3 Ways To Teach Yourself To Play Guitar



You want to teach yourself to play the guitar. That’s great. Many people do. But not many people succeed. That is because learning the guitar is a steep slope and they don’t start with a strategy. Without a strategy, we always quit when the going gets tough.

Here are 3 ways to teach yourself to play the guitar. Sorry, watching Youtube is not a one of them. Well, at least not without a system.

1. Learn One Song On Your Own

You have to keep on learning to play one whole song.  To learn one song well is better than many songs in parts. One has a clear outcome, the other really nothing to show but us attempting to show off. And believe me, very few people are impressed by our fancy intros or licks in the middle and a dramatic end. When we can’t even play a full song from start until one, people will think we are an impostor. And seriously we are.

One of the reasons why we don’t learn one song from start to end is because we are not clear about how to choose that song. That song has to be a personal song, one that speaks to you and when spoken or sung represent you. A good way is to ask yourself if the words or melody represent what you want to share to the world.

Pick a good song. The right song and stick to learning one song on your own. A great strategy is then  STEP 1, to learn the chord progression first. Then STEP 2 to learn the melody. If you don’t know the melody well enough, listen to many versions of the same song on Youtube. And lastly STEP 3 is to learn to play the chord progression while singing out the melody or the song.

Having learned one song, you can firmly say that you have taught yourself to play the guitar.

2. Get a Complete Course And Learn The System On Your Own

Some of my most fulfilling learning experiences came from subscribing to a system. Usually it is a paid online course. Some of them are an e-book or a instructional book. The benefit of doing it is that instead of random pieces of information that sometimes contradict one another, you learn the teacher’s method completely. You can easily take a quantum leap in your learning that way. Some of the courses I have taken

  • Kirk Lorange’s Plane Talk.
  • Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute.
  • Martin Taylor’s Fingerstyle Guitar.
  • Blues Guitar Lessons With Keith Wyatt.
  • Andreas Oberg’s Jazz Guitar and More.
  • David Reed’s Improvise for Real.

The choice depends on the genre of music you are into and what you are trying to learn. Go seeks out a basic course that will teach you how to start playing the guitar. Yes, getting an online teacher is not cheating, it is a great way to teach yourself to play the guitar.

3. Get An Outline of Topics & Use It As Checklist To Learn On Your Own

This strategy has to do with finding an outline of what you should know in order to learn to play. An outline can come from searching for one on the internet to copying the index of a book or just posing the question “What are the important things to cover when learning the guitar?” on a forum.

With that outline, go and be an independent learner to find out how to educate yourself point by point. Go ask a friend, join a forum and pose a “how do I …” question.

Learn from the vast information available on Youtube on your own. A sample outline that serves as a checklist on how to play is as follows.

  1. Anatomy of the guitar
  2. How to hold a guitar
  3. How to tune a guitar
  4. How to read tabs and chords
  5. How to play the major scale
  6. How to strum in rhythm
  7. Learn Major Chords
  8. Learn Minor Chords
  9. Learn Dominant Chords
  10. Find out the chord progression to a song
  11. Learn to change chords in a chord progression
  12. Learn to Play a Song
  13. Learn Power Chords

The above will serve as a checklist for you to explore the areas of playing the guitar more systematically than to randomly select a guitar lesson online. I have to admit that Youtube is truly a wealth of resource. But I should add that only if you use it systematically and I suggest the above 3 ways of systematically teaching yourself how to play the guitar.

Of course getting a teacher is always the best way but if cost is a consideration or you are the kind of independent learner like myself, the 3 ways are more adventurous and a more fun way to go.

What do you think? How did you teach yourself to play the guitar? Please write a comment below. I really like to hear from you.

Check out The 3 Play Good Guitar Foundation or  First Song To Play Guitar


16 thoughts on “3 Ways To Teach Yourself To Play Guitar

  1. Bea

    Thank you for this helpful post. Your post has really opened my eyes to what I think the problem could be because my son has been going to guitar school for 13 months now and he can’t play a full song. I would expect that after a year at guitar school he would be able to play at least one full song; but anytime he goes to guitar classes they only teach him a line or two, the next class, they pick a new song and learn another line or 2. I would have thought that they would teach the kid a whole song instead of several songs with only a few lines to learn.

    I was thinking of having my son go on youtube to learn but I now realize from your post that it is not the best way to go about this. I have bookmarked your website and I’ll visit again. Thank you.

    1. HT Post author

      Thanks for sharing. Your son’s experiencing in 13 months what I had in 13 years. Glad the post helped. All the best to guiding your son to learn the guitar.

  2. casey

    I’ve been thinking about buying an electric guitar cause I love to jam out to the solos on free bird and a man in the wilderness by Styx I currently have no idea how to play but I’ve heard that it can be hard if you don’t use a good system which system would you recommend for learning how to play and is learning to play an electric guitar similar to the process of learning on a basic guitar?

  3. Janoch2

    great advice! I totally agree. I used to teach guitar and it was a hard point to hit home to get students to follow through with completing their song choice. My first lesson I would always ask the student to think of a song throughout the course of the week that they want to learn from start to end
    Theres only so many times I can hear Smoke on the waters opening riff…. hahaha

    Oh damn now its stuck in my head!!! XD

    1. HT Post author

      Yes man. I know what you mean. How many times do we not finish learning a song before moving on! Keep playing even through you don’t teach anymore.

  4. Reinis Inkens

    I started playing guitar in high school. I think I’ve had 2, maybe 3 guitar lessons in my life. Most of it I’ve learned on my own or through youtube, so I have to disagree a bit about not being able to learn from youtube. Now, I’m far from a Steve Vai or Tommy Emmanuel, but I learned to play a song or two for sure.
    That being said, I’m sure I would have progressed much quicker if I had had a teacher or a proper system. As it stood, I only learned what I liked and still can’t apply sheet music to a guitar. So props to you for encouraging a well thought out learning regiment. I think – the less we confuse in the beginning the better.

    1. ht

      Indeed, you are proof that anyone can teach themselves to play guitar. It’s good that you have sticked to it and came out good at the end of it. Thanks for sharing your thought.

  5. Derek Smith

    I took a different approach, but I really don’t consider myself a guitar player.
    I knew quite a lot of music theory, so found out that the strings were EADGBE and sat down to decide which strings needed to be adjusted to make the chords.
    For example, the normal C major chord is CEG, so the A string had to come up to C (3 frets), the D up 2 to E, G was ok, B had to come up 1 to C and E was ok.
    Was a fun exercise and worked well enough for my humble purposes.
    I think that a proper teacher is the way to go if you’re serious about any instrument.

    1. HT Post author

      Hi Derek, thanks for sharing your journey. You have done your homework on the music theory and apply it to the unique construction of the guitar and it paid off. Indeed the best way is still a proper teacher but not everyone is able to afford one. So teaching themselves seems the best way to go.

  6. Graham

    Hi Ht, I always wanted to learn how to plat the guitar. I tried several times learning off a friend at colleague then at university. Both times I got as far as learning just a couple of songs. I might just give your techniques a try as I really enjoyed playing even though it was very limited. Thanks for the great tips I have bookmarked your site to come back to later. Thanks again.

    1. HT Post author

      Welcome to the site. Glad you found it useful. See you around and feel free to ask me anything you want and I will do my best to help.

  7. Paula Allevato

    Hello HT!

    I´ve found your website cause I´m planning on making a similiar one, but instead of talking about the guitar, I´ll write about how to play a tambourine (it´s a very typical instrument in Brazil).

    My challenge now is looking for good content related to it. Do you have any tip on how to look for it, related to musical instruments?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. ht

      Hi Paula, thanks for the comment. Content is everywhere. You can seek out books from the library or bookshops but I will encourage you to try out websites that are leaders in this field. Is there a “play good tambourine” type of website. If so, subscribe to it, read it or if there’s a training program to even purchase it. If you know that success leaves trails, you know that it’ll be worth it to study it until you are expert in the field. All the best and thanks again for dropping by!

  8. K. K. Wee

    Hi HT,
    A great site to know and learn about guitar. I started my guitar lesson at the age of 42 which I always believe age can’t be the reason to stop us from learning. And if we really decided to learn something, we shall start with a proper approach and lessons. I have face lot of difficulty during my guitar lessons and spent countless time just to correct my bad habits or improper skills developed in the old days before I picked up a proper guitar lesson.
    It is very informative and wonderful site.

    1. HT Post author

      Thank you for dropping me your comment. A good way to fix bad habits is to create more good habits. Enjoy the journey and let me know how I can help.


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