Is It Hard To Learn Guitar On Your Own?

Is it hard to learn guitar by yourself?Today I’d like to cover another question I keep getting from many of you guys. This particular one is a good example of what a lot of people try to figure out before they even pick up the instrument. As usual, I wish I could give a simple Yes or No answer to “Is it hard to learn guitar on your own?”, but I’m afraid I would be over-generalizing. While I don’t want to make things unnecessarily complicated, the below is my attempt to help you through the thought process – just sharing some insights with you from my perspective of the things you need to know when you think about learning guitar in a more DIY kind of way. Undoubtedly, there are some advantages and disadvantages, just as we with any other guitar learning method. Ultimately, it will all depend on your individual situation and your personality. Sounds weird, I know, but trust me, I’ve been teaching guitar since the 90ies and one thing that I learned is: everybody is different. What works for one student doesn’t work necessarily work for another.

Alright, below is a list of the topics I’m going to cover in this article. I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing, but to make it a little bit easier to digest, you can just click on the topic of your choice and it will take you right there. You can always come back later and catch-up on the other sections.

Before we get started, I just wanted to acknowledge that what you’re about to read and see is merely my personal opinion. Not everybody will agree, I’m aware of that. Nonetheless, I believe it has merit based on my experience as a guitar player and teacher.

1. Best Ways To Learn Guitar
2. What Does ‘On Your Own’ Mean For You?
3. What’s your Goal?
4. 3 Ways To Learn Guitar in DIY fashion
5. Tips For Learning Guitar On Your Own
6. For Free And Paid-For Options – My recommendations for you
7. Final thoughts

1. Best Ways To Learn Guitar

I don’t want to cover this particular section in too much detail, because I realize that you want to specifically know about how hard it is to learn guitar on your own. But allow me to just at least paint the full picture and give you a brief overview of what kind of options a new guitar starter has.

best way to learn guitarHiring a guitar teacher
If you work with a guitar teacher, you’ll probably get the best out of the whole experience. At least as far as learning guitar fast and in an effective way is concerned. A good teacher will work with you and adapt to your learning speed. He will provide you with constant feedback and he will correct you right away if he sees you making mistakes or if you need help with anything. While this is also likely the most costly learning method and the one that involves the most logistical effort, it is hands down in my opinion the most efficient way to learn guitar.

Group and Class lessons
I’m not a huge fan of these methods. All it takes is one person to slow down the progress of the entire group. On the other hand, they are usually dirt cheap, and money of course is – at least for most of us I would presume – always an important factor.

Learn Guitar On Your Own
There are different ways to go about this, and we will cover all of them in detail later on. But learning guitar by yourself is definitely doable. We will just have to figure out the best way for, which can be anything from using resources online, working with a guitar book or getting yourself a bunch of DVDs. Again, we will get to all that in a second.

If you’re interested, I put a comprehensive info article and video discussion together on the topic of what’s the best way to learn guitar for You! I covered all learning methods with their pros and cons. Read more here.

2. What Does ‘On Your Own’ Mean For You?

Alright, this is an important question! Because not everybody has the same conceptual understanding of what ‘learning guitar on your own’ means. It could mean one thing for you, but a different thing for me.

learning guitar on your ownSo, when you say ‘on your own’, I would think you’re talking about any option where you won’t be working with a teacher or someone who will show you things on the instrument. The goal would be to save money, be completely flexible as far as your learning schedule is concerned and to be willing to figure things out by yourself, rather than somebody telling you exactly what to do at any given point in time. Am I right? Well, this is what I believe most students would have in mind when they ask me that question. So, presuming the answer is Yes, there are a number of options available to you. We will get to them in a second and discuss all of them in detail. But first, there is one other thing we need to get out of the way.

3. What’s your Goal?

We just discussed the “on your own” part of the question, now let’s look at the other half: “learning the guitar” and what that means to you. So, let me ask you this: is it your intent to learn the guitar basics such as a bunch of easy chords and some strumming, just enough to play a solid number of beginner-ish songs? Do you care about whether or not everything is perfectly accurate or do you take things rather easy a la “Who cares, if it’s not exactly right?”. Essentially, you’re just looking for a super simple way to learn guitar on your own, ideally something that doesn’t cost you anything.

Or are you coming in from the angle of taking this very serious and you want to make sure that you learn everything correctly right from the get-go? In other words, you do actually care quite about abut making sure that your playing is as good as it can possibly get?

See, both ‘philosophies’, for a lack of a better term are perfectly legitimate. Not everybody cares about learning guitar theory, scales and all the ‘advanced’ stuff. They just want to have some fun on their guitar and play a bunch of songs. And others are very meticulous about the whole thing and want to make sure that everything is always perfect (well, it never is, because nobody’s perfect..anyway, you get the point).

Based on which category you fall into, we can figure the best way to learn guitar on your own for You! Here’s why and how: if you are a person who likes things very structured, neat, organized, clear and methodical, then you’re probably better off with something like an online guitar course where somebody tells you everything step by step and in detail what you need to do to get from A to B.

However, if you are more leaning towards the ‘take it easy’ side, then you can certainly try a to get your guitar career started with a book or a DVD set. Because even if you skip a few things here and there, it won’t cause you night sweats. Your goal is to just learn a few chords and songs and that’s it.

Believe me, I’ve seen the whole spectrum of different personalities and characters in the many guitar students that I worked with. In the beginning, and irrespectively of the personality, everybody is more or less the same. They are motivated and ready to tackle any challenge that comes their way. But very quickly, after a few sessions, you can tell which category they fall into. Some are very content with 10 chords and a few songs, they don’t care whether or not they learn fast or slow. But others are the polar opposite.

how hard is it to learn guitar by yourselfTwo real life examples that I’d like to share with you. I had a student who decided to pick up the guitar at the age of 79. She told me that she liked traditional German folklore. She wanted to learn the guitar to play at home so she could sing along with some of her favorite songs. Clearly, her intention was not to learn three notes per string scales or tapping.

Contrary to her, I had a guy as a student who came over from Nepal. He was unemployed and had all day to himself. He loved anything guitar, was obsessed with Pink Floyd, Classic Rock, Ballads and so forth. He took this very seriously. I had trouble keeping him busy and keeping up with his pace. Within a few weeks he had several guitars. Whenever I showed up to our weekly lesson, he had not only done his homework but was already two steps ahead.

So, you see, these are two very different outlooks and premises. Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not always as black and white. Some people start out with a very simple goal in mind and then later on develop a more in-depth interest in the instrument. But anyway, let’s now take a closer look at a few methods of learning guitar by yourself.

4. 3 Ways To Learn Guitar in DIY fashion

Here’s is what we’re going to do now. In a first step we will shed some light on three of the most common ways of learning guitar on your own. We will talk about some general considerations for each method and then we will try to map the best option to you.

Guitar Books, Sheet Music, Guitar Tabs:
Can you learn guitar from a book? Yes, I know that for a fact, because guess what, that’s how I learned my first steps on the instrument. Here is a picture of that book. It actually came with one of those ultra-thin vinyl records that were completely flexible. So I worked with that book and the vinyl and that’s how I learned to tune my guitar, the name of the strings, my first chords, strumming patterns, picking techniques and a dozen of beginner guitar songs. Back in the day there was no Internet (shows you how old I am, ughh..) so books were probably the best way to learn the guitar on your own, if you decided not to hire a teacher for one or another reason. It wouldn’t have been possible for me simply because I didn’t have the money.

Is it easy to learn guitar from a book? Well, one thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that the book can only provide you with a written explanation along with images as to what you need to do. These days, you would probably get a CD along with the book, so at least you get an idea of what a chord or a note is supposed to sound. However, this is still very different from watching an actual video of someone demonstrating what and how to play.

So, in sum, yes, you can absolutely learn guitar on your own by getting yourself a beginner’s guitar book, tabs or sheet music. But compared to the other DIY learning methods, it’s definitely the harder way to approach this challenge.

DVD Guitar Courses
I’ve seen a bunch of those DVD guitar courses, but I obviously didn’t evaluate all of them. The ones that I’ve seen didn’t impress me, though. You also need to be super careful, because I know some of those programs are ridiculously expensive. And please promise me to stay away from anything that promises things that are completely unreasonable. I know it all comes down to marketing and advertisement, and I realize that things such as a “Learn Guitar Fast In Just Hours DVD set” can be tempting. But unless you have money to burn or unless your understanding of learning guitar is different from what common sense would imply, then I’d be very cautious with offers like these. I’m not saying that all guitar DVD learning programs are bad, again, I’ve only seen a bunch of them. But just don’t fall for something that’s too good to be true.

Learning Guitar Online
Best Acoustic Guitar LessonsThese days, learning guitar online has become very popular. For some very good reasons, as far as I’m concerned. First of all, you are in charge of everything. You determine when you’re ready to take another lesson whenever it fits your schedule. You don’t have to go places. You don’t need to get dressed to practice guitar (that sounded weird…ehmm…well, sure I guess you can play guitar naked, too. But my point was, you can just sit at home in your pajamas and practice guitar, and nobody will care). Nobody will get on your back if you don’t do things the right way or do all your homework. And, last but not least – it’s inexpensive. Well, that is, if you don’t fall for a scam but really ensure that you get yourself a course/program from a reputable resource. As a matter of fact, some of those learn guitar on your own from home online courses are completely free of charge. I will share both, some paid for and completely free of charge sources later.

Alright, let’s look take a look at all three options and put them next two each other:

Name Of Method:
Guitar Books
Learning Efficiency:
3 Star Rating
How Easy Is This?:
2.5 Star Rating
Cost:
$10 - $50
Convenience:
3.5 Star Rating
Overall Rating:
3 Star Rating
Name Of Method:
Guitar DVDs
Learning Efficiency:
3.5 Star Rating
How Easy Is This?:
3 Star Rating
Cost:
$15 - $119
Convenience:
3 Star Rating
Overall Rating:
3.5 Star Rating
Name Of Method:
Online Guitar Course
Learning Efficiency:
4 Star Rating
How Easy Is This?:
4.5 Star Rating
Cost:
$0 - $499
Convenience:
4.5 Star Rating
Overall Rating:
4.5 Star Rating

5. Tips For Learning Guitar On Your Own

Be prepared to work harder. That’s one thing that you need to accept and acknowledge. As much as I support the whole idea of learning guitar on your own, the fact is that you will have to be willing to figure things out by yourself. And that sounds much easier than it is. Just take math as an example. Looking to solve a problem in the math book was/is to some of us a real challenge, right? So, what if you get stuck? You will have to get help in one way, shape or form. You can ask someone, which would likely be the easiest way to get passed it. Or you can try to figure things out by yourself, by looking at other books, going online, etc. Which is much harder than just asking another person. And the exact same concept applies to when you learn guitar on your own. There will be times when things are not clear which means you have to figure it out by yourself, there’s no teacher who you can discuss your issue with (well, at least that’s true for the vast majority – but there are some exceptions which we will cover later). So, just keep that in mind, you might have to go the extra mile more often and it will require you to be willing and able to do some research when you get stuck.

Okay, here are some tips for you if you decide to go down the do it yourself path:

simple way of learning guitar on your ownFollow a set schedule to the extent possible
Sure, the one of the main advantages of learning guitar on your own is that you are the boss. You decided when you want to do things. But there’s a danger in that. You may become a little bit too lax and it’s tempting to ‘postpone’ the guitar practice because life got in the way or you just have another good reason – well, I should say EXCUSE – not to practice. So, be realistic about this. Set your own schedule, make time for practice.

Practicing Guitar
Speaking of practice, here is my rule of thumb for guitar beginners: 20 minutes per day, 5-6 days a week as a minimum. This is a “minimum”, to be very clear! And equally important to the regularity and frequency of your practice, is the quality. There must be no TV in the background, you should not help you kids doing their homework while you practice guitar and organizing your vinyl or CD collection doesn’t count as ‘guitar practice’. You need to stay focused on the task and ideally you are in a room by yourself with no background distractions.

Things you need and things you don’t need
Here are a bunch of items that you should get yourself in order to get started on the instrument. You have no idea how many questions I get around do I need a string cleaner, should I get a footrest, or do I really have to use a metronome. You can spend hundreds of dollars on knick-knacks that are useless, or that you don’t need at an early point when you begin your guitar journey. So, take a look at the table below where I sorted things out for you.

What kind of guitar?
Well, my standard recommendation is to learn on a classical guitar. Because it has nylon strings which are softer and gentler on your fingertips compared to steel strings (on Western and Electric guitars). But that’s merely my opinion. If you already have a guitar then just use whatever you have. As long as it is a decent, playable instrument and not a toy. Here is a little bit more on the topic of good getting a good guitar for beginners.

6. For Free And Paid-For Options – My recommendations for you

Beginners Guitar CourseAlright, time for some concrete recommendations around the best ways to learn guitar on your own online. All four options are ideal for guitar beginners and slightly advanced players. The first three are either completely free of charge or offer at the very least a good number of lessons that you can take for free to get started. That might be all you need for now. The last option, Jamplay, is a paid-for guitar learning platform that has everything guitar under the sun for all levels and all kinds or musical preferences. Whether you are a beginner or advanced player, they will have it at a super-affordable price. More importantly, I scrutinized their guitar learning programs and because of that, I am very comfortable recommending them to you wholeheartedly. As a matter of fact, I partnered up with them so I can give you some additional discounts (coupon codes).

I’d like to start off with two resources that some people feel are competitors of mine. But they aren’t. Ultimately, it is my goal to provide you with all the information and options so you can figure out how to learn to play guitar on your own online. This is not about me telling you that the one and only way to do that is my Beginners Guitar Course. If I feel somebody else has something good and valuable to offer, then I will let you know.

best free guitar lessons onlineJustinGuitar: I think it’s fair to say that Justin is one of the most popular online guitar teachers. On his website you will find tons of free stuff, everything is of high quality.

Marty Schwartz: Same is true for Marty. A great teacher with great tutorials and lessons. Another resource you should check out.

Ulrich Peise: Yep, that would be me. Honestly, I’m not sure if either Justin or Marty have an actual Beginners Guitar Course (they might..), but anyway, I do have one and I’d like you to check it out. It used to be a paid-for program ($69 for the entire course), but it’s completely free now. It’s over 30 lessons in which I will introduce you to the guitar, help you in getting started learning everything from chords, strumming, picking, scales, songs, etc. And I am always there for you to answer questions. You will get my personal email address and I’m know for my fast responses.

Jamplay: Jamplay has been rated the #1 online platform where people can learn to play from home on their own. In my opinion, they are the best. There are others out there, some of which I looked at and other that I ignored. However, based on what I’ve seen personally and the reviews by other Jamplay customers, I really think you would be in very good hands over there. They offer all kinds of courses and different packages. The best way is for you to just visit them and check out what they have to offer. Of course, they also have a very comprehensive guitar beginner program, too, which is excellent. Click here for more information (and your coupon codes!).

7. Final thoughts

I wish I could have just given you a simple answer to the question as to: how hard is it to learn guitar on your own. But there are just too many variables as you’ve probably noticed by reading through all this.

My recommendation is to go take the online route. Nothing against books or DVDs, but online seems to be more practical in this day and age. You get the best of both worlds. Written explanations as well as videos. And in some cases, you will even have a teacher at your disposal in case you have any questions, namely when you take my Beginners Guitar Course. But please go ahead and check out all of the four options above. You may like one more that the others. If you end up working with Marty or Justin, that’s great, because you will be in good hands for sure. If you take my guitar course, then I will make it my personal mission in getting you the success you deserve. And if you decide to go with Jamplay, then you and I will have the confidence that you are working with some of the best teachers in the industry at a ridiculously low price.

good online lessons for guitar beginnersAlright, that’s it. I always tell people that learning the guitar, irrespectively of the learning method, is probably harder than you would think. But of course, yes, it is possible to learn guitar on your own, absolutely!

Because with the right mindset and realistic expectations, it can be one of the most gratifying experiences in your life. Something that will be with you for many years to come. Something that can be very demanding yet equally rewarding. And lastly, something you will be able to do – because I did it, and that means you can do it, too!

For any questions you may have, there’s space in the comment box below. Always ask and I’d be happy to share my opinion with you.

Also, here are a few other articles I wrote on the topic of getting people started with the guitar:

Best Way To Learn Guitar Online for YOU!

The Best Way To Learn Acoustic Guitar

Best Acoustic Guitar For Beginners Under $200

Published date: January 19th, 2016 by Ulrich Peise

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