structure means that you can plan to learn when is best for you. This can be as little or as much as you want. You can also go over the same topic as many times as you want.

You can also plan your own structure rather than working to someone else's plan. If you want to move on, leave a topic or forget a topic, it is really up to you.

Feedback/Advice

When teaching yourself, there is no way to receive advice or feedback on your process. However, you could reach out and find someone who can offer advice if you are struggling. This can be done by joining forums or communities for guitarists.

Alternatively, you can try to track your own progress. Do this by using YouTube videos or other methods by which you can see how you are doing. Perhaps set yourself challenges and see how successful you are. Some people do not need to see or receive knowledge of their progress and will simply play until they are satisfied with their own personal achievements.

It is worth noting that you need to ensure your information is coming from a reliable source. You do not want to teach yourself based on unreliable and incorrect information. If you are using the internet to help you learn, this can be a catalyst for incorrect sources. You do not want to be using this as the foundation of your learning.

Motivation

If you are someone who is particularly self-motivated, self-taught can be the perfect method. However, if this is something that you struggle with, you may want to find an alternative way. If you get stuck and find yourself struggling to learn a certain aspect, then this can cause you to lose motivation or your interest can dwindle.

Alternatively, if you find yourself struggling to learn or it is not happening as quickly as you would like, this can have the same result. With having a teacher, you can share with them and they can help to keep you motivated. If you are wanting to teach yourself, maybe have someone who can help you to stay motivated.

The Best Way to Learn Guitar

Ultimately, it appears that guitar lessons are the most common and traditional way to learn guitar. You can have constant support, guidance and advice throughout your learning journey. So, if you can, this is the best way to learn how to play the guitar. With that being said, you may still prefer to teach yourself, if so we have outlined some of the best ways to learn guitar.

Start with the Basics

Do not get ahead of yourself and immediately try to learn how to play songs on the guitar. First, establish how to correctly set up your guitar. Tune it properly and perhaps purchase a tuning device rather than try to do it by ear. Develop your knowledge of the instrument and familiarise yourself with the guitar anatomy.

Learn as much as you can about the strings; the names, the order, their tone and pitch, as well as tips and tricks. Knowing about the strings can help you to determine the best ways in which you can play them. Alongside this, familiarise yourself with how to hold a guitar pick and the best ways to pick the strings.

Learn the placement on your fingers and develop how to play individual chords before you practice putting them together. Through this, you are likely to develop a great practice for strumming the guitar.

Learning Environment

This may not seem like a big deal, but ensuring that you have a productive and positive learning environment is very important. Somewhere you are comfortable and content to learn is essential for ensuring that you are wanting to practice. Do not practice in a space that is loud or crowded as this can take away from the experience and it can make it harder to develop technique. You do want to be interrupted as this can halt or disturb your progress.

Research

Do not be afraid to do research and use as many sources as you can to enhance your self-taught experience. Use what you can to your advantage, such as books, videos, podcasts and websites. Look into what guitar is best for beginners and consider that you may not need to buy a guitar, to begin with. Perhaps look into renting or borrowing a guitar until you make a decision on whether you want to continue and pursue learning the guitar.

Pick the correct song

Once you have gotten the basics down and you are ready to start learning how to play songs, start with easy and simple beginner ones. Ensure that it is not above your skill level and that the chords you will need to play are ones that you have already learned.

Understand that it may take time to put a song together, but practice will make the process much easier. If you find that some sections of the song are harder than others, focus on the bits that are more difficult for you and once you have successfully mastered that, you can filter it into the rest of the song.

Play along with the song

Once you have practised the song enough times, then you can play the song and play your version alongside it. This can help you to practise and enhance your timing, as well as knowing how you can play alongside other musicians.

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