What’s the best way to teach yourself guitar? Yeesh, you’re really asking the big questions today, huh?

When I was 13 years old, I was a drummer in a band. We always faced each other during practices, and I would watch the guitar player, Andy, like a hawk. I studied his hands so closely that when I picked up a guitar, I was able to strum some chords.

I then borrowed his guitar and started learning albums like, Pearl Jam’s “Ten” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” Later on I got my hands on a Stevie Ray Vaughn VHS and learned all his licks.

Teaching yourself guitar is possible, but you do need some inherent capabilities, whether it’s being a strong visual learner, having a good ear, or simply picking things up quickly. In this guide, I’ll share some thoughts on other things I think can help you learn guitar on your own. Honestly, in this day and age with all the free online resources we have, there’s no better time.

Choosing the Right Guitar

When it comes to learning how to play guitar, choosing the right instrument is crucial. There are several types of guitars available, including acoustic and electric guitars. As a beginner, it’s important to choose a guitar that suits your needs and skill level.

Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitars are a great choice for beginners. They are versatile and can be used to play a variety of music styles. They are also relatively affordable and require little maintenance. When choosing an acoustic guitar, look for one that is comfortable to hold and has a good sound quality.

Electric Guitar

Electric guitars are another option for beginners. They are ideal for playing rock, blues, and other genres that require a more amplified sound. Electric guitars are also easier to play than acoustic guitars, as they have thinner strings and a lower action. When choosing an electric guitar, look for one that is comfortable to hold and has a good sound quality.

Beginner Guitar

If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to choose a guitar that is specifically designed for beginners. These guitars are often more affordable and easier to play than other types of guitars. They also come with features such as a built-in tuner and instructional materials to help you get started.

Starter Guitar

A starter guitar is another option for beginners. These guitars are often sold in packages that include everything you need to get started, such as a guitar, case, and accessories. Starter guitars are often more affordable than other types of guitars, making them a good choice for those on a budget.

In conclusion, choosing the right guitar is an important part of learning how to play. Whether you choose an acoustic or electric guitar, a beginner guitar, or a starter guitar, make sure it suits your needs and skill level. With the right guitar, you’ll be on your way to becoming a skilled guitarist in no time.

Understanding the Basics

When you’re first starting out with guitar, it’s important to understand the basics. This will set you up for success as you progress and learn more advanced techniques. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

Guitar Basics

Before you dive into playing chords, it’s important to understand how to hold and tune your guitar. Make sure you’re comfortable with the following:

  • How to hold the guitar properly (sitting or standing)
  • How to tune your guitar (using an electronic tuner or tuning by ear)


Chords are the foundation of guitar playing. They’re made up of multiple notes played together to create a harmonious sound. Here are some basic chords to start with:

  • G chord: This is one of the easiest chords to play and is used in many popular songs.
  • C chord: Another simple chord that’s used frequently in songs.
  • Basic chords: In addition to G and C, there are many other basic chords you can learn to expand your repertoire.

Minor Chords

Minor chords are similar to basic chords, but they have a slightly different sound. Here are some minor chords to get started with:

  • Am chord: This is a common minor chord that’s used in many songs.
  • Em chord: Another minor chord that’s frequently used.

By understanding these basics, you’ll be well on your way to teaching yourself guitar. Remember to practice regularly and be patient with yourself as you learn. With time and dedication, you’ll be playing your favorite songs in no time!

Learning to Read Guitar Tabs and Chords

One of the first steps in teaching yourself guitar is learning how to read guitar tabs and chords. Guitar tabs are a form of musical notation that represents the guitar’s strings and frets. Chords, on the other hand, are a combination of notes played simultaneously to create a harmonic sound.

To read guitar tabs, you need to understand the basic structure. Each horizontal line represents a guitar string, with the bottom line representing the thinnest string and the top line representing the thickest string. The numbers on the lines indicate which fret to play on that string. For example, a “0” means to play the string open, and a “3” means to play the third fret.

Reading chord charts is another essential skill for learning guitar. A chord chart is a diagram that shows the finger positions for a particular chord. The dots on the chart represent where to place your fingers, and the numbers indicate which finger to use. For example, “1” means your index finger, “2” means your middle finger, and so on.

It’s important to practice reading tabs and chord charts regularly to build your skills. Start with simple songs and gradually work your way up to more complex pieces. You can find tabs and chord charts online or in guitar books.

In addition to tabs and chord charts, understanding chord progressions is also crucial for playing guitar. A chord progression is a series of chords played in a particular order. Learning common chord progressions can help you play a wide variety of songs.

Overall, learning to read guitar tabs and chords is an essential step in teaching yourself guitar. With practice and dedication, you can master these skills and become a proficient guitarist.

Practicing Regularly and Effectively

Regular practice is essential to learn guitar. It’s better to practice for a shorter period every day than for a long time once a week. Aim to practice for at least 20 minutes every day.

To develop a habit of regular practice, choose a specific time and place to practice every day. It could be before or after work/school, or in the evening after dinner. Make sure your practice space is free from distractions, and you have everything you need within reach.

Using a metronome is an excellent way to practice regularly and effectively. It helps you keep a steady tempo and improves your timing. Start with a slow tempo and gradually increase it as you get comfortable.

Strumming patterns and picking exercises are also essential for effective practice. Practice different strumming patterns and picking techniques with a metronome to improve your rhythm and timing.

Finger exercises for guitar are another crucial aspect of practice. They help build strength, dexterity, and coordination in your fingers. Practice finger exercises regularly to improve your playing and reduce the risk of injury.

In summary, practicing regularly and effectively is the key to learning guitar. Develop a habit of regular practice, use a metronome, practice strumming patterns and picking techniques, and do finger exercises regularly. With consistent practice, you’ll see progress in your playing in no time.

Using Online Resources and Video Tutorials

In today’s digital age, learning guitar has never been easier with the abundance of online resources and video tutorials available at your fingertips. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, there’s an online resource out there to help you improve your skills.

One of the most popular resources for guitar players is YouTube. With millions of videos available, you can find tutorials on almost any song or technique you want to learn. You can also find channels dedicated to guitar lessons and theory, such as Justin Guitar, which offers free and paid content for players of all levels.

If you’re looking for a more structured approach, online guitar lessons may be the way to go. There are many websites that offer comprehensive courses, such as Fender Play, which offers a wide range of lessons for beginners to advanced players. These courses often include video tutorials, interactive exercises, and personalized feedback to help you progress at your own pace.

In addition to paid resources, there are also many free online resources available. Websites like Ultimate Guitar offer tabs and chords for thousands of songs, while Guitar World provides articles and lessons on a variety of topics.

When using online resources and video tutorials, it’s important to be mindful of the quality of the content and the credibility of the source. Look for resources that are recommended by other players and have positive reviews. It’s also important to supplement your online learning with practice and feedback from a teacher or other experienced player.

Overall, using online resources and video tutorials can be a great way to teach yourself guitar. With a little research and dedication, you can find the right resources to help you achieve your musical goals.

Learning Your Favorite Songs

One of the most enjoyable aspects of playing guitar is being able to play your favorite songs. Learning how to play songs that you love is a great way to stay motivated and to measure your progress as a guitar player.

To start learning your favorite songs, you’ll want to choose songs that are within your skill level. If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to choose songs that use basic chords and strumming patterns. As you advance, you can start to tackle more complex songs.

One great way to learn songs is to use online resources. There are many websites and apps that offer guitar tabs and chord charts for popular songs. Some popular websites include Ultimate Guitar and Songsterr.

Another great way to learn songs is to watch videos of your favorite guitarists playing the songs. This can give you a better understanding of the strumming patterns, chord progressions, and techniques used in the song. You can find many videos on YouTube of guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and many others.

When learning a song, it’s important to take your time and break the song down into manageable parts. Start by learning the chords and strumming pattern for the verse, then move on to the chorus. Once you have the individual parts down, you can start to put the song together.

Learning your favorite songs is a great way to stay motivated and to measure your progress as a guitar player. With online resources and the help of your favorite guitarists, you can start playing your favorite songs in no time.

Improving Technique and Music Theory

Improving your technique and music theory knowledge is essential to becoming a better guitar player. Here are some tips to help you improve in these areas:


  1. Practice regularly: Consistent practice is key to improving your technique. Set aside time each day to practice and focus on specific techniques.
  2. Start slow: It’s important to start slow and gradually increase your speed. This will help you develop muscle memory and accuracy.
  3. Use a metronome: A metronome is a great tool to help you keep a steady rhythm and improve your timing.
  4. Focus on proper hand positioning: Proper hand positioning can help prevent injuries and improve your playing. Make sure your wrists are straight and your fingers are curved.
  5. Experiment with different techniques: Don’t be afraid to try different techniques, such as fingerpicking or alternate picking. This can help you develop a more versatile playing style.

Music Theory

  1. Learn the basics: Start by learning the basics of music theory, such as scales, chords, and keys. This will give you a foundation to build on.
  2. Practice scales: Practicing scales can help you improve your finger dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard. Try practicing major and minor scales in different positions.
  3. Study chord progressions: Understanding chord progressions can help you write better songs and improvise more effectively. Learn common chord progressions and experiment with creating your own.
  4. Use ear training exercises: Ear training exercises can help you develop your ability to recognize different notes and chords by ear. This can be helpful when learning songs or improvising.
  5. Take lessons: Consider taking lessons from a qualified guitar teacher to help you improve your technique and music theory knowledge. They can provide personalized feedback and guidance.

Improving your technique and music theory knowledge takes time and effort, but it’s worth it in the end. Keep practicing and experimenting with different techniques and concepts, and you’ll see improvement over time.

Seeking Guidance from Guitar Teachers

Ok, I know this is a post about the be way to teach yourself guitar, but it’s important to consider checking in with a guitar teacher, whether it’s someone that teaches at a music store or a friend who plays, at some point during your learning.

The reason is because, while I think it’s critical to do things your own way on guitar, touching base with someone who is a professional can help clear up issues that may be holding you back. There are some things you should do in your own way, but there are some things that are fundamental and need to be done the proper way when learning guitar.

Take a pit stop, check in with someone who’s far ahead of you on the same road, and it’ll pay off bigtime.

Staying Motivated and Patient

Learning guitar can be a challenging and rewarding experience. However, it can also be frustrating and demotivating at times. Here are some tips to help you stay motivated and patient throughout your guitar journey:

Set Realistic Goals

It’s important to set achievable goals for yourself. Don’t aim to play like a professional guitarist overnight. Instead, break down your goals into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, aim to learn a new chord or song each week. Celebrate your progress and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t achieve your goals straight away.

Practice Consistently

Consistent practice is key to improving your guitar skills. Set aside a regular time each day or week to practice, and stick to it. Even if you can only spare 10-15 minutes a day, it’s better than nothing. Over time, you’ll start to see progress and feel more motivated to continue.

Find a Support System

Learning guitar can be a solitary pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be. Join an online forum or local guitar group to connect with other guitar players. You can share tips and advice, ask for feedback on your playing, and encourage each other to keep going.

Mix Up Your Practice Routine

Practicing the same thing over and over can become tedious and demotivating. Mix up your practice routine by trying new techniques, learning different genres of music, or playing with other musicians. This will keep things fresh and interesting, and help you stay motivated.

Be Patient

Learning guitar takes time and patience. Don’t expect to become a master overnight. It’s normal to feel frustrated or discouraged at times, but remember that progress takes time. Keep practicing, stay motivated, and you’ll get there eventually.

By following these tips, you can stay motivated and patient as you learn to play guitar. Remember to enjoy the process and have fun along the way.

Exploring Advanced Techniques

Once you have mastered the basics of guitar playing, it’s time to move on to more advanced techniques. These techniques will help you take your playing to the next level and allow you to explore new sounds and styles.

One of the most important advanced techniques to learn is guitar soloing. This involves playing lead guitar over a chord progression, creating a melody that complements the rhythm guitar. To get started with soloing, you’ll need to learn scales and arpeggios. These will give you the foundation you need to improvise and create your own solos.

Another advanced technique to explore is upstrokes. Upstrokes are a type of strumming technique that involve strumming the guitar strings in an upward motion. This can add a dynamic and rhythmic element to your playing, and can be used in a variety of genres.

When exploring advanced techniques, it’s important to remember that practice is key. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right away – it takes time and dedication to master these techniques. Try breaking them down into smaller parts and practicing them slowly at first, gradually building up speed and accuracy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need any prior musical knowledge to start teaching myself guitar?

Not necessarily. While having some basic knowledge of music theory can be helpful, many beginners start with no prior musical knowledge. There are plenty of resources available for beginners that start from the very basics.

Do I need to learn to read music to play the guitar?

While it can be helpful to learn to read music, it is not strictly necessary to play the guitar. Many guitarists use tablature (tabs), which is a way of notating music specifically for the guitar. I taught myself to play guitar at age 13 and didn’t learn to read music (other than badly, for piano) until college.

Should I start with a pick or fingerpicking?

Both are essential skills for a guitarist, but it’s often recommended to start with a pick as it can be a bit easier for beginners. Once you are comfortable with using a pick, you can start practicing fingerpicking.

How can I develop my sense of rhythm and timing?

Practicing with a metronome is one of the best ways to develop your sense of rhythm and timing. Start at a slow tempo and gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable.

How can I prevent hand and finger pain while practicing?

It is normal to experience some hand and finger pain when you first start playing the guitar. However, proper technique, regular breaks, and hand stretches can help prevent excessive pain. If you experience persistent or severe pain, it is recommended to consult a medical professional.