If you’re learning to play the guitar, there is enough information on the internet for you to figure out the basics online which is an amazing thing, and a lot can be learned for free. With programs like Guitar Tricks and JamPlay, as well, you have structured plans at your disposal which I personally believe are much better than just trying to wing it on your own.
However, as I said, you don’t even need to use structured programs because a lot of the information is totally free and available to anyone that has a standard internet connection. If anything, the difficulty comes from there being too much information rather than not being able to access it.
To put it simply, learning to play the guitar online is entirely possible due to programs like Guitar Tricks and JamPlay, in addition to the plethora of free tutorials on YouTube from channels Justin Guitar. Much of this content is free as well, however, a structured program like Guitar Tricks is better for most.
As I wrote about in my article on taking guitar lessons, it’s important to have a mentor of some kind who can show you the ropes. Moreover, a great guitar teacher will show you things like economy picking right from the get-go, that way you can incorporate that very useful technique into your style, which is much harder to do once you’ve already learned to play and you’re 5-10 years deep.
Why Guitar Can Easily Be Learned Online
That said, there’s nothing wrong with learning to play an instrument or learning to do anything really, purely from online tutorials and articles.
As was noted above, there are a ton of resources online today, even more so now than just 5-10 years ago, especially with the explosion of YouTube as a source of information and help.
However, there are limitations to learning it this way. Before jumping into all of the drawbacks of learning how to play the guitar using YouTube videos and blog articles, we’ll discuss the resources and advantages of learning how to play the guitar using online resources.
1) It’s Free
If you’re a guitar player on a budget, then learning how to play online is the best option for you because it won’t cost you much money. Once you’ve actually gotten your hands on the guitar which is where the money is first spent, you can get away with learning for free for a while.
Typically, you can get a guitar of reasonable quality for around $300, including Fender Squire Affinity models, Jackson Dinky models, a Dean Starter pack, as well as a nice Fender budget acoustic guitar.
If you really don’t have a lot of money, and you spent all of it getting your first starter pack, or other gear, then maybe it’s best to go ahead and start watching YouTube tutorials and reading blog posts. We’ll talk more about some of the available resources in a moment.
2) You Can Access Massive Libraries of Tablature
Ultimate-guitar is a website that has an article on almost every topic related to the guitar, however, some are much better and more useful than others, so it’s worth looking at the rating system on each which is done by the users. But this isn’t the best part of ultimate-guitar.
The most useful aspect of this website is the plethora of user-submitted guitar tabs that people have created over the years, and there are probably hundreds of thousands of tabs at this point.
Mind you, the most popular songs have probably a hundred tabs on them, but there are many less well-known tabs as well, so it’s not like you’re limited to just the classics.
A lot of educated musicians will tell you about how bad tablature is and why you shouldn’t use it, but frankly, it’s probably one of the better things about playing a stringed instrument.
Tablature is a numbered system that uses numbers to indicate each fret on each string (this is what the super useful Guitar Pro 8 uses).
It’s without a doubt the easiest way to learn how to play a song, and it’s also the most common way that musicians communicate with each other, at least in the online world.
Moreover, it takes about one day to learn how to use it, so it’s definitely worth learning right away. I’ll probably write an article sometime in the future about how to use tablature.
3) You Can Use YouTube
To this day, I still use YouTube video tutorials for learning how to play the guitar, and I’ve watched many videos, although, these days, I’m primarily focused on music theory and improvisation lessons. Some of the best YouTubers to watch out for are Rick Beato, Signals Music Studio, Ben Eller, Jens Larsen, Robbie Barnby, and BERNTH is great too.
The aforementioned YouTubers are more geared towards intermediate to advanced-level students, however, so you might have to go on YouTube and use the search bar for whatever it is that you’re confused about. I use it for this purpose all of the time. For beginner guitar lessons, I’d check out Justin Guitar, Marty Music, and Andy Guitar.
In addition to having a ton of lessons on YouTube, it’s a great platform to find backing tracks and improvisation tracks to play along to (my guide on how to do this). I recommend doing that because this is a great way to practice your chops in a musical way. Great channels for that include Jam Track Central, Quist, and Elevated Jam Tracks.
4) There Are Structured Programs like Guitar Tricks
Programs like Guitar Tricks are great for pretty much anyone but I stress its usefulness for beginners because of its structured approach to learning how to play some of the most popular songs ever made.
This is particularly useful for beginners because the vast majority of them want to get started learning their favourite songs right away.
They don’t want to get bogged down by music theory or learning how to read standard notation (you should learn these two by the way). I recommend at least giving Guitar Tricks a shot for two weeks.
This will get your foot in the door, and the nice thing about it is that your membership will be useful for pretty much as long as you play the guitar. If Guitar Tricks isn’t for you though, you could always try out Justin Guitar who is pretty much the leader of online guitar lessons at this point.
5) There Are Dozens of Free Websites That You Can Use
Earlier in the article, I said there were a ton of free resources online for guitar players and that is true. Other than ultimate-guitar, I find that the Jazz Guitar website has a lot of useful tools as does the piano-keyboard-guide even though it’s for piano players. I like the piano-keyboard-guide because they have useful charts of all of the minor and major keys as well as the chords that belong in those keys.
Another great website for learning the most basic music theory is the Music Theory website which has really intuitive and easy-to-understand lessons on all kinds of useful topics. I also enjoy their tests and exercises like interval training, for example. Justin Guitar has one as well.
Drawbacks of Learning Online
This all comes with a very important caveat, being that learning by yourself purely through the use of online tutorials and articles has some serious limitations, especially for a beginner student.
For that reason, I would suggest getting a proper instructor from a guitar lessons place, or maybe even just a friend who’s really good and knows what he or she’s talking about.
No matter who you are or what you’re learning, having good mentors is crucial to cut your learning curve, and if you don’t have one, you’re going to miss out on some crucial information and lessons and will likely waste years of your time on something that could’ve been fixed or solved in months. So get an instructor.
1) You Won’t Have an Immediate Answer to Your Questions
A lot of beginner players have questions about the process, including how to use the pick properly, how to use proper fingerings, or even what to do about the phase where your fingers always hurt.
A lot of people will even quit over the fact that their fingers haven’t produced the calluses yet which makes it possible for you to play without hurting them (here’s what I have to say about calluses btw).
Truthfully, I think hurt fingers are just an excuse to quit. That’s like quitting going to the gym just because your muscles were sore after your first workout. With all that said, there are forums on the internet where you can get some reasonably good advice like on ultimate-guitar for example.
2) You Might Pick Up on Bad Technique
This is a very insidious aspect of learning purely by yourself and from online tutorials/articles. While there are people out there with unorthodox techniques who undoubtedly pull it off, and it becomes a unique part of their style – thinking of Marty Friedman’s picking technique for instance – it’s best to follow common techniques and ways of doing things when you’re first learning.
If you’re completely self-taught and you missed a crucial technique in the first few years of you’re playing, it’s a very real possibility that the bad technique is so deeply ingrained into your psyche, that it might prove impossible – or at least extremely difficult – to fix it later in life.
As I mentioned above, economy picking is a great example of that. It’s a technique that, when learned right from the get-go, can make your playing extremely smooth and very fast.
However, if you’ve already played for 10 years, and you later try to use economy picking as your primary method of playing, you’re going to find it nearly impossible to start using it.
Although you’ll still be able to economy pick, it will be a conscious effort on your part and not just an unconscious style that you don’t even have to think about anymore.
3) You’ll Miss Out On Time-Saving Techniques/Theories/Styles
Believe it or not, but it took me years to finally figure out what key signature a song was in. For some reason, I took guitar lessons for years but I never learned how to figure out a song’s key signature by ear, I only knew how to do it if I had the piece of music along with the key signature right in front of me.
Had I known somebody who could’ve shown me what I know now, I easily would’ve been able to figure it out and would’ve saved years of my time from messing around, wondering how in the world you improvise over a song properly. Here’s how I learned how to do it (my guide).
The Best Way Forward For Learning the Guitar
The truth is that it’s much better to use online resources as a supplemental way of learning how to play the guitar. It’s best to have a guitar instructor give you 1-2 lessons per week, and then you use YouTube videos and articles between those days. That’s the best way of going about it.
You’ll get the best of both worlds, and you’ll be on the right track for really becoming a phenomenal player without wasting years of your time on something that could be learned in just one year, or maybe even one month, or perhaps even just one day.
YouTube Video Tutorial
Important Things to Note About Learning Guitar Online
1) Having A Teacher + Supplemental Learning Is the Ideal Way
While you can learn a lot on your own, without question the best way to proceed with learning any skill is to have an instructor guide you through a structured program, rather than just learning a bunch of different concepts and ideas haphazardly.