How to Teach Yourself to Play Guitar

pin image for How to Teach Yourself to Play Guitar by Heather to the Max

After performing at a charity event here in town, I started teaching guitar lessons to a young man who is here in town on an internship. I hope to get more students in the future. It’s been a great experience, and has reminded me a lot of my own experience learning to play guitar. I had actually taught myself to play, so this memory inspired this post. I’m sharing with you my tips on how to teach yourself to play guitar, because I think learning an instrument is invaluable.

My Story

When I was almost 12, I started teaching myself how to play. I did already have a little bit of musical training, as I had started playing violin when I turned 10. So while that experience was helpful to me, it still took me a while to learn how to play the guitar and make it sound great. I practiced almost every day, writing and learning songs and stretching myself to learn more.

And while I don’t consider myself a master now, I know enough to be able to play decent rhythm guitar. And I know what I need to practice to get better. This is truly the key to everything, you must learn HOW to learn something in order to be able to learn something to a master’s level.

So here is what to do to start to teach yourself how to play guitar. Remember that the key here is consistent practice. When you are a beginner at anything, it’s going to take time before you really start getting good. I think some people who start learning something later in life feel like they should be able to get it down easier, in less time. But that’s just not the case.

Over time, everything will start to click and come together.

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Get a guitar book.

This is how I started. Whether you get a simple chord diagram book or a complete guitar training program, you will need something to refer to while you’re learning. This was crucial for me in learning guitar chords. Sure, you can look up chord diagrams on the internet but it can be difficult to look at a laptop screen when you’ve got your guitar in your lap for practicing.

Start with chords.

Start learning guitar chords right away. You’ll find this is key in getting a feel for pushing down on the strings, strumming and getting good quality sound out of the guitar. Being able to play all chords well will allow you to accompany any song in a simple, but profound manner.

Learn some songs.

You have to learn how to play in time, or you’ll never be able to play along with music! I’ve found the best and most fun way to do this is to look up songs you like and learn them. Whether you look up guitar chords or guitar tabs, learning a new song will help improve your skills. It will motivate you to keep practicing if you’re enjoying the music you’re creating. And if you like to sing, challenge yourself even more and sing along!

Don’t forget about rhythm.

Strumming with your right hand is just as important a skill as knowing what to do with your left hand. Some rhythms might feel comfortable to you right away, and that’s great! But if you want to learn to play guitar well, you’ll need to practice those other ones that don’t come so easy. Once you start getting the hang of playing different guitar chords in time, start switching up the rhythms and trying new things. This will help you master the strumming hand.

Try some scales.

Scales not only take your skill to a new level, but they help you understand how the notes in a chord work together. They help you understand how the chords in a song fit together. If you’re reading guitar tabs, you may have already figured some of that stuff out. You start to get a much deeper understanding of music in general. Once you’ve mastered chords, rhythm, and scales, you’ll pretty much be able to play anything out there!

A note about music theory.

I started playing violin at age 10, which introduced me to the world of music theory. I latched onto it, and it turns out I ended up being a total theory nerd. My understanding of music theory definitely helped me understand better what I was learning on the guitar as I learned the steps of how to teach yourself guitar. I recommend that anyone who wants to be a serious musician develop a basic understanding of music theory (there are tons of free courses online). However, if you’re just starting out and really want to focus on playing guitar for enjoyment, it’s not entirely necessary. Start with the basics and go from there.

I’ll say it again, all this takes a LOT OF TIME. Stay patient, and eventually you’ll be playing along just the same as anyone else.

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