Learn Guitar on Your Own: Tips and Tools - Careers in Music
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You can learn anything you want to. Education has never been more accessible than it is today.

That’s why everyone who wants to learn guitar should try to teach themselves.

To help you with that, I’m going to share several free tools and tips you can use to learn guitar on your own.

It may sound overwhelming, but I did it, so clearly it wasn’t that hard.

What’s the best way to learn guitar? Here’s what you need to do:

  • Get a room with a locked door
  • Admit your weaknesses
  • Record yourself playing guitar
  • Use finesse
  • Practice when your chronotype wants to
  • Use chunking
  • Try chewing gum

Can I Teach Myself Guitar?

The answer to this question lies in who the “I” is. Your personality and desire to play guitar will determine if you need a Teacher or not.

If you want a Guitar Teacher, that’s great. Do whatever is best for you.

But if you are full of drive to play and you really want to learn the guitar, you don’t need a Teacher. (Sorry, fellow Guitar Teachers. Many people don’t actually need us).

The internet is packed full of information — so much that you can learn almost anything. So if you have a passion for playing the guitar, you can hop on YouTube or Google and look up how to play your favorite songs.

This is how I taught myself guitar.

Tools for Learning Guitar

I’d like to share a few tools I used when I was learning guitar. These things, in a sense, were my Guitar Teachers.

ChordFind.com

Sometimes I still use ChordFind, usually when I’m looking for a complicated chord or one that I’ve “made up.” It’s simple and perfect for beginners.

You can either enter in the chord you need to know, or you can do a reverse lookup where you enter in the finger placements and see what that chord is called.

It was a central tool in my learning, so it’s worth checking out.

A Physical Guitar Chord Chart

I just finished telling you about a chord-finding website — why would you need a physical chord chart?

You need one hanging on your wall for quick reference.

When you’re just starting out, it can take a while to learn all the basic major and minor chords. And you don’t want to waste time taking your hands off the guitar to pull up a website.

Instead, if you’re practicing and you can’t remember how to play a chord, you simply lift your head and look at your chord chart on the wall.

It will make things so much easier and you’ll learn faster.

Ultimate Guitar

Ultimate-Guitar.com is the place to go if you want accurate chords progressions for your favorite songs. They’re not the official chords, but guitarists with good ears tab the chords, then people vote on the best ones. So the most accurate tabs rise to the top.

This website was central to learning guitar on my own. I would just search for the song I wanted, find the highest rated version, and play the song until I got it down.

YouTube

Because of the internet, you can learn how to do anything. The best example is YouTube. If you want to learn it, there’s probably a video for it.

So if you think you’d do better with a Teacher — by seeing someone do what you’re supposed to do — go to YouTube.

The only thing to keep in mind is from whom you’re getting these virtual lessons. Make sure the YouTuber knows what they’re talking about. You don’t want to learn bad techniques that become habits.

Here are a few ways to tell if the YouTube Guitar Teacher is legit:

  • How many subscribers do they have?
  • How many views, likes, and dislikes does the video have?
  • What are people saying in the comments (generally in agreement/disagreement)?

A Listening Source

In order to play your favorite songs, you’ll need to, at some point, play along with them. So you’ll need some way to listen to them.

You can use either headphones or speakers, but I recommend speakers or your phone. You want to be able to hear your guitar clearly as well as the music.

Slide Do You *Really Have What it Takes? Do You *Really
Have What it Takes?
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Tips on How to Learn Guitar

Once you’ve got those tools, next you can move to following these tips for learning guitar on your own.

Get a Room with a Locked Door

This one sounds kind of funny, but here’s why I included it: when you first start learning guitar, you will sound bad. Every guitarist starts here — Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, those guys from Dragon Force.

And you don’t want unsupportive people discouraging you.

When I was learning, I spent hours in my room every day, by myself, practicing until my fingers hurt. And I’m so glad there wasn’t anyone around to witness it, or else I might have given up.

Admit Your Weaknesses

The first step to making progress is to admit that you need to make progress. So the first thing you need to do when learning the guitar is to realize you have weaknesses.

It could be your rhythm. It could be your hand size. Or maybe you don’t like the finger pain.

Whatever it is, do more of it. Focus on your weaknesses during your practice sessions. It probably won’t be fun, but you must do it to get better.

Record Yourself Playing Guitar

Any musician will tell you how important an objective set of ears is. But when you’re learning guitar on your own, you only have your ears.

That’s why you should record yourself. Pull out your phone and use your voice recorder app to record yourself playing a song you’re learning. After a couple of days, come back and listen to it with fresh ears.

You’ll be able to hear what you can do better.

Use Finesse

Strumming seems to be the most difficult aspect of guitar playing for beginners. But it’s the thing that separates okay guitarists from great guitarists.

The trick with strumming is to use finesse. I see a lot of new players play each strum like it’s the last one of the song. But it’s okay, you can loosen up a little. In the words of Ned Schneebly1, “Loosey goosey, baby. Loosey goosey.”

Playing in time and with variations of velocity (soft/hard) are the most important things.

Practice When Your Chronotype Wants to

A chronotype2 decides when a person is inclined to sleep at certain times within a 24-hour period. Basically, it tells you if you’re a night owl or an early bird.

Your chronotype can also help you learn better at certain times and less so at others. So knowing your chronotype5 can help you learn guitar better, as long as you practice when your chronotype says you should.

I’m not saying you should never practice during your “off” hours, but practicing when you’re “on” can lead to much better and quick results.

Use Chunking

What the heck is chunking? This is when you learn small actions or tiny bites of knowledge at a time.

So instead of learning one big thing all at once, you can break that thing into smaller tasks. Then your brain can connect the dots, building a skillset with all of the chunks.

Just take baby steps. One little thing a day will lead to a lot of great things over time.

Try Chewing Gum

I can’t really do this method because my TMJ starts acting up, but you should give it a try. It is actually a legitimate technique that can help you learn better.

Baylor College of Medicine did a study3 and found that “students who chewed gum had final grades that were significantly better than those who didn’t chew gum.”

The idea is that chewing gum helps circulate blood to the brain, hence getting rid of some anxiety and stress and increasing alertness.

Learning guitar is different than learning math, but learning is learning.

Prepare for “The Hump”

There’s a thing that every guitarist faces: the hump. Ask any guitar player about “the hump” is and they’ll know what I mean.

The hump is when you start to feel your guitar playing plateau. Maybe you know some chords, you’re feeling good about your strumming, and you know some songs.

But then you get stuck. Maybe it’s a chord progression you can’t quite get or a strumming pattern that you’re not jiving with.

And remember: every single guitarist has experienced the hump, some longer than others. This is the ultimate test to see if you really want to play the guitar. If you have a true drive to play, you’ll be able to push through it with consistent, intentional practice.

  1. 1. "The School of Rock". Fandago Movie Clips. published: 10 October 2011. retrieved on: 15 April 2020
  2. 2Braff, Danielle. "How to Find Your Chronotype—And How Knowing It Can Help You". Mental Floss. published: 13 September 2016. retrieved on: 15 April 2020
  3. 3Goldstein, David. "Chewing Gum Can Lead To Better Academic Performance In Teenagers According To New Study". Medical News Today. published: February 2007. retrieved on: 15 April 2020
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