I am learning guitar all by myself for the last couple of years, scavenging information from internet. But since I am learning all by myself, I don't know I am missing.

My assumption is, in a learning process, i.e. a guitar, there is a well known/ generally accepted path that everyone follows when s/he is in a structured environment, i.e school or a tutor.

So what are the contents of that outline/path? Is it just basic chords and basic music theory? and then do whatever you feel like doing? or there is more to it.

Note : My focus is to play acoustic finger style guitar, with steel string.

@MikeiLL I want to improve my play mostly because I like playing it. I've always been mesmerized by the following tracks,

My end goal is to play something that I can record and sit back, relax and enjoy. It also includes learning to play the above mentioned tracks. But they look like a long shot, so why I plan to take one small step at a time.

Another part is, I am an international student here in the US and I am here alone. I am long way from home and the rather sad part is I don't know anybody here to talk to. So music in the one that keeps me company.

  • I think you should add the type of guitar to the title.
    – Seyf
    Dec 22, 2014 at 13:29
  • In what city are you, @iamcreasy? I'm a self-taught guitar player as well.
    – empty
    Dec 22, 2014 at 16:54
  • @empty I live in Daytona Beach. Dec 23, 2014 at 2:07

6 Answers 6


The absolute best and fastest way to learn is to work with a teacher. A good teacher should be able to listen to the songs you want to play, and lead you in the right direction.

Obviously cost can be a barrier. As a motivated adult learner, you can reduce costs by having less frequent lessons - maybe half an hour every 2-4 weeks, once you know enough to practice, so they can correct any bad habits you may have picked up, and suggest new exercises and ways to push yourself.

However, if you're determined not to get a teacher, the next best thing for structured learning is a book. There is lots of free material on the internet, but books are where lessons and exercises are presented in a structured order.

There are also web sites that teach guitar in a structured way -- generally with the structured content behind a paywall.

There are hundreds of guitar tutor books, and this site is not the place to recommend one over others. Read reviews, look at the contents, "look inside" at Amazon or Google Books, and make a choice that suits you.

Don't get too hung up on the exact songs. Yes, you want finger style lessons, not "how to play screaming rock solos" -- but you will find that you can adapt finger style techniques in one musical style, to the style you prefer.


There is a problem with your assumption that there is a well known/accepted path - if you read other posts here about starting guitar you will see there are many ways to do it.

  • Some focus on chords first
  • Some on melody lines
  • Yet others work on rhythm first
  • Some place theory first, some as an avenue for experienced players or not necessary at all

All these are correct, and they depend on what works for the particular student.

As slim mentioned, having at least some lessons with a teacher can help embed good practice and get you started correctly, and I'd have to agree with Mike that playing/jamming with others helps you progress considerably faster than plugging away on your own, but you can go a long way by simply:

  • listening to tunes you like
  • playing along with them

At first, you'll be terrible! Then you'll find you can play single note melodies along with the tune. As you progress you'll then be able to identify the chords and play them.


Getting in the same room with someone who's doing what you're interested in learning is definitely ideal.

From my understanding "finger-style" guitar with steel string would be more along the lines of folk, or maybe jazz guitar as opposed to flamenco, which would more likely be done with nylon strings.

There are so many levels to it, starting with the physical way you are using the instrument in a way such that it won;t cause (too much) damage to your body over extended hours and years of playing.

Being able to keep the instrument tunes in such a way that it sounds good to the ears can also be quite challenging.

Then there's the question of what exactly you wish to achieve with the music. Is there a repertoire (sets of songs) you are hoping to be able to play? Do you plan to compose your own music? Are you looking to play in a particular style? Will you be performing for other people and would that be in public, for money? Would you plan to play with other musicians or just solo.

You may also want to be able to maintain your instrument and learn about getting it hooked up to a PA system or amplifier.

I cannot strongly enough suggest finding other musicians with whom you can develop relationships. Reach out to them, with respect and consideration that their path is a difficult one. Read writings by and about artists by whom you are moved.

Remember that years and years of genius have gone into designing your instrument (not to mention our systems of musicality) and always let the beauty of the instrument, scales and chords shine through - as well as the beauty of the silence and sound of the space in which you are playing.

Remember that the heart is the root of all of it, filtered by the mind and always, always monitored by the ears. Listen first.

Hope this helps.

  • Yes, talking to someone would definitely help, but I hardly meet someone who in interested in above mentioned tracks. (I've updated my question in response to your answer.) Dec 22, 2014 at 7:04
  • See if there are any "open mics" where you are. Musicians of any genre would probably make for useful companions in your journey.
    – MikeiLL
    Dec 22, 2014 at 16:04

I am/was in the same position. I felt like I was groping in the dark and needed help, not least to not learn bad habits at the beginning. I couldn't afford an hour a week tutor so I found one who does half an hour for half the price. It really helps as you get pointers, structure and motivation (you have to come back next week and show him you practiced what you discussed last week!). Half an hour is not long so he usually checks my tuning, goes over where we were last week, assesses where I'm at and then nudges me on to the next thing. Remember its a long term thing so don't get frustrated, your progress will be slower but, so what? You'll get there in the end.


I would start out with method books that cover basic fret board theory, repertoire and general information about guitar. theory is important because if you know harmonically what is behind the songs your playing you'll be able to expand on what your doing in a given song i.e. improvise, chord substitution, arrangement. think in terms of decades because it should be a fun life long adventure. The sky is the limit. the sky being your imagination combined with the knowledge and skills you've acquired on your musical journey. think long term and have fun. Cheers!


For some reason, I tend to disagree with the face-to-face teacher thing to a certain extent. Every time I have had face-to-face lessons, except for once and that was on Skype, I get some weirdo that jumps into alternative tunings, or somebody that does not really understand my skill level (does not properly assess) and takes me back. I signed up for online lessons through a major music school and have not looked back. It has pushed my guitar skill and music so far forward. That said, it does help a lot to play with somebody better than you - that is where I have probably learned the most in the shortest amount of time. Also, absorb videos. Quit watching television and watch player after player after player with a guitar in your hands. I still do that when I am having a rhythm challenge.

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