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Creating Your Path to Guitar

By Charlotte Adams May 04, 2024 Hobbies

Whether you’re just beginning to play or you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, you’ll find plenty of options for learning. While it’s great to have a lot of choices, it can also be overwhelming. But with a little introspection, information, and planning, you can create a program that will serve both your nature and your goals. Start by considering the choices available to support your new adventure.

One-on-One Lessons

Nothing beats learning from a really good instructor. One-on-one instruction can provide the structure, accountability, and personal guidance that enables success. And, since having a teacher doesn’t exclude any other learning options, you can have it all! A good teacher will welcome your engagement with other resources and may even assist you in their use.

Of course, not every teacher will provide the same advantages, so you’ll want to shop for the best teacher you can find. If you yield to the temptation to learn from a generous friend in your social group or the talented teenager down the street, you’ll probably discover that not every good player possesses the qualities of a good teacher.

In fact, a guitar player who is unqualified to teach can do more harm than good, creating long-term problems in your playing and enjoyment. So, what should you look for in a teacher?

Traits to Seek in a Teacher

There are a lot of important qualities to look for in your instructor, and I’ve listed them here. Try to find someone who has as many of those traits as possible. A qualified professional will provide you with a strong musical foundation and guide you in healthy and effective technique.

Taking lessons from a good instructor who is proficient at teaching online will be just as effective and enjoyable as taking lessons in-person – and may be even better. As someone with experience teaching both ways, I can say that students are consistently more relaxed and focused when working in their own environment.

They arrive at their lessons on time, without having to cope with traffic or unpredictable delays, and they make the most of every minute of their time with me. Not only that, but I’m able to better assist them with posture and technique by seeing where and how they sit when they practice.

Online Courses

As a beginner, you’ll do best with someone who can help you with your individual needs and regularly monitor your progress. Once you have a command of the basics, though, you may consider online courses as a way to augment or substitute for private instruction.

Look for courses that meet your specific goals and playing style. Most courses require both a time and a financial investment, so be discerning and shop the way you would for anything else. Avoid impulse buying, and, if possible, opt for one with a money-back guarantee. Alternately, choose one of the free or inexpensive courses from reputable teachers, such as the ones I include in my Virtual Studio.

Instruction Books

Books are still a great way to learn guitar. You can carry them in your guitar case or book bag wherever you go and mix and match them for your practice sessions and lessons. I publish my books in distinctive colors for quick recognition and I insist on spiral bindings, so they stay open on the music stand. In addition to content – which is, of course, the most important thing to shop for – you might consider these kinds of details when book shopping.

If you’re still sold on the convenience of a phone or tablet for reading music or learning new concepts, keep in mind that using a book instead of a screen will facilitate proper technique and help you avoid injury. No scrolling, squinting, rounding your back, or hunching your shoulders necessary!

We may be living in a digital age, but when it comes to music, books are still very much alive!


If you’re interested in learning guitar from YouTube, keep in mind that most of the people who follow that route are dissatisfied with the results. Since there’s no orderly approach to learning, you’re likely to invest time in lessons that are irrelevant or incohesive. At the same time, you risk missing important foundational concepts and skills.

That said, YouTube can be a wonderful way to learn songs!Look for the best tutorials you can find and don’t expect all of them to be accurate. Compare different tutorials and use your ear to help determine correctness. If you’re lucky enough to find a tutorial by the artist who composed and recorded the song, choose that one!

Navigate the Video Efficiently

Want to maximize efficiency when working with a video? Use keyboard shortcuts! You can use the keyboard arrows to move forward or backward in 5-second increments. To advance by 10 seconds, use the letter “j” and use the numbers 1 – 9 to choose the percentage of the video you want to skip to (10% – 90%). To pause or start the video, tap the spacebar on your keyboard.

If the video is moving too fast for you to catch everything, you can adjust the playback speed in the settings option (gear icon) on the bottom of the video. Try starting with .75, which will give you the benefits of a slower speed while retaining the feel of the song. If you need a slower speed than that, drop it down to .5 or even .25 for the most problematic sections.


Have fun exploring ways to learn. There are no limits to how much you can grow with your guitar when you’re open and adventuresome!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you willing to embrace challenges? Do you excel when you engage in self-directed study in other areas, or do you prefer working with a teacher? Are you choosing a particular route because it’s easy or because it will help you grow in the best way?

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Maria Linda Martinez

I’ve latched into a guitar app called TrueFire, most beginner teachings are free but of course paid options but not to first learn. GuitarTuna is great to tune your guitar initially and paid options to learn more but navigate and find the free stuff, you can do it…find what works for you.


The Author

Charlotte Adams is a lifelong guitarist, guitar instructor, and music educator who has taught thousands of guitar students in private lessons, classes, and workshops. She is the author of a line of instructional books for beginning through advanced students and offers ongoing guidance and support through one-on-one virtual instruction.

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