How to Teach Yourself Guitar: 8 Steps To Success

The guitar, with its versatility and emotive power, has captivated the hearts and ears of music lovers for centuries. Whether it’s strumming gently beside a campfire or rocking out on stage, the guitar is the perfect instrument for anyone looking to express themselves musically.

If you’ve always dreamt of playing your favorite songs, serenading your loved ones, or even composing your own tunes, teaching yourself guitar is a fulfilling and rewarding journey.

The key to success in learning the guitar lies in self-motivation and discipline. With the right mindset, dedication, and a well-structured plan, you can become a proficient guitarist without attending expensive lessons.

This article aims to be your comprehensive guide, walking you through the process of teaching yourself guitar from scratch. We’ll explore topics such as choosing your first guitar, mastering chords and scales, understanding music theory, and developing practice routines.

You will also find tips and resources to help you improve your skills. So if you’re ready, here is how to teach yourself guitar!

Related Articles:

1. Choosing Your Guitar

The first step in your guitar-learning journey is selecting the right instrument for you. The choice between an acoustic and an electric guitar can significantly impact your learning experience and musical style.

In this section, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each type. But also the factors to consider when purchasing a guitar. Our goal is to help you find an instrument that resonates with your personality and makes your practice sessions enjoyable.

Acoustic vs. Electric Guitar: Pros and Cons

Acoustic guitars, with their warm and natural tones, are ideal for singer-songwriters and players interested in folk, country, or classical music. They are self-contained, meaning you won’t need any additional equipment like amplifiers or cables to start playing.

On the other hand, electric guitars offer a wider range of sounds and are perfect for those drawn to rock, blues, or jazz. However, they do require an amplifier, which adds to the initial cost and setup.

Related Article: acoustic vs electric guitars.

Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Guitar

When you’re ready to buy your first guitar, there are several aspects to keep in mind. Your budget will play a significant role in the decision-making process, but don’t forget about factors like size, shape, and brand reputation.

Investing in a comfortable and well-crafted instrument will not only make learning more enjoyable, but also encourage you to practice regularly.


Determine a realistic budget for your guitar, keeping in mind that you may need to allocate funds for essential accessories as well. While it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option, remember that quality does matter, and a poorly made instrument can hinder your progress.

Size and Shape

Choose one with a comfortable size and shape, especially if you’ll be practicing for extended periods. Smaller-bodied guitars may suit younger or petite players, while larger individuals might prefer full-sized instruments.

Brand and Model Recommendations

Research reputable brands and find feedback to obtain a reliable model that fits your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from experienced guitarists or music store staff, as they can offer valuable insights.

Guitar Accessories

Once you’ve chosen your guitar, you’ll need a few essential accessories to enhance your playing experience and ensure your instrument stays in top condition.

  1. Guitar Picks: These small, flat pieces of plastic or other materials help you pluck or strum the strings with precision. Experiment with different thicknesses and shapes to find what feels best for you.
  2. Capos: A capo is a clamp-like device that changes the pitch of your strings. Allowing you to play songs in various keys without retuning your guitar. It’s a handy tool, especially for beginners learning new chords.
  3. Guitar Tuners: Keeping your guitar in tune is crucial for accurate and pleasing sound. Invest in a reliable tuner, whether it’s a clip-on, pedal, or smartphone app.
  4. Guitar Straps: A comfortable strap will help you maintain proper posture and prevent discomfort or injury during extended practice sessions or performances.
  5. Spare Strings: Guitar strings wear out over time and occasionally break. So it’s essential to have a spare set on hand. Familiarize yourself with the string changing process to ensure your guitar always sounds its best.
Carbon fiber guitar pick.

2. Learning Guitar Basics

As you embark on your guitar-playing journey, it’s essential to master fundamental techniques that will serve as a solid foundation for your musical growth.

In this section, we’ll cover the anatomy of a guitar, proper posture, holding techniques, and more. By understanding these foundational concepts, you’ll be better equipped to progress and tackle more advanced methods with confidence.

Anatomy of a Guitar

Before diving into playing, familiarize yourself with the various components of your guitar. By understanding the function and purpose of each part, you’ll be able to communicate effectively with other guitarists and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

The main components include the body, headstock, and neck. But you will also find other important parts like tuners, nut, frets, fretboard, bridge, and strings. Take some time to study your instrument and learn the role each part plays in producing sound.

Proper Posture and Holding Techniques

Adopting the correct posture and holding technique is crucial for preventing strain or injury and ensuring comfortable, efficient playing. Sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground and your guitar resting on your leg. For right-handed players, this will be your right leg.

The neck of the guitar should be angled slightly upward, allowing easy access to the fretboard. Your fretting hand should not support the neck. This hand must be free to move about the fretboard. Your strumming hand should rest over the strings near the soundhole or pickups.

Tuning Your Guitar

Playing an out-of-tune guitar can be discouraging and unproductive. Learning to tune your instrument is essential for maintaining accurate sound and developing your ear for pitch. Standard tuning for a six-string guitar is E-A-D-G-B-E, starting from the thickest string to the thinnest.

Use an electronic tuner, smartphone app, or tune by ear using a reference pitch (like a piano or tuning fork). It’s important to ensure your guitar is in tune before each rehearsal.

Finger Placement and Fretting Technique

Proper finger placement and fretting technique are crucial for clean, crisp notes and chords. Press your fingertips down on the strings just behind the frets. Use the tips of your fingers to avoid muting adjacent strings.

Keep your thumb positioned on the back of the neck, providing a counterbalance for your fretting fingers. As you progress, experiment with various fingerings to find the most comfortable and efficient positions for each chord or note.

Strumming and Picking

Developing a strong strumming and picking technique is vital for creating a rich, dynamic sound. Start by practicing basic downstrokes and upstrokes with a pick or your fingers, focusing on maintaining a steady rhythm.

As you become more comfortable, explore various strumming patterns, palm muting, fingerpicking, and alternate picking methods to add depth and variety to your playing.

Basic Maintenance

Taking care of your guitar is an essential aspect of being a responsible musician. Regular maintenance includes cleaning the fretboard, changing strings, and adjusting the truss rod, intonation, or action as needed.

By keeping your instrument in top shape, you’ll ensure optimal sound quality and prolong its lifespan. Familiarize yourself with these tasks, or seek assistance from a qualified guitar technician when necessary.

3. Mastering Chords and Scales

A strong foundation in chords and scales is indispensable for any aspiring guitarist. These musical building blocks will help you play songs, improvise, and compose your own music.

In this section, we’ll discuss open, power, and barre chords, major and minor scales, techniques for smooth transitions, and common progressions. As you explore these concepts, you’ll begin to recognize patterns and unlock the potential of your guitar.

Open Chords

Open chords are the starting point for many beginners, as they involve strumming some strings that aren’t fretted. These basic chords include major and minor shapes, such as C, D, E, G, Am, and Em.

By learning open chords, you’ll be able to play a vast array of songs across various genres. They will make your rehearsals more enjoyable and motivating.

Barre Chords

As you progress, you’ll encounter barre chords, which involve pressing down multiple strings with one finger. Thus, creating a movable shape that can be transposed up and down the fretboard.

Barre chords can be challenging at first. But with patience and practice, you’ll expand your chord vocabulary and unlock new playing possibilities.

Major and Minor Scales

Understanding major and minor scales is crucial for developing your musicality and improvisational skills. These scales form the basis of most Western music and provide a roadmap for creating melodies and harmonies.

Begin with the C major and the A minor scale. Then gradually learn scales in other keys to enhance your dexterity and familiarity with the fretboard.

Power Chords

Power chords, consisting of just the root and fifth notes, are a staple of rock and punk music. They’re simple, movable shapes that create a powerful, full sound, perfect for those looking to add a bit of edge to their playing.

Start by learning the basic power chord shape and practice moving it across the fretboard to build strength and agility.

Guitar Chords.

Chord Transitions

Smooth chord transitions are vital for fluid, seamless playing. Begin by practicing transitions between common open chords, focusing on maintaining consistent rhythm and minimizing finger movement.

Techniques such as pivot fingers and anticipating the next chord shape can help make transitions more efficient. With time, your muscle memory will develop, and chord changes will become more natural.

Common Chord Progressions

Familiarizing yourself with common progressions will help you recognize patterns in music and provide a foundation for songwriting and improvisation.

Some popular progressions include the I-IV-V, II-V-I, and I-V-vi-IV. As you learn these progressions, you’ll begin to notice them in many of your favorite songs. Making it easier to learn new material and understand the structure of music.

4. Understanding Music Theory

While it’s possible to learn guitar through memorization and repetition alone, acquiring a basic understanding of music theory can significantly enhance your growth and creativity.

In this section, we’ll cover topics such as reading sheet music and guitar tabs. But also rhythm and time signatures, chord construction and progressions, and basic melody and harmony concepts.

By delving into these aspects of music theory, you’ll unlock a deeper appreciation for the art and become a more well-rounded musician.

Reading Sheet Music and Guitar Tabs

Being able to read sheet music and guitar tabs opens up a world of opportunities. Both for learning new songs and understanding the language of music. Sheet music provides information on pitch, rhythm, and expression.

While guitar tabs are a simplified notation system that shows you where to place your fingers on the fretboard. Start by learning the basics of each system and gradually incorporate them into your practice routine.

Rhythm and Time Signatures

Rhythm is the heartbeat of music, and understanding time signatures is crucial for maintaining a steady pulse in your playing. Begin with common time signatures, such as 4/4 and 3/4, and rehearse counting and playing along with a metronome to develop your sense of timing.

As you progress, experiment with more complex rhythms and time signatures to challenge yourself and expand your musical horizons.

Chord Construction and Progressions

Learning how chords are constructed will give you a better grasp of the underlying structure of music and help you create your own progressions. Chords are formed by stacking notes from a scale, typically in intervals of thirds.

Start with basic triads (three-note) and progress to more complex types, such as sevenths, ninths, and suspended chords. Understanding chord construction will also make it easier to identify and memorize shapes on the fretboard.

Basic Melody and Harmony Concepts

Developing an understanding of melody and harmony will enrich your playing and help you create more expressive, engaging music. Melody is a sequence of single notes that form a musical line.

While, harmony refers to the combination of multiple notes played simultaneously to create chords or other textures. Study scales, intervals, and chord progressions to gain insight into how melodies and harmonies interact. Then, incorporate these concepts into your playing and songwriting.

5. Developing Effective Practice Routines

Consistent, focused practice is the key to mastering the guitar and becoming a skilled musician. In this section, we’ll discuss strategies for creating effective routines, setting achievable goals, and overcoming common challenges.

By cultivating healthy practice habits, you’ll not only accelerate your progress, but also maintain motivation and enjoy a more fulfilling musical journey.

Structuring Your Practice Sessions

A well-structured rehearsal is essential for maximizing your time and ensuring balanced growth across all aspects of your playing. Break your sessions into segments dedicated to warm-ups, technique exercises, chords and scales, repertoire, and improvisation or songwriting.

Be mindful of your time and adjust the length of each segment according to your needs and goals. Remember to start slowly, focusing on accuracy and consistency before gradually increasing speed.

Setting Achievable Goals

Establishing clear, attainable goals will help you stay motivated and track your progress over time. Whether it’s mastering a specific chord progression, learning a new song, or improving your fingerpicking technique.

It’s critical to have a concrete objective that can keep you focused and inspired. Make sure your goals are realistic and adjust them as needed to ensure you’re always moving forward.

Young boy practicing guitar.

Overcoming Common Challenges

As with any skill, learning the guitar can present various hurdles, such as sore fingers, frustration, or plateaus in progress. It’s important to recognize these obstacles as a natural part of the learning process and develop strategies for overcoming them.

Be patient with yourself, practice regularly, and seek out advice or resources when you encounter difficulties. Remember that persistence and a positive attitude are essential for long-term success.

Tracking Your Progress

Monitoring your progress can be incredibly motivating and help you identify areas that need improvement. Consider keeping a practice journal to document your accomplishments, challenges, and goals.

Record yourself playing periodically to gain insight into your technique and see how far you’ve come. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, and use them as fuel to continue pushing forward.

Making Practice Enjoyable

Finally, it’s crucial to make your rehearsals enjoyable and rewarding. Incorporate your favorite songs, play along with backing tracks, or collaborate with other musicians to keep your practice sessions fresh and engaging.

Remember that learning the guitar should be a fulfilling, creative pursuit, and always strive to enjoy the process as much as the end result.

6. Learning Songs

Building a diverse and engaging repertoire is an important aspect of becoming a well-rounded guitarist. In this section, we’ll discuss strategies for learning songs, interpreting different styles, and developing your own unique interpretations.

By honing your ability to learn and perform various pieces, you’ll not only increase your enjoyment of playing the guitar, but also demonstrate your versatility and musicality.

Choosing Songs to Learn

When selecting songs to learn, consider your skill level, personal preferences, and the techniques you’d like to develop. Begin with simpler pieces that align with your current abilities, and gradually progress to more challenging compositions.

It’s also essential to choose pieces that inspire and resonate with you, as this will make the learning process more enjoyable and motivating.

Breaking Down Songs into Sections

When learning a new song, it’s helpful to break it down into smaller sections, such as the intro, verse, chorus, and bridge. This makes the process more manageable and allows you to focus on each part individually before combining them.

Work on mastering one section at a time, and then slowly piece the song together. Ensuring that your transitions between sections are smooth and seamless.

Interpreting Different Styles

As you expand your repertoire, you’ll likely encounter various styles and genres, each with its own unique characteristics and methods. Take the time to study the nuances of each style, paying attention to aspects such as rhythm, tone, dynamics, and articulation.

By developing an understanding of these elements, you’ll be better equipped to interpret and perform a wide range of music authentically.

Creating Your Own Interpretations

While it’s essential to study and respect the original versions of songs, don’t be afraid to put your own spin on them. Experiment with different chord voicings, embellishments, or rhythmic variations to make a piece uniquely yours.

This process not only fosters creativity, but also helps you develop your own distinct musical voice.

Regularly Expanding Your Repertoire

Continually adding new songs and pieces to your repertoire is crucial for maintaining your motivation and preventing stagnation. Set a goal to learn a specific number of new pieces each month or quarter, and ensure that your repertoire remains varied and dynamic.

By consistently challenging yourself with fresh material, you’ll continue to grow as a musician and discover new aspects of your playing.

7. Expanding Your Musical Horizons

As you grow more comfortable with your guitar skills, it’s essential to keep pushing yourself and expanding your musical boundaries.

In this section, we’ll discuss various ways to broaden your musical knowledge, such as learning different genres, and joining a band or community group. By continually challenging yourself and seeking new experiences, you’ll stay inspired, engaged, and ultimately become a more versatile and accomplished musician.

Learning Different Genres

Diversifying your musical palette by exploring different genres can help you develop new techniques. But also discover fresh inspiration, and gain a deeper appreciation for the vast world of music.

Whether it’s jazz, blues, classical, metal, or anything in between. Try learning songs and techniques from various styles to expand your skillset and uncover new avenues for creative expression.

Experimenting with Alternate Tunings

Alternate tunings can open up new possibilities for chord voicings, harmonics, and fingerings. It can also serve as a catalyst for fresh ideas and unique sounds. Examples of popular alternate tunings include Drop D, Open G, and DADGAD.

Experiment with various tunings to challenge your fretboard knowledge, spark creativity, and add variety to your playing.

Attending Workshops and Classes

Workshops and masterclasses can be invaluable resources for learning new methods, gaining insights from seasoned musicians, and connecting with like-minded individuals.

Seek out opportunities to attend these events in person or online, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or engage in discussions. These experiences can enrich your musical journey and provide new perspectives on playing the guitar.

Joining a Band or Group

Collaborating with other musicians can be a transformative experience. This can help you develop communication skills, improve your timing, and learn to navigate the dynamics of a group setting.

Consider joining a band, attending local jam sessions, or participating in community music groups. This will hone your skills and share your passion for music with others. Playing with others can also boost your confidence and motivate you to continue growing as a musician.

Embracing Lifelong Learning

Remember that becoming a skilled guitarist is a lifelong journey filled with constant growth and discovery. Embrace the process of learning and remain open to new experiences and challenges.

By maintaining a curious, humble attitude and continually seeking opportunities to learn and evolve, you’ll ensure a rewarding and fulfilling musical adventure.

8. Utilizing Technology and Resources

In today’s digital age, a wealth of technology and resources are available to assist you in your guitar-learning journey. In this section, we’ll discuss various tools and platforms, such as online lessons, apps, video tutorials, and music streaming services.

Tools that can help you enhance your skills, stay motivated, and make the most of your rehearsals. By leveraging technology and staying informed about the latest resources, you’ll be well-equipped to reach your full potential as a guitarist.

Online Lessons and Video Tutorials

The internet is a treasure trove of instructional content! With countless online lessons and video tutorials catering to every skill level and musical interest. Whether you prefer structured courses, one-on-one lessons, or casual YouTube tutorials, there’s something for everyone.

Take advantage of these resources to supplement your practice routine and gain insights from experienced teachers and players. One such app is called Fender Play. This is a great program to help beginners get started!

Guitar Apps and Software

Guitar-focused apps and software can be incredibly helpful for learning new concepts, improving your technique, and staying organized. Examples include tuner apps, metronomes, chord and scale libraries, and even tools that help you read sheet music and tabs.

Explore the wide array and integrate them into your practice sessions to streamline your learning process.

Music Streaming Services

Music streaming services offer an extensive catalog of songs, albums, and playlists across various genres. Making it easier than ever to discover new music, study your favorite artists, and find inspiration for your own playing.

Use these platforms to curate playlists for rehearsals, analyze songs you’d like to learn, or simply immerse yourself in the world of music.

Online Communities and Forums

Connecting with fellow guitarists through online communities and forums can provide valuable support, encouragement, and camaraderie. Share your experiences, ask questions, and engage in discussions to learn from others and contribute to the collective knowledge of the community.

These platforms can also be a great way to discover new resources, stay up to date on industry news, and find inspiration for your own musical adventure.

Staying Informed

As you progress in your journey, make a conscious effort to stay informed about the latest developments in the world of music and guitar. This can include following music blogs, subscribing to guitar magazines, or simply staying active in online communities.

By remaining engaged and knowledgeable, you’ll be better equipped to adapt to new trends, discover innovative techniques, and continue evolving as a musician.


Why is Learning Guitar so Hard?

Learning an instrument is very challenging. While the guitar is one of the easier to learn, it’s still hard! It takes time and hard work to get better at playing.

Another reason why some people find it difficult is because they don’t have any previous experience. This can be a daunting task for beginners. But with the right resources and guidance, anyone can learn to play the guitar.

Some people find it hard because they get frustrated easily, or they don’t have enough discipline. It takes a lot of time to get good at playing the guitar. You need to be patient and consistent if you want to see results.

Is it better to self-teach guitar?

Teaching yourself how to play guitar can be a great way to get started. Anyone who is good at learning can get going very easily and gain skills fast. But people who struggle with learning, or might have difficulties setting up a plan, may enjoy a guitar teacher.

A good guitar instructor will know how to get you started and keep you engaged at the same time. They will have a plan and techniques they know work for beginners. So depending on how you learn, teaching yourself guitar may be a good way to get started. It’s very much worth the price!

Photo of author

Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!