If you are just starting your journey into the music world you might be a tiny bit intimidated. And by tiny bit I mean a voice in your head constantly screaming at you that you will never be any good and your father was right when he said you will never amount to anything. Wait… was it just me? Anyway… I am assuming that you just bought a guitar or are planning on buying one (in that case we have quite a few handy-dandy guides to which guitars beginners should be looking at). While you (hopefully) put a lot of time and research into choosing the right guitar for your needs that definitely should not be the end of your research. Now begins the part where you actually need to learn. I know, I wish I had picked up a guitar and magically become a prodigy in one day. Alas, that is not possible so now you have to decide how you want to learn.
First things first, decide whether you want to learn on your own or get a teacher. The obvious issue with getting a teacher is that you would have to spend more money but if there is any way that you can afford a teacher I would say that is the best option. Teacher will guide you through the entire process, step-by-step and be there to answer questions. If you have never played a guitar before or do not really know much about it, moreover, you do not even know what you do not know so where do you even start? I know first hand that it is extremely hard to sort of self-start. You might start exercises and all that stuff but if your ear is not used to how certain things should sound you will never really know if you are playing it right or butchering it. There are a few ways to save up on a teacher, there are websites with online teachers that have hourly rates or you can go the olden way and get someone who is not a full-time guitar teacher but needs to make some extra cash. Now, in case of online teachers that have profiles and ratings it is more or less easy to find out whether they are actually good or whether they are there only to make a buck or two and then disappear. In case you are asking a complete stranger who you have never heard of you might want to ask for a reference or something of that sort, maybe he is a friend of your friends and they can tell you whether they are any good. In any case, if you find someone without a reference that just appeared out of oblivion I would really try to avoid it because you might be risking wasting your time and money on a person who might be somewhat good with playing but an awful teacher, or even awful with guitars and a horrible teacher. Do not get yourself in a situation where Phoebe Buffay ends up being your teacher (yes, I am sorry I have no life and all my references are from “Friends”).
Now, a few words about a good teacher. If you ended up getting an actual teacher do not just go for someone who has the most years in experience or practice and do not commit to a long term schedule. Take your time and take a few classes with the person and figure out if they are flexible and understanding of your needs and goals. If you are a sort of a slacker the teacher should be able to figure that out and try to make you learn instead of just going from class to class half-assing it. They should be able to figure out whether you are more efficient learning under strict conditions and schedules or cannot take any stress. And most of all, please for the love of God do not get a teacher who will just make you memorize how to play songs and not have you learn anything apart from that (believe me I had a couple of those).
If you decide that you cannot afford a teacher, the only way to go is internet and extreme discipline. Now, when you have a teacher, there is no way around it, you will be meeting them once or twice a week and they will be giving you some homework that you WILL have to spend time on. In case you are your own teacher (or, you know… youtube is the teacher) you will have to make a plan and a schedule for yourself. Oh, the number of times that I have said to myself “you know what, I think I can do it myself and learn on my own” and ended up doing squat… But after years of trial and error… and more error, I have come to realize that there needs to be a set plan. And by plan I mean like a day to day basis schedule of how many hours and minutes you will be spending on practice and learning. And when you schedule that, make it clear to yourself and others that that time is not “yeah, maybe I will practice” but “I have to practice or a demon will erupt from the ground and drag me to hell” time. You have to be as strict with yourself as a good teacher would have been, or maybe take it up a notch and be the strictest and toughest teacher that you have ever met.
The first time around when I got my first guitar I was delusional enough to think that my lazy ass would actually be able to learn. No need to mention that I failed and then I got a teacher and then another one and after learning a little bit and realizing that the teachers I was employing were not that great I decided to self learn again. This time around I make an actual schedule. Every day, after classes I would block out an hour and a half (including weekends), switch off my phone, and start practicing like a maniac. When I got started youtube tutorials were not a big thing but nowadays I would say you can learn almost (ALMOST) everything you could learn from a teacher if you have some sort of a goal. Speaking of goals, after exercising your hands doing stretches and adjusting your hands for playing guitar, you will want to set a list of priorities of what you want to learn. There is so much you can pick up with guitars that going for all of it at the same time would be time consuming, daunting, and frankly impossible. So set up around 5-10 (depending on your level of dedication) things you want to master within, let’s say, a month. This will make your progress more quantifiable. Not only will it help you progress but it will also make you more excited and enthusiastic about what you can learn once you look at all the things you already did learn.
This is not an “exact techniques” and methods of learning a guitar but rather a guide to overall method or planning for your learning procedure and trying to avoid mistakes a lot of people make at the beginning. I hope it was somewhat helpful and I hope you have a blast. Apart from different websites that can help you learn a bit faster and better you can look around our website for guides and tutorials. If you are very organized and started thinking about how you will learn even before buying a guitar we have handy guides to used guitars, guitars under $200, guitars under $500 and so forth as well as guides to how to restring and much more. Good luck!