Right, apologies if this has been done before but I did search.

Anyway, I want to learn a little classical guitar (not a huge amount, just enough to really get a feel for it, and play some of the well-known tunes). Now the problem is that people, when they hear I'm trying to teach myself, keep telling me different things.

I'm being told:

- Yeah, it's perfectly do-able for someone who understands a little about music.
- Yeah, but you'll never be as good as a person who's taking lessons and your technique will suffer.
- Yeah, but forget playing any of the usual classical pieces most people know.
- No, it's virtually impossible.

Who's right? Surely the likes of Steve Howe of Yes can't all have taken lessons?

Also, if there is anyone who self-taught, what materials did you use? The book I'm using isn't very good...

PS: I can already sight-read music on the treble stave, so does this make it easier?
Here's the answer as dictated by question -

Can you teach yourself classical (or any style of) guitar?
Yes you can. It is 100% possible, and has been done before.

Is it going to be efficient?
No, it isn't. It's going to take twice as long, and you will make mistakes that take much longer to correct than they would if someone pointed them out immediately.

Is it better to teach yourself? Is it better to take lessons?
No and no. Everyone learns differently and we've got preferences which differ. How you go about learning what you need to learn is up to you, but don't disillusion yourself into thinking that you'll learn just as cleanly or quickly as someone with a teacher.

My advice?
Do half and half. Learn music theory, then apply it by playing with as many musicians as possible.

You'll end up in the same place regardless as long as you have dedication and good work ethic, they're just two different ways of arriving there.
Do you feel warm within your cage?

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Life goes by?
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Last edited by strat0blaster at Jul 12, 2010,
i think steve howe is completely self taught, i seem to remember hearing it somewhere.

but i think the problem with self teaching is the actual technique of playing. when you have a teacher, you have a great method of learning the techniques, from either just copying, or having them adjust your posture. on your own, you dont really get the feedback you would get with a teacher, and can lead to practicing incorrect posture.

my opinion is that you can learn the actual songs by yourself, but perhaps in your own way, rather than in a standard classical way. players who have had lessons may unfortunately look down on this, something i've learned from experience, but it wont stop your notes being incorrect.

i think its much harder to self teach classical style, even if you have done with other styles, just because of the techniques involved, and the posture, but i dont think its impossible, maybe youtube can help with what the postures should look like, and a decent book wouldnt go amiss either.
OK, just found a classical guitar piece which is supposed to be 'easy'....

It looks like ants line-dancing on the stave...
I've taught myself classical guitar and I agree, there were probably mistakes I made, and technique problems I had that took me a long time to fix. I was accepted into a University program as a classical guitar major though, (I start next september). I guess I'll find out how my technique is, I'll probably get ripped to shreds in my first lesson!

In terms of music resources, I live in Canada and so I use the Royal Conservatory of Music Guitar Series books. In Canada it's pretty much THE standard music institute for all classical music. I would highly recommend it, but the only problem is that it doesn't explain technique and posture and things like that in great detail. It just has books full of pieces of music to learn, ranked into grade levels based on how difficult it is.
The problem is this, as I've said before.... Classical guitar is a very formalized discipline. Technique, fingerings, the way you hold the instrument, the way pieces are approached...
There is a "literature", if you will.
So, if you're entirely self-taught, you may achieve some facility and sound just fine. But if you go to play with others who have been formally trained they will likely look at you funny....

Depends what you want to do.
'Classical' guitar technique is a relatively recent invention. It's not like the violin etc.

There are classical pieces 'for' guitar which is really a much wider concept. What we call a 'classical guitar' (the physical instrument) isn't any more suited for some pieces of classical music than is a Fender Strat.

I've played 'classical music' on a variety of guitars for forty years. I still play nylon, steel or electric guitar in a classical sitting position...it's not 'better' but just the way I learned.

You can teach yourself quite well to play everything from anonymous 17nth century pieces through to Bach, etc. No, you may not play like Segovia...but he didn't play like folks a century before him.

You need not play on nylon strings anymore than those who use nylon don't play on cat gut. It is 'art' .

Lots of lessons on youtube. What I will do is watch a dozen versions of a guitar piece...look up tabs, etc. and then choose one or make up my own combo version.

The last thing to do is to try and copy note per note. You'll go crazy after a few hundred notes and probably forget most of it. i find it best to get a few bars down and then improvise a bit...there is nothing magical about the way it was written out or tabbed.
Last edited by Raptorfingers at Jul 13, 2010,
You can teach yourself but it is easier if someone who knows what they are doing can tell you how you are getting on and give you a few pointers. Being mostly self taught takes longer but you do learn alot on the way.
I think that teaching yourself can be effective but you wont necessarily know what you're doing wrong unless someone tells you... this is why lessons from an experienced player are advisable. However, there are plenty of decent guitarists out there who are self taught... If you read the technique lessons on UG carefully, rigorously apply the principles and constantly analyse what you're doing then you should improve dramatically.
"The time I burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar."- Jimi Hendrix
if you get the right books or even watch the right examples it shouldnt be hard to teach yourslef. of course it depends on your learning techniques. theres no need for lessons to feel classical guitar
So is it fair to say that if you're a self-taught classical guitarist, it's unlikely that you'll become truly proficient? (say intermediate - advanced level)

And is it true that you don't need lessons to become proficient at acoustic/electric guitar? As in it would be best to take lessons, but it's possible to progress to a decent level without them?
Last edited by aquamarine_55 at Jul 15, 2010,
Everyone is different and everyone "learns" a bit differently. Also, we all have different levels of native ability and talent.
It's maddening to those without wonderful "gifts" to see some lad pick up a guitar and a couple of months later they're blazing away like any guitar hero.....While you're still trying to finger a barre chord properly.
Accept it.
I'm entirely self-taught as well; I guess I would consider myself in the "advanced" class but just barely. I can play a variety of instruments and styles and have a basic grasp of theory and technique.
Some folks respond very well to lessons and can progress rapidly.
Some don't, and find the formalized exercises to be tedious.
Some will find a particular instructor unbearable, and prosper under another.....

We all find our own way.