A guitar is like, well… a hobbit. As Gandalf once said, “Hobbits really are amazing creatures. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you…”
Same with guitar. You can learn a few basic chords and your first song in a month, but you’ll be learning new things for the rest of your life.
So where to get started? And where to find inspiration to push you past your plateau?
The short answer is: Online lessons.
If you have money and access to a local guitar shop, than in-person lessons are wonderful. The attention of a real, live person giving you feedback on your playing is invaluable. But if this isn’t possible, online lessons are the most effective and inexpensive way to learn guitar. Plus, you can get started right away.
Why learn how to play the guitar online?
- Consistency: One of the keys of becoming proficient on an instrument is to have consistent, structured learning. Online courses provide an organized, proven path towards learning guitar.
- Quality: The thought, planning, and investment that goes into online course production ensures that you’re receiving high quality instruction from professional instructors. Pro instructors know how to teach, how to play excellently, and will make sure you play excellently as well.
- Availability: Online lessons are available everywhere – home, work, school, traveling. You can always connect with an online lesson and you can connect from almost any device.
Where to find lessons?
If you’ve never played guitar, I recommend the free “Getting Started” course at ArtistWorks.
This course will introduce you to the very basics of guitar: How to hold the guitar, how to tune, right and left hand placement. It covers chords, strumming, capos, an even teaches you several songs.
From the course description:
- 87 Free Guitar Lessons for Beginners
- Step-by-Step Guide to Get You Playing Music Quickly
- Breakdowns of Popular Easy Acoustic Guitar Songs
- Free Guitar Tab, Practice Logs, Helpful Diagrams & More
- Features such as Video Looping, Metronome & More
If you have some experience on guitar, I recommend taking intermediate courses from ArtistWorks or JamPlay. These service provide excellent video courses focused on specific genres and playing styles. A few examples:
- Blues Guitar with Keith Wyatt
- Fingerstyle Guitar with Martin Taylor
- Bluegrass Flatpick with Bryan Sutton
- Jazz Guitar with Chuck Loeb
- Rock Guitar with Brad Henecke
- Folk Guitar with Eva Goldberg
- Classical Guitar with Pamela Goldsmith
- Hawaiian Slack Key with Mark Nelson
If you’re not sure what style to choose, take a look at my Guitar Style Guide post. It provides overviews of different guitar styles, examples of artists, and well-known songs to help you sort out what you want to learn.
An advantage of these video courses is that you can explore a variety of styles. You can take a course in Fingerstyle Acoustic guitar this month, and then follow up with Blues Slide guitar next month. There’s lots of room for experimenting.
If you’ve been playing guitar for several years, and you’ve completed intermediate level courses, it’s time to moved to the next level – Skype lessons.
Skype lessons combine the convenience of online lessons with the expert feedback of a professional guitarist in a “live” environment. If you’ve never used Skype before, it’s a free service, very popular, with increasingly higher quality service.
Using the web cam on your computer, you can have a “face to face” lesson with an instructor anywhere in the world. And don’t worry, even if you’re not used to skype yet, your guitar instructor will be able to help you get set up.
How to find a Skype instructor?
- Reach out and contact music stores in nearby areas. Ask for a guitar instructor in your style who provides Skype lessons.
- Search guitar players online and contact them directly. Ask if they do Skype lessons. If not, can they recommend someone? Look for professional gigging players. If you want learn Country guitar, you probably won’t get Brad Paisley to give you a lesson, but… you could look up session guitarists that have played on his albums. You’d be surprised how many working guitarists do lessons to fill in between gigs. Folks like Calum Graham, Matt Warnock, and Dave Weiner provide lessons this way.
- Use an online service like takelessons.com. This site connects you with guitar teachers who are ready to go. By the way, if you try out takelessons.com, use the code TGJ15 at checkout and you’ll save 15% (I don’t get anything for this, takelessons.com just generously offered a discount for our readers).
Another advantage of online lessons is that it’s low commitment. If you’re not sure if online lessons would work for you, check out some of the resources above and just look around a bit. Most of them offer trial periods or free intro lessons so that you can get a feel for their services before spending any money.