I’m sorry, fellow guitar teachers, but you may not like this article.
As an off-and-on guitar teacher myself, I see how instructors can be super helpful. But only for some people.
I learned guitar pretty much on my own. Not because I’m some sort of prodigy (I’m not), I just loved playing guitar so much that it wasn’t too challenging.
In fact, tons of people teach themselves how to play guitar. And so can you.
So here are three methods for learning guitar on your own -- you can use one or all of these together. Whatever works for you.
Use A Chord-Finding Website
Teachers don’t have a magic knowledge that nobody else has. You can literally Google “how to play a C chord.”
But don’t do that. Instead, check out these three site that show you how to play chords.
ChordFind is as simple as it gets and that’s good news if you’re just starting on guitar.
Let’s say you come across a chord you’ve never tried before, like a Bm7. You would choose the root note in the left box and the “m7” option in the right box. Then, on the virtual fretboard at the top of the page, it will show you exactly how to play it.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can hit the “Variations” button to view other ways you can play that chord.
JamPlay is probably the best online chord-finding website out there -- technically, it’s a reverse chord finder.
You simply click on a virtual fretboard where you’re putting your fingers and it spits out the name of the chord. And then you can use a virtual pick to strum the strings so you can hear what it sounds like.
Physical Chord Chart
Why have a physical chord chart if you have the internet? Well, the internet requires pulling out your phone or laptop, loading up a website, and clicking some buttons.
On the flipside, if you have a physical chord chart hanging on your wall, you can simply lift your head to see how to play a certain chord. This means your practice session is not interrupted by a device.
Look For Guitar Tabs Online
Guitar tabs show you how to play a song -- they include what chords to play, when to play them, the lyrics, and any riffs in the song. When learning a new song, it’s crucial to find an accurate guitar tab website.
Ultimate Guitar is the veteran of guitar tab websites, boasting 1.1 million tabs. It’s trusted. It’s seasoned. And, most importantly, it’s accurate.
And because it’s been around for so long and so many people use it, you can find nearly any song on it. Because any user can add tabs, some of the versions are not accurate or incomplete, so you’ll have to make sure you’re looking at the top-rated version.
We handpick the songs that most guitarists want to play and we go through each one and lay out the tabs, including artists like Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift, and The Beatles.
We don’t leave it up to just anyone to tab these songs -- we want to make sure they’re perfectly correct and accurate, so we do them ourselves.
Play Along With Your Favorite Song
This might be the most important method to practice. It helps you develop your right-hand skills (for right-handed guitarists), and right-hand skills are what differentiate the okay guitarists from the good guitarists.
Lots of people can play basic chords and lots of the classic songs use those basic chords. But not everyone can play those classics like the artists did.
That’s because they haven’t spent enough time developing their right hand. The right hand is responsible for the rhythm, plucking the correct strings, and muting.
So try this: turn on a song you want to learn and strum along with it, but don’t play any chords. Just focus on what your right hand is doing and if it’s matching the guitar in the song.
It will sound bad not playing any chords, but it’ll be worth it. If you can switch between chords quickly enough, go ahead and fully play along with the song, but pay more attention to what your right hand is doing.
Using any or all of these three methods, you’ll be on your way to learning guitar without a teacher.
Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter-producer based in Austin, Tx., who also runs the blog Musician With A Day Job. He’s been playing guitar since 2002 and is still not totally happy with his guitar skills.