Ok, as a new learner I have started by watching Learn and Master Guitar lessons, using other web tutorials, and whatever other resources I can find on the internet.

Do you believe that this way is OK for someone who wants to learn guitar? Or do I have to go to a local guitar teacher? What are the advantages of learning from a teacher, as opposed to learning on your own?

  • 2
    -1 WAY too subjective. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective
    – user28
    Jan 13, 2011 at 22:07
  • 1
    grab a guitar and start playing
    – Anonymous
    Jan 14, 2011 at 15:46
  • This would be a great question, but the OP has used 'best'.
    – Anonymous
    Jan 24, 2011 at 18:53
  • An excellent question! Im also doing the same. Btw thanks for allowing this question guys.
    – Anonymous
    Jan 28, 2011 at 20:23
  • Legacy's course is the best alternative to having a GOOD teacher to go to. Advantages of self training: you set the pace, you determine what to do Disadvantages of self training: you set the pace, you determine what to do And yes, both can be both advantage and disadvantage
    – Anonymous
    Mar 11, 2011 at 7:20

13 Answers 13


It depends on the route you want to go. Some people say a guitar teacher is necessary... I would say not. Plenty of the most well known guitar players in the world on not trained by a teacher.

Think about the music you want to play.

Almost anything in the blues/rock world can be self-taught. There is not a right way to play the blues, no matter what the elitists tell you. And rock (sometimes) is a natural extension of blues.

Now if you want to break into classical or metal, you will need to learn some classical techniques. Know your scales, chords, and how to improvise in a technical setting. There are, however, parts of the metal world where unconventional playing is welcome, and even encouraged. Such as funk metal.

My advice is this:

If you plan to go into a technical music genre, get yourself a teacher and learn to do things the "right" way, so that you can play with others freely when you get good enough.

If you want to play by yourself, or are going to stick to less classically influenced music types, just head over to youtube!

I learned guitar for about 3 years on nothing but youtube videos and a chord book. There was a particular guitar player that I admired at the time and I just watched live videos of him and imitated what I saw. Overtime, I became proficient with the guitar and started writing my own songs. I believe this is a very creative and enjoyable route if you're willing to not be taken seriously by more technical bands and guitarists.

Regardless of what you choose. Make sure you spend time learning the songs you love as early as possible. Nothing kills the learning motivation like playing stuff that does not interest you.

  • 7
    I think that you don't need a teacher to learn the "right" way, you need a teacher to learn not to do the "wrong" way. It helps to prevent bad habits and to learn easier ways to play. I learned much more in 1 year with a teacher than 3 years alone.
    – Julien N
    Jan 13, 2011 at 23:03
  • @Kayle How much time did you practice? Do you have a blog where you kept track of your progress?
    – Anonymous
    Jan 28, 2011 at 20:27
  • @Mugen - Unfortunately, I was not "intentionally" learning guitar at first, so I didn't think of blogging the journey. Would have been cool though. I practiced roughly 2 hours a day at first... 1 hour, twice per day. Not strictly, that's just how it worked out. After my fingers toughened up, I started playing 3 hours a day, usually. It becomes very very fun after you get past the initial playing barrier.
    – Anonymous
    Jan 29, 2011 at 0:26
  • @Kayle Wow I wish I had that kind of dedication. I started with what must have been 1-2 hours a day but after a few months got bored of my slow progress. I finally sat down one day and played the songs I always wanted to play on guitar - it was very slow and didn't sound perfect. I guess that was the last I ever played, hehe.
    – Anonymous
    Jan 29, 2011 at 7:07
  • Just wanted to underline the last sentence in Kayle's excellent answer. Practicing stuff you like or WANT to get to grips with is paramount to retain your enthusiasm ! Apr 29, 2014 at 16:33

Like many other people here, I am self-taught (on the banjo, about to self-teach on guitar). However, I used to take piano lessons. Things to consider:

  • A teacher knows what you might spend hours trying to learn from the internet. Think about the time you'll spend hunting down that information vs. the time you spend to earn the money to pay the teacher. Which "costs" more? Time is money.
  • A teacher can point out details you would likely never notice yourself, such as how you hold your hand/fingers. Many of these seemingly minute details become very useful later at a higher level of skill.
  • Taking lessons or not, practice will be the main thing that makes your skill. No teacher can change that.

Lastly, keep in mind that you don't have to take weekly lessons. It's perfectly OK to self-teach for a month, then book a 1 hour lesson to get pointers on your technique, areas for improvement, and suggestions on exercises.


Take lessons with a teacher. End of story. You will learn so many bad habits and progress very slowly on your own. If you are serious about learning to play at all, take lessons. Once you reach a certain level (depending on age, practice, etc), you could teach yourself. But there's so much to learn in the beginning, a good teacher will really be worth your money.

  • no man thnx. Teachers sux. I'm playing better then all teachers I know, just because I learned my self. All things that they learn, most of them are gained my experience and there fantasies... I have my own story and experience. I had few teachers just to grab the best there invented methods. Just for that, by definitely not for LEARNING basics, I would never play like that in my life, I i'd be learning for what they say. Every guitar player has it's own way to go ALONE!
    – Anonymous
    Jan 13, 2011 at 22:00
  • 1
    @holms - It sounds to me like you haven't met any good teachers. I learned piano from a teacher who was inflexible, and I ended up teaching myself to play. However, several years later, I learned guitar from two excellent teachers. Mar 10, 2011 at 21:57
  • Too many bad teachers out there... If you find a good one, you're better off than with (solely) self training books/videos. If not (and for most people that's the reality) you're better off on your own.
    – Anonymous
    Mar 11, 2011 at 7:18
  • 1
    not very argumented answer, can your teacher teach you to play better then him? Can't he teach you how to learn guitar by your self instead of someones fantasies? My best friend was my first guitar teacher, you know what? I'm playing 100x better then him now =), NOw that's what I call a good teacher. He teached me to LEARN GUITAR BY MYSELF. That's how you become a pro of your bussiness.. what's the poing of taking all experience from one man? You will be a clone of that man, that's it.. where's you personality in guitar =)? This won't born because of good teacher belive me=)
    – Anonymous
    Mar 13, 2011 at 5:34
  • big +1. Learning music is a human interaction and the odds are much more in your favor if you have a real teacher. Mar 16, 2011 at 22:40

The only way to get better at something is practice! Don't get discouraged if you feel as if you're not making much progress - practising every day (not necessarily for hours and hours at a time) will help you improve enormously.

  • 2
    Not enormously, but just a little everyday ;) a little times 365 times X years = enormous ;)
    – Anonymous
    Jan 13, 2011 at 21:55

The best thing I have ever done on my own is buy The Amazing Slow Downer. It lets you slow down a song you want to learn, and play along at a much slower place. I was playing along to Metallica in my first month.

I do think a local teacher is key. It gets you to the next level, because you can't even tell what mistakes you're making.

  • 1
    "Best practice" does the same and it's free : xs4all.nl/~mp2004/bp
    – Anonymous
    Jan 13, 2011 at 21:36
  • If you have an iPhone or iPad, Capo is a good alternative to The Amazing Slow Downer.
    – Anonymous
    Jan 21, 2011 at 20:18

Learning by yourself is fun, and I did that for many years, but you can easily become stuck in a rut and just keep going over the same old stuff because it is comfortable for you.

I have recently approached a teacher after many years of being self taught, and it has really helped to 'push' me to the next level. A good teacher will take you out of your comfort zone and stretch you to become a better player. For example, I was always very familiar with the actual notes on the fretboard on all strings within the first 5 frets, but never bothered to become intimately familiar with the notes from the 6th to the 12th frets.

At my very first lesson, my teacher pushed me to learn those well in preparation for upcoming lessons where I will be breaking out of my pentatonic box habits and learning triads.

It certainly wasn't easy for me, but I pushed myself, and now have a much better familiarity with the fretboard than I have had in 20 years of playing. I couldn't believe that I hadn't committed myself to learning that information before.


A pretty decent video method to learn how to play guitar I've been recommended is the Metal Method

Don't let the looks of the guy or name of the method think it's all for Metal learning, it's a general, down to the basics kind of method that so far has brought a few of my friends to a pretty decent level in no time.

  • I am a casualty of the Metal Method dating back to the late 1980s. The course offers little in the way of counting time. I learned great tricks and licks, but cannot play with a band to this day. Mar 16, 2011 at 22:36

Study both music and the guitar at the same time.

I found playing the keyboard and a couple of youtube videos by Andrew Furmanczyk particularly helpful to learning about music theory and chords while I was learning.


To answer the question: the biggest advantage to learning by yourself is the time-freedom and independence of thought. You are the master of yourself. You set the exercises and practice. You set your own goals. You judge yourself.

This ultimately means you must be 100% critical of your practise / performance. It is not enough simply perform an exercise and complete it. You must be critical of every nuance of your physical being as well as judge with your ears to listen to your performance.

Recording yourself is a great way to develop this. Don't ask your family to judge you! You have to develop your own personal Simon Cowell critic in your brain.

Ultimately, this leads back to the BALANCE between learning by yourself and having a COACH or TEACHER. Personally, I see a big difference between the two. When I think of a TEACHER, this usually is a person who is INSTRUCTING YOU on something that you do not yet master. They are able to give you pointers as to correct execution and give you a level to strive towards in terms of execution and delivery.

A COACH can provide the same thing, but I believe that a COACH should be helping you discover more about yourself and your own limitations. This doesn't necessarily have to be an airy-fairy/fuzzy/soft subject: It can be physical/technical limitations, it can be mental/emotional limitations and any combination within. These are things that are much better dealing with someone who can coach you towards higher levels of skill as well as higher levels of self.

The beauty of this is that the best coach to begin with is yourself - if you know how. It's best to start with the premise that no one can motivate you to be better than the best coach in the world - yourself!


I'm a professional guitarist, and I've been teaching guitar for the past 41 years.

Advantages of learning on your own

  • It's cheaper
  • it's not a fixed time commitment (you don't have to be there every Thursday or whatever)
  • You'll only be playing music you like

Disadvantages of learning on your own

  • You don't know what you don't know. It's easy to do something intuitively that will hamstring you later on in terms of posture, finger position and hand placement, pick grip,etc - and bad habits can be hard to break.

  • Because you don't know what you don't know, you'll probably not be giving enough attention to some of the fundamentals of music.

Advantages of learning with a teacher

  • The teacher will (or at least should) develop a plan to get you from point A to point B. Skills will be sequenced, because they do build on each other.

  • A teacher will expose you to concepts and music that you might not discover on your own.

  • Many teachers can give you a new perspective on things you find daunting. I experienced more than a few "AHA!" moments with my teachers.

Disadvantages of learning with a teacher

  • There are more than a few teachers out there who don't know what they're doing. Teaching is an art that combines knowledge, communication skills, and motivation. I had a couple or three teachers in my life that in retrospect were a waste of time, and in one case probably set me back a bit.

In the past, utltimately virtuoso ethnic musicians learned directly from each other by ear - and more often than not couldn't read a single note. Today, their descendants short-cut this process, learning from slowed-down recordings. This is the basis of much learning amongst, for example, Irish session or Balkan dance musicians. Often, and though having a repertoire of thousands of tunes, they will be unable to tell you the name of the one they are playing.

Music notation may have it's uses, but shoves a massive cognitive load between you and your passion. Learn to distinguish between learning music and learning how to RTFM..

Instead, trust your memory. Learning by ear, your fingers will find a way of playing that simply works. You will remember how to play a piece the instant you (re)hear it.

Become active in a playing musical community (session/jam/dance), and above all, play with others. Good players will provide simple, ongoing correction. The rest will look after itself.


It depends, for me what I did was I learned guitar on my own through youtube videos, and if it is fast enough I tried to download it using Video Surgeon, it is also economical to learn on your own, guitar teachers also do like this, so might as well learn from self.


While teachers are certainly helpful for learning at first, you are the person that knows yourself the best. Learning on your own may create bad habits that can affect your playing in the long run, but teachers can correct things like that.

However, certain teachers may stifle your potential by assigning you pieces that do nothing to address the problems that you have, or by moving too quickly or slowly. But teachers may also help you to get out of your comfort zone and learn things you wouldn't have done on your own.

In the end, it really depends on how you learn as opposed to how your teacher teaches.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.