Do It Alone - Teaching Yourself Guitar
There are two different approaches to learning the guitar. The first involves paying for private lessons from a professional teacher. The other is to teach yourself. In this article I want to explain some of the ways to go about this, and guide you through some of the problems and pitfalls you’ll likely face along the way, if you decide to teach yourself guitar.
When starting learn guitar it’s a good idea to have a specific goal in mind. Do you want to be able to play in a band? Do you want to be able to perform a particular piece of music? Or maybe reach a particular grade and sit the examination? Whatever your goal, by setting yourself targets, both long and short term, you’ll be able to chart your progress more effectively, as well as making the task of learning the guitar seem less daunting.
So how do you actually teach yourself to play the guitar? Well, of course, you’re going to have to refer to a number of different resources designed to help you learn. These days there are literally hundreds of books, DVDs, internet courses and websites available for you to work through. Whilst it would be easy for me to recommend some of these here, it’s probably best if you look for yourself, as what resources you use will largely depend on what it is exactly you want to learn. While some of these books and courses can be quite expensive, there are plenty of cheap and even free resources available on the internet.
Whatever reference material you choose to work from, it is important to approach things systematically, and not bite off more than you can chew. Start off with the basics, pay attention to the details, and take things slowly. Teaching yourself guitar is a long term project, so have patience.
Another part of learning guitar is experimentation. In fact, this is probably the best part of all. Feel free to try things differently to how the books tell you, and experiment with different ways of playing things. Often, the best way to gain an understanding of something is to figure it out for yourself, rather than have someone explain it to you. Many of the best guitar players were self-taught. It’s a great way to develop you own style, sound, and technique – all things which can really make you stand out as a guitarist. Players who are self-taught also tend to have a better musical ear, as they’ve been forced to listen carefully to work out how things are played. This is a huge benefit, as developing the ear is one of the most important things a musician can do.
Whilst teaching yourself guitar can give you a freedom that you don’t get from having a teacher, there are a few pitfalls to be wary of. Without the guidance of a tutor it is easy to form bad habits early on, or to develop bad technique, from misunderstanding instructions. For this reason I recommend referring to as many different resources as possible. If you don’t understand the explanation given in one book or website, then another one might make things clearer. Another problem self-taught guitarist often have when learning is they lack the discipline instilled by having a tutor. It is up to you at the end of the day how hard you work and how much you practice. Just because you won’t get into trouble with a tutor, it’s no reason to slack off!
Above all, teaching yourself guitar is like an amazing journey of discovery. You’ll figure out how to play things you never thought you could, you’ll develop your own style of playing and even your own techniques. It’s a great way to learn the guitar, though there’s nothing to stop you getting lessons later on if you feel you need to. So pick up your guitar, free your mind, and embark on a voyage of learning and discovery which may last a life time. And most of all have fun!