How do you learn guitar?

  • Hi all,

    I wasn't sure where to post this as it's not really Kemper related but more just about music and learning.

    I'm in my final year of a music degree and for a research project I need to compare online learning vs traditional face to face learning.

    If you're like me you've probably taken a few lessons here and there, used YouTube for loads of free stuff and subscribed to sites like Jam Track Central.

    I'd be extremely grateful if you could let me know your experiences of learning guitar. Just a couple of sentences would be great if you have time.

    Here's my question:

    Do you take or have you ever taken traditional face to face guitar lessons or used online sites for learning? Why did you choose this method and what do you find the main benefits of each type of lesson are?

    Thanks for your time in reading this and especially for replying!

  • Netheravon

    Changed the title of the thread from “Any help appreciated” to “How do you learn guitar?”.
  • When I started to learn how to play guitar there was no "online"... 8o

    So I did it the traditional way, one to one and one to many but all with the people being together in one room. After that I continued with a lot of learning by playing along to each and every tune which came up on the radio. I did this for so many hours during my youth. Finally when online became a topic I found a lot of useful stuff which I enjoyed over time. Mostly I learn from watching how other people play certain stuff.

    When beginners come up and ask me how to do it I definitely suggest them to go for a few hours of learning together with a good teacher. Things like how to hold your hand, the pick etc. is easily learned in a way which is hard to correct later on. The rest I guess is fine from online, skype, DVDs and whatever stuff. Experience and own style anyways comes only with practicing, gigging and so on.

  • My story is similar to deadman''s .. being a lefty, 50+ years ago, no teacher would teach me.. Fortunely I found several players in the Daytona Beach,Florida area to give me help

    I have to say when the internet came along, I found it extremely helpful. But having already played for a very long time it is struggle to unlearn bad habits LOL

  • But having already played for a very long time it is struggle to unlearn bad habits LOL

    Same here and sometimes it's funny in coversations with younger players who tell you all the things you are doing wrong. Personally I am never very dogmatic about things. There are certainly best practices and some things you learn can enable easier access to more advanced things. But the guitar is a great instrument. You get through with things from time to time and it can be very creative and opening up new spaces.

    And I wonder who told Eddie Van Halen and Michael Hedges that it is wrong to put both hands on the fretboard and invent the tapping (which I guess was way before those two but they made it popular) :)

  • Started in the early 90's with a garage sale acoustic guitar (that my Mum bought me.. thanks Ma!) and it came with an old "Ernie Ball - How to play guitar - Beginner" book. That showed me all the basics like hand position, how to hold pick, etc, and a chord chart of several 1st position major and minor chords..

    A few cheesy songs in there too to get you going. No scales or anything like that, just the bare bones so you could strum a tune with some practice.

    Was perfect for me! Was enough in that simple 40 page book to keep me busy for the first 6 months.

    After that, moved onto tablature books of popular albums (Hal Lenoard books?) and started to learn more complex chords (Eric Clapton MTV Unplugged tab book was good for that ), and then some of the heavier bands I was into (Slayer, Metallica etc) where I found the joy of riffs and began learning the simpler solos (scales! I'd heard of those!)

    Then.. musical buddies, garage bands, awful but exciting 1st gigs (friends parties!), etc.

    Was learning songs mostly by ear at this point from just rocking along to my CD's (total trial and error, but common patterns were starting to appear) or from just jamming with my mates and mimicking.

    We got Internet! Tabs online.. internet lessons... world changed. Random websites teaching basic music theory, scale relationships, common modes etc. Just spent enough time on there to give me new tools to play with.

    Wedding bands, pub bands, regular gigging. This was critical. Simply playing a lot did wonders and many things became second nature.

    Had my first ever face to face lesson with a real teacher at this point.. and hated it. Just not for me. Could see the benefit of I wanted to learn theory, but I didn't (and still don't to some extent) see the need to deep dive into music theory. Never went back.

    Fast forward 20yrs and I'm still visiting the occasional tutorial website, but mostly just playing and figuring things out by trial and error. YouTube is amazing if you get stale and want to learn try a new style/technique , then in few more clicks you can be jamming along to a suitable backing track to practice it.

    Wow. Typed a novel. Ha.

    Short answer: Playing a lot. ?

  • Started 11 years ago with a classic guitar. After two years bought myself an electric. From day one decided to learn by myself using Internet and denied to take lessons. Didn't have consistent practice and didn't know the proper way learn guitar. Half a year ago (or so), decided to take it more seriously and started to practice "Rock Discipline" stuff with metronome. Had some results but not much and started to think that I need someone to show me my mistakes and correct them. Three months ago started taking lessons for complete beginners. Had some errors corrected with hand position and basic techniques. It feels that consistent practice with someone who can put me on the right track works better for me than trying to learn by myself.

    And I'm not saying that "Rock Discipline" is bad. I just used it at the wrong time :)

    As for music theory, I think I can learn it by myself, as it appeared not that hard as I thought it would be, especially with the right book in hands and googling when needed. But also practice should go along, like ear training and song analyzing.

  • Started playing 35 years ago - as others have pointed out, no internet back then and I’ll add also that the lesson books weren’t much to be desired either. I picked up Mel Bays Level 1 and that was just standard chords to get started.

    Another book that I found was “Improvising Rock Guitar” which taught your basic blues scale and had 7” record with it to play along with. That was all it took for me to dig in deeper and want to learn more.

    The best thing I ever did was copy records - listen and try to learn the licks and rhythm playing going on. My biggest influences were Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Gilmour, EVH etc. and it was wonderful learning those songs. Too many players now focus on just a TAB and use it as a crutch - learning the song by ear is the best lesson you’ll ever get.

    I do wish sometimes I had pursued it further -later in life I did focus heavily on classical/flamenco and have studied it along with some a Gypsy Jazz... however I learned more in my formative years than I’ve learned ever since.

    Honestly though - just to see that guitar is being talked about now and folks still want to play in a day where music is just “sounds” and samples are more dominant is a plus. The guitar is wonderful instrument - however you choose to learn!

  • Improvising Rock Guitar

    I've been there too back in 1988 , I mainly used books and tabs from guitar magazines , I liked that one very much ( Improvising Rock Guitar) since it had backing tracks and licks : I learnt power chords, pentatonic scales using the box system , then riffs .

    I got a real teacher , but only for 3 lessons before he left to USA... He learnt me barre chords and the basics of Rhythm theory and I went on a self taught trip until now with tons of listening & impro over CD's , I especially remember a thick book of led zep classics , I think I learnt most riffs and a few full songs and it was a very grateful experience.

    I'm now using YT videos to learn about theory & mixing but not guitar anymore

  • Another lefty here. And largely self-taught since day one, but for a few months years ago I had a teacher who was into jazz and fusion. Books, tabs, DVDs and Internet lessons have been helpful, but a more experienced player can give you good advice about what you may need to correct. On your own you may develop bad habits and the learning process is slower, the curve greater. Still, many great players were self-taught back in the day and their individuality is often more obvious thanks to that, I suppose.

  • Hi

    Similar story for me, before the internet and tabs, would play along to records by ear and then had a rudimentary idea of chords etc. I think the first year is the most crucial as it takes a while to master the shapes and getting your fingers in the right place etc, and at first ,it is very difficult to get anything to sound like it should !

    Over time its a case of learning more about technique, scales, theory etc and how the music relates to the song, it is something that you are always learning as you go along i feel.

    I had some lessons a few years ago and i thought that was useful about music theory and working more on technique and bad habits that had crept in etc.

    the biggest benefit i had though, has been playing with others in a band, you really make some large strides forward in terms of timing and progressing your skills by practicing different types of songs etc and playing with others.


  • 44 years ago...several years of lessons with a jazz virtuoso was a short cut to learning advanced chords and training my ear along with slowing down records to figure out solos.

    Rock was easy to figure out after that.

    The key to everything is patience.
    You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.
    -- Arnold H. Glasow

    If it doesn't produce results, don't do it.

    -- Me

  • Started playing 33 years ago, so I didn't choose face to face method, it was chosen for me. A friend of my dad's gave us a classical guitar and soon after I was signed up for guitar lessons with a teacher once per week. I hated it at first, so didn't play or practice much. It was very structured in that we would work through various Method Books which my teacher picked, assigned practice homework. The teacher eventually turned me onto rock/metal, purchased an electric guitar and amp and started learning riffs of stuff I was listening to at the time. Then I would spend multiple hours per day learning from tab books, improvising and playing along with songs.

    I liked the face to face interaction at the time, and looked forward to the weekly session with my teacher. Stayed with face-to-face lessons for about 6 or 7 years. Have never taken another face-to-face lesson since, but I've done a few video lessons and such over the years. Mostly technique and song lessons.

  • Thanks so much to all of you for adding to this really interesting thread. Really useful for me and just great to read how you all approach learning guitar.

    I'm the same as many of you.

    Been playing about 30 years. Started at 12 when a friend of mine left his sister's guitar and basic chord book at my house and I basically 'borrowed' them for a while.

    Moved onto electric and bought a few song books - Metallica Justice for All, AC/DC Highway to Hell etc.

    Never had face to face lessons that have worked as I just haven't found a good teacher near where I lived.

    Online vids have been really useful and I've used many for theory and technique. For this I actually think the theory stuff is more useful.

    Learning this way though has led to me being unbalanced as a player, with my ear training being neglected and technique being the main focus.

    I think a good teacher would have made me a better all round player and now I need to find ways to work on that stuff:)

  • I started playing in 3rd grade. My school offered music lessons and I brought the letter home from school. My mother asked what I wanted to play and I of course said guitar. I had to take a different instrument since guitar was not offered so I chose violin. After 3 years of violin my mother told me if I really was serious about guitar that I needed to prove that I was really interested in it. She handed me a warped acoustic and told me if I could prove I was serious on that she would get me guitar lessons. After a year of playing that POS thing everyday, Christmas morning that year I was greeted with a 1984 Ovation GS2F solid body electric guitar and still have it to this day. I was also give private lessons 30 minutes every week. That teacher would become the first of what is now 5 teachers. Things have also changed dramatically from the way I learned in the 80's until now as well. Back then it was by ear or buy sheet music. Now its just google it and you have tabs, videos, theory breakdowns and everything. With what tech has done for modern music between the gear, how you learn and even how you are heard, it is a great time to be a guitar player.

  • Been playing for about 33 years, and like many on here, generally self taught from tab books mainly.

    Had some lessons which really just pushed me to keep working at it ( as the first few months are hard and not very rewarding).

    I have no music theory knowledge, mainly because I'm too lazy - I don't want to turn the instrument into a chore. I have pinched runs and licks and sometimes work out a legato run purely by ear - read somewhere that this is what Van Halen does, not sure if its true but seems to work for me..

    I am happy at what I can play/level I'm at, not really looking to improve significantly. I do use youtube often to learn songs now in combination with using my ear. I like to start with tabs/videos for speed but sense check it by ear.

    I'm in a tribute to The Cult and used to be in a Whitesnake tribute ( the earlier stuff) and very little of their music is online but as its relatively simple so I learnt the vast majority is by ear.

  • I started in the seventies by ear, stopping and starting tapes and moving the needle back on vinyl. I heard and saw patterns in the music and this was explained in my twenties by a fabulous teacher. I love the theory and I think knowing it moved my ear to places it wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I also did quite a lot of transcribing early on.