Since March of 2020 most of the country, correction, most of the world has been sheltered in place trying to avoid catching and/or spreading our latest nemesis, COVID-19.
Many are trying to make the best of the extra time they have by learning new things. This has lead to the proliferation of many online courses, even those for learning to play music. That’s great! But can you really learn to play the guitar online?
The short answer is a resounding YES!
But be warned, it’s a jungle out there. With an endless supply of lessons, programs, videos, classes, and gurus (some real and some only self-proclaimed) it can be hard to find the right online instruction and easy to waste a lot of time jumping from one to the other.
In this post, we will give you some things to look for when learning to play the guitar online.
Do You have self-discipline?
Like anything else, if you are going to be successful learning to play the guitar online you must have self-discipline. Be honest with yourself about this because it doesn’t matter how good the instruction is if you are not willing to follow it and keep at it.
Let’s be honest, at first learning to play the guitar is not easy. The feel and sound you expect is much better than the feel and sounds you first make. So you need to expect that upfront then push through it. You also need to devote the time needed to get better. Some people stick with it just long enough to hate it because their fingers hurt, or they don’t sound like their favorite artist, or they compare themselves to some 5-year-old child prodigy on youtube and automatically assume “I stink, I’ll never get this”. Don’t be that person.
You can dream about playing guitar, hope you will learn to play the guitar, and wish you were a really great guitarist. But if you don’t do the work you’ll likely only end up with dreams, hopes, and wishes. With that in mind, watch the lesson, read over the material, practice the lesson – practice again, and again. Rinse, lather, and repeat. No self-discipline will likely mean no real progress. I want you to progress!
What’s Your Goal?
You’ve got to have a goal – other than “I want to play like [insert guitarist of choice here]”. And your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely – otherwise known as SMART.
Okay, so what are your guitar learning-related SMART goals? Do you want to learn to play guitar just to amuse yourself? Play with other musicians? Is it important for you to learn music theory? Or, do you just want to learn a few songs? Having a clear goal in mind will help you decide what kind of online instruction to choose.
What’s Your Level?
If you are an absolute beginner who has never picked up a guitar before I would look for a program that starts with the basics and offers you different styles and learning paths.
When I say basics I mean the fundamentals needed to really learn how to play. Not just learning how to play a few songs, that really doesn’t fit the definition of learning how to play the guitar. Sort of like knowing how to steer a car doesn’t really qualify you as a driver. You need to know a little about how the guitar works, how to hold it, how to tune it, the best way to form chords, and even a little music theory.
No, you don’t have to learn all of that to a mastery level before you learn how to play, but getting the foundation will help immensely in the long run.
You can find some websites or YouTube channels that give you bits and pieces of that, but a program I have used and recommended to friends is Guitar Tricks. I would encourage you to read my full Guitar Tricks review, but here are a few reasons I recommend it:
- The lessons, especially for beginner’s fundamentals are well thought out and presented making them surprisingly easy to follow.
- You can go at your own pace. There’s no one there rushing you or holding you back.
- The user interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. You can slow the instructional videos down, speed them up, pause them, or do whatever makes you feel good. (I should note that the app on the phone, from my experience, lacks some of the formatting and content provided on tablet or desktop. But don’t let that stop you because you have rights on all platforms once signed up.)
- A couple of times a year they even run promotions where they will give you a guitar when you sign up. Not a great guitar, but adequate for a beginner.
- Many tools, printouts, and extras come with the course.
I recommend this for absolute beginners, actually players at all levels. There’s a lot to learn in this online program – all at your own pace.
A little more advanced:
Maybe you just want to brush up on the skills you have already acquired. Cool, there are a bunch of programs that can help you. Consider these:
- Tim Pierce is a session guitarist who has played on so many songs that you know that it will blow your mind. He has free short video courses available by newsletter and also Master Classes. Tim breathes guitar playing but delivers it in a down to earth way. He will definitely help you improve your playing.
- Guitar Mastery Method is another course plan lead by living, breathing, touring guitarists. I like the materials and have personally benefited from the lessons on the Blues Scale.
Consider joining an online guitar community.
Jamming with other learners and experienced musicians has the potential to increase the depth of your learning and possibly even speed up the learning process. However, the need for continued social distancing makes this a formidable challenge. So what about an online community.
The idea is great, but this is where I want to reassert the idiom ‘it’s a jungle out there’. Just like your parents always told you, ‘choose your associates wisely’. You can find forums all over the internet, some good, some bad, some worse.
However, for the past few months, I’ve been connected to a group of learners from varying backgrounds and levels of experience. Check out TenXGuitar.com. Although it’s not free, you will have access to coaching and tools which will encourage and motivate you to increase your learning and playing, reach your goals, and have a platform to chart your progress and receive constructive feedback from others.
Another cool thing about TenXGuitar.com is you are able to select video content from some of the best online teachers. I’ve been ‘playing’ around with the guitar for quite a while but I still learn new things every time I log in.
Can you really learn to play the guitar online? Yes.
But you must know yourself, figure out your goals, do your research, and find the instruction best for you, and think about the benefits of joining the right guitar-related online community for success.
Will you learn to play guitar online? That’s up to you.