Teaching Yourself Guitar

A few tips to your own personal School of Rock (or any other kind of music).

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Guitar lessons can be expensive (especially for true rockers, after all if you sing the blues you're most likely too poor to afford proper lessons), and so many people choose to teach themselves. I am one of these people, but though I most likely could get lessons I don't want to because by teaching myself I have much more satisfaction when I overcome a hard solo or something, and also I can play whatever the hell I want (which is pretty much AC/DC 24/7). So anyway jumping right to my little mini lesson thing. The key to teaching yourself how to play guitar The absolute most important thing in teaching yourself guitar is to never, ever get discouraged and never let musical frustration get in the way, and to have confidence in your own skills. Keep telling yourself that you will learn it eventually. How do you do this? This question will bring us to the next section, which is the two general starting approaches. Start high and work down Some may think this crazy, but if you have at least a little bit of musical talent and a lot of patience, this is the road for you. What this method means is you learn as one of your first major songs a very complicated song (not too complicated), and then after you've mastered that move down slightly and work back up to even more complicated songs. The theory behind this: If you start with an easy song at first it's easier to have low confidence and therefore want to quit when you get to a challenging song, since you're used to having it easy. It's like this: Take a pampered rich boy who has had everything given to him and has everything in the world and rip him out of this world one day and put him in the army. What happens? He doesn't know what to do, he breaks down, maybe kills himself. Now take a tough, from-the-slums guy who fights for everything, then put him in a suburban, Brady Bunch atmosphere and how does he handle it? He can take anything that coems his way ebcause he's used to it. And so my point is this: If you learn a complicated song (mine was Mason Williams's Classical Gas) you will, when you get to an easier song, say 'Oh this is nothing compared to...' and when you get to a little more complicated song than that you can say 'Oh well I learned that really hard song so I know I can do this.' Start simple and work your way up This is the more obvious method; start with easy, two or three string songs, like Beethoven's Ode to Joy, then move your way up to harder songs gradually. The basic ideas of the former and latter Okay summing the last two paragraphs, basically the first method gives you the will and confidence to get through challenges, and the second lets you build from the ground up. Whichever one you find more appealing is the one you should try. Some tips on getting started 1. For method 1 I suggest you learn Mason Williams's 'Classical Gas' or for a lighter load 'Blackbird' by The Beatles, or if you only want to play electric guitar, no fingerpicking, try something rock 'n' roll, like Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' or AC/DC's 'You Shook Me All Night Long'. 2. For method 2 I suggest you try to learn Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' or something by George Thorogood (or is it Thurgood??), or for something slighty (not by much) more challenging, AC/DC's 'Hard as a Rock'. (I apologise for the multiple references to AC/DC songs; but I have chosen to study the band and I have found that for rock guitar they are one of the best bands to learn from). How to teach yourself guitar If you think teaching yourself guitar will be easy, it's not. If you think teaching yourself guitar is difficult, it's not. It is simply something that you'll have to work at, and fgure out along the way. Here are the basic guidlines that I am using to teach myself guitar: 1. Internet tab sites are your best friend. But be careful, alot of tabs are inaccurate. If you don't want to use tab sites, I highly recommend buying a tab book (they're around $20-25, or more depending on content) and a CD (or CDs) to go along with the songs in the book. Tablature is what makes teaching yourself guitar easier than other instruments, but it does require that you listen to the song. 2. Here's a secret: Windows Media Player (on Windows XP, I don't know about other versions) has 'Play Speed Settings' that allow you to speed up or slow down a song. By slowing down songs I have been able to teach myself guitar solos (if you want proof of how much slowing down the speed helps, listen to a really fast song and think about how else you would be able to learn it). 3. Talk to and/or listen in on conversations of other guitarists. This has let me learn several things such as theory, chords, what people like to hear, and such things as that. 4. If you have AOL or AIM feel free to IM me; I love to talk about guitars and music in general. My e-mail address is AcDc1087@aol.com. 5. Never give up, always know that you will get better, and always remember (I hope UG lets me say this): 'Don't ever worry about anyone being better than you, just do your own shit.'

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103 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    mropolo
    Good call. Here's to teaching yourself! I'd like to re-emphasize what you wrote about not letting yourself get down or frustrated (which is easy when you're by yourself). Also in regards to tab. Guitar magazines (G.World, G.One, etc.)are a pretty cheap way to get fairly accurate tab, and used book stores are a good way to get tab books without shelling out $20.
    Darkpsyde213
    Great article! I started teaching myself acoustic guitar back in January before I purchased my first Guitar off E-bay. What you said really hit home. I've always been one to take the more difficult approach to some things because everybody else is taking the easy way out. I have high expectations, but I also realize that by doing the difficult first, I am bound to fall flat on my face again and again... I started off learning chords (I think Zombie by the Cranberries was the first song I learned.) Then I moved on to learning Left Hand Charity by 36 Crazyfists. And then I made the leap to Creed's One Last Breath. To this day I can play the first half of the riff smoothly; however, I still can't quite get through the entire second half of the riff, but I've impressed a lot of people including myself for having attempted it. I'm also working on the riffs in Clapton's Layla. Yeah, I know I'm insane but I've been wanting to play that song for years, and what I've accomplished so far is well worth the effort. So I say to any aspiring guitarist (acoustic or electric) take the high road with method 1.
    scheck006
    I never knew media player had that thing, it's awesome. its on the play menu under tape speed for those who don't know
    Aegil
    I started playing guitar over a year ago, i've taught myself and picked up things from guitar web site and other guitarists as i've gone. and now im in a band n were making an album after christmas n i'm pretty good at right hand tapping solos.
    enz
    This is a good article... I taught myself how to play guitar about 2 years ago.. I wish I would have had this article when I taught myself.
    ad_lib_oz
    btw stairway to heaven has quite a bit of fingerpicking in it...dunno what ur trying to say there... meh i like the article though...though i didnt teach myself its still good
    dudewithapen
    All these points are great, but also, dun be scared to let other people show you things. You're still teaching yourself, just listen to what other players have to say. I've been playin for about a year, and some of my more rewarding songs I learned are Hemmorhage by Fuel ,It's Been Awhile by Staind and With This Knife by Smile Empty Soul,(the first verse riff,newayz) don't give up on yourself. You'll be glad you stuck with it in the end.
    jof1029
    i used a guitar book to help teach myself. Guitar for Dummies was really a good tool because i could jump around to where i wanted. I recoment it to people who are just starting. I also think you should eventually take some sort of lessons to learn some theory (how to read sheet music in my case)
    flip
    great article. but mason williams classical gas is one hard song. doing that song first must have been really rewarding in the end.
    RobTehGuitarMan
    Hey. I read your teaching yourself guitar thing. I have been trying to teach myself guitar over the past couple of weeks. I aim to become more of a rock guitarist and play songs by bands such as Blink 182 and AC/DC. I have both an electric guitar and an acoustic-electric guitar. I have been trying to learn chords as for I asked my friends who have been playing guitar what to do and they say that is the most important thing, learn your basic chords. Before knowing this, i tried to learn easy songs, such as AC/DC's TNT (without the solo) and Blink 182's All The Small Things. I found out it was hard to play these songs without learning chords, but also i had to get my fingers used to playing the chords. As I began practicing chords regularly, i was frustrated very quickly. I couldn't get 2 simple chords down (C major and F major) that were very close in fingering. I wanted to be able to move between the chords quickly, but haven't been able to. I would practice for a 15 minute session, but i would then be discouraged and not play for a few more days. I have been trying this 5 or 6 times over the past 2 weeks but have just not wanted to continue as it is hard to just switch between these 2 simple chords! I am experienced in playing music as I have played the Trumpet (for school) for 3 years. I am not playing it anymore, but I have musical experience. Basically, all I'm asking is, do you have any advice for me based on this stuff? It'd be GREAT if you could help. Thanks! ~Rob
    jadefyre
    Thanks for this article, it's really handy! I'm trying to teach myself a relatively easy song: Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. It's my jumping point. Once I play that I"ll move on to something a little more difficult. Suggestions?
    Vixus
    I take back the question about acoustics... Classical Gas!
    Vixus
    But what about learning chords and scales and such? After learning some songs? What about us acoustic players?
    Oswald
    Thank you, man! As I have said in a other article commentary, I have been playing on and off. This really helped. After Christmas I am going to spend more time with my guitar.
    Epi SG Special
    well written. its just like me when I taught myself how to play guitar. you covered everything that I did. good article!
    pagan_bloodlust
    i think that everyone who wants to teach themselves should some kind of chord book, and a basic book about the style you want to play they help enormously, because you have at ur finger tips how to play all the techniques that you will find in songs
    MRME
    ive been teaching myself for 3 months and sometimes it seems like your getting nowhere fast but keep at it and youll get there
    iliketaskate
    i like the mentioning of learning the hard song first but other than learning harder songs first learn harder chords first, if you learn a bunch of open chords, barre chords etc it makes power chords and every thing a hell of alot esier for you.
    Jimisbest
    I had lessons and i think it was not a bad idea to take lessons.I've been playin guitar for almost two years now and i think i'm doin okay .but sometimes you hate the guitar you wanna give up the guitar, but then you stick to your guitar again and you get rewared.
    ablutophobic
    iv always been a bit intimidated to learn any hendrix songs or zepplin
    I've only been playing for a year and I think I kind of suck for how long I've been playing but I can play Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix (including the solo, but a bit slowed down in some parts) and some simple Zeppelin like Whole Lotta Love (first riff I ever learned, super easy) and even Black Dog isn't that hard, I recently discovered. Sometimes I get frustrated and think that I haven't improved but when I look back at my old playing I can tell the difference. Stick with it, it's fun to impress my friends with my guitar "talent" haha.
    bigrd15132
    teaching yourself guitar is not a bad idea, but don't try teaching yourself bass from what you know about guitar or vice versa...they're very different instruments played in very different ways. Not that you mentioned that...
    chris1415
    awesome article. i like the idea of learning hard songs first. iv always been a bit intimidated to learn any hendrix songs or zepplin. maybe its time i started
    chordball
    this is a good article, however tabs can also be your enemy when trying to learn the proper finger positions of chords. i taught myself for two years and became pretty good, surpassing my friends that also taught themselves, but now i'm taking lessons and have been corrected on many things that i thought i was doing right. teaching yourself(the right way) is good though
    xxgenocide98xx
    100% true Seek and Destroy by Metallica was the first song I've learned and everything else since then has been really a walk in the park.. Just alittle bit of practice inbetween (I can play all kinds of music now )
    XstraightXedgeX
    Yeah, good article. I really wish I would of read it when i first started, but i think i did fine without it. I would of made a few things easier.
    loserchild292
    awsome article, but your song picks aren't for everyone. Some good songs for more modern fans are blink 182 - adams song or american hifi - flavor of the weak
    thm_05
    yea thank you, i savvy the internship of your article..watever that means...well this is probably you are self taught, eh?
    JB-Punkrocker
    stick to it ppl. ive taught myself guitar and ive been at it 6 months and im better than sum ppl who have lessons.
    blindworld
    Thanks for the words of confidence. i jusy got my acoustic guitar and im sticking with it. Never Say Die!!
    pidevice
    thats good advice, I wish someone had told me that stuff when I first set out to learn. Really though, I guess it still applies.
    Sloofus
    Bravo ACDC loved it. Im probably gonna use that technique from now on. (Work high then low)
    AcDc1087
    I'm so glad I could be such a big help! Maybe I should write a book about teaching yourself, and I also have some things about being a great guitarist outside the physical aspects of playing (i.e., being the guitarist that people look up to, not just because you're fast or something, but because you're nice, helpful, supportive, a good teacher and a good learner, etc...) Thank YOU all for giving me such greta feedback, I'm very pleased I could help. And yes, you can IM me at AcDc1087
    snugs
    the best method is the first one,and when learning songslike classical gas take one bite at at time eg.learn little bits n master them then join song together like a puzzle
    PinkLedDoors
    i've only been playing about four months and im pretty much for the whole teaching yourself but i've also learned a lot from my friend who has been playing for a year and a half, the first song i learned was "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and i've just messed around and learned other verses and stuff, but since i've been playing i can fully play the intro to "Stairway To Heaven" quite smoothly, so good advice my friend. great article