Picking the Best Way to Learn Guitar in 2024 (In-Depth Guide)

Best Ways to Learn Guitar 2024

Greetings, fellow guitar enthusiast! If you’re reading this, you’re likely on a quest to master the guitar, but the plethora of learning options in 2024 has left you in a quandary.

The conventional route of in-person teaching is facing stiff competition from high-quality online lessons and AI-powered learning tools.

In this article, we’ll explore these diverse methods of learning, weighing their pros and cons, so you can make an informed choice that aligns with your goals, budget, and time constraints.

So, let’s embark on this journey to help you find the perfect path to your guitar-playing dreams!

New Technologies – New Ways Of Learning

When I first got my electric guitar in the 2000s, finding a guitar teacher meant checking out the coolest rock bands in town and finding which one of those guitarists offered in-person lessons.

I remember how online tabs like Ultimate Guitar were new then. We would pick up tabs from the website to complete our transcribing homework.

I also remember how our guitar teacher, trained in the ‘80s, frowned upon the idea. He had developed a highly perceptive ear by transcribing guitar solos from cassette tapes, which was the norm in the ’80s.

New Ways of Learning Guitar

Fast forward 20 years, and you have students holding their guitars, following along to an AI voice that says, “Strum when you see the notes show up on your screen.”

The AI-infused app detects even the slightest deviation from the beat by a few microseconds, prompting you to revisit the passage.

While this might sound radically different from the ‘80s or even the ‘2000s, the concept of an intelligent listener assessing your performance in real-time and pinpointing mistakes remains unchanged.

That being said, the feedback received from an in-person teacher is still irreplaceable.

No app can notice the tension in your shoulders, touch your hand, and tell you, “Relax the grip on your thumb as you play your scales.”

Learning to play the guitar extends beyond technical mastery. An in-person teacher has the unique ability to impart their musicality onto the student, a connection that cannot be easily replaced.

So, the question is not “What’s the best way to learn the guitar?”

It’s “What’s the best way for me to learn the guitar?”

Choosing The Right Instrument For You

If you’re a carpenter, you can’t be at your best without having the necessary tools you vibe with the most. Very similarly, performing well on the guitar requires you to have an instrument that serves you well and truly inspires you.

The classical, acoustic, and electric guitars are extremely peculiar and offer distinct responses, even though the rudimentary technique involved in playing them remains the same.

Let’s examine the three main types of guitars under specific categories so we get a better idea about them.

Acoustic GuitarClassical GuitarElectric Guitar

Acoustic Guitar

Sound & Music Style

Acoustic guitars have a hollow body with a sound hole that acts as the sound source. They are generally strung with bronze or brass-plated steel strings, so they sound crisp and bright with pronounced high-mid frequencies.

They’re ideal for folk, country, blues, and most situations involving a singer-songwriter.

Playing Style

An acoustic guitar might be ideal if you love using soft picks, fingerpicking, or strumming with your fingers. They also have a much broader neck compared to an electric guitar and a shorter reach on the higher registers of the fretboard.

While you do see guitarists play terrific lead lines on acoustic guitars all the time, their body and neck joints are ideally designed for chordal playing.

Portability

Acoustic guitars are highly portable and suitable for playing in different settings because they don’t require amplification. After all, there is no better companion than a nice resonant acoustic guitar at a campfire!

Due to their portability, electric guitarists often use them to put down ideas quickly. Most electric guitar players first learn to play on an acoustic guitar. So it really does come in handy!

Budget

Acoustic guitars can range from $100 to $300 for entry-level and $300 to above $1000 for mid-range and high-end models.

Classical Guitar

Sound & Music Style

Classical guitars have a softer and mellow sound as they use nylon strings.

The lower three strings have silver-plated copper wrapped with nylon, bringing out the bass when played with the thumb. The higher three strings are made of nylon and produce soft and nuanced tones when played by the other four fingers.

Playing Style

The distance between the strings is much wider than the electric and acoustic guitars, allowing for a more dynamic and pronounced finger pluck. This makes it ideal for classical music, flamenco, and fingerstyle genres.

Feel & Technical Adaptability

While playing all three guitars requires the same basic technical skills, the control over dynamics and the feel you develop for the instrument is very different on a classical as compared to the other two.

Budget

Classical guitars come in various price ranges, and you can find good quality entry-level options from $100 to $200. They come with additional footrest costs, a sheet music reading stand, and an appropriate stool.

The footrest, however, can be replaced by using a pile of hardbound books to rest your feet on.

Electric Guitar

Sound & Music Style

Electric guitars are versatile and used in a wide range of music genres like rock, jazz, blues, and pop, to name a few. They are the easiest to play with steel or nickel strings spanning across a neck, with the lowest action out of all three.

With pickups that capture and amplify your picking, the effort required to produce a note is the least among the three.

Playing Style

The electric guitar is ideal for those who love playing lead guitar, improvising over long periods using various effect pedals and processors. After all, it is the weapon of choice for rock and metal!

Budget

Electric guitars range from $100 to $400 for entry-level models and $400 to above $2,000 for mid-range and high-end models.

However, electric guitars require an amplifier to produce a sound. Therefore, consider the additional cost of an amp in your budget.

That being said, there are many mini amp options and ways of directly connecting to your DAW, which can work out within $100 or less.

While not specifically a guitar type on its own, you can consider electro-acoustic guitars like the Ovation if you’re looking for an acoustic guitar with the playability of an electric guitar.

Choosing The Right Learning Path

Choosing Guitar Learning Path

With the types of guitars out of the way, we can move on to discover the various ways in which you can learn to play them.

Various factors like your preferred learning style, available resources, interaction level, and long-term goals determine the choice of a suitable learning medium.

The four main categories of learning mediums are:

  • 1. DIY methods
  • 2. Traditional in-person learning methods
  • 3. Technological learning methods (online platforms + AI)
  • 4. Hybrid learning methods (mix of the first 3)

Now, let’s dig deeper into each method to understand its pros and cons so that you can settle on the best method for you.


DIY Methods

Learning Guitar DIY

This is a do-it-yourself method where you learn by reading music theory from books, asking friends, and learning songs by hearing and transcribing.

It may have the most freedom and the longest learning curve as one has to figure out everything independently.

However, in some cases, this might be the cheapest and most effective option for a beginner.

For example, if you’re a beginner passionate about rock music and want to get into a band as a rhythm guitarist, it would require you to mainly focus on guitar playing techniques like power chords and palm-muted chugging.

Since these techniques have many free resources and are easy to pick up, they can be learned DIY.

To simplify things, here are the top books used by DIY guitarists over the decades to self-teach themselves.

These are highly effective books that have stood the test of time and are worth checking out.


Now let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the DIY method.

Pros

Offers flexibility and convenience: Self-learning allows you to schedule and learn at your own pace. Moreover, it is more convenient for your lifestyle as it is location-independent.

Cost-effective: Formal guitar lessons can get quite expensive. On the other hand, you can access numerous free resources online, like free tutorials, chord charts, and sheet music, and learn by yourself if you know how to do it.

Freedom in learning path: It allows you to focus on the aspects of guitar playing that interest you the most, whether it’s rhythm playing, lead playing, fingerpicking, music theory, or a specific genre.

Experimentation & Individuality: DIY has no strict guidelines. Hence, you can experiment and explore your creativity on the guitar. Also, it can develop music geniuses by allowing you to discover musical concepts and develop your unique style, which is uninhibited by conventional ways of playing.

Builds problem-solving skills: You’re bound to develop innate problem-solving skills while figuring a song out yourself. Different transcribing processes, alternate finger positions, and powerful research skills might be developed along the way.

Helps Develop an excellent ear: Since paid courses come with many visual materials nowadays, students pay little attention to developing their ears. If you’re going old-school and figuring out your favorite songs by ear, chances are you will have a highly developed over the years, making you a key asset in any band.

Cons

Lack of correct choices: Without a teacher, you might choose free YouTube lessons based on the channel’s popularity instead of the technique’s correctness.

Gaps in your learning: Self-learning requires looking around for information that may be scattered. This can slow down your progress or lead to gaps in your knowledge, which can be detrimental to long-term growth.

Risk of developing potential bad habits: Learning on your own might lead to incorrect playing techniques or bad habits that can be difficult to unlearn later.

Stylizations vs. effective technique: Most DIY learners make the mistake of trying to learn a song by watching free cover songs on YouTube. The issue is that the artists uploading free cover songs on YouTube are performing, not teaching.

While performing, a guitarist tends to exaggerate finger movements for dramatic effect. While this aids in making the performance more engaging and energetic, it’s detrimental to a student’s technique if this is mimicked.

Offers Limited Feedback: Sometimes, you need experienced eyes on you to clear off mental, psychological, and technical hurdles that might be hindering your progress. Without an experienced teacher, you might not receive the timely and necessary feedback that you need to keep growing.

Plateauing: Without external guidance, you may reach a point where you find it challenging to progress to more advanced levels of playing. Plateauing is common in self-learning since you’re not exposed to new challenges.

Requires strong self-motivation: Self-learning requires strong self-motivation. Unfortunately, some people might struggle to stay motivated without the support and accountability of a teacher.

Self-learning can work well for some individuals. However, being in the presence of professional guitarists and musicians, attending guitar clinics, or learning briefly from an in-person as a supplement can help address its cons.

Old-School & Traditional Methods

Traditional Methods Learning Guitar

Learning from an in-person teacher or going to a music school was the most commonly used method before the advent of the Internet.

While the cost of music institutions would vary, the prices for one-on-one in-person training generally range from $20 to $40 per 30-minute session and around $40 to $90 per 1-hour session.

Prices for group lessons could go down to $10-$20 per session, depending on the strength of the class.

However, these numbers vary widely based on the tutor’s reputation and location. You can use services like Tonara and Superprof to find a teacher who suits your needs.

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the traditional methods.

Pros

The social aspect of learning: Group study fosters a supportive and motivating environment, which is great for developing your ensemble skills as a guitarist.

Maximum attention: A private instructor can give you maximum attention and ensure the learning session is tuned to your needs.

Immediate feedback: When working with a private instructor or enrolled in a music school, you’ll likely get immediate feedback and timely guidance on your playing.

Developing the mindset of a professional: You’re also likely to subconsciously pick up on the mindset it takes to keep going when you hit a plateau. Having real-life role models of professional guitarists in front of you is invaluable in such times.

Cons

Expensive: Hiring a private instructor may not be within everyone’s reach.

Less flexibility in the subjects taught: Many of the syllabi and learning materials used by a traditional music school have been standardized over decades. Their syllabus generally offers little flexibility compared to the available online resources.

Commute: If your tutor doesn’t live close to you, commute becomes a major factor in determining flexibility when scheduling your lessons/study time.

Group study and private instructors have immense social interaction and personal attention advantages. You’ll need to weigh their pros and cons and identify your music goals to understand how to use them.

Technological Methods

Technological Methods Learning Guitar

Technological advancements have revolutionized the way you can learn guitar.

You now have the option to enroll in online courses, make use of instructional videos and tutorials, or leverage specialized software and apps.

We’ll cover these methods in more detail later in the article, but first, let’s go through some of the pros and cons of this approach.

Pros

Highly accessible and convenient: Technology enables learning guitar at one’s own pace and schedule. You can access various online lessons, tutorials, and apps anytime and anywhere.

Interactive learning: Many technological tools provide interactive exercises, feedback, and gamified learning experiences. This makes the learning process engaging and enjoyable.

Visual aids and multimedia: We’re visual beings. Hence, we grasp concepts well through visualization. Technology enhances learning by simplifying complex concepts through videos, animations, and graphical representations.

Wide range of resources: There is a vast array of digital resources, including chord libraries, backing tracks, and song tutorials. Therefore, it provides learners with a diverse range of materials to explore.

Recording and practice tools: Technology allows you to record and analyze how you play. Therefore, it facilitates self-assessment and improvement.

Cons

Dependency on screens: Technology may require excess screen time to learn content. However, excessive screen time can lead to eye strain, fatigue, and distraction, potentially hindering learning.

Lack of personalized feedback: While technology offers feedback, it may not be as tailored or detailed as that provided by an in-person instructor. This may hinder progress as you get vague feedback that doesn’t go deep into underlying issues affecting your playing.

Isolation and lack of collaboration: When learning through technology, you might miss out on the benefits of group classes or jamming with others. Collaborations are important as they can enhance motivation and skill development through practicing and learning from others.

Overwhelm with options: The abundance of online resources can lead to information overload. This will make it challenging to follow a structured learning path that may hinder your progress.

Inauthentic experience: Some learners may find that virtual learning lacks the same emotional connection and authenticity as learning from a live instructor.

Technological methods provide flexibility, access to vast resources, and engaging learning experiences. Nevertheless, it may lack the personal touch and interaction in traditional learning settings.

A balanced approach incorporating technological tools and live instruction could be the most effective way to learn guitar playing.

Let’s look at hybrid learning incorporating both technological and traditional learning methods.

Mixing It Up – A Hybrid Learning Approach

Guitar Hybrid Learning Approach

A hybrid approach is suitable when you want to enjoy both the personalized experience of a physical teacher and the benefits of technology.

It can propel your learning speed as you utilize online resources to practice.

Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of this method.

Pros

Speed up learning: A hybrid method allows you to practice what you’ve learned through online practices. Also, it allows you to enquire on community forums about the techniques and challenges you’ve encountered while practicing.

Create collaboration and teamwork: If you join a social network, you will enjoy the benefits of learning from your peers without losing the benefit of personalized training of instructors.

Help your teachers know the areas that need attention: Some technological platforms can monitor your playing as you practice and develop a report that your teacher can access and learn your progress. This will help your teacher know areas that require more attention.

Initiate flexibility: If you cannot access your teacher physically, you can use an online learning platform. Moreover, you can access your teacher easily and show him areas where you have challenges regardless of geographical differences.

Cons

Information overload: There may be a risk of information overload as you mix your instructor’s and online content that may be organized differently.

Conflicts: Sometimes conflicts may arise as you insist on an online approach that you find useful, but your instructor doesn’t approve of. Also, your instructor may feel your suggestions are advanced for the stage he is teaching.

Different Ways of Learning The Guitar (Technological Methods)

As we discussed, some new ways of learning the guitar have revolutionized our thinking about the learning process. We’ve elaborated on the most striking ones below.

  • 1. YouTube tutorials
  • 2. Guitar learning platforms
  • 3. Guitar learning games
  • 4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered guitar learning platforms
  • 5. Digital music sheet and guitar tab
  • 6. Smart guitar
  • 7. Virtual Reality (VR) guitar apps
  • 8. Social learning network

Let’s explore each method of learning to learn more.


1. YouTube Tutorials

YouTube Tutorials

There are numerous websites with detailed video tutorials on how to play guitar for learners of all levels.

Currently, YouTube is the most popular platform, offering numerous free tutorials, from playing simple chords to advanced techniques.

First, it’s flexible and accessible; hence, it’s a great choice if you want to learn for free or want to learn at your own pace. Second, it can be fun, especially learning from your idol.

Third, it has numerous resources that allow you to explore different genres and playing techniques. This is impossible with an in-person instructor who may only be versed in a single technique.

Last, you can explore various instructors in one place and settle on one that you connect with most.

However, most free videos play songs but don’t go deep into techniques and music theories behind the songs. You can solve this by accessing paid channels that cover the nitty-gritty of what makes up a song.

Check out our Best Free Guitar Resources guide where we talk about the best guitar YouTube channels as well as other free tools and resources.


2. Guitar Learning Platforms

Guitar Learning Platforms

Paid platforms offer distinct advantages over free resources like YouTube.

Most of these platforms provide structured learning, offering organized courses that guide learners from basics to advanced skills. This structure prevents knowledge gaps and ensures a logical progression in your guitar journey.

Interactivity is another key benefit. Online platforms offer features like interactive lessons, quizzes, and feedback mechanisms, enhancing engagement and providing instant correction for mistakes.

Content quality is often superior on these platforms, with professional instructors creating reliable, accurate lessons. You can trust the information and guidance you receive.

Lastly, online guitar platforms foster a supportive community, enabling learners to connect with peers and instructors for motivation, collaboration, and shared experiences.

These advantages make them a valuable choice for effective and comprehensive guitar learning compared to free resources.

Some examples of popular online platforms include: Fender Play, Simply Guitar, TrueFire, etc.

If you’d like to learn more about guitar learning platforms, check out our Best Online Guitar Lessons guide where we cover all the best platforms in detail.


3. Guitar Learning Games

Guitar Learning Games

For game lovers, interactive games have been created that can help in learning guitar in a faster and more fun way. For example, JamPlay has a fretboard memorization game that tests your understanding of fretboard symbols.

Other popular games are Real Guitar and Trap Hero. Real Guitar is a simulator that offers a virtual guitar you can play when traveling or away from your instrument. Trap Hero specializes in testing rhythm skills and can be played solo or by multiple players.


4. AI-Powered Guitar Platforms

AI Guitar Platforms

You can use AI-powered platforms to learn. The platform analyses your playing style and points out areas to improve. Also, you can learn at your pace and schedule since AI can customize your training session based on your playing trends.

Here are a few examples of AI-powered guitar learning platforms:

  • Fret Trainer: This platform uses AI to provide personalized lessons and real-time feedback on your playing and helps you improve your guitar skills.
  • Amped Guitar: It offers AI-generated backing tracks and chord progressions, making practice sessions more engaging and dynamic.
  • Uberchord: This app uses AI to listen to your playing and provides instant feedback, helping you correct mistakes and refine your technique.
  • ChordAI: It uses AI to suggest chord progressions, melodies, and harmonies, aiding in songwriting and improvisation.

5. Digital Music Sheets & Guitar Tabs

Guitar Sheet Music Tabs

Music sheets show notes of music played, while the tab shows the position of the note on the fretboard. You can learn to play guitar with applications that offer a music sheet and a guitar tab.

Moreover, some apps provide a large library of songs to practice with and show notes while playing music. Thus, you’ll speed up your learning.

Some popular music sheet and guitar TAB platforms are:

  • Songsterr: It has been one of the go-to websites for guitarists looking to learn how to play songs using tabs since its inception in August 2008. With over 800,000 tabs, it’s safe to say that most of your favorites are in its library.
  • Ultimate Guitar: Since its inception in 1998, Ultimate Guitar has been one of the most well-known websites for anyone looking to learn their favorite songs with the help of tabs for free. The website now has over a million tabs from various songs that you may search for.
  • Sheet Music Plus: It has over 300,000 music titles of various genres. Moreover, most of its products are discounted to help you save.
  • Music Notes: It boasts over 400,000 titles of various genres you can choose from. It offers the unique feature of transposing music in any key you like.

6. Smart Guitars

Smart Guitar

The advancement of technology has given birth to smart guitars. These guitars can connect to apps or devices to track your playing and give feedback on progress and areas to improve.

You can learn faster with smart guitar technology. For example, Fret Zealot uses high-tech LEDs on the guitar to tell you where to position your fingers.

Lava Me 3 is another popular smart guitar, which is equipped with a built-in tuner, effects, and metronome. On top of that, it comes with loops, practice apps, a recorder and social-connectivity capabilities.


7. Virtual Reality Guitar Lessons

Guitar VR Apps

VR can help create various environments where you can play guitar and get feedback. Some popular VR guitar apps are Air Guitar by Unplugged and Rock Band VR.

Air Guitar is great for guitar game enthusiasts as it allows you to play virtual guitar without having an actual guitar. You can also couple it with an actual guitar and play various tracks.

Rock Band VR is great for rock enthusiasts who want to play in a virtual jamming session since it can create a collaboration with virtual bands. It is also useful in training chord progression and strumming speed.


8. Social Learning Networks

You can utilize Facebook groups specialized in guitar learning. These groups allow you to learn from others, share your experience, ask questions, and receive guidance from more experienced guitarists.

How Much Time Will It Take To Learn Guitar?

The time it takes to learn the guitar can vary widely depending on several factors.

It’s important to remember that learning any instrument is a journey that requires patience, dedication, and consistent practice.

Playing Guitar

Here are some key considerations that can influence the time it takes to learn the guitar:

1. Previous Musical Experience: Prior experience with music or other instruments may help you grasp certain concepts faster.

2. Natural Talent: Some individuals may have a natural inclination for music, which can speed up learning.

3. Practice Routine: Regular practice is essential. The more time you devote to practice each day or week, the faster you progress.

4. Learning Style: Different people have different learning styles, so finding an approach that suits you can impact your progress.

5. Goals and Ambitions: Your objectives with the guitar also play a role. If you aim to play simple songs, you may progress quicker than someone aspiring to become a professional guitarist.

6. The Complexity of Guitar Playing: Mastering basic chords and strumming patterns can be relatively quick, but becoming proficient in advanced techniques and music theory takes longer.

7. Instruction and Guidance: Having a skilled teacher or utilizing online resources can enhance your learning experience.

Considering these factors, it’s challenging to provide an exact timeline.

Some people become comfortable playing basic songs within a few months, while others may take a year or more to reach a certain level of proficiency.

Learning the guitar is rewarding and ongoing, so enjoy the process and celebrate your progress!


In conclusion, all learning mediums have a fair share of pros and cons. Remember, everyone has a specific style of learning that resonates well with them. Therefore, take your time to research each method and try several until you find one that best suits you.

About the Author – Sai Reinhardt

Sai Reinhardt

Sai is a music writer and producer/composer who is based at D7 Studios, India where he is the head faculty of the music production department.

After graduating music school, he now collaborates with visual artists and choreographers to create mixed-media audio visual performances.

He expresses his passion for writing through guitar and music articles when he is on-the-go.


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