The Best Way To Learn Guitar Online

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Having one-to-one or group lessons with a private tutor offers a hands-on way to learn the fundaments of playing guitar. However, in these halcyon days of the internet, it’s not necessarily the best way to be taught. The internet is awash with online lessons, guides, and videos that can teach you all that you need to know like songs, scales, chords, and more. If you are a kinetic learner, a private tutor is the way to go but to learn to play guitar online is an equally viable option.

With a private tutor, they’ll most likely teach you from the ground up. That is, the basics like chords and scales, and then work through teaching the guitar theoretically. It’s a great way to learn an in-depth understanding playing from someone who has most likely, in their words, been there and done that… 

Okay, so they’re not all that bad. Private tuition has been doing the job for years. But if you prefer to be taught from the comfort of your own home or social interaction isn’t really your thing, learning guitar online can be a valid substitute.

It’s convenient, there’s no pressure, and you can go at your own pace. All the knowledge of a private tutor is out there, so let’s look at the best ways of finding it.

Learning Guitar Through Paid Online Lessons?

First of all, you are not alone! When you first pick up a guitar, the thought of someone hearing you can be jarring, to say the least! Websites like Jamplay, Fenderplay, and Guitartricks are all devoted to the would-be Eric Clapton but from the convenience of your own home and without prying ears. These sites have a monthly subscription fee, though it’s more or less the same as what you would pay privately.

If you want lessons in much the same shape as the conventional form of lessons by a private tutor, most sites will offer that step-by-step approach. The essentials, like basic chords, notes, and scales, are among the list of things that any tutor will initially want to teach you. They’re essential to learn for a reason because they are the foundation of the theoretical side of playing. But getting to know the basic science behind the ax can get a little tedious. Yes, these early lessons are the building blocks of better things to come, but fortunately, learning online can be as varied as you like. 

The beauty of internet guitar tuition is that you can pick and choose what you want to learn! Do you only want to learn the Rolling Stone’s back catalog? Great, there are lessons explicitly devoted to teaching songs. Is there a specific genre you’re interested in? Again, great, many of these tuition sites will offer specific lessons for that. Learning online allows you to hone in on particular parts of the craft alongside standard lessons, tabs (I’ll get to them later), and jam tracks.

Mix it up! When I started playing, I balanced what I needed to know with what’s fun to play! Knowing the difference between major and minor, what all the notes are, what scales are, etc., these are important to know, but so is maintaining your enthusiasm. Being taught how to play riffs and songs will tide you over when the going gets a little tedious. For the prescription fee, you get tuition that’s as diverse or as focused as you want it to be. 

What About Learning Guitar Through YouTube?

If you’re strapped for cash, some of the more altruistic members of society have you covered on YouTube. YouTube, again, has videos devoted to the conventional way of tutoring i.e., the basics and upwards. However, there’s still room for you to specify what you want to know.

Because there are so many people teaching guitar on YouTube, there’s a chance of getting swamped by it all. For example, with all the available information, where do you start? With the sites strictly dedicated to tuition, there’s a better sense of direction. But that’s not to say that it’s by any means impossible. 

YouTuber’s who are fully aware of just how overwhelming learning how to play can be, often have playlists full of helpful videos. Some of them will start from the beginning and work their way through to more advanced lessons. 

Between dedicated online guitar tuition and YouTube, the lessons are formatted in, for the most part, the same way. Someone shows you the lesson through a video, and then they’ll break it down for you. Fortunately, this allows you to go at your own pace!

YouTube is free but can be overwhelming. Dedicated tuition costs money, but it’s more precise.

What Are Tabs?

Besides the obligatory “Smoke on the Water” riff, one of the first things I was shown when I first started playing was how to read tabs. Tabs are a quick way to breakdown a song, chord, or scale, but they’re mostly used for teaching songs.

Essentially, tabs or tablatures are like diagrams for your fingers. They’re a simplified version of sheet music made specifically to show the fingering of notes rather than their pitch. There’s a learning curve, but once you get it, you get it! 

If you want to know more about tabs, read our article “Learn To Read Music For Guitar” here.

Once you get the hang of tabs, they open up a new way of teaching yourself how to play. Be it a song, scale, or chord, a tab breaks down the notes you want to play. Of course, as a beginner, you might not necessarily know what it is you need to learn, but knowing how to read them will pay dividends down the line. 

Simply Google a song you want to learn next to the word “tab”, and there will almost certainly be a tab for the respective song. Word to the wise, though, when you search for a tab, you’re putting faith in whoever has tabbed that song. They’re not always perfect. Sometimes you’ll hear odd notes that just don’t sound right, so it might not be you that’s going crazy!

In my opinion, tabs should supplement how you learn rather than consume it. A tab will show you how rather than why. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just simply learning the songs that you know and love without really understanding them theoretically. In my opinion, it’s useful to know the theory of what you’re playing like the chords and the notes. Tabs alone won’t always provide that information.

Scheduling Online Learning

It’s wise to establish some form of loose schedule for your lessons. After doing, say, thirty minutes practicing scales and learning notes, then maybe thirty minutes practicing chords, take some free practice time. Learn some songs through online videos or try to come up with your own riffs and songs. Your practice shouldn’t always revolve around the science of the guitar. As mushy as it might sound, music is an art form. Your personal flavor as a musician, in the long run, is as important, if not more important, than your technical skill. 

After your practice schedule, maybe take some time to play with what you’ve been taught along the way. There’s nothing worse than a robotic musician – someone who can imitate but can’t innovate. 

The best guitarists are always open to learning how to expand on the horizons of their playing. When you learn online, you place yourself into a vast stratosphere of musical knowledge. Paid online tuition is the best way to learn online for driven lessons akin to what you’d expect from a private tutor. But in between that, play around with the wellspring of online knowledge. For everything that the online lessons lack, YouTube and tabs will almost always set you straight! The more you know, the more you grow… sorry!

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Rick is the founder of All Stringed. He started playing with a classical guitar when he was 10, but changed soon to electric guitar and later also to an acoustic. You can find more about him here.