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What's the best approach to learning to play the guitar?

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Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2
Topic starter  

I've always been interested in learning how to play the guitar and last summer I bought an acoustic guitar. I took lessons for maybe a month, but the lessons seemed so simple to do on my own that I quit and tried to learn on my own. After a couple months, I haven't learned anything new.

Enough background info on me...What would be the best and possibly the most enjoyable approach to learning to play the guitar? I've heard of people buying a book which shows chords and learning from there. I've also heard of people who just play music by reading tabs. And I've also heard of those who learn something called guitar theory to learn how to play. So can anyone give me any recommendation to the best approach and hopefully the most enjoyable approach to learning this?


Bob Squires
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 200

Welcome to Guitar Noise Koji126.

Best method to learn how to play :?:

I use both on line lessons and I have an instructor.

Learning on your own using online resources such as Guitarnoise or the About site
(and others like them) are fine if you have the discipline to focus and learn the lesson topic before moving to the next topic.

However, Online lessons will only take you so far :(

Taking lessons from an instructor has its advantages in that you have an experienced player that will provide feedback as you progress through the process of learning.

Finding a good instructor that understands your goals and can help you reach your goals is a challenge. Ask your friends, local school or music center if they have any recommendations.

Also, an excellent way you can augment your experience is by playing (jamming) with an experienced player 8)

Finally be prepared to study (theory) and practice – practice – practice :!:

Good luck in your quest :!:

Oh and remember – practice – practice – practice.


Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2171

I have to second that the best way really is with a good instructor. The emphasis there is on "good!" A bad instructor can actually damage your playing by letting bad habits develop and set in that will make more advanced skill more difficult or even impossible to learn until you fix the habits.

A good teacher will also help focus on getting you to your goals without ignoring reading music, theory, and having fun.

I'll also agree that a good teacher is hard to find. I have to drive an hour in each direction for my instructor . . and it's absolutley worth it! (Taking lessons from someone who learned from Jimmy Smith is a good thing :) )

Do the on-line lessons, and try your hand at teaching yourself, but don't neglect getting a good teacher as well.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST

Alan Green
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5342

I think the most important thing is to actually get playing something, so what I do with students is start them out with very simple songs in their early lessons. You've guessed it - Horse With No Name gets an outing in the very first lesson, with emphasis on counting 1-2-3-4 and getting downstrokes in on the first beat of each bar. Normally by the end of that lesson, I've got students doing downstrokes on all four beats.

From there, you'll need to develop a bank of chord shapes (Brown Eyed Girl is really good for a second song) and then move on to slightly harder strumming patterns (Wonderwall).

At the same time I introduce an "Obligatory Bit Of Theory" at each lesson as well as looking at Tab and basic lead techniques. No scales until lesson 3 or 4, and then only first pattern Am pentatonic.

It's unlikely you'll teach yourself completely - eventually you'll want to specialise in something and it's time to find a specialist teacher; but by then you should have all the basics in place.


A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at:

Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 71

Initially I'm not sure it's a teachers fault if the start is boring. It's essentially easy to teach but difficult to do so practice is required, personally I'd suggest spacing out the lessons more (every 2-3 weeks) rather than quitting.

Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10

But what if you're too poor to get an instructor and you don't know anyone who plays guitar? Would you be doomed to forever not be good? Or would you still be able to reach your goals and become really good with online lessons/books?

I wanna be an elite guitarist. :)

Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 71

Well I'm sure you can become pretty good by yourself. But virtually all musicians need to play with other people to get the most out of themselves and their instruments. I'm pretty sure that no matter where you are you can find some sort of person to play with...

Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2801

Back in 1987, I'm becoming a ol' foogy <sp>, I met a guy that became my best bud for a while. He had played for maybe 8 years before we eventually lost touch but he was really really good.

He never took lessons, never had the internet. But he played all the time. I dont think I ever even heard him call it practice. He just loved to play.

That said I agree with all that was already said. I am using a combination of online lessons here at Guitar Noise, which are terrific and free. I also use a tutor that cost me about $22 a week.

There is probably alot you can learn on your own but I think the important thing is that you just play. Get on one of the many "Song for Beginners" lessons and play it til you master it.

Just have fun. :)


“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)

Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 326

If you can afford it, get yourself a competent teacher.
It is an absolute must if you wish to play to your potential.

Latest addition: Cover of "Don't Panic" by Coldplay

Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 365

I would tell ya it depends on your goals, but I can't say that because you don't know what your goals are. Does anyone know when they decide to learn what their goals are?.....if you think its business then get an instructor, but they will tell what too do and you might not like that or it won't be fun. Learning on your own you could strum chords that sound nice and work your way too strumming songs. Other techniques you can learn too it will just take longer but may give you a better sense of accomplishment. I wonder if the right way of doing things will dawn on everyone even if self taught. When you sleep if your not comfortable you change position....right ?

Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8184

Everyone else pretty much covered most of this topic so I will add this.
Learning guitar can be MOSTLY fun.
There are some things that can be quite boring, espescially right at the first stages of learning.
These boring things are also important to do. Some are just to get your fingers to do what you want them to.
An athlete has to Exercise to be good even though the exercise itself is not the most enjoyable aspect of what they do.

Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 21

I took my first lesson the other day, and I have to say, I don't think I leanred much at all. He basically affirmed that I was on the right track, and started me learning book lessons from Hal Leoanrd. Really nice guy and all, but did I really just pay 23 bucks for a half hour of that?

I've decided I will only take a lesson once a month, and use it for feedback, because I seem to be learning fine on my own.

Course, maybe I need a better teacher, but this is the only one who was taking new students that I could find. I withhold judgment until I have had a couple more lessons.....

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 4921

You really can't judge your fit with the teacher by the first lesson (with one exception that I'll get to in a moment). Before you walked in the door he knew nothing about you - so where should he start? Chords? Improvisation? Fingerpicking? Reading? Theory? Technique? Pick control? Dexterity exercises?

I mean, there's a lot of stuff that can come up in a lesson. He needs to get a good idea about where you are, and what you want to learn. He also needs to see you play for a bit, because you may not be aware of weaknesses or bad habits. He doesn't know your learning speed either - if he shows you too much, you're overwhelmed - so the first lesson or two may seem slow.

It's not that he's trying to stretch things out; it's more diagnostic than anything else.

A good teacher is going to give you what you can handle, and what you need to learn. That's tailored differently to every individual, so even for rank beginners it's not a cookie-cutter approach.

Now the exception: if a student wants to specialize in a style the teacher isn't comfortable with, and has made big strides in that direction already, an honest teacher will turn him/her away.

There are teachers who specialize in a style, and teachers who don't. I'm a generalist - I'll teach a bit of just about any style - so if someone wants to learn Celtic guitar or whatever, I can help a beginner. If you've been playing Celtic music for ten years, you're proficient in DADGAD tuning, and you're looking for more of the subtle elements of the style, I'm stretching. I'll be upfront about that, and tell you you're near my limits in that style. I'll recommend another teacher who specializes in what you want if I can.

It doesn't do a teacher's reputation any good to continue with a student he can't help. If he didn't have that chat with you, I'd hold off on deciding the value of the teacher until you've had at least 3-4 lessons.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 222

I don't know if anyone said this, I was kind of scrolling along, but listen to artist you love, and listen to different types of music(blues, rock, country,...etc).

Practice hard, and set goals.

"Failure is the key to success" Lee Wen; Champ vs Champ