Contrary to the popular belief of many, learning guitar on your own is possible! You may hear some people say it’s not a good idea, and others may outright discourage you from even trying.

While there’s no substitute for having a great teacher and a mentor who’s committed to help and guide you through the learning process, forging your own path is always a suitable alternative. And, I can say these things as both a guitar teacher and a self-taught player. Also, for some, learning at your own pace is a better option than taking lessons from a guitar teacher. Others love having supplemental self-learning options in addition to traditional lessons.

So, yes, you can successfully learn guitar by yourself. However, it will go faster for you and save you some trouble if you use good resources. And some things about learning guitar will go smoother with a skilled teacher. But it is entirely achievable to learn guitar on your own!

So, if you read and follow this guide, I will help you begin to learn guitar by yourself. And I want to introduce to you some practical tools that can help.

First, let’s address some of the questions commonly asked about teaching yourself the guitar. We’ll also address some of the pitfalls and bad advice one might receive that can side-track you.

Learn how to play the guitar using the PLAY Method video course.

Introducing the P.L.A.Y. Method of Learning Guitar

Hi! I’m Clint Harrison, the developer of the P.L.A.Y. Method of Learning guitar video series and books. Our course has been used for decades in settings from kids’ classes to the university level. 1000’s of students have been successful with our guitar learning tools. Read on to learn more!  (See the course.)

Is Learning Guitar on Your Own Really That Difficult?

It is the first question that crosses everyone’s mind when they consider learning guitar on their own. The first thing to understand here is that learning guitar isn’t difficult, but it isn’t easy either – with or without a teacher. Following the right learning material can make a world of difference when learning guitar by yourself. 

It can get painfully frustrating and difficult to learn guitar when following poor advice or learning materials, many of which are often irrelevantly complicated. The trick is to make your journey of learning guitar by yourself a fun and worthwhile experience.

For many, learning guitar by yourself is practical.

In what ways? First, guitar lessons cost money, and depending upon where you’re taking lessons or from whom, it can become costly. And if you struggled to save and waited to buy a good starter guitar for yourself, spending more money week after week on slow-moving guitar lessons just doesn’t sound tempting.

Secondly, most guitar teachers or mentors have their own teaching styles and methods. And while this is fine, if you have a good aptitude for guitar, most still won’t move ahead at the pace you want to go. You can get stuck moving ahead at what feels like a snail’s pace! Unfortunately, this can be frustrating and even irritating at times. And while it does make sense and is important to go slow and steady at times, it can take much longer than necessary. Plus, this can be more expensive in the long run.

Finding A Good Guitar Teacher Can Be a Challenge.

It can be a challenge to find a guitar teacher with whom you connect well. Music is a language, and if you and your teacher don’t speak the same language, it may not work out. For example, if rock inspires you, it won’t help if your teacher derives his/her inspiration from easy listening music (and thinks that you should, too).

If the guitar instructor doesn’t focus on aligning their lessons with your pace, music interests, and learning abilities it would eventually become difficult for you to find the lessons interesting. And it may result in you deviating from the path you first set out on, losing time, energy, and a significant amount of enthusiasm on the way.

A Talented Guitar Teacher Can Be Extremely Helpful.

A legitimate concern with guitar teachers is that speeding up the lessons can cause problems for the student. This is true. It is not good to keep moving ahead if you have not fully understood and mastered the previous lessons. Plus, good instructors can identify poor technique and undesirable habits a guitar student may be developing. They can help you correct these sorts of problems early on before they become too hard to unlearn.

The point is that a guitar teacher can be extremely helpful, and most people can benefit from an experienced and gifted teacher. However, that isn’t your only option if you’re serious and committed to learning guitar. And thanks to technology and the helpful resources available today, learning guitar on your own is very much a possibility while yet avoiding some of the pitfalls of self-directed learning.

There are well-organized learning tools available that combine options for self-learning with periodic online professional instruction.

Steps to Teaching Yourself Guitar

Initially, learning guitar is quite easy as every player needs to go through the same basic principles. It gets more challenging later when learning more complex chords, songs, and music styles. 

Young boy with acoustic guitar learning to play with online videos.To learn guitar, you need to focus on the three most important things, which are:

    • A good strategy for which topics and techniques to learn, and in a sequence that helps you build on the preceding learnings. Learning guitar isn’t linear, so there’s no single “right” order. Nonetheless, there are techniques and knowledge which are foundational and must be grasped and mastered before one can advance.
    • High-quality learning materials and resources to get a clear understanding of various topics and techniques.
    • A commitment to practice and learn, because a well-developed routine will work wonders for any musician’s skill level.

If you don’t have these three things in place, it will be more difficult to teach yourself guitar. 

Why? Because no matter how much or how hard you practice, if you try to learn things without the right foundation or practice wrong techniques, you’ll eventually get stuck. Or worse, you may advance and then you must unlearn things to advance further.

Lack of learning resources or poor-quality materials can do that to you. And no matter how good the online tutorials or YouTube videos may be that you watch, if you don’t learn to implement the techniques and lessons correctly, they are less useful.

So, let’s examine these three important elements for learning guitar and get a clearer understanding.

You Need a Well-Constructed Learning Plan.

One of the common reasons why so many self-learning guitar players fail is because they don’t know or aren’t sure where to start or what steps should be taken next. 

Suppose you have some songs in mind you want to learn. But if you aren’t sure what steps are necessary to accomplish your goal, you’re likely to struggle.

This is where the importance of a nicely structured plan comes into play. Not only will the learning be easier, but the amount of time and effort required to learn guitar on your own will decrease. 

Fortunately, the good news is that the basics for learning guitar are pretty much the same for everyone. Later you can branch out to your own music styles. This makes the beginning foundations easy to identify.

There are certain basics that are universally helpful when learning guitar initially:

    • It’s a good idea to get a basic understanding of all your guitar’s parts and how to care for it.
    • Learn to read Chord Diagrams and Guitar Tablature.
    • Learn finger exercises and how to fret notes cleanly.
    • Learn some basic guitar riffs, including techniques like hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends, palm-muting, etc.
    • Learn a few simple open chords.
    • Learn basic strumming patterns.
    • Establish good practice habits.
    • Begin to learn and master simple songs!

These introductory actions learned early on will set you up for success for a lifetime. And they can help you steer clear of common mistakes self-learners often make.

You Need Well-Organized Learning Resources.

In today’s connected world, even though you’re teaching yourself guitar, you’re not alone or helpless. There are plenty of online resources that can help you. In fact, our primary online guitar learning course includes options for online tips, instruction, and objective feedback to help you if you get stuck or need personal direction.

Choosing the right resource can make a huge difference in how fast you learn and how polished your skills can become. However, it is important to note that a considerable portion of online resources available these days is full of mediocre or substandard teaching. And, unfortunately, many offer bad advice.

Just like finding a good teacher can be challenging, so is finding the right guitar learning resources. In fact, the reason we created and developed our own system of learning guitar was because of the need for systematic quality instruction. This coupled with the desire of some students for occasional online instruction or to simply accelerate their learning has caused us to create our own comprehensive guide to learning guitar (click here to learn more).

You Need Healthy Practice Habits and a Routine.

Good practice habits are key to improving your guitar skills and knowledge. Successful guitarists are committed to their practice regime and have followed it steadily for a long time.

You must understand that nobody is good at playing guitar as a beginner. So, don’t be hard on yourself if you’re having a hard time learning or notice little or no improvement early on. It takes time and practice. For everyone.

You must not give up on practicing. It is crucial to your development as a guitar player. You don’t have to sit for long hours to practice. Even 5-10 minutes of practice every day can make a positive difference. 

There is a science-based approach to practicing guitar and how long you should practice for the best results. It includes the following principles:

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

Whether you’re learning music theory, a chord progression, or a riff, your mind tends to forget it gradually. Because of the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, something you could play excellently last week, you may not be able to today. And when you understand how it works, it becomes easier to master with practice.

This theory of the forgetting curve applies to just about anything we learn. The only way to overcome forgetting what you learn is to practice again and again, even if it is for just a few minutes.

Serial Position Effect

The Serial Position Effect demonstrates why practicing for long hours isn’t as effective as it seems. The initial few minutes of your practice sessions are important.

Why? Because, during the first few minutes, your mind is ready to grab whatever you practice and store it for longer. It is called the Primary Effect. And the ending part of your practice is even more important as your brain retains it longer. This is called the Recency Effect.

So, don’t be misled by the idea that practicing endlessly for hours is better.

Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns

This law teaches us that the more often you practice in a day, the less effective it sometimes tends to be. So, every practice session in the day is often less effective than the previous ones. If you spend two hours practicing, the first hour would be more effective than the second hour. Then, the third hour is even less effective, and so on.

If you practice exhaustively, it might help to learn faster, but someone who is practicing far less than you wouldn’t be as far behind as you might expect. For this very reason, taking breaks is important as it helps reset your mind. Then you can come back to practice with all your faculties ready to grasp new concepts. However, we want to add that there is still real benefit to your development muscle memory in learning techniques. While mental acuity may diminish during long practices, you are still likely to advance more quickly with extended practice, so long as you are practicing techniques properly.

Understanding these science-backed concepts can help you develop a practice routine that’s more effective in getting you closer to your goals.

A Dedicated Practice Space

It is also important to set up a dedicated practice space in your home. It can make a huge difference. Having a complete guitar rig set up in a private room or your home’s common area can help ensure you don’t miss out on practice sessions frequently. The practice space should be comfortable and must have a few essentials like a comfortable chair, music stand, tuner, Metronome or Drum Machine, and other ancillary accessories.

If you must tediously set up your guitar and work with cables every time you practice, you’ll procrastinate practicing more often than you may realize.

Additional Tips on How to Learn to Play Guitar By Yourself

If you want to learn how to play guitar on your own, here are a few important tips to help you get started.

  • Buy a guitar only after carefully researching and reading all you can about guitars.
  • Practice every day without fail, even if it is only for a short while. It will still help.
  • Be sure of what you want to learn in terms of style of music, genre, etc. 
  • Record yourself (video) while playing, so you can watch and analyze your playing technique and style from a different angle. 
  • The journey to learning guitar is challenging and will seem difficult initially, but don’t give up. It gets easier with time and good practice habits.
  • Make sure to follow YouTube guitar instruction channels with high numbers of followers. Check to see if the instructor is also active in the comments section. This may help you get answers to some common questions most guitar self-learners have. 
  • Most of all, stay away from online resources that claim to teach you the “secrets to learning guitar in just 30 days,” and similar flashy claims. There is no secret formula to mastering the art of playing guitar.

Occasionally, you’ll get stuck when trying to master some guitar technique. The key is to keep going and not give up. We all get stuck at times. That’s why we feel so strongly about our resource that offers the best of both worlds, teaching yourself to play guitar by video and the option to access online guitar lessons when you feel stuck.


The P.L.A.Y. Method of Learning Guitar illustrated on an electric guitar

Several features combine together to make The P.L.A.Y. Method unique:

  1. First, the videos are the actual lessons one would get from our live, in-person music lessons.
  2. You can choose options to include 2 or 4 live online lessons.
  3. These videos and books can help you learn how to read music and to understand music theory.
  4. Our course is good for beginners, and it’s also good for more advanced players who don’t really understand what they’re playing. We often tell musicians that they are looking for “their head to catch up with their hands.” This often seems to resonate with them.
  5. You can buy it as a complete course or as separate modules.

Important Note: This is an entire course for learning guitar with precepts built upon other precepts in a specific, systematic order. You will learn to understand music on the guitar rather than just how to play a song on the guitar. Then the sky’s the limit as to how many songs you’ll be able to play!

The P.L.A.Y. Method Guitar Course is not a “quickie” lesson or even a series of “quickies”. There are lots of those types of videos out there that teach you how to play a few chords or a song. And while you can certainly learn some things from those, you will not understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. To be a musician, you need more than that.

So our goal is for you to be a real musician that plays guitar and not just another guitar player who only knows what they’ve been spoon-fed.

What does the acronym “P.L.A.Y.” stand for?

  • Happy little boy learning to play guitar while watching lessons on laptop at homePlan
  • Learn
  • Apply
  • Yourself

Plan…The order of things introduced is important. Our plan uses a proven successful strategy used by thousands from private personal study to university-level learning.

Learn… We’ll teach you how to identify and use patterns, principles, and theory.

Apply… You’ll learn music theory and how to apply it to the guitar.

Yourself… You’ll come to see and understand music to the point where you can be self-sufficient.

What’s Included in The P.L.A.Y. Method Guitar Course?

Ready to order? Or would you like some more info?

Learning Guitar on Your Own – FAQs

Here, we will try to answer some of the most common questions that many ask regarding learning to play guitar.

What is The Best and the Fastest Way to Learn Guitar?

As mentioned earlier, there are no secrets when it comes to learning guitar. The best, as well as the fastest way, is to learn guitar at your own pace without bypassing or skimping on any fundamental principles. When you try to rush, it works against you in more ways than you can currently see. It will lead to sloppy techniques and practicing flawed habits.

Make it a point to practice guitar for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes every day. The focus should be to learn and master every lesson properly before moving to the next lesson.

Is It Possible to Learn Guitar In 3 Months?

While it is possible to learn the basics of playing guitar in three months, one should not expect to become an accomplished guitarist in just a few months. However, you should be able to learn your primary chords and barre chords, being able to make chord changes easily in 6 – 24 months. Still, there are lots of advanced chords which can take a very long time to master. Remember, talented guitarists who have been playing for years are still learning. Enjoy the journey!

Which Guitar Is Easiest to Learn?

Nylon-string acoustic guitars and electric guitars are relatively easier to learn than other guitars. They are easy on the fingers, which makes them easier to learn on. On the other hand, steel-string acoustic guitars aren’t as easy on the fingers and will take comparatively more time to master. The players must fret steel strings a little harder, requiring rigorous practice to get the desired outcome. 

However, choosing the easiest kind of guitar to learn on is not a great idea. Decide which kind of guitar to learn based on your music preference, where you derive inspiration from, and knowing the type of guitar you’ll enjoy playing. So, if you’re more inclined towards rock or metal, starting on acoustic guitar is not the best choice. Similarly, if you are keen on playing folk or acoustic songs, choose a steel-string acoustic guitar. 

Don’t go by what’s easy; go by what’s best and follow your musical calling. Otherwise, you’ll lose passion, which is the fuel to staying persistent, dedicated, and committed to learning guitar on your own. Read here to learn about different types of guitars and their characteristics to help you decide which kind of guitar you should learn.