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The guitar is often held in the minds of many as an instrument of mystique. Many people have mastered the guitar in their own way, yet for whatever reason, many automatically assume that they will never have the skill level as their musical idols.
So how hard is it to learn the guitar? The truth is, learning the guitar is like learning any other skill. In fact, with so many different ways to learn the guitar, it has likely become easier to accomplish.
In this article, we will cover the various methods currently available to learn the guitar. Read on to learn the benefits of each path and discover which method might be best for you.
Table of Contents
With the capabilities of modern-day internet connections, the internet has become a facet of the daily life of many people. As this shift has occurred, there has been a multitude of guitar resources that have become available to guitarists.
Many of these resources feature online lessons in a format designed to foster the growth of a guitarist’s skills with a roadmap to success, often with a small monthly subscription fee required. One such resource for guitar lessons is Guitar Tricks.
Since 1998, Guitar Tricks has been a go-to online guitar resource for guided video lessons. In fact, since its inception, Guitar Tricks has taught over 3 million different guitarists how to play the instrument.
However, Guitar Tricks is much more than just a resource for video lessons. Rather, the service is designed as a digital school, catering to guitarists of all skill levels.
Guitar Tricks has over 11,000 different lessons available from over 40 different instructors, as well as lessons on over 1000 different songs. You can even choose the instructor of your choice and learn their specific lessons.
If you’re completely new to the instrument, Guitar Tricks has a specific program that will teach you all of the fundamental aspects of guitar. These fundamentals will give you the building blocks with which you can learn and build your skill and knowledge.
Advanced players are able to learn lessons that are genre-specific. This means that you can learn concepts of Blues, Metal, Country, and more all from the same place. Each genre has its own levels of difficulties, allowing for a natural progression of growth.
Of course, if following a roadmap is not your style, or if you are an established guitarist looking to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, Guitar Tricks does have specific lessons relating to certain topics. Some of the lessons you can find include:
- Chords and Scales
- Gear and Tone
- Artist Studies (including John Mayer, Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix, and more)
- Practice Techniques
You can easily track your progress by marking which lessons you have completed. Guitar Tricks will then show you how many lessons you have completed overall. Guitar Tricks also lets you download many of the lessons to be able to learn and work through without an internet connection.
Each level has its own chapters of videos, which are relatively short and easy to digest. All of the videos are in high-quality 4K format.
The video player itself allows the ability to play the video at different speeds (ranging from 0.5x to 2x). You can also create custom loops to continuously play the desired segment.
If this wasn’t enough, Guitar Tricks also offers private online 1-on-1 lessons with a number of their instructors. You can choose between a 30-minute and 60-minute lesson, with the ability to book both one-off lessons and/or recurring lessons.
Topping it all off, Guitar Tricks also has a wealth of extra tools and resources available to subscribers of the platform. These tools can be used during practice sessions as well as when you’re away from the guitar but wish to keep studying. The tools available include:
- Fretboard trainer
- Scale finder
- Chord finder
- Jam station with backing tracks
- Glossary of guitar terms
- Guide on guitar tabs
- Fretboard diagram
- Chord charts
You also have the ability to interact with other guitarists within the Guitar Tricks community on the online message board forum. Quite a few topics are discussed in the forum, and it can be a great place to ask a question or get to know some other guitarists who are on the same path of learning.
You can also take Guitar Tricks with you wherever you go as the platform has applications for both Android and iOS devices. Within the app, you can take lessons as well as use the tools in the Guitar Tricks tool kit.
Taking private lessons with a guitar instructor has become increasingly accessible in recent years. With the internet, guitarists have the ability to choose any guitar teacher from around the world and take a private lesson with them. In fact, you might even be able to take lessons from some of your favorite musicians.
Private lessons with a dedicated instructor will likely be one of the fastest and easiest ways to learn the guitar. This method has been time-tested and has consistently shown results for guitarists that stick with the routine.
A private instructor will be able to apply their experience to your own playing and can give you unique advice to issues they may notice with your playing. By receiving individualized advice in this manner, you will have a far easier time accomplishing your goals, with less time wasted overall.
These types of lessons also open the door to having your own questions answered. Instructors are often passionate about helping others learn their craft, and they will likely be more than willing to take the time to help you fully understand a concept.
Lessons with a private instructor can be extremely humbling, but you will see the results in your playing. But what is better, taking online private lessons or in-person lessons?
Advantages of Online Private Lessons
There are two major advantages when it comes to online private lessons. The first is the fact that you have a wide range of options to choose from when it comes to instructors. By having many options, you can choose to spend time in studies with instructors that have a specialization in a musical area of your interest.
The second major advantage is the fact that you can take lessons directly from the comfort of your own home. This makes it very convenient to take lessons, as well as the possibility to continue lessons while traveling. This is all more apparent in a world that has experienced limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disadvantages of Online Private Lessons
There are a few disadvantages to taking private lessons online. The first is the fact that, while your instructor can see you on their screen and hear you on their speakers, they are not in the same room with you.
Quite often, an instructor will pay close attention to the physical technique and sound of your playing style and be able to suggest things to improve. However, these things might not be as readily apparent if the instructor isn’t in the same room.
Another is that, to take online private lessons, you will need the proper equipment (such as a microphone and headphones) and a decent internet connection to successfully take the lesson. Although these necessities may be essential everyday items to some, it is important to keep in mind.
Advantages of In-Person Private Lessons
In-person private lessons can be great as it forces you to be vulnerable in front of another person with the sole objective of improving your playing. You can also form a great relationship with your instructor, which might be a little harder to do if taking lessons online.
Having to meet your instructor in person also instills a bit of accountability to your playing. It is much easier to excuse yourself from an online lesson, but having to back out of an in-person lesson feels like a sin.
In-person lessons are also great because your instructor will be able to see and hear any sort of problem areas you might be facing as a player. Some of these issues might not be as observable over an internet-based private lesson.
Disadvantages of In-Person Private Lessons
One of the biggest disadvantages to in-person lessons is the time required to physically meet your instructor. Your schedule (or health, in a pandemic-stricken world) may not accommodate these types of meetings as easily.
Another disadvantage is the fact that your options for instructors are limited to those that live in your area. Many of these instructors may not have the type of specialization or experience that you seek for your overall goals.
Learning on Your Own
Being a self-taught guitarist has likely never been easier than it is with today’s modern technology. There is a well-spring of resources available that a guitarist can use to teach themselves the necessary knowledge and skills.
Finding the right books and YouTube videos can be a bit of a challenge if you are unsure of where to start your journey. However, a more experienced player can likely point you in the right direction. Or you can read a guide like this one on how to teach guitar with youtube.
The major advantage of learning on your own is that you are able to dedicate the time to learning concepts and songs in which you have a specific interest. In this way, you can learn the guitar on your own terms without being taught in the over-generalized way that comes with online lesson resources.
Pitfalls of Learning on Your Own
There are a few major drawbacks to taking the route of teaching yourself the guitar. Aside from the possibility of choosing the wrong resources, there is a very high likelihood that a new guitarist will gloss over fundamental concepts that are actually quite critical for guitarists to have.
Another drawback is that the “roadmap to success” is a little less defined than what it would be by following online lessons or private lessons. This means that you could unwittingly make learning the guitar more difficult than it actually needs to be.
It must also be said that, when you reach a certain level of playing, you might begin to notice that much of the learning materials available to you tend to be regurgitated ideas that are simply reworded. This can be challenging, especially when you are ready to take your playing to the next level but need to take the time to sift through available materials to see what will work best for you.
Once you have found a resource to work with, there is a good chance that you might struggle with the way that the concepts are presented. Often, when self-taught guitarists are faced with this dilemma, they either give up their attempts to learn the concept or will go another route to try to understand (which adds even more time required to learn something).
Along with the aforementioned drawbacks, there is also a very high chance that guitarists who choose to learn this way will develop bad playing habits along the way. These bad habits, such as improper fretting and picking technique, can actually hold the budding guitarist back from performing at a higher level.
Bad habits are much harder and take a much longer time to break and correct than it would have taken to develop the proper habits the first time. You might find that you actually have to spend more time re-calibrating your playing than actually learning new things, as certain levels of playing demand a greater amount of finesse.
After a while, you may become extremely discouraged with playing the guitar as your limitations become all too apparent. While it is good to be aware of your limitations, this type of mindset can wreak havoc on your emotional well-being, to the point of possibly putting the guitar down for good.
In situations like these, it is very important to take the time to remember why you picked up the instrument in the first place. You also have to remember that you have a large number of options available to you for breaking out of your skill level plateau.
What is Available to the Self-Taught Guitarist?
As previously mentioned, there are quite a number of different resources that a self-taught guitarist can use to propel their knowledge on the instrument. While many books are available on the market, there are other ways that a self-taught guitarist can improve their skills.
The first is by learning and transcribing songs by ear. Having a developed ear is one of the most important assets a musician can have.
There are a number of different ways to transcribe a song. One method is to use transcription software (such as Transcribe!) which will allow you to load a song, play the song at the desired speed, and create custom loops to isolate troublesome passages. YouTube will also allow you to set a custom speed on videos.
When using transcription software, you essentially use your guitar to find the notes being played. This not only develops your ear but with practice and study, can show you what scales and scale shapes the chords and phrases in a song are taken from. This method can also help with the building blocks of music theory.
Of course, this does take a longer amount of time than it would to just look at guitar tabs or watch a video of someone teaching the song. However, the benefits far outweigh the amount of time required, as you will inevitably learn quite a deal more than if you were just presented with how to play the song without much explanation behind how/why the song works.
In fact, many of the guitar icons of the past have used this method to learn the guitar. Among too many guitarists to name, Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmie Vaughan have both been quoted to have spent their childhood years slowing down their favorite records and learning them note for note.
The time you take with this will develop your catalog of phrases and will go a long way to helping you in real-life musical situations such as playing on stage with other musicians.
Play With Others
This brings the next point, which is to play with others, especially those who are better at the instrument than you. This will take some getting used to, and can sometimes be akin to learning how to have a conversation with other people in a foreign language you haven’t yet mastered.
However, with time, you will start to develop a number of different skill sets that are often not mentioned in any book or lesson video. By having a developed ear, you will likely pick up new ideas that you would never have thought of on your own.
Of course, the key here is to start out small, by either jamming in a private space such as a garage or by attending an open mic. Each of these will give you a lot of information to digest, as it is said that you learn 100x more on stage than what you would learn on your own in the bedroom.
Things To Keep In Mind
As a guitarist, it is almost a guarantee that your personal journey as a musician will not be the same as another guitarist. It is easy to become lost and not know which way to go about learning the instrument.
However, this is actually an empowering aspect. You have the ability, as an individual guitarist, to use whatever resources are available to you. There is no “only way” to learn the guitar.
In fact, it is likely in your best interest to not only take online lessons from an online school but engage in private lessons and self-taught studies as well. You could think of this method as utilizing the trifecta of modern resources available.
Just as no stool can properly stand on one or two legs alone, your guitar playing needs to be supplemented by multiple cornerstones. Taking advantage of every resource available to you is not only commendable but can help you reach your goals quickly and turn you into a highly capable, well-rounded guitarist.
You simply cannot be too proud as a guitarist that you write off taking lessons from an instructor or online resource. Likewise, you also shouldn't be too apprehensive or lazy to work on your own independent studies. All of this works together in tandem to make you a better guitarist.
This is especially true for guitarists that have been playing for a while, but have gaps in their knowledge or abilities. These resources can help fill the gap and cement the knowledge in your mind, but only if you are willing to take the time to search out the resource and implement the information.
How Hard Is It To Learn Guitar? Is It Difficult? Final Thoughts
Guitarists today are blessed with numerous available resources for learning guitar. Never before has a lifetime’s amount of information been readily available to learn, often accessible by a few clicks of a button.
The guitar doesn’t have to be hard to learn, but more often than not, guitarists make it harder than it needs to be. By utilizing any number of different combinations for learning the guitar, you can accomplish any goal and overcome any obstacle you may face in your playing.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!