If you’re learning to play the guitar, there is enough information on the internet for you to figure out the basics online.
With the amount of information available on the internet these days, including on blogs and YouTube videos, it’s very possible to teach yourself how to play the guitar using online resources.
With that said, it’s not the best method, because it’s simply a lot easier to have someone guide you through the process and show you mistakes that you’re making as well as common pitfalls to avoid.
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.
With 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 to 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 any money.
Typically, you can get a guitar of reasonable quality for around $300, including Fender Squire models, Jackson Dinky models, as well as a nice 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.
2) Use Ultimate-Guitar.com
This 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 user.
However, the most useful aspect of this website is the plethora of user-submitted guitar tabs that people have created over the years, and it’s really crazy how many there are on this website.
It’s amazing, and it makes me truly grateful to be alive in the age of the internet.
3) 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.
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.
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 too. I use it for this purpose all of the time.
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.
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.
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 an instructor at a proper music school, 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.
Truthfully, I think hurt fingers is just an excuse to quit. That’s like quitting going to the gym just because your muscles were sore after your first work-out.
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 technique 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 later in your 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.
I’ll make sure to write an article and make a YouTube video for you in the future.
The Best Way Forward
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
With all things considered, yes, it’s very possible to learn how to play guitar from online resources, but it’s not the best method of doing so.
If you’re really on a budget, you can take that route, but getting a good instructor will truly help you out.