Can You Teach Yourself Guitar?


teaching yourself guitar

With so many guitar resources available online, many people are wondering whether they can teach themselves to play the guitar. So: Can You Teach Yourself Guitar?

Yes, it is possible to teach yourself how to play the guitar without going to time-consuming and expensive in-person lessons. In fact, you can do it at your house.

But that doesn’t mean teaching yourself is any easier than getting lessons. There’s a lot more to the question of teaching yourself guitar than just if you can do it. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of teaching yourself guitar below.

Why Teach Yourself Guitar?

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While nothing can beat a real instructor when it comes to learning how to do something new, many people who want to learn a new skill like playing the guitar simply don’t have the time in their day to squeeze in a lesson with an instructor.

Or, if they do, they may not have the funds to afford these lessons. After all, in-person guitar lessons typically start out costing at leasting $30/hr or more a pop.

Teaching Yourself Guitar: Pros and Cons

The Pros of Teaching Yourself

There are some obvious pros to learning on your own. You can do it at your own pace, you don’t have to accommodate the schedule of a guitar teacher on when to study, and using online lessons or YouTube videos to learn is going to be a lot less expensive than weekly meetings with an instructor.

Even buying books on how to teach yourself guitar, while not free as other methods may be, will probably be a lot cheaper in the long run than a teacher would be.

If you’re a very busy person with a jam-packed schedule who wants to try to learn guitar, you might only be able to squeeze in practice time in the very early morning or very late at night, times when a traditional guitar teacher definitely won’t be available. 

With the magic of online lessons and video tutorials, though, you can learn anytime you want. Plus, because they’re immortalized in video format, you can rewatch the same ones over and over as many times as you want if you’re having trouble with a particular skill.

Another pro of being self-taught is that you don’t have to rely on the wisdom of just one person. There are thousands of tutorials and guitar lesson sites on the Internet, so if you’re having trouble with something and one person’s video isn’t helping, you can look around and see if someone else’s advice helps you more. 

The Cons of Teaching Yourself

As great as being self-taught can be, though, there are still some drawbacks. One of the biggest cons of teaching yourself guitar, or any new skill, is that it is entirely your responsibility to stay motivated and dedicated to learning. You have to carve out time to practice, and you have to keep up the habit.

With traditional guitar lessons, you have a built-in motivator in your teacher. If you have appointments to meet with a teacher each week, you’ll feel obligated to practice, which can help you learn faster. When you’re teaching yourself, you need to be able to motivate yourself, which is hard to do, especially if you’re very busy.

Another con is that if you get stuck or make a mistake, no one can help you troubleshoot. You have to go out and find the answers yourself, either by rewatching the same lesson over and over or searching out advice from others.

It can be very frustrating if something you’re doing isn’t working and you can’t figure out why. This is actually a large part of the reason why so many people who try to teach themselves guitar give up.

In a similar vein, trying to teach yourself guitar can make you learn the wrong things. Because you have no one to correct you when you make a mistake, and because the Internet can often be full of misinformation, you need to be careful about what you’re learning and who you’re learning it from.

If you can, try to look into an online instructor or author’s credentials so you can be sure they know what they’re talking about. Once you’ve made a habit of doing something the wrong way, it can be really hard to relearn it the right way, so be careful to really ingrain good technique when starting out.

Is Teaching Yourself to Play the Guitar Hard?

The short answer is yes. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that learning how to do any new skill on your own isn’t difficult. You have to really want it because you’ll be doing it all by yourself. 

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. Learning how to play an instrument is a lot of hard work, and it can be frustrating at times, but it can also bring you a lot of joy. 

The key is just to stay dedicated and keep up with your practice. Eventually, no matter how much of a beginner you were when you started, you’ll find that playing becomes a whole lot easier and more fun.

To discover if learning the guitar is worth it for you, check out my blog on the topic.

How to Start Teaching Yourself to Play Guitar

Once guitarists have the very basics down (strumming, tuning, technique, basic chord changes, etc) I actually like to recommend that they start learning their favorite songs as soon as possible.

Learning songs you love will keep you motivated and having fun, encouraging you to continue to make progress on the instrument.

Many of your favorite songs are likely easier than you think. In fact, you’ll probably find some of them on my list of 50 Best Acoustic Songs for Beginners to Learn. This list includes 50 songs with chord charts, tabs and video lessons, to make teaching yourself as easy as possible.

If you want to make the fastest progress possible though, check out my recommended courses, lessons & teachers.

Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?

Whenever you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out a few of my favorite resources below:

The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings – A unique polymer coating makes these guitar strings last for months or even years at a time, making for an exceptional value. They provide the perfect mix of boom, range, twang, and brightness that acoustic music is known for. — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

The Best Acoustic Guitar – Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the Martin D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever… It’s an excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more. This is also what I play myself — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Chords, Tabs & Video Lessons for 100 Epic Songs – This free guide that I created for fellow guitarists gives you chords, tabs, and video lessons for the 100 best songs to learn on guitar… I spent many hours putting this guide together to help you get better at guitar, faster. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE

Fingerpicking vs Flatpicking Guitar – Learn which picking style is right for YOU by exploring examples, history, and popular players of each style. Discover essential techniques and pros and cons of each approach. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE

Corbin Buff

Corbin has played guitar for over a decade, and started writing about it on Acoustic World in an effort to help others. He lives and writes in western Montana.

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